My husband, Brandon, found Transit Bicycle Company as soon as we decided to leave New York and return to Dallas