By Russell Manski and Suzanne Kinsky
If you ask any Pittsburgher what makes living in the city so great, they are likely to describe the diversity of the neighborhoods and the quirks that make each one unique. Looking for a great slice of pizza? Squirrel Hill is your spot. Want to party like you did back in college? South Side has more bars than you can handle. Want to play bocce with some old-timers? Bloomfield’s Little Italy Days is where you go.
And just like Pittsburgh’s many neighborhoods, its bike shop scene also offers a wide range of options sure to satisfy whatever experience you are looking for.
While almost all of the city’s bike shops are full-service and will happily help anyone who comes through their doors, each one has a distinct personality, area of expertise and a yearning to share their passion with the local cycling community.
Please note this is not a comprehensive list by any means. There are many great people and shops in the city that we love and support. These just happen to be a few folks doing rad work.
Although it’s been in business for less than a decade, Kindred Cycles has quickly established itself as one of the best — and most cramped — bike shops in Pittsburgh.
Even after multiple shop reorganizations and redesigns, the floor remains packed to the gills with bikes of all kinds that can fit kids to adults. There’s a certain joy in walking into the shop, squeezing around all the bikes and gear for sale, and plopping down on the worn leather couch to trade bike stories with the staff.
Its location in the Strip District makes it convenient for Downtown bike commuters to pop in for supplies or a quick repair question on their way home from work. As co-founder Katharine Jordan once exclaimed when she freed a stubborn bolt on my bike, “We fix things!”
Major bike servicing often takes a few weeks during the busy season, but the mechanics are almost always able to do a quick diagnosis if you drop in.
This is not the place you’ll find fancy, aerodynamic road bikes for sale, although they can certainly work on them. Instead, Kindred specializes in commuter, adventure and mountain bikes of all price ranges, including cargo bikes, folding bikes and the growing-in-popularity e-bikes.
Staff are all experienced bike commuters and can provide realistic and helpful advice on things like the best pannier and rack setup for a touring bike or finding the right seat that will attach to your bike so that you can cart your toddler around town.
The Wheel Mill is Pittsburgh’s first indoor bike park, founded in 2013 inside an 80,000-square-foot warehouse on Hamilton Avenue in Homewood. Filled with room after room of indoor bike features, from basic beginner ramps to terrifying, oh-hell-no drops into foam pits, the park has something for everyone.
Although you’ll always find young daredevils whipping around the park, The Wheel Mill emphasizes inclusivity by organizing regular events such as women’s-only lessons and toddler strider bike races.
You might be surprised to learn that The Wheel Mill also sells and wrenches bikes. They’ve always sold a modest selection of accessories, such as helmets and knee pads. In the past few years, however, they’ve offered a more comprehensive slate of services. With mechanic services offered five days a week, The Wheel Mill pros are an option if you, say, crush your brake lever during a crash on the pump track and need an emergency repair (not that that has EVER happened to one of us!).
But you don’t have to use the park itself to get services; Wheel Mill offers drop-off repair services as well. They cater to the types of bikes that can have fun in its park, so think BMX bikes, mountain bikes and commuter bikes.
If you want to try out the park but don’t have the right equipment, they also rent and sell bikes and equipment on-site — so there’s really nothing stopping you from trying out this unique bike destination!
Don’t let their modest name fool you. Yes, they do rent bikes (e-bikes, too!), but Golden Triangle plays a much bigger role in the cycling community. They also operate a full-service repair shop and will actually sell the well-maintained bikes from their rental fleet at a nice discount.
But where Golden Triangle really shines is with its guided tours and trip planning. Located Downtown, directly on the world-famous Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail, they are uniquely positioned to be the authority on such matters.
In addition to offering guided tours around the city, Golden Triangle has a well-earned reputation for offering expert logistical support, trip planning and bike/gear rentals for your GAP trail adventure. Want to check off a bucket list item and tackle the entire 335 miles from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., but don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry, because Golden Triangle has every detail covered — all you’ll need to do is pedal. A lot.
Located on the doorstep of one of Pittsburgh’s great mountain bike destinations, North Park, TRAILFLO set out to be experts on one thing: mountain bikes! If you’re looking for a road bike or beach cruiser, TRAILFLO is not your shop. But if you have a passion for shredding dirt trails, you will not be disappointed.
Like all of the other shops on this list, TRAILFLO is a full-service shop that offers a wide range of repair services, parts and accessories. However, what really sets them apart from the others is their singular focus on making your mountain bike fantasies come to life.
They specialize in offering high-end, high-performance bikes, many from boutique brands (Yeti, Evil, Transition, Knolly, Revel and more) not found in other local shops. In addition to selling complete bikes, TRAILFLO will work with you to select every individual component to build the bike of your dreams from the frame on up.
For a sample of their truly drool-worthy offerings, I highly recommend checking out their Instagram page.
One of the newest bike shops on the local scene, Unison Bike Lab oozes cool. Its exposed brick interior and curated bike accessory offerings give this space an old-soul vibe.
While they sell complete bikes and offer full-service bike repairs, Unison’s unique specialty is custom-built bikes. While most cyclists are perfectly happy to purchase an off-the-shelf bike, the coolest-of-the-cool cyclists want a bike that meets their exact wants and needs — and Unison is the place to help them achieve it. They’re even launching a partnership with a custom frame builder who works with titanium and steel materials and they hope to have those in stock in the coming months.
Given its small size, Unison doesn’t have a huge on-site selection of bikes and accessories, but what they do have is gorgeous — and sophisticated. During a recent visit, for example, they had a sharp set of leather-trimmed frame bags from Topo Designs neatly lined up on a shelf.
Located in The Highline on the South Side, Unison sits right on the riverfront trail, making it an easy destination for city riders. And helpfully, they are next door to Sly Fox Brewing, so you can easily plan an afternoon adventure that includes shopping for bike equipment, getting a tune-up and relaxing with a beer.
But if you’re feeling adventurous, Unison offers a no-drop, mixed-surface group bike ride, dubbed MXT Mondays, in the evening during the summer months.
According to their website, “We have every bike thing for all types of bike people.” And we would agree. Over the past two decades, THICK has won awards and earned a reputation for doing all things, well, really well. They have a really great service department and offer a terrific selection of gear, gadgets and garments.
THICK offers a nice selection of new bikes from companies like All-City, Surly, Giant, Salsa and Specialized. But one thing that distinguishes them from other shops is the offerings of used bikes. While their used bike inventory is not huge, the ever-changing selection is always easily viewable and fun to check out on the shop’s website.
THICK has really become an integral part of the local bike scene and has been great to work with over the years. Next time that OpenStreetsPGH takes place in the city on July 30, be sure to check out their amazing setup as it is always lively and full of fun activities. Just a heads-up: when they talk you into trying one of their unicycles, check your ego at the door because it’s way harder than it looks!
Located just a couple blocks from the bike trail in the South Side, THICK’s location is easily accessible by bike, so swing on by the next time you’re out on a ride. And despite its location within the narrow streets of the South Side Flats, it is also convenient by car as they have a highly-coveted private parking lot.
The Outdoor Guide Series is underwritten by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council as part of its effort to promote the outdoor recreation economy in Pennsylvania and neighboring areas.
Russell and Suzanne met on a bike ride (of course) and are avid road, mountain and gravel bikers. Between them, they own eight bikes and have more than 35 years of competitive cycling experience. They live in Greenfield and ride and race all over the greater Pittsburgh area and beyond.