I'm visiting my family in Fredericton for Christmas: back in the hometown wandering around the same downtown streets doing the last of my Christmas shopping. And this morning I was walking past Savage's Bike Centre and decided to drop in and see what I could expect to pay for studded tires (if anyone in town would be carrying them, I thought, it would be Savage's.) Plus, I really wanted to go in and check out the shop, which has seriously expanded since I was a kid and wheeled my first mountain bike in there for a look at the brakes.
The counter is most of the way toward the front of the shop and a couple of the guys were standing at it and said hi as my friend and I came in. Including Matt Savage, who I went to high school with. Actually, Matt is one-half of a set of identical twins that I went to high school with: I think they're a year older than me. I think Matt was already working at the shop at the time, and maybe his brother was too.
The thing about Savage's that I didn't know until this visit is that it's been there, and in the same family, for more than 110 years. One hundred and thirteen, to be exact. This is the oldest established bike shop in Canada. It was begun here in Fredericton in 1897 and the Savages have been selling and fixing bikes ever since, right down to Matt, who manages the store now. I mean, you think of bike shops as being run by the latest crop of 25-year-olds. Not this one. This one has been selling and repairing bicycles for more than a century, father to son. And in a town that really isn't particularly cyclist-heavy.
So I had to go in and have a look around. I asked about tires - Matt told me he didn't have any studded tires in, and that they sold out fast in the winter. "I wouldn't pay more than eighty or a hundred dollars though," he said. "When you get back to Ottawa." I looked longingly at some of the skater-style helmets they had stacked by the door, walked to the back to check out the bikes (my friend and I both really admired one of the Specialized single-speed city bikes - big thick frame but with those bladelike skinny tires and light enough to pick up easily), chatted to one of the staff in the back about winter biking, and then we headed back out to go on with the Christmas shopping.
I think I'm weirdly proud that Fredericton's greatest bike shop is also the country's oldest. It's a strange thing to be happy about, but I think I am. It's nice to think about that kind of long-term passion, I guess. A hundred years of fixing gears and repairing brakes and straightening handlebars and replacing bike chain.