The following is a recount by Steve M on the origins of the project...
To fight the Winter doldrums of 2003/2004 I started riding to every shop on the City of Chicago bike map. I would visit 8-12 shops a Saturday before heading back home cold but energized.
The reason I picked bike shops as a destination is kind of hard to nail down, but some of the reasons are below:
-A good bike shops is a place of community, similar to your favorite barber shop. I wanted to learn where/what shops had the most "heart".
-Every shop specializes or caters to something a little different. Even Kozy's which has several locations, carries slightly different product in each of their shops. I wanted to know where to find obscure parts, good deals on quality tools, and the best prices on consumables such as brake pads and cables.
-I wanted to get a feel for what sort of service one could expect. It's good to know where in Chicago you should go for a complete overhaul, and who you can depend on for quality repairs.
In the fall of 2004, I had some weekend plans which involved a car ride out to the sticks to put some county miles down. Not having a car meant that I had to catch a ride out. As the weekend grew closer, my subconscious bucked against having to hop in a car to ride my bike, and my interest in riding with those guys fell.
Still wanting to log some fun mileage that weekend, it occurred to me to do a "Bike Shop Tour" hitting the few shops I didn't make it to during the winter prior.
I emailed John G who I knew would be up for such a thing and he suggested bringing a camera. He in turn cc'd several other folks who he thought would be interested, and Todd became involved.
Everything kind of fell together like clockwork. Although Todd couldn't ride with us, his idea; a user response Bike Shop database/website came up I think in front of Rapid Transit that first morning or maybe in the patio of the Handlebar the next weekend. We all agreed that it would be a great way in which to link the Chicago cycling community with their nearest bike shop, at the same time providing a method in which to discuss the merits of exceptional shops.
John and I knocked out all the shops in basically two weekends. He had the fantastic idea to turn our tour into an art/information show at the Handlebar, the pictures of which are still on display in the revolution room. John spent some long hours putting together the pictures while I traced out our route on a hardcopy map, wrote up a two page "Reflection" of the experience and typed up a handout listing all the shops, their info and a brief blurb of what they carry.
The handout listing the shops formed the rough text base for this Website and John's pictures are the majority of the images used for the shops here on the website.
I'd like to take a quick second to thank John and Todd for making this possible.
Since these beginnings, we have expanded the shop database to include shops outside the City of Chicago.
The goal of the Chicago Bike Shop Database is to maintain up-to-date information about all bike shops in the 'Chicagoland' area. This designation is somewhat arbitrary; so we have defined this as "all area covered by the Chicagoland Bicycle Map". This includes all of Cook County; plus the bulk of the directly adjacent counties; plus a bit of some of those counties not directly adjacent, but still close (within easy riding distance) to Chicago.
The Chicago Bike Shop Database is a bikegeeks site.
We attempt to keep our data as accurate as possible. Every year(ish), we send out a postal mailing (with an SASE) to every shop in the directory asking them for updated information. Replies are tracked so directory users know if shops are responding to these mailings. Additionally, we regularly accept feedback on inaccuracies and update the site accordingly.
The site itself is a simple PHP application running on the bikegeeks shared hosting service. All data is kept in a MySQL database. The markup was hand coded -- the way God intended it.
The Chicago Bike Shop Database is the default bike shop listing for the
Chicagoland Bicycle Federation Active Transportation Alliance as well as the City of Chicago. The website is listed on both the city map ("Streets for Cycling") and the Active Transportation Alliance's 5-county map ("Chicagoland Bicycle Map"). Know of others? Please let us know.
All code used by the Chicago Bike Shop Database is open source -- just Email us if you want to see it...
Have something insightful to say? Want to heap praise upon us for building and maintaining such a cool resource? Want to let us know that some data on the site needs updating, tell us about a new bike shop, or a shop that has closed? Did you spot an inappropriate comment about a shop that should be removed?
If you're interested in submitting information about a new bike shop, please see the Bicycle Shop Questionnaire. This document contains the list of shop information we track.
Whether you're the owner of a shop or somehow otherwise affiliated, we'd love to hear from you. You're the reason we set this site up -- to support our local bikeshops!
If you'd like us to list your shop or update the information we already have stored for you, please and let us know what needs to be updated. Please see the Bicycle Shop Questionnaire for an idea on the information we store about the shops in the database.
All entries on the Chicago Bike Shop Database include a space for a photograph of the exterior of a shop. We prefer exterior photograps as it helps first time patrons find your shop on the street. Bonus points if shop owners or management is in the picture as well. If you would like to update or add a photo to your shop's page, please . The photos on our pages are generally 600x450 pixel color images. If you can take one or have someone take one, feel free to email it to us. If it's too large, that's ok -- we can take care of scaling it down.
Please consider adding a link to the Chicago Bike Shop Database from your website if possible. This supports the Chicago Bike Shop database by increasing our web search rankings. To do so, please see the linking section below.
If there's anything else we can do for you, just let us know. Thanks.
Help out the Chicago Bike Shop Database! Link to our site to help our internet search engine rankings.
How to link to us:
Include the following HTML on your site:
<a href="http://www.chicagobikeshops.info/">As seen on the Chicago Bike Shop Database</a>
<img src="http://www.chicagobikeshops.info/images/wrench.gif" border="0"><br/>
As seen on the Chicago Bike Shop Database</a>
<a href="http://www.chicagobikeshops.info/">Chicago Bike Shop Database</a>
<img src="http://www.chicagobikeshops.info/images/wrench.gif" border="0"><br/>
Chicago Bike Shop Database</a>
Questions regarding the leaving of comments using the Chicago Bike Shop Database.
What is acceptable to post in my comment?
There is one rule: be reasonable. This means, no outright bashing, no nastiness, no profanity, etc. If you think a shop stinks, by all means, tell the world about it but don't air gripes here. Please only post one message per shop and say everything there. The more everyone adheres to these rules, the better the system will be for everyone.
Only one rule?
Ok, here's a second rule: no posting new comments about a shop you're affiliated with. You may post replies to a message about your shop, but giving your shop a rating is forbidden.
Can I ask a question for a shop here?
Bike shops do not normally monitor the comments left on the Chicago Bike Shop Database so this is not a good place to ask them questions. Contact the shop directly.
What's with those ":"s in my replies?
Those are for quoting the message you're replying to. If a line starts with a : it is implied that the line is quoting the author of the post you're replying to. Please leave only the relevant parts of the message (the parts you're replying to directly) and delete the rest. (This is known as trimming your reply.) Doing this will help keep the pages from getting too strung out. Thanks.
Can I leave a fake or no email address?
Well, sure, but you can leave your real one without fear of spammers harvesting it as we encrypt it when we display it.
See next question.
Can I retract a statement?
If you must. Email the webmaster. You must send us an email from the same accout that is attached to the post (which is why you probably want to leave your email address w/ your post).
Is HTML allowed in my posts?
Currently HTML is not allowed. Any HTML posted will show up as HTML source code and not get processed.
What's the deal with the 'security' question when I enter a comment? (not always shown)
This is a known as a 'captcha' image and it's included to help prevent spam. Users are forced to enter in the characters that are displayed in the image to allow their comment to be posted. It's only a minor pain, but it helps prevent automated postings by spambots.
The message posting says that email addresses are obsfucated -- what does that mean?