Spring is around the corner, and if that isn’t enough to make you excited to get outside again then learning about a new custom bicycle studio in Bushwick should. AJ Nichols opened Harvest Cyclery & Salvage last September and has been providing the neighborhood with awesome custom-made bikes ever since.
One wouldn’t think to look for a bicycle studio in a basement, but customers soon forget they’re underground when they see the studio for the first time. Zeppelin playing in the background, a Brooklyn lager in hand and conversation that feels like you’re talking to an old friend can make anyone feel right at home.
Nichols knows his bikes. He’s been restoring, repairing and transforming them into impeccable works of art since he was 16. As a first-time business owner, he’s excited to get his shop off the ground.
“Buying a bike in New York on Craigslist is kind of a gauntlet,” Nichols explains. His studio cuts out the middleman and gives people a more personal experience when it comes to choosing the perfect bike for them. When he’s not teaching bike mechanics at 3rd Ward, Nichols is in his shop fixing up antique and vintage bikes or searching for his next big find.
“I’ve streamlined the whole process,” he says. “I buy the bikes out of state, tear them down and turn old 70s and 80s ten speeds into affordable road bikes.” Nichols provides a ride for the average customer looking to get around town, but he also specializes in restoring pre-war antiques, ’60s muscle bikes and ’50s Schwinn’s for collectors.
Most of the bikes turned into commuters are from out of state, but Nichols works with clients who have custom orders or are looking to trade in their old bike for something new. “That’s how it all started because I knew there was a demand for affordable, high-quality bikes,” he says. “People want something they can lock outside for a few hours and it’s not a thief magnet.”
As for the collectibles, he meticulously strips them of the current paint job to expose the original patina. A few antiques are from the pre-war era and would look amazing in anyone’s home or rolling down the street.
Customers who stop by can’t help but notice the antiques, and a penny-farthing from the 1800s sticks out as it sits against a wall. “Everything was made by hand by a blacksmith so there aren’t any replacement parts,” Nichols says about his crazy find. “If it takes years to restore and sell and I have to look at it everyday I’m ok with that.”
Nichols works hard to ensure that his clients leave with a bike that fits them and their needs, and also offers general repairs and tune-ups. “Bike shops don’t do old school service options anymore and that’s horrible,” he says. “I have a lot of pride in knowing I can take a bike out of the trash and make it awesome.”
Nichols has big plans for his studio and hopes to expand in the future. A nostalgic-feeling retail space filled with vintage bikes and a top-notch service station is a lofty goal, but may not be as far away as he thinks.
“It’s a simple concept to try and sell quality stuff that was made to last,” he says. “If it’s been around for twenty or thirty years and it’s still rolling, it’s going to last another twenty or thirty.”
Harvest Cyclery offers a complimentary service and maintenance package for three months to diminish the risk of buying a vintage bike. The studio is open by appointment only. Visit their website to learn more.