Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Long-time Trek employee Eric Maves has long dreamed of opening up an utterly unique bicycle shop that is part-museum and part-custom-bike services. That dream came true this past year when he found space in an old mill in historic Paoli, Wisconsin. And it is here where his bike-boutique dream turned into reality. If you have a dream bike you want to build, or you simply want to pimp out your current ride, check out 1 OAK Bicycles.
Words by James Startt | Images courtesy of Jamie Forrest and Eric Maves
PELOTON Magazine: Eric, you are the founder of 1 OAK Bicycles, an utterly unique concept. I mean, looking at the project, it is part-bike museum, part-bike shop and part-coffee house. I guess it is a real boutique in the best sense of the word.
Eric Maves: Yeah, 1 OAK is definitely a mixed bag. It’s one part museum and there is a lounge area for people to hang out and get immersed, to look at things and to talk about bikes. I’ve curated a halfway-decent library with cycling books, so there is a place to learn and discover. And then there is the custom-bike part.
PELOTON: Yes, that seems completely original. How did you come up with that idea?
Maves: Well, I’ve been into bikes all my life. But I’ve never owned a stock bicycle, which is kind of crazy. As soon as I would get a bike, I would always and immediately look for things to change out on it. The one and only stock bike I ever owned was a Huffy BMX bike that I bought with my own money back in the 1980s. But that was stolen from my parents’ garage. Back in the ’80s I was also one of the first kids in my area to make the move from BMX to road bikes. I’ll never forget the day when I went in and traded my Ross BMX bike for a Nishiki. It wasn’t anything special but it was my first road bike. Immediately, I put a Selle Italia Turbo saddle and some gummy brake lever hoods on it to make it look just a little bit more “racey.” I guess that is where this idea really started. Soon, I was subscribing to the magazines of the day and spent my study hall hours in high school just thumbing through those magazines. I was always dreaming about bikes.
PELOTON: Would you consider yourself a collector?
Maves: Yeah, for sure. After working at Trek for so long and having access to different resources, I started looking into getting bikes that I dreamed about when I was in high school. Although I hate the term “bucket list” I still have a number of bikes that are on my all-time watch list. My first dream bike was a Colnago and I finally came across one about 15 years ago on eBay and I was immediately like, “Oh that’s it!”
PELOTON: Was it that cool red?
Maves: Yes, it was red. It was a 1986 Master America. It still has the curved, raked fork, so it was just before they went to the straight fork. When I got it, it was not completely period-correct, so I had to swap out a couple of the components. But it didn’t take much. I particularily like the Colnago Master America from that year because 1986 was when the U.S. hosted the world championships in Colorado Springs. I remember San Marco put out a special edition saddle for the world championships and I even managed to track one of those down. It was the perfect finishing touch and it’s definitely one of my favorites.
PELOTON: What is your actual goal with 1 OAK Bicycles. Do you see it becoming a full-time operation or do you see it as a charity of some kind, or is it just a cool side project?
Maves: Well, I call it a passion project. It’s a venture of mine. I definitely hope to supplement my income with it, but I have no grand illusions, or delusions, that I am going be so successful to the point where I would consider leaving Trek. But who knows? At the moment I don’t even have set hours. We had our soft opening on October 28 and for the moment we are open by appointment in the evening hours and some general weekend hours.
PELOTON: And how do you separate between the museum bikes and the shop. Is everything potentially for sale?
Maves: Yeah, I have a lot of bikes for sale, most of which are fairly modern, mostly new Trek bikes that I have built up and customized over the years. But until now I’ve just been sitting on them, as this whole concept has just been brewing within me for years. It was only last winter when I was looking through the classifieds and stumbled upon this wonderful space in this old grain mill building and thought, “That might just be the place to start this thing!” I’ve put a lot of thought on how to best curate the space, of how many bikes to have on display, and still give people the space to mix, mingle and hang out and have an espresso or beer.
PELOTON: Well, as far as business models go, yours is pretty unique.
Maves: Yeah, the business model is really different. These bikes are one of kind. As a result it is possible that somebody will come in and fall in love with a bike, only to find that it is not the right size. But that hopefully will allow me to work with somebody to design their own bike that, while it would not be the exact same thing, would be similar. These are, after all, one-of-a-kind bicycles. Be it a fairly standard Trek with a few swapped-out parts or a full-throttle-crazy custom repaint job, it is important for me that each bike be one of a kind [or 1 OAK]. In addition, we are also doing restoration services and are putting in place a localization service to help people find those few remaining parts that will allow them to finish off their own custom-bike project. I’ve been in this business long enough to know where to go to find parts that may be hard to locate.
PELOTON: And then you have a coffee shop as well?
Maves: Well, for the moment, it is just a Nespresso machine but, yes, I would like to develop that as well. In addition, there is a microbrewery just next store, so grabbing a cold beer is never far away. Anyway, I would also like to be able to sell a selection of books or fine-art prints that will encourage people to come out and discover the shop.