A new cycling store has opened in Oak Park, Element Cyclesport, at the corner of Chicago and Marion streets. The store is owned by River Forest native Chris Vassiliades, who hopes it will become a "community bike shop" for the Oak Park and River Forest area.
This is not the first store for Vassiliades, who also founded Element Multisport on North Clyborn in Chicago. Ten years after graduating from Oak Park-River Forest High School in 1989, Vassiliades found himself competing in his first sprint distance triathlon. He was bitten by the triathlon bug and eventually completed Olympic, half and full Ironman triathlons. He even became a certified triathlon coach.
As he looked around to purchase triathlon gear, he noticed a hole in the city market and so in 2008 he opened his first store, which caters to the triathlon community. That store carries a full assortment of swim, bike and run gear.
Vassiliades has something different in mind for his Oak Park store.
"This is a family neighborhood," he explains. "It's the town I grew up in and my parents still live here. I want this to be a community bike shop where people not only get bikes fixed and buy bikes, but hang out." To encourage this, Vassiliades says he is installing a coffee machine. He also guarantees that every customer will be greeted with a smile and will get great customer service.
The store carries a full assortment of road, mountain and tri bikes from Trek, BMC and Scott, but also "city" commuters, cross, single speed, hybrid and comfort bikes. These bikes are entry level to high end.
There is a range of bikes for kids too, with everything from starter bikes with training wheels to "mini" road bikes for the aspiring young athlete.
The store has a full mechanics shop for bike repairs. There is also a range of bike gear, clothing and energy food and drink.
Given the focus at his other store, there is an assortment of triathlon gear, including wetsuits, compression gear, hydration systems and aero helmets.
Vassiliades is also a certified bike fit specialist. He uses an infrared tracking system to measure a rider's body dynamics while pedaling and then makes bike-fit decisions from the data.
Instead of buying on line, Vassiliades suggests that people visit the Oak Park store not only for the products but to experience the knowledgeable customer service. He even hints that if you buy a product, his staff will often install it at no charge.