Curt Warner, the owner of Bikefix on Lake Street near Ridgeland Avenue, runs a bike shop known for its service department, custom bike and wheel builds, and an absence of attitude.
Warner was the kid who took things apart. He started with his Schwinn Stingray Apple Krate circa 1972. He dismantled it and put it back together during the Evil Knievel era when jumping off hills on Stingrays was the rage.
As a teenager, Warner put an advertisement in a local newspaper to make extra money and developed a following as a "wrench." He also became an avid cyclist, eventually logging four to six thousand miles per year.
Nearly twenty years ago, Warner started providing mobile repair service in Chicago by advertising in the Chicago Reader. When he and his wife moved to Oak Park and started a family, he became a stay-at-home dad and looked for opportunities here.
Initially, Warner connected with riders from the Lake & Harlem cycling group doing mobile bike repair. The quality of his work spread quickly via word of mouth. He also worked part time at Lickton's bike store on Lake Street.
By the time his son entered first grade, Warner wanted to return to work full time. He did not want a traditional job, so he began to plan his own bike shop.
In 2007, Bob Lickton offered to rent Warner garage space off a nearby alley. The endeavor started small. Warner was able to be flexible with his work and home duties while building the business.
After five years, Warner was ready to open a full-time retail operation.
"Living and working in a community like Oak Park is a beautiful thing," Warner said. "It's a Mayberry thing."
His two children attend school conveniently blocks from his "office."
In 2012, Warner rented half of the retail space at Lickton's. Bikefix would focus on all street trade, while Lickton's would continue working online sales.
Greg Beard, a longtime customer and member of the Lake & Harlem cycling group, proudly cites Warner as "my guy."
"He's the only one I really trust to work on my bikes," Beard said. Beard added that Bikefix recently rebuilt his Orbea bike including custom-built wheels.
Bill Olderr works with Warner servicing bikes. Olderr grew up in bike shops, knows the products and technology and – in his spare time – competes in endurance cyclocross events.
Beard recalls that he brought in a self-made "fixy" – a fixed gear bike – to show off, but Olderr didn't like something about the handlebars. So up on the bike stand the "fixy" went and Olderr made adjustments at no charge.
In addition to service, Bikefix sells bikes to "people who need to ride." Warner says it can take hours to understand a cyclist's needs and craft a custom solution.
Karin Evans heard about Warner through the Oak Park Cycling Club. While Evans cycles on the roads, she and her husband also take long "rails to trails" rides in Wisconsin. She needed a bike for both the streets and the gravel trails. Warner developed a solution using a Surly bike frame.
"He understands how I like to ride," Evans said. "[Bikefix] feels really personal, which is different from other shops."