by Elizabeth Coady
The smell of rubber is the first thing that greets you when you enter Barr’s Bikes at 5548 Ridge Ave. in Roxborough, a casual bicycle store with a casual owner, Joseph Barr.
“Can I ask you a question?” a would-be customer asks as he walks in clutching his phone.
“$2.50,” cracks Barr, 65, wearing black specs, a striped navy men’s shirt, faded blue jeans and cowboy boots.
Barr, is an avid cyclist who grew up down the road in Manayunk and bought this two-storefront building three decades ago. “Where we grew up is probably the original melting pot,” he says of the old neighborhood. “We had everybody, and we all got along.”
Barr has owned and operated Barr’s Bikes and the adjacent hair salon, Hair Jazz, for 33 years. “You’ll get the best deal from me,” says the owner, whose spiked white hair gives off the impression of a more mellow Billy Idol. “I’m probably the prettiest bike shop owner in town.”
The store has a more-than-respectable ranking on social media. “Great place for all your bike needs,” one Facebook reviewer reports. “And a really cool owner. Will be back many times for all my bike supplies.”
Inside the bright store with glass storefront, scuffed linoleum floors and mint green stucco walls is an array of 20 bicycles, some standing on the floor, others hanging on the wall. Immediately to the left is a glass case with bike helmets and other gear on display. Bike rims and tires hang high around the room, a repair shop is at the back behind the counter and two acoustic guitars sit on the ground that Barr says are there for his personal amusement.
Also on display is a sense of humor: two mannequin heads, one wearing sunglasses and the other wearing a fur hat, are on permanent loan from the salon next door. A taped outline of a body on the floor just inside the entrance way has the word “shoplifter” printed inside. A red neon “Lemond racing cycles” illuminated sign sits on the counter, a gift from an unknown customer.
There’s also a water bowl outside for the dogs and a plastic container with dog biscuits sitting on the glass case. “I feed the dogs when they come by. I love dogs,” Barr said. “I love dogs more than some people.”
Barr is an avowed rider who only days earlier completed a 338- mile trip from Pittsburgh through the Big Savage Tunnel along the Great Allegheny Passage and down to Cumberland, Maryland. The trek took six days. During the summer, it’s nothing for him to ride the 100 miles south down to shore points.
“I ride as often as I can,” says the cyclist, who rides a 2011 Fuji Altimira. “If it was nice today, I would have rode here” from his home in Flourtown.
Barr is an authorized dealer for Fuji, Breezer and SE bikes. He keeps a few models on the floor, but typically he directs customers to the dealer’s websites to select their preferred model. “Mostly I order them,” he says.
“The way I feel about it is there is no bicycle better than the next one … It’s a frame design and a paint job. It’s your component package that makes your bicycle what it is.”
The store also does a good amount of bike repair, particularly during the spring and summer months.
It all adds up to an accessible bike store that caters to local moms and pops looking for bikes for their kids and casual riders from the neighborhood.
“I get the blue-collar workers here,” he said. “It’s like fishing. A bad day at fishing is better than a day good at work. I’m not crying broke.”
For more information about Barr’s Bikes, call 267-297-3266 or visit barrsbikesandboards.com