These days, the word hippie is about as fashionable an adjective as, say, socialist or Midwestern, but that's not going to stop us from declaring Freewheel Bicycle the best damn hippie bike shop in town. Not hippie as in retrograde fashions and patchouli oil, but as in building a business on a lifestyle-centric social cause that would be embarrassing at most dinner parties. This laid-back, worker-owned store on the University of Minnesota's still-eclectic West Bank has competitive prices on a dozen major brands, including Trek, Fisher, and Lemonade. They offer a free tune-up clinic for new owners, and a three-month, after-you-buy discount on their head-turning clothing and state-of-the-art accessories. They even teach inexpensive maintenance classes through Open U. But what pushes Freewheel ahead of the pack is its understanding that bicycles can be part of a worldview affected by riding simple machines through an open city, and not just a few times each summer. And their bulletin board, peppered with flyers and articles about the hazards and struggles of urban bicycling. And the exceptionally helpful service from salespeople who don't seem to care that much about closing a sale. And their do-it-yourself repair shop in the back, where riders can table their wounded bikes, dig into the pro tool box, and operate for just six dollars an hour (if you can't get that gearshift back together, one of Freewheel's on-staff cyclists will happily intervene). Which might seem excessive by most businesses' standards, but Freewheel doesn't just sell bikes to turn a profit--it's building a community.


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