After seating a group of nine people in the back of his South Slope bike shop this past Saturday, Joe Nocella pointed to a bicycle strapped onto a mechanic’s stand and spoke to the crowd. The day’s lesson covered flat-tire fixes and basic maintenance, all taught through live demonstration. Some onlookers took notes detailing each step of changing a tire tube, others listened along as Nocella imparted his wisdom.
“There’s no substitute to getting your hands dirty and doing it,” he said to the class. “Every bike you touch, every brake you fix, it gets you closer to knowing more.”
Nocella is the owner of 718 Cyclery, which moved from its original location in Nocella’s South Slope backyard to a modest Seventh Avenue storefront in November. He prides himself on the fact that 718 Cyclery does not resemble your typical cluttered, gritty Brooklyn bike shop. The interior is spacious, clean and brightly painted. Another way 718 distinguishes itself from many other bike shops, Nocella said, is its welcoming and educational atmosphere.
“I’m not interested in hiring some savant mechanic who’s rude to customers,” Nocella said. “The personality is more important than bike skills.”
Nocella and his staff are prepared to take any and all bike problems, and not only will they fix your ride, they’ll show you how to do it yourself for the next time that repair rears its head. Last Saturday’s class was free, as are upcoming classes on headsets and bottom brackets on February 19 and 26, respectively.
Helena Boskovic, a bicyclist who attended Saturday’s class, said that she appreciated 718 Cyclery’s accessibility. Boskovic had been bringing her bike to another nearby shop for repairs and while the experience started out friendly enough, the shop eventually began to attract a clientele who knew more about their bikes than she did, and definitely let her know that.
“It’s too cool for me,” she said.
Thanks to 718 Cyclery, she said, she no longer feels judged for her bicycle knowledge, or lack thereof. She said that Nocella’s classes, which she plans to keep attending, will help her increase her bike repair prowess, and her confidence.
“He’s teaching us from a layperson’s standpoint, so that I’m going to know what I’m doing,” Boskovic said.
In addition to repairs, Nocella teaches bike construction in a more intimate setting. He refers to these one-on-one sessions as collaborative builds, in which customers choose each bicycle part, build the bike with Nocella, and then later ride it home.
“There’s a value in learning to put your bike together,” said Nocella.
Not only do customers increase self-sufficiency by learning what each part of their bicycle does and where it goes, they also create a unique bike that addresses their specific needs as cyclists. And of course gain the bragging rights that come from building your own bike by hand.
From Nocella’s vantage point, the end result is higher quality. “If you build it part by part, it will be a better product,” he said.
Nocella works as an architect by day and opens the bike shop in the evening, only after he finishes his other job. A veteran bike messenger, he grew to love and understand the bicycle as a machine, he said, and he strives to have his customers do the same.
“You can be nice and help people along,” he said. “The way I run the shop is to be as friendly as possible.”
Krys Blakemore, Nocella’s first employee and lead mechanic, said Nocella’s unpretentious approach to bike maintenance strengthens the shop’s reputation.
“It gets a lot more people on bikes,” she said. “And that makes me happy.”