After residing in West Campus for 42 years, Freewheeling Bicycles, a family-owned specialty bike shop, will close at the end of May.
Angela Prescott, the shop owner and original owner’s widow, said new high-rises in West Campus have made it too expensive for the shop to continue traditional operation.
“I spent the last five months looking for other locations and basically decided they were too expensive because I wanted to stay in the university area,” Prescott said. “We were going to have to be much smaller and we didn’t want that.”
The shop started in the early ‘70s by UT alumnus Frank Cook, whose search for a new bike led him to purchase five instead and become a bike dealer himself. Cook repaired bikes out of a West Campus garage apartment and established a staff of bike enthusiasts who were previously paid in bike parts.
Cook’s daughter, Samantha Cook, said her dad, who died in 1999, would be proud of the shop’s ending stretch. She said her father and her family loved helping people.
“We did the Livestrong ride the first year it was in town, and I turned around, and I couldn’t find my dad anywhere,” Cook said. “He had found some kid whose helmet was on wrong, and he was adjusting the helmet and telling the parents how it should be worn. He loved helping people like that, and I think our customers know that we do too.”
Maxwell Machicek, environmental science senior and a Freewheeling employee since high school, said the shop’s consistency over the years is what appeals to its loyal customer base.
“Things haven’t changed,” Machicek said. “We don’t even have a computer with a barcode scanner – it’s all typed in manually still. That translates to customer service. If it’s marked under two different prices we’re going to cut you a deal.”
Prescott said while it is hard to leave the shop, it is harder to leave the bicycling community Freewheeling Bicycles belongs to.
“It’s been a place for people to come for information and obscure parts,” Prescott said. “Our employees have always been very knowledgeable. We try not to talk down to people, which is important. We have taught many people to ride in the parking lot – old and young.”
Machicek said Freewheeling used to be one of a couple of family-owned bike shops and has maintained its ties to UT.
“We’ve always had students come in, but they’re never going to be your bread and butter when you’re selling $3,000 parts,” Machicek said.
The Austin community will have an opportunity to show their final support for Freewheeling Bicycles by attending their bike-to-work breakfast May 17. The shop is also offering a closeout sale throughout the month of May.