Friday, November 6, 2009

A Mellow Trip to Austin

It's official, work and travel have consumed my life. In order to keep riding and running, something had to give, and it has been my blog. Thankfully I've been able to maintain about 200 miles of riding and 50 miles of running a month to maintain a bit of sanity. Last weekend, I decided to take a little diversion from my travels and visit an Austin institution - Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop. Probably most famous for it's 7 time Tour de France winning owner, Lance Armstrong, Mellow Johnny's has become a mecca for cyclists. Even if you're not buying anything, just gazing at some of Lance's history making memorabilia which makes up the store's decor makes the trip worthwhile.

Located in the heart of downtown Austin, the shop fits in perfectly with Austin's eclectic decor. The outside is covered in brightly painted murals. The shop itself is a model for the perfect local bike store. Part bike shop, part coffee shop, part gym, everything a cyclist needs is rolled into one great store. The physical size of the store is huge. However, if you're looking for brand diversity, this isn't your shop. The website claims they carry brands such as Pinarrelo, Cinelli, and Merckx. But as I wandered through the bikes, all I saw was Trek, Trek, and more Trek. The apparel section does have a variety in brands; however, most of the items are branded with the Mellow Johnny's logo.

The iconic Mellow Johnny's sign and mural

What Mellow Johnny's might lack in brand diversity, it makes up for in features. The store takes great pride in acting as a "commuter hub" providing bike storage, showers, and lockers for commuters to the Austin area. If it's too cold or wet to ride outside, the Pedal Hard Training Center has training classes where sophisticated computrainers allow the measurement of power output and even lactate threshold if you really want to test your limits and define your power zones. To top it all off, why start a weekend group ride at Starbucks when there is the Juan Pelota cafe inside Mellow Johnny's. The staff at the store was also very impressive. They were friendly and courteous, ready to help if needed, but never overbearing or pushy. They're obviously well conditioned to tourists wandering in for a look.

There are some bike stores with training centers. There are others with espresso machines to satisfy their customers. However, Mellow Johnny's incorporates them all, and does so in an package that's cleanly laid out and an impressive blend of both form and function. Admittedly, this isn't a bargain hunter's paradise. My two souvenir t-shirts came to just over $70, some Fizik bar tape pushed my total to over $90. Like an Apple computer, Mellow Johnny's seems to cater to consumers who don't mind a premium price for quality products. Other bike stores looking to establish a shop that's valuable to consumers should consider Mellow Johnny's blueprint. Anytime you're in the Austin area and want to take a peek into an impressive bike store, Mellow Johnny's is well worth the visit.

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