Monkey Wrench Cycles: Make a Grown Man Break Down and Weep – Kyle Kelley

Monkey Wrench Cycles: “There are some places so beautiful they can make a grown man break down and weep.”
Words and Photos by Kyle Kelley

The quote above is a pretty famous quote from a little book by Edward Abbey called The Monkey Wrench Gang and I think it even better describes my experience at Monkey Wrench Cycles in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Until Instagram, stories of Monkey Wrench Cycles only came to me via people visiting California from the Midwest or friends who’d moved from the Midwest out to California. I’d never seen the interior of the shop, I’d never seen the exterior of the shop. My relationship with the shop was very much like the relationship to your favorite book. Yes, my imagination was piecing together a floor plan, and characters, but nothing could compare me for the moment I walked into that shop.

When you first walk into MWC you are in their showroom, packed full of the hand-painted signs, cycling memorabilia from all disciplines of cycling, tons of Monkey Wrench’s own gear, and all of the coolest cycling stuff you’ve only seen on the internet. This would be enough to get anyone excited, but this side pales in comparison to the service area and bike museum!!!

Yep, you heard me right, there is a straight up vintage bike museum in Monkey Wrench Cycles!!! This is something no one ever really talked about when telling me stories of MWC and this is just crazy because their collection of vintage mountain bikes even rivals the Marin Museum of Bicycling‘s collection. So this got me thinking, if no one is mentioning this amazing aspect of this bike shop in the Midwest, the people and the service this bike shop provides, must just be out of this world, because you don’t just overlook these bicycles on the wall unless there are true bicycle messiahs down below the heavens above.

As I turned my camera to the service areas, each area was becoming a novella, painting a picture once again of Nate, Eric, and Carl, the three amigos of Monkey Wrench Cycles and this when I realized why no one was talking about the bike museum. Each workspace was dripping with the individuals’ personality, sense of humor, and even fetishes. There was everything from Star Wars memorabilia, to old hood ornaments floating around. But the three things that seemed to really unite all of the workspaces was they all looked used, well loved, and the tools of choice were Snap-On.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this amount of Snap-On in a bike shop ever! Growing up with a father who loved working on anything with a motor, I became very familiar with Snap-On and their high-quality tools, but I can’t actually remember owning any because of the cost. By no means am I saying that the boys at MWC are rich, because I own a successful bike shop, and I know those boys aren’t rich, because you most definitely don’t get rich owning small independent bike shops, but what you do get to be is rad and I can’t think of a radder shop than Monkey Wrench Cycles!

I really hope to make it back to Nebraska to better document the bicycles museum and do some touring around the wonderful state of Nebraska with both the MWC boys and Vince from Ponderosa Cyclery + Tour, but until then, check out these photos out and let your mind be blown!

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Follow Kyle on Instagram and Monkey Wrench on Instagram.

  • Gus

    Where does the museum end and the bike shop begin??

    • I think they try to separate the two rooms for just this reason! Who knows! Golden Saddle Cyclery has this problem too! Nothing is for sale/Everything is for sale!

      • Gus

        I’d be scared to touch a tool chest in case some priceless memorabilia fell.

        ps thanks for sending the ramblin’ rolls so quick!

        • They have their place dialed for flawless work flow, I bet they’ve thought of everything, ain’t nothing falling down! I just hope there isn’t an earthquake. When we do the runs of 50, it’s much easier to get them out in a timely fashion.

  • Nicholas Petersen

    So good.

  • Rye Young

    How do I order one of their basket bags!?

    • Give them a call at the shop!

    • Todd Munson

      The basket bags are great! They’re made by Porcelain Rocket. Have had the smaller size for about a month now and it’s a perfect fit in my basket and carries a 12 pack of Bud Heavy with grace and aplomb. Don’t be shy about giving them a call. They’ll ship your order right away.

  • Jeff Cole

    The best.

  • 300 Homestead

    Is this your homework Larry?

  • Daniel Powell

    Truly a religious experience.

  • So much good stuff in there.

  • Brian Vernor

    Nate is an humble man, and an amazing bike rider. MWC have supported my films since the beginning, and have made people aware of not only historical bikes, but also current builders Like Rick Hunter and Curtis Inglis. Unbelievable bike collection, of course, but above all, for me, MWC represents integrity, the core of any community. Great to see MWC represented here!

    • stric

      I remember them showing Pure Sweet Hell many years ago in Lincoln while I was in grad-school there.

    • White Mike

      Nate is a great human

  • AngryBikeWrench

    My dad sold Snap-on for 25 years. Christmases and birthdays were always rewarding, but even as a full-time mechanic with a hook up, I had a hard time justifying the cost of the tools. Now that he’s retired, I’ve just set up a saved search for “snap-on” in my local Craigslist. If you’re patient, there’s lots of used Snap-on with a lot of life left in it for reasonable prices. I finally scored a bottom toolbox in my price range. It needs work, but I’d rather own used Snap-on than new anything else.

  • Jonathan Raspa

    That LA Bike Summer sticker brings back some memories!

    • I definitely took that photo for a reason.

  • Richard

    Good god almighty. Now THAT is a bike shop.

    That wooden chest of drawers! If you can’t find what you need in there, I bet it doesn’t exist. I need access to drawer H-3…

    And a sweet FJ-50, to boot!

    • Daniel Powell

      I think that is an old library card catalog!

  • Steve C

    I’m about to fit out my new shed – this shop is gonna have a major influence on the final result! love, love, love the Sansui receiver! You’re right about grown men filling up! Great report!

  • stric

    I’m glad someone else likes MWC. It’s a hidden cycling Mecca in that part of Midwest. Whenever I visit Linclon, I make sure I stop by MWC just to see what’s u. That bike collection in the back room… oh brother. Nate helped me out put together my old CX bike (over ten years ago), that I still ride today.
    https://flic.kr/p/doQYoM

  • Rob Dickerson

    This is just awesome and the title “MAKE A GROWN MAN BREAK DOWN AND WEEP” never been more true. Thanks Kyle

  • One Eyed z

    Although I’ve know Nate for years (10+??) I’ve never been to his shop, an oversight I’ve been meaning to correct. Thanks for the look inside what I know, based off the people involved, to be an awesome place that one day I’ll visit!

  • Benjamin Montoya

    Kyle, do I see 2 Cunninghams or 3? Steve Potts too..These pics are blowing me away…

    • marty larson

      4. And if I’m not mistaken, not all of them are pictured. The collection is a complete wet dream of early up through mid 90’s mountain bike lust. Its absurd. Wonderfully so.

  • marty larson

    Best damned shop in the midwest (ok. One on One is pretty alright too), if not the country. That place is a treasure.

  • Those Ibis…