Whether driving, walking or biking, Flagstaff is the perfect town for slowing down and breathing in rich culture and gorgeous natural beauty. With more than five percent of work commute trips by bicycle (compared to the 0.6 percent national average), it is no wonder Flagstaff has been given the League of American Bicyclists’ Silver designation for a bike-friendly community. This, of course, makes our Best Bike Shop category one of the most competitive for Best of Flag. This year, once again, our readers chose Absolute Bikes as number one.
Though the Flagstaff staple is now easily recognizable by the mural on its western wall, Absolute Bikes, opened in 1989, used to sit just a block over on San Francisco Street where Bright Side Bookshop now resides. Since moving to its current location just north of Historic Route 66 and commissioning Lyle Motley to create the mural in 2008, owner Ken Lane feels at home with his business.
“I love the seeing the mural on my ride to work,” said Lane. “And almost every day I see somebody taking a picture or just looking at it. There’s a lot going on in there.”
But more than the mural, what Lane believes keeps the folks of Flagstaff shopping at Absolute Bikes is its sincerity toward its customers.
“Bicycle stores, in general, tend to be a bit elitist,” he said. “People want recreation and fun. They don’t want to be talked down to, so we always try to be inclusive and treat our customers with respect.”
Absolute Bikes, in addition to numerous Best of Flag awards, has also been recognized nationally by the National Bicycle Dealer Association, meeting the criteria to serve as one of America’s Best Bike Shops five years in a row. It’s been designated a Platinum Level Bicycle Friendly Business by the League of American Bicyclists and has been recognized by Bicycle Retailer and Industry News as one of the Top 100 Bicycle Retailers in the United States.
Lane attributes much of the success to his team and his store manager, Anthony Quintile.
“Anthony really brought us into the 21st century,” said Lane.
“More like the 22nd century,” adds Quintile with a laugh.
In addition to jump-starting its first point-of-sale system, Quintile has helped Absolute Bikes solidify its role in the community as a retailer and responsible corporate citizen with Team Absolute Bikes, an organization that encourages volunteer work toward trail maintenance, construction, local races and ride support for store discounts and credit.
“The idea is to get the community involved with things like Bike to Work Week or charity projects and in return we fuel their bike habit,” said Quintile. “Also, it feels good to do community work like trail work days and trail maintenance so that our customers have a better riding experience.”
After moving to Flagstaff from Massachusetts in 1978, Lane began attending Northern Arizona University and never figured he’d own a shop like Absolute Bikes, which now has another location in Sedona, but after meeting Shawn Gillis, those plans changed.
“Between us, there was enough collective motivation. I tend to stick to things for a long time not necessarily start new things,” laughed Lane. “Now [Gillis] owns an Absolute Bikes in Salida [Colorado]. It’s the same name, but we’re not really affiliated.”
As well as a bike retailer, Absolute Bikes prides itself on being a full-service repair shop handling all styles of bicycles.
“We are always looking for new ways to try and do better,” says Quintile. “We spend a lot of time and energy trying to be friendly, do good work and stay involved in the community.”