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City Spotlight: Washington DC

Capitol Hill Bikes
719 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003
www.capitolhillbikes.com

By Colleen Crinion

If you’re looking for a new bike, bike accessories, or just need some repairs on your current one, be sure to check out Capitol Hill Bikes, the only union bike shop in the District.

The workers organized with the IWW (or the Wobblies as they are also known) in part as a show of solidarity with those trying to organize at Capitol Bikeshare, the city-wide bike share system. They also got some help from a fellow union bike shop just up the road in Maryland at Baltimore Bicycle Works. But as both the workers and the owner will tell you, they were already operating a lot like a union. The staff has a good relationship with management and have long felt comfortable coming to her with issues.

As the owner herself, Denise D’Amour, recently told the Washington Post, “The bottom line is that I have a good staff, they’re smart, and they have the best interest of the store at heart, and I’m willing to do what they think is best.”

And she’s right. The staff is very knowledgeable and friendly. They are also just as willing to work with newbies as they are fellow bike enthusiasts. Indeed, that was part of the reason why D’Amour opened the shop 15 years ago. As a woman, she didn’t always feel welcome in bike shops and wanted to create a space where women, girls, as well as those new to cycling would feel like it was their space, too.

As for the shop itself, it is located in the Eastern Market/Barracks Row neighborhood, close to the Eastern Market Metro stop. It’s a full-service shop offering all kinds of bikes and bike accessories as well as maintenance classes and repairs. Estimates are always free and the staff is certified to work on all bicycle makes and models, not just the ones sold in the store.

As for the brands they do sell, they offer some of the longest operating brands like Bianchi, as well as Fuji, Massi, Raleigh and others. If you’re not sure what you want, don’t worry. A brief chat with the staff will put you on the right track. Looking for a commuter bike? A bike for taking to the trails? An all-purpose bike? The staff will help you find what you need.

They only sell new bikes, but as a testament to how cool the staff are, when I asked about used bikes, the staff person immediately rattled off places where I could get one. In this same vein, a couple people came in with a bike frame they found and asked if the shop would buy it. They could not, since they do not have a pawn license, but offered to donate it for them.

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