I met Carlos Gaudio at a party. Carlos is a young man, and big. He would be an oncoming train, but an extremely gentle, good-humoured and trustworthy train, with the ruggedly handsome looks I’ve come to expect of cyclists. He describes himself as cynical, which I assume means any positive comments he makes are hard-earned and genuine.
“I have an alchemical relationship with [my bike],” he explained, describing the KHS he built from scratch. “I’ve always dwelt in a more cerebral place and working with my hands was a system shock.”
This summer, Carlos has been working at a new bike shop called Cycle Couture on College Street.
“It’s a gorgeous shop, where the level of design is out of this world,” Carlos enthused. “The owners have built it like an art gallery.” The shop displays bikes parallel to the walls to give a sense of more space. Each bike has a handwritten note attached, reminiscent of a piece of art.
“It’s a fashion-oriented shop that represents the changing of the landscape.”
With the exception of one or two shops, Carlos thinks most Toronto bike businesses have a very masculine feel to them, although Carlos has noticed a change to something more aesthetically warm and appealing.
“If you’re in the bike business, you’re in it because you really like it; your customers are happy to be there, surrounded by things they think are cool.”
Cycle Couture intentionally tracks an interesting statistic: women form the vast majority of their client base. When I asked why he believes women are attracted to the shop, he said it’s partly the design, but more the style of bike sold there. The shop specializes in bringing in “luxury vehicles,” like the Verlorbis—a Danish bike design built in Germany—the Dutch Batavus and the British Flying Pigeon, all of which are built less for performance and more for endurance.
“Is this a little like riding an SUV?” I teased, hinting that people who ride larger bikes tend to feel they can claim more of the road. It suggests a sense of how unsafe people feel on our streets. Carlos agreed, but only to a point.
“It’s not a threatening thing like an SUV, but more of a stability thing,” he clarified. Toronto riders today—both men and women—want heavier, more solid bikes because it makes them feel safer on the road.
So many of the bike shop managers and staff that I interviewed seem to share Carlos’ “alchemical relationship” with bicycles. Perhaps this is something to which all Toronto bike shops should aspire. Staff at places like Bateman’s and Curbside, like The Bike Joint and Bike Pirates and so many others, all get involved in cycling events and advocacy, seeking quiet ways to make cycling easier, safer, more accessible. And they take a thing of little value—a bicycle—and make it valuable beyond recognition.