Jumping into endurance sports can feel like you’re on the outside of a very inside joke. Not at BFF Bikes, Chicago’s first women’s specific bike shop and the brainchild of seasoned bike racers and women’s cycling advocates Vanessa Buccella and Annie Byrne. Committed to making cycling accessible for girls and women of all ages, BFF is an inclusive and welcoming space to purchase and learn. In addition to offering a comprehensive and colorful array of products from bikes to clothes to bags for commuting, they will also fit your bike, fix your bike, and teach you how to take care of it in one of their free maintenance classes.
In the last year, Vanessa and Annie also started BFF Racing, Chicago’s first inclusive all-women’s team that now includes over 20 riders with a wide range of experience. They’re dedicated to racing hard but they’re as equally dedicated to community building and education: they host practice races, organize local racing clinics, and stress strong teamwork above all else.
We caught up with these cycling mavens to chat a bit about the history of BFF and what’s in store for the future.
How did BFF get started? What prompted you to launch your shop?
VB: It was ALMOST a whim. I was brainstorming a tagline for a women’s online bike community and came up with “a cycling community geared for women.”
The chain of thought then went…
That’s a great tagline.
That would make a great tagline for a women’s bike shop!
I must open a women’s bike shop with Annie Byrne!
AB: I thought it was a brilliant idea– I had an immediate gut reaction and had faith we could create something awesome. After getting more and more into biking over the years, I knew there was a need for different type of bike shop in Chicago. I knew I would LOVE a shop that focused on women, brought in awesome gear, and hosted rides and other events.
What’s the scene like in Chicago cycling? Is there a particular Chicago style of riding? (Is it deep dish?)
VB: Chicago is a city with a utilitarian, blue-collar core. The fashionable cycling scene happening on the coasts and across the pond in London hasn’t fully flowered here. We have a few thoroughfares full of commuters, racers, and fixie kids. Lots of Chicago cyclists brave the harsh winters without complaint. If I had to find one word to describe Chicago cyclists, it’d have to be resilient.
AB: It’s growing! The city has done a great job of improving infrastructure and added a bike-share program, which is really successful. More and more people are realizing biking is an incredibly efficient way to get around the city. The competitive cycling scene is also alive and well. Our racing team is a great example of that– it’s less than a year old we already have 30 women.
You were one of the first Velocio dealers in the country. What compelled you to jump in with our brand?
VB: We are Kristy Scrymgeour, Velocio Sports fangirls! We LOVE that this is a ground up company focused on unequaled quality women’s gear. We LOVE the subdued style of the garments and the exquisite fabrics.
Other companies are asking: “What do women want their cycling kit to look like?” Velocio seems to say: “We like good design, and good design is being put into our product.” In my opinion, good design is good. It doesn’t need to be good design for women.
AB: After trying the Signature kit, we knew we could do well with Velocio. For anyone that spends a good amount of time in the saddle, it’s a no-brainer.
Any favorite or best selling pieces?
VB: Easy! The Bibs! Everyone LOVES the bibs!!
What are your goals for the shop in the coming year?
VB: SURVIVE the winter!! That is our first and foremost goal right now. We’d love to expand in the future too.
AB: Luckily, like Vanessa said, Chicagoans are hearty and a lot of them ride year-round. That said, we plan to get creative and offer events in the colder months. We partnered with an indoor cycling program and have a few other plans in the works.
For more on BFF bikes, see their website at www.bffbikes.com.
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