Bicycle gear and repair shop Ascent Cycles will officially reopen this Saturday, Aug. 3, and new store manager Justin Plinz plans to introduce some changes that he hopes will make Ascent Cycles a more inclusive community-focused store for cyclists of all levels and interests.
Ascent Cycles had its beginnings in 2001 when beloved outdoors store Second Bounce moved into the Ballard neighborhood, changed its name to Second Ascent and began offering bike repair services.
In 2016, Ascent Cycles moved into its own space next door.
In April this year, both stores closed suddenly when previous owner Solon Scott filed bankruptcy and shut down both stores without giving notice to customers or employees.
So, it was welcome news when Sandeep Nain, founder of retail and mountain climbing group Miyar Adventures, bought the store in June. However, until recently, the fate of the Ascent Outdoors’ partner store, the bike shop Ascent Cycles, was uncertain.
In June, Nain told The Seattle Times he was unsure whether Ascent Cycles would reopen as its own store or would revert to its old station inside the Ascent Outdoors store.
Nain was uncertain partly because he was worried about taking on too much.
“I haven’t taken a day off since I made this offer,” he said.
Nain, whose primary expertise is in mountaineering and hiking, was also concerned about his lack of experience with biking.
That’s where Plinz came in.
Formerly the service manager at Ascent Cycles before it closed, Plinz was full of ideas for breathing new life into the store when Nain called in the spring to offer him the store manager position.
Encouraged by Plinz’s enthusiasm, and after finding a business partner to invest in the store, Nain decided to reopen Ascent Cycles as its own store.
Plinz, who first started at Ascent Cycles in 2016, said he hopes to shift the focus of Ascent Cycles from a “hard-core mountain biking shop” to a store that caters more to the everyday biker and lowers the perceived barrier to entry for beginning bikers.
“The idea and plan is to focus more on things like commuting and urban riding and getting people to a point where they’re more comfortable riding,” said Plinz. “If you don’t have a bike and you’re walking around downtown Seattle and you see all these commuters, they all have the gear and they look really intense. The idea is to say, ‘You can do this and you can start bit by bit. Here’s what you definitely need to get started.’”
The store will diversify its stock to include a greater focus on commuter bikes, all-road bikes — bikes built for gravel roads and other rougher terrain — and gear for bike camping (also known as bikepacking), a form of bike touring in which cyclists bike to a destination and camp overnight.
The plan, Plinz said, is to stock bikes that can do one or two of these things well.
For longtime customer Andy Baker, who has frequented the shop since 2001, the changes are well-aligned with his own biking needs.
“Living in Ballard, you have to drive quite a ways to get anywhere convenient for mountain biking, so I just didn’t really bother. Part of biking for me is not having to get in my car,” Baker said. “The only other shops in the neighborhood are e-bike focused. So something that is all-road and commuter bike focused isn’t really being served right now. I think that’ll be a good thing.”
Plinz also hopes to increase the store’s community engagement and ensure that the community is inclusive. He plans to achieve that by hiring a diverse staff with a variety of biking interests and by organizing biking clinics and community rides.
“[Diversifying cycling] is really important to me because I can go into any shop as a straight, white guy and be fine, but from what I’ve heard, that’s different for others,” Plinz said.
Plinz said he has heard feedback from customers all over the country who are looking for more support for women in the biking community and more women’s products in bike shops.
Ascent Cycles’ current staff is made up of both new and former staffers. Two of the current staff members are women. He hopes the store will be fully staffed by mid-August and able to start offering evening clinics, including women-specific clinics, in the winter.
“The goal is to build some form of cycling community that will be different people from different backgrounds,” said Plinz. “We like to ride bikes, and whether you like to ride bikes in the city or go out and go camping or go ride some gravel roads, we’re all united under this idea of the bicycle as a vehicle to go have fun.”
Ascent Cycles reopened with limited hours on July 13. The grand reopening for Ascent Cycles and Ascent Outdoors will take place on August 3.