Everyone is welcome in this cycling community. By Noel Bartocci Photography by Alexa Nahas Photography (alexanahas.com)
Spend one weekend morning on Main Street and you’ll become immediately aware that Manayunk is a bicycle-friendly neighborhood. From the tight formation of riders speeding down the road to restaurant tables full of patrons wearing cycling jerseys, it’s apparent that all riders are welcome here.
A main staple of cycling in town is Trek Bikes, located on the 4100 block of Main Street and across from the Towpath entrance. I sat down with the manager of the Manayunk store, Steven Pennington, to discuss all things biking and how cycling and our town complement one another perfectly.
One of the first things I asked Steven was in regard to the building. Having been a local for the better part of a decade, I personally recall a different bike shop just a few years ago. But, what I’d learn from him is that where it matters, not much has really changed.
“Even though this is a newer store front — since 2017 — we’ve been the same group in this building for the last six years,” Steven explained about the building’s bike shop legacy.
“Going back even more, we’ve been the community’s bike shop for decades,” he said. “It’s been Metropolis, Bike Line, Human Zoom, and then when the owner retired, Trek took over the space and a good majority of us stayed.”
Trek Bikes is a full-service shop that possesses a deep knowledge and passion for cyclers and their equipment. Steven and his team tune-up and repair everything from recumbent and kid’s bikes to high-end road bikes and daily commuters. You name it; one of the mechanics in the back has worked on it before. In addition to their capabilities in the shop, Steven fills me in on some of the services they offer.
“The bike rentals we offer are a surprise to some,” he said. “If you don’t want to make the commitment, or are unable to, you can rent a bike hourly or daily and take it out on the trails. We can even deliver [the bike] to you.”
He added, “One of the big things is our large fleet of demos and rentals – we don’t have a very pushy sales atmosphere and people are encouraged to try before they buy. Being able to try out bikes is one of our biggest services. Nearly everything on our sales floor can be demoed.”
In addition to what they have and how they help, one of the more popular questions fielded at Trek Bikes is simply, “Where should I ride?” As Steven would explain it, there’s no shortage of options for riders living in or passing through the area.
“The Schuylkill River Trail is one of the top-recommended areas,” he said. “The Wissahickon for mountain bike trails. The Cynwyd Heritage trail is great for families – it’s on the other side of the Manayunk Bridge… This is truly a bike-friendly area with a lot of options.”
The cycling community in this area is something Trek Bikes is intent on cultivating, hosting several weekly rides between the larger events and the seasons with rotating series’. They take part in June’s Philly Mountain Bike Festival, which raises money for the Philly Trail Network – particularly the Wissahickon Park System – and Philly Pumptrack, a family-friendly bike park maintained and operated by volunteers. Another major touchpoint in the year for them is April’s Trek Fest, which is a huge annual sale bringing in riders of all levels.
Frequent customers might be familiar with the Saturday Donut Ride to Federal Donuts and the Wednesday morning Hump Day Hooky Rides, which are regularly on the schedule. Group rides also take advantage of the seasons with rotating series’ like the Fall Foliage Rides, where they take Forbidden Drive to The Cedars House – trading donuts for coffee. On Saturdays during the summer, they’ll ride to the different locations for Parks on Tap after closing up shop. Trek continually makes the extra effort to be active with their customers, some of which come from all over Pennsylvania.
“A lot of people come out from the Phoenixville and Collegeville areas,” Steven told us. “They’ll park out by Oaks, ride all the way down here, say ‘hello,’ and then head back.”
For some people, Manayunk is a starting point of their ride with our access to the trail system. But for others, it’s just a pit stop; a place to refuel and decide in which direction to go next – head back to their start or venture further.
“Having been here for six years, one of the big things I like about Manayunk is the access to the trail network – location, location, location for a bike shop is huge,” Steven said, adding his own personal affection towards the area’s attraction to bikers.
“The outdoor cafes, great atmosphere, a lot of cyclists passing through, and everyone is pretty friendly – kind of like a European area of Philadelphia. I just love the neighborhood. It’s one of the reasons I stayed here after college.”
No matter how good the status quo of Manayunk’s bike culture is, Trek Bikes and its staff are always interested in improving it further. Now, with the infrastructure and resources of Trek, they are looking to be a bigger part of it.
“Trek does a lot with People for Bikes, which is an organization that helps create safe bike routes, bike lanes, etc,” he explained. “Trek also does a lot with NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association), so we’re getting involved with a lot of schools in East Falls and Chestnut Hill area. The big thing they want to do is just get people and kids on bikes. It’s a way to change the world. A car gets you from point A to B very quickly and walking is very slow and inefficient, but the bike can do it in such a way that you can see the world differently and still get from point A to B efficiently.”
The practicality of a bike, juxtaposed with the positive nature of experiencing the world around you, sounds like a fulfilling and healthy way of life. Some might not be able to adopt it outright or for every trip they take, but interspersing rides throughout your weekly grind can make strides towards keeping us grounded and more active in our communities.
As our conversation began to wind down, I asked Steven if there’s anything off the top of his head that he’d want to touch on about Trek, or even the next thing in biking, to which he replied with one word: “e-bikes.”
“It’s the largest growing category in biking and designed for everybody. They’re making it so you can ditch the car,” he went on to explain. “You can go up to 20mph and get 80-100 miles on a fully charged battery. You hop on, choose an assistance level, and the battery kicks in to help when you need it. E-bikes are great and exactly what we were talking about before.”
“You mean, getting from point A to B efficiently, but getting to see the world differently while you’re doing it,” I interjected, to which he confidently replied, “Exactly.”