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A bike in every garage (and a chicken in every pot)

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Since Wally’s Bicycle Shop first rolled up its metal door at 306 Higuera last November, owner Wally Ajanel has been busy just keeping up with his customers’ demands. With its polished cement floors lined with towering bicycle racks, and stacks of hanging tubes, Wally’s is unmistakably a working shop doubling as a show room. A comfy, tired looking couch close to the door hints at a more laid-back, community- oriented side of Wally’s, a shop built on the concept that

BIKE LANE :  Wally Ajanel is bringing bikes to the community. - PHOTO BY CHRIS GARDNER
  • PHOTO BY CHRIS GARDNER
  • BIKE LANE : Wally Ajanel is bringing bikes to the community.
# bicycling can be enjoyed by anyone. Ajanel compares his shop to those he’s visited in Europe, a shop you can bike to and feel as much like a visitor as a customer. Wally’s caters to everyone with a little drive.
 
Ajanel’s been working on bikes since he was a kid in Guatemala, and in local shops for decades; for him, owning a shop is the realization of a longtime goal. When the opportunity presented itself for Wally to open his own shop, it was a no-brainer, “I had some savings, and I just thought, I have to do this.� he explains. Even if owning his shop is a dream, it’s still a lot of hard work; these days, Wally is working longer hours and sleeping less. To this Wally shrugs, “I love it.�
 
Close to Wally’s own workstation, at the back of the store, a table is set up for customers to work on their own bikes. Part of the fun of bicycling is tuning your own bike. Unfortunately, many budding bike enthusiasts don’t have access to tools or a place to pull a bike apart and put it back together. You can buy your parts at Wally’s and—with access to the right tools and teacher—learn how to put it all together. Wally doesn’t just want to sell you a bike; he wants to turn you into a bicyclist. “When somebody buys a bike, I show them how to work on it. At least they should know how to change a tube.� The beauty of bicycles is their accessibility: nearly anyone can get a bike, can learn how to work on it and go just about anywhere.
 
Wally does special orders, but mostly, he sells the Fuji, DeRosa and Marin brands and offers road bikes, mountain bikes, cruisers (with or with out training wheels), even trikes. For Wally, every bike is fun, with a unique character and its own set of challenges, but he thinks the most exciting to work on are the most innovative. “I enjoy the racing bikes. It’s very satisfying when a bike you work on wins first or second place.� If you’re not a pro, and you just want a great bike without spending a whole lot of cash, you can buy a quality used bike; a custom rebuilt bike with a light and a lock goes for around $200. Wally does consignment and trade-ins too.
 
On the south-facing wall of the shop, a mural of Lake Atitlan, close to where he grew up in Guatemala, covers wall to ceiling, a reminder of where he comes from, and for the rest of us, where we could go. “I’m so glad I’m working on bikes,� he says, reiterating the benefits, and the rewards from sharing his trade. “You get people exercising and you get some people who want to learn how to work on bikes and learn the trade, [even if] they know there’s no money in it.� 
 
May is bike month, so if you’ve already blown your New Year’s resolution to get healthy, make a bike month resolution to get moving and see the Central Coast from a new perspective in the bike lane. Stop by Wally’s Mon.–Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. If you can’t stop, ring your bell when you ride by. Info: 544-4116.

This week’s Strokes and Plugs was compiled by Kylie Mendonca. If you need a stroke or a plug, send your business news to kvelie@newtimesslo.com.

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