Hidden Gems of Tuscaloosa: Queen City Cycles

Everyone remembers the first time they rode a bike. Maybe some remember the training wheels, others are scarred by the knee scrapes, but almost everyone remembers that first sense of freedom that a bike gives you. Jason Capley, owner and proprietor of Queen City Cycles, still gets that feeling every time he rides.

“I’ve been working in the business for 20 years,” Capley said “I made it my career. I can always make more money, but I wouldn’t give up my happiness for money.”

Capley started mountain biking after getting his first job at a bike shop. He originally had a group of riding partners from the shop who would all ride together. But over time, like a fad, his friends found other hobbies and gave up biking.

“They hung it up, but I just kept riding and finding new friends to ride with; I was hooked,” Capley said. “It’s one of those sports that you can do for your whole life.”

Capley, with his friend and business partner, Dan Hall, opened Queen City Cycles in 2011, with the plan to create a different kind of bike shop. For most of his career, Hall has been a musician and member of a 60s style band called The Woggles. Traveling to hundreds of cities around the world on tour, Hall made a point to visit bike shops in almost every place.

“We wanted to create something that was more worldly,” Capley said. “Most bike shops here in the States put the work area in the back, unseen, but we wanted it to be our focal point of the shop.”

When customers walk into Queen City Cycles, they see the register and several bikes hanging along the walls, but the next thing they see is the bike work station, located smack dab in the middle of the shop. One wall is even covered in tools that Capley uses to fix and tune each bike.

“A lot of our repairs are done while the customer waits,” Capley said. “When people see us work on it, I think it validates what we do. While we’re repairing, and the customer is sitting there, I can explain what happened and how they can prevent it from happening again. I think a lot of them appreciate that.”

Capley believes that Tuscaloosa has a strong community of bikers through Druid City Bicycle Club, which has upwards of 200 members. They have a variety of weekly rides along with competitions and races teams or individuals can compete in. Capley and 3 friends from the shop created a team for the Tour de Tuscaloosa race on April 9.

“It was really nice to have a race in Tuscaloosa where I could sleep in my own bed,” Capley said. “I think it was really good for the community to see that kind of event and for them to tie it in with the Druid City Arts Festival, so that people who might not see a bicycle race normally would be able to experience it.”

For many members of the community, biking is a hobby, but for most students, it’s a way to get around campus without having to rely on a car. As the closest bike shop to campus on Queen City Avenue, Queen City Cycles caters to many students and their bikes.

“You don’t have to have a parking pass if you ride a bike.” Capley said. “You can spend money on a parking pass each year, or you can spend as little as $350, and it’ll last you your whole four years. That’s a lot cheaper than buying four parking passes.”

Queen City Cycles sells a variety of bikes, including different styles of commuter bikes for students. Mountain bikes provide riders with the option to ride to class but also ride trails on the weekend. Road bikes can be for more serious racers and cyclists. A hybrid bike is a combination of mountain and road bike, whereas a commuter is more focused on being able to carry bags and travel short distances.

“The newest style of bike are the commuter-oriented bicycle with a cup holder for your coffee, an integrated rack to carry your bags or laptop, chain guards and upright fenders,” Capley said. “All of it is geared toward someone who is moving a short distance and doesn’t want to get in their car.”

Capley embodies a classic entrepreneurial spirit as someone who chased their dreams instead of the money. Many locals of Tuscaloosa share the same ideals of their businesses and feel a strong desire to support each other.

“That’s the importance of buying local, you keep your money local, you’re helping your neighbor pay his bills, and in turn, he might help you pay your bills,” Capley said.

Along with bringing his dog Lizzie, a Blue Heeler, to work every day, Capley’s favorite part of working at the shop is interacting with the different customers who come by.

“Every day it’s a new face,” Capley said. “The demographic of people who ride a bike is a very wide range: from the people who can’t afford to have a car to the people who can afford to have multiple bicycles. I love dealing with the wide range of people that walk in.”

Queen City Cycles is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 205-248-2481. 

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