If You Build It, They Will Come: Gladys Bikes in Portland

If you build it, they will come, and by “they” I mean women. Yet not the women we typically see the industry sinking hundreds of thousands of dollars into R&D to make the perfect bike. No, this segment of the industry often gets the back-burner.

Let’s backpedal a little bit. Gladys Bikes is, as their Google profile so succinctly puts it, “a cycle shop for women.” The owner, Leah, felt there was a void in Portland’s current bike shop offering in one key way: they tend to leave out the hybrid, or commuter market, especially for middle-aged women. Particularly when it comes to bike fitting and saddle selection. Leah and her crew cater to this group, dare I say the “forgotten demographic” in the cycling industry.

From my brief moment in her shop, I was amazed at how busy Gladys was and not just busy with people buying tubes or bells. I’m talking “busy” as in buying bikes, along with the components and accessories to make their ride as enjoyable as possible. I watched a customer come in and test ride a bike from each of Gladys brands they offer, getting fit for each, before ultimately walking out with a new bike and saddle. Shortly after, another customer came by just to sing praises of the shop, saying she had finally lost weight and was feeling better than she had in years. Another couple came in to tidy up their setup before embarking on a bicycle tour.

“For women” but not only for women. Gladys is not anti-male: plenty of men came through the shop to buy accessories, or to pick up a tube or two on their way out for a ride. Gladys isn’t just catering to women. Their full-service shop works on all sorts of builds and is able to build you your ultimate bike. It’s amazing how welcoming of an environment one can create when it says right at the door “all are welcome.”

Saturdays in most shops are busy, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a shop this busy. In an industry that continuously talks about how much Independent Bicycle Dealers as struggling, this shop was almost over-capacity.

The center of attention in Gladys is the Saddle Library, which I might add, was almost all checked out when I showed up to visit. Saddles of all shapes, materials, and price points are available for people to come in and sample in a welcoming, inviting format. Each saddle has a placard with all the important information noted. After a quick sit bone assessment, you can find saddles that match your width and go from there. Don’t have a lot of money to spend? No worries. Want a carbon saddle? They’ve got ya covered. Saddle fit is something that can make or break the experience of cycling regardless if one is riding for sport or transport or anything in between.

As I left Leah and her crew to their jobs, I walked out of Gladys really impressed with the welcoming environment they have created. As someone who has witnessed his own mother get into shape because of bikes, I know how much of an impact a business like this can make for a budding cyclist to take a step or pedal in the right direction.

Thanks to Leah for taking the time on a busy Saturday to show me her shop and let me witness it in full swing!

Gladys Bikes
2905 NE Alberta St
Portland, OR 97211

Hours:
Tuesday – Friday: 11-7
Saturday & Sunday: 10-5

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Follow Gladys Bikes on Instagram.

  • fatlip

    cool shop, cool owner… respect!

  • nothingfuture

    This article makes me very happy- I ordered bottles (both because the bottles are awesome but also because the shop is awesome).

    • Leah Benson

      Thanks so much for the order and the support!

  • Bil Thorne

    That library is awesome. I hope more shops do that and start doing it with helmets too.

  • Jared Jerome

    This is what’s up. I feel like this is the type of shop that actually gets people out of their cars. More, please!

  • DopePedaler

    Is it pronounced like Gladys Knight

    • All fixed up, thanks for noticing!

      • DopePedaler

        I was thinking, ‘is her name Glady?’

    • Brian Simon

      OUR NAME
      Gladys (pronounced glad-iss) is the name of a bicycle that was owned and ridden by Frances E. Willard in the 1890s.

      http://gladysbikes.com/whatwedo/

  • AdamBike99

    So Glad for Gladys!!!

  • Leah had me at Solange! So glad this finally happened!

  • The episode of We Got To Hang Out with Leah Benson and Eric Tonkin is a must listen.

    Sounds like the visit was pretty brief. Would love to hear more coverage and stories from here.

  • Eric Hancock

    That saddle library is awesome.

  • MTBBendOR

    Awesome! Nice work, Gladys!

  • So cool. Saddle library. Genius.

  • Love this. The Saddle Library is something I wish more bike shops did.