The door is freshly painted on the corner of Downing Street and 30th in the northeast Denver, Colorado neighborhood of Five Points. Behind the new blue facade, light washes in to reveal high ceilings and smooth wooden floors—heavily polished over time by both varnish and foot traffic. The rest of the space has that just-righted tidiness of a host’s house before a dinner party: intentional, inviting and immaculate. It’s an old building with a new idea, but Treehouse Cyclery isn’t its first bike shop.
Read on for Hailey Moore‘s shop visit to Denver’s newest, community-focused, bike shop: Treehouse Cyclery.
When I asked Alyssa Gonzalez, Treehouse co-owner, about the choice of locations for the new community-focused bike shop she said that, initially, she hadn’t put it together that the 1200 square-foot space had been formerly occupied by Gregory Crichlow’s repair and framebuilding shop, Chocolate Spokes.
The search for a cozy, affordable retail space had forced Treehouse to widen its scope beyond Boulder and a word from friend and Significant Other framebuilder, Ashley King, about an available storefront in Five Points had been just the nudge that Alyssa and Treehouse counterpart, Kolby Clements, needed.
Learning that the space had been renovated and occupied by Chocolate Spokes from 2011 to 2020 was that fortuitous detail that seemed to validate the pair’s decision to move the shop concept to Denver.
When Gregory first moved in with his tools, welder’s hood, and ever-present bowtie, the building had no plumbing and a leaky roof. Along with the tangible improvements to the space, Gregory helped establish a welcoming atmosphere in the neighborhood where any bike could be serviced with no judgment.
While Treehouse is strictly service and retail-based, the newcomer on the block aims to continue the spirit of serving the community started by Chocolate Spokes by diagnosing any bike that walks in. Additionally, Treehouse hopes to further cement the shop as a community hub by offering in-house events, group rides, and a bikepacking gear library.
And as a final, if coincidental, nod to the Chocolate Spokes story, Ashley King will be fabricating her Significant Other frames in an adjoining space and will be using Treehouse as a future showroom for her bikes. If you saw her MADE debut in our previous coverage, you know you’re going to want to keep an eye on Sig-O!
Alyssa and Kolby’s contrasting backgrounds exemplify the scope of customers they hope to serve at Treehouse. Originally from Connecticut, Alyssa wasn’t exposed to bikes growing up and found her way into athletics through track in middle school. Running would eventually bring her to Boulder with a group of friends seeking a post-collegiate training ground. While pursuing a Masters in User Experience Design, she found that running was the weight on the scales that she was most ready to let go of amidst school and work (im)balance.
Simultaneously, she’d become increasingly hooked by cycling—from the functionality of commuting to the adventure and engagement found on many of Colorado’s iconic trails, including the history-laden terrain of Crested Butte. Over the past two years, she’s become a community figure in the alt-bike/bikepacking/gravel space and has used cycling as a platform to shed light on social justice disparities.
Alternately, Kolby’s story with cycling dates back to “forever;” always riding bikes around his hometown in Kansas as a kid; getting his first exposure to real mountains, and “proper” mountain biking on a family camping trip to Colorado as a teen, and generally having the pursuit of better riding serve as a subtle compass for life decisions. After graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in Psychology and Sociology, he moved to Boulder, bought a steel Kona Honzo 29er, and spent two (self-described) unsatisfying years working in mental health.
Looking for a change, he decided to pivot more intentionally to bikes. With no formal experience, he landed a job at a local shop and spent the next five years there learning as much as he could and working his way up through the ranks of mechanics. While his interest in riding trails has never waned, it was during this time—as the capital “g” Gravel and modern ATB trends escalated in the US —that he developed a fast appreciation for the art of the build, and a “from the doorstep” riding mindset. Although he was largely surrounded by mainstream bikes spec’ed with mainstream components, he started scouring Pinkbike, second-hand shops, and other internet sources for more distinctive parts to curate his personal builds.
The Doors Open at Treehouse
The phone rang as I sat at the Treehouse Service Counter, having just heard the annotated and cycling-specific versions of Kolby and Alyssa’s personal histories.
“Oh! That’s our first phone call,” said Alyssa. The phone guy had been in the shop when I’d first arrived and there was still a bucket of Lacroix tucked under a nearby display table, leftover from the Grand Opening party just a few days before.
Meanwhile, Kolby was trying to ring up a walk-in for a tube and having some trouble with the new Citrus POS system. He got it sorted after switching to Venmo (“I promise this is our legit business account,”) and he and Alyssa did some troubleshooting once the customer was gone.
