Avondale cycle shop keeps on spinning
Walking into Tucker Cycles in The Shoppes of Avondale, the first bike that caught my attention was a Reeb hardtail mountain bike painted a bright Jaguars teal. The frame design was a modern take on the setups mountain bike pioneers rode called “klunkers,” which were essentially souped-up beach cruisers with fat tires. The bike sported fat, knobby gumwall tires, a beautiful front suspension system and tall BMX-style handlebars; as OG as it gets, while keeping function and aesthetics at the forefront.
When I pointed it out to Holt Tucker, owner of the shop, he quickly replied, “Oh, that’s my personal bike. You can take it out for a trail ride anytime just let me know.” That brief, genuine, off-the-cuff response exemplifies his intentions for opening Tucker Cycles in the first place: get more people riding proper bikes, make Jacksonville more bike friendly and create an inclusive and welcome space for people to come hang out regardless of whether they need work done on their bike.
“I like making an impact for the community. Making sure someone is taken care of and able to continue their daily life because they have their bike back. You come into a bike shop and a lot of the time it acts as a therapy session. Sometimes they don’t know what they’re looking for, but then they start opening up a little bit more to tell you more about what’s going on and [why they’re looking for a bike],” Tucker said. “You start building this relationship with a lot of these people, and it becomes a safe place for them. People feel like they can come and hang out here.”
Tucker’s shop was previously operated as an Open Road Bicycles franchise, which still has four locations around Jacksonville. But he felt independent ownership would allow him to better outfit the shop with what he feels best serves the Jax bike community.
“Now that I’m on my own, not much has changed. I pretty much was able to do really whatever I wanted with the franchise but still had to answer to the boss,” he said. “[All the locally owned bike shops] are trying to accomplish the same thing, and that is to get everybody on a bicycle…What separates this shop from others around the area is the knowledge, attitude and service.”
Holt started racing mountain bikes around 13 years old, about the same time he started informally working at Open Road, the shop he now owns and that bears his name. He would push brooms and do tedious tasks around the shop just to pay for bike parts. He split time between Jacksonville and North Carolina, which has a booming mountain biking community. Officially, he worked for Open Road Bicycles for 16 years, 10 of which he was the franchise owner. Under Open Road Bicycles, he helped curate countless bike events, like mountain bike rides, fixed-gear races and long road rides.
To bolster mountain bike culture and community here in Jax, Holt has made donations to the Tillie K. Fowler Bike Trails like a public access bike repair kit at the trailhead. If you haven’t seen any of these around, Park Tool makes a free standing tower that features nearly every tool you would need to repair a bike—tethered to the tower so they can’t be stolen or lost. Bike repair stations are great not only for the convenience of making quick adjustments to your bike before you hit the trails, but they also give people the opportunity to learn how to fix their own bikes, which, in turn, produces a more educated community.
Currently, Tucker Cycles carries Jamis mountain bikes and an assortment of e-bikes, but Tucker is looking to expand inventory to include more American-made bikes and bike parts, like that Reeb I was talking about earlier. His goal is to make these high-quality American-made bikes more accessible to our community because he feels as though non-mainstream bike builders back independent bike shops, whereas bigger brands tend to gloss over smaller accounts.
“You can go straight to any of these big box store’s websites, have it shipped to your house, and it shows up 95% complete. I get it and I understand it’s the way everything is these days, but you miss interaction with people. You can read everything you want online and still get the wrong thing,” explained Holt.
If you’re looking to break into the world of mountain biking, or biking in general, head over to Tucker Cycles and have a chat with Holt. He’ll be sure to set you off in the right direction.