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718 Cyclery: A Shop Grows in Brooklyn

Published November 21, 2011

NEW YORK, NY (BRAIN)—718 Cyclery may have moved out of its namesake telephone area code in Brooklyn—it’s now in the borough’s 347 zone in the Gowanus neighborhood—but one thing that remains unchanged is the year-old shop’s fierce commitment to independence.

“We build all our customers’ bikes, essentially. We’re not a Specialized dealer; we’re not a Trek dealer. We don’t have any new bikes off the wall,” said owner Joe Nocella, who works by day as an architect and professor of architecture at New York’s Pratt Institute.

A former bicycle messenger, Nocella started building bikes three years ago when he put together a replacement rig after a friend’s was stolen. He instantly found parallels with his architecture background. “There’s a lot of left brain and right brain things going on with it,” he said.

In fall 2010, Nocella hung out the 718 Cyclery shingle in 580 square feet of space in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood. “Right away we knew it was too small,” he said. Once his year lease was up, Nocella jumped to the shop’s new 2,800-square-foot storefront on a popular bike commuting line, where he sells bikes from such New York producers as Workman Cycles, SquareBuilt Bicycles and Brooklyn Cruisers as well as Torker, Public Bike, Surly and Leader. The shop had its grand opening Nov. 5.

Nocella emphasizes a collaborative process in building bikes. “Ninety-five percent of our bike sales are when people come in and talk about what they want and we build it with them,” he said. “We have bikes on the floor, but they’re mostly examples of the work we do.”

The process starts with a sit-down with Nocella to discuss the vision and desired function for the customer’s bike. Nocella then works up a shareable spreadsheet in Google Docs with all parts and prices. The customer can access the document at any time before the build to adjust the spec. “People love that they’re involved in the estimating process and they can send it out to their biking friends,” Nocella said.

He has built more than 250 bikes this way, ranging from $800 single-speed commuters to a $4,000 BMC carbon road bike. A $100 fee covers the consultation, spreadsheet and bike build.

Eschewing the arrogance and attitude that he sees in many local bike shops, Nocella seeks to make cycling and bike building and maintenance more accessible. “This is just metal and rubber. I’m always telling people this is 120-year-old technology. It doesn’t have to be done in such a nasty way,” he said.

—Toby Hill

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