“We’re really just Boomers trapped in Millenial bodies,” laughed Alyssa, setting aside the new POS.
Kolby had turned back to his stand where a polished frame hung patiently waiting. “It’s a late ‘80s, or maybe early 90s, Ross mountain bike; fully-polished with a 3x 6-speed cassette and 26” wheels; it’s a bike that [in the past] I’d have to tell the customer I couldn’t work on. [Instead] I’m helping him replace the current handlebar with a really cool one-piece stem and bullmoose bar, and replacing the [packing] tape between the rim and tube interface with some fresh rim tape. It’s super vintage, for a lot of the parts you have to get eBay involved—it’s awesome.”
With the Ross serving as an example, Kolby went on to express that after a few years earning his mechanic’s chops, he’d started to chafe at the restrictions of the typical service department model, where an inventory chock full of mainstream components dictated the bikes that the shop would agree to put in a stand. This meant that most of the bikes that came through were less than seven years old or, at most, made within the past decade. Playing the devil’s advocate, I asked how changing up this model would work from a financial and efficiency standpoint.
Kolby acknowledged that while they have a lot to learn, he also believes that not being strapped with inventory is a benefit for Treehouse during this tumultuous, purse-tightening time in the industry. And, once word gets out, customers may self-select to have their older and vintage bikes serviced by Treehouse. So if you’ve got a resto-project in the Front Range, you know who to call!
Alyssa built on the idea of setting an intentional, different, and inclusive tone for the shop that would extend beyond the service counter and into their ride and event offerings. It’s no secret that Colorado, and the Front Range specifically, has a high concentration of professional and want-to-be pro athletes. Yet, while there are plenty of riders not routinely chasing K/QOMs, the group ride culture of the Front Range tends to favor the competitive-minded.
Or, at least, that’s what Kolby and Alyssa observed and heard from repeat visitors of their Coffee Outside series. (The twice-a-month, hour-long weekend meetup is truly just that: an opportunity to gather at a city park and meet people while drinking coffee. Most people show up on bikes but it’s not mandatory; sometimes there’s a ride after, sometimes not.)
On how they hope to bring some of the Coffee Outside energy to Treehouse rides and events, Alyssa said, “I think it’s this tough thing where Colorado has a lot of really amazing, elite athletes and that’s cool, but there are also a lot of people who still do these sports and long-distance stuff who just go at a slower pace, or who don’t always want to push themselves but [still] want an opportunity to do a group ride, or want to bring their friend who’s new to cycling […] We can still do things that are challenging and hard and have a welcoming and inclusive approach to it.”
Another way that Treehouse hopes to translate its inclusive values into real action is through its (forthcoming) bikepacking gear library. The idea was also sparked through the Coffee Outside meetups and the pair, in partnership with the Radical Adventure Riders (RAR) Front Range chapter, started taking bag donations last December. Checking out the gear for a trip will work like any library system. Treehouse’s donation tally is currently at 50 bags and they hope to open the bikepacking gear library to the public in 2024.
In a very digital age, there’s something especially admirable about turning stated values into action. It’s easy to lament about a lack of community in the abstract world of social media—it’s a very different thing to take the risk of opening a small business that’s dedicated to the pursuit of creating the community you’d like to be a part of. And this, as Alyssa said, is really what’s at the heart of Treehouse; “creating a true impact on the community would need to be something like [Treehouse], that has the infrastructure and longevity to create that space for people where they could walk in and learn things, or make new friends.”
And, in tandem with Kolby’s mechanical know-how, she views her non-traditional cycling industry background as a boon to the project; “I am coming from it from a different perspective on how to start and run a business. Especially with my UX background, I feel like I am able to identify the pain points and problems that people are expressing in the community and create a solution that’s not digital but physical, tangible.”
As the afternoon grew later, our conversation became increasingly interrupted as passersby stopped in the shop—some to just poke their heads into the new space, others with bikes in tow. A few seemed to remember the days of Chocolate Spokes, others expressed excitement about the new bike shop in the neighborhood. Kolby and Alyssa graciously tag-teamed in and out of the interview but, at this point, I decided it was time to wrap things up. They had customers to attend to.
If you’re in the area, don’t miss Treehouse’s upcoming events:
- Social rides every Friday from the shop
- 10/20: Ombraz pop-up/happy hour Friday
- 10/28: Cycle the World Film showing with McKenzie Barney
Find more at Treehouse Cyclery.