We all know that Austin is a cycling city. We’ve all seen the pedicabs downtown, the fixed gear riders slicing through traffic and that one dude riding his daughter’s pink mountain bike back from the corner store in the wrong gear, with lotto tickets hanging out of his back pocket. So far, I’ve written two articles centered on the cycling culture in Austin and, to some folks, it may seem that there’s a bicycle shop on every corner. But how many shops can boast that they replace handlebars with bull horns?
When Rene Martinez opened Longhorn Bikes in 2007 in the Plaza Juan Raul shopping center on E. Cesar Chavez, he decided that he needed something to set him apart from the competition. So he started to replace bicycle handlebars with a set of bull horns for a paltry $150.00 (that includes the cost of the horns). According to an Austin American Statesman article by Denise Gamino from a few years back, this drew the attention of famed motorcycle builder and welder, Jesse James.
As he turned a wrench on a three-piece crank, Rene told me, “I tend to cater to the budget minded people and those who are into cruisers and lowriders. I am one of the few shops in town that has parts for those types of bikes in stock.”
I’m pretty sure that Longhorn Bikes is the only shop in town that carries parts for lowriders and cruisers, especially those that use older components like single piece cranks and threaded forks and stems – but it’s not safe to speak in absolutes. Other shops may be able to order specialty parts in, but they generally only carry modern parts. Longhorn Bikes has them in stock.
Why Longhorn Bikes
I’ve been a customer of Rene’s since 2008. Originally, I was searching for lowrider bicycle parts. See, I’m a huge fan of custom motorcycles and my favorite style is the bobber with ape hangers (tall handlebars for the layperson). I wanted to build a bicycle with a similar theme: simple, compact, no gears, no cables and, of course, the ape hangers.
I searched the Internet and found some, but I really wanted a local shop where I could buy lowrider bicycle forks and handlebars. Rumor had it there was this shop on the Eastside. Rumor was right. I bought a set of 20” ape hangers for my beach cruiser right off the shelf and Rene sent me on my way with a smile. In fact, I still have them in my garage and plan to use them again on a future project.
Since then, Rene has sold me wheels, tires, tubes, grips, and aligned rims. He’s also installed a fixed gear hub on a 26” rim because I have a weird imagination. He has done similar work for hundreds of other loyal customers.
The cool thing about Rene is that he’ll literally work on any type of bicycle. As I visited his shop, he shortened the chain on a motorized bicycle, adjusted the spokes on a set of electric bicycle wheels, changed a tire and finished modifying his own freewheel bicycle. His customers’ bikes ranged from old 1960’s cruisers to a Peugeot road bike. If it has wheels and pedals, he’ll fix it.
Not only does he repair and install parts on bicycles, but he has also hosted Frankenbike in the past and has bicycles for sale or rent. His rental prices are $20.00 a day. Not a bad deal, and SXSW and ACL Fest are generally busy times for his rental business.
If you’re looking to build a bike on a budget, or need parts that other shops may not have in stock, cruise on over (ah, another pun) to Longhorn Bikes at 2308 E. Cesar Chavez or call 512-542-9505, Rene may have what you’re looking for.
What is your favorite bicycle shop in Austin?