River Forest native opens more than a cycling store in Oak Park

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By Jack Crowe

Cycling columnist

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.

Reader Comments

21 Comments - Add Your Comment

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OPRF Achievement  

Posted: March 30th, 2013 6:50 AM

Welcome Element!!! GREAT for Oak Park. Another reason the OPRF area is one of the BEST in all of Chicgoland.

Roger McCaffrey from North Shore  

Posted: March 4th, 2013 1:10 AM

Love going to Curt Warner at Bikefix - Lake Street just east of Ridgeland. A true OP business. Quality bike repairs. Priceless.

Triathlete  

Posted: February 27th, 2013 12:16 PM

Didn't Bikefix move to the Lickton's spot? Haven't had repairs since the move, but he did good work at the old spot. Different shops have different personalities. I go to Dan's sometimes for a part, but it doesn't meet all my needs always. Nothing against it. You can't be everything to everybody.

Paul  

Posted: February 27th, 2013 12:03 PM

Yes, good point: Bernards is great, too. Wish you were still on Harlem near South Blvd! Funny nobody mentioned Lichton's -- like OPC, also bad. They would not even fix a flat there and prices were similar to OPC; i.e. very high.

Village Voice  

Posted: February 26th, 2013 4:44 PM

Although I will likely be a Barnards customer for life, I heartily welcome this rare reclamation of a prime retail spot from the realtors offices that previously occupied the space. When will realtors realize that claiming prime retail space for themselves only weakens the neighborhoods they are trying to sell? And yes, good riddance to that "other" Chicago Ave bike shop.

Violet Aura  

Posted: February 26th, 2013 4:11 PM

...get charge $14 more than another shop! I even bought one of my bikes there but they were just so unfriendly and I don't get it. Why wouldn't you be nice to the public?

Violet Aura  

Posted: February 26th, 2013 4:10 PM

To clarify, the last time I went to Dan's, I had a good exchange with the person working that day. It's possible that someone else is in charge now; not sure. I remember that one on Chicago Avenue and they were just atrocious! Total snobs! I had a bike that I needed a repair on and the woman said "time for a new bike." Oh really?! Gee, why didn't I think of that! Never imagining that perhaps I wanted to salvage this one. And I'd go in for a flat tire and have to leave it there for hours and...

Past  

Posted: February 26th, 2013 4:08 PM

I miss Zehnders

Violet Aura  

Posted: February 26th, 2013 2:21 PM

Paul: You're entitled to your opinion but other people have other experiences.

Love my neighborhood shop  

Posted: February 26th, 2013 1:07 PM

Don't forget Barnard's! A different kind of bike shop than this, but extremely family friendly and knowledgeable! Been in the business for a gazillion years.

Ricky from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2013 1:07 PM

Welcome! Just so people know there is also Barnards bike shop on North Ave. They have only been in business for over a hundred years. Great guys up there!

Paul  

Posted: February 26th, 2013 11:40 AM

I agree that the people at the former OP bike shop were not friendly, but to say that this also applies to Dan's is a big lie. The staff at Dan's are great, though I will check out this new shop, too.

Bill from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2013 11:36 AM

Great to have Element closer to home - the folks at Element are great!

Girls cycle too from oak park  

Posted: February 26th, 2013 11:29 AM

Please, have a line of bikes and equipment for women! Girl riders like comfort and style just like boys!! A friendly environment would be helpful, since we lack that in the OP cyclery and Dan's in Berwyn. Good luck - I'll stop in soon. Riding onward...

Iris M from Forest Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2013 11:19 AM

Wow, the store looks great! Good Luck to them on their new venture.

Brian from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2013 11:19 AM

We need at least 2 new bikes and now we know where to go! Although we had purchased bikes and had them serviced we never felt welcome at the Oak Park bike shop which has finally closed. Welcome!

globalguy from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2013 11:12 AM

Good luck to Chris and his new mechanic, Doug. He's dreamy :)

Greenline Wheels  

Posted: February 26th, 2013 9:00 AM

Welcome to the neighborhood! We have a lot of visitors ask us about purchasing bicycles - glad to have another local destination to refer them to! Congratulations and good luck!

Funny OP  

Posted: February 26th, 2013 2:59 AM

Awesome, now criminals can just stand outside the store and customers can hand over their newly purchased bikes as they walk out, and then the bikes can be cycled east or to 1 of the 5 pawn stores on North Ave.

Triathlete  

Posted: February 25th, 2013 2:26 PM

I've already been in the store to check it out. Looks great! This type of bike shop was really needed in the area. Thanks for saving us a long drive to the nearest decent store!

bike op  

Posted: February 25th, 2013 2:12 PM

Can't wait. Hope they are friendlier than the folks at Oak Park Cyclery were.

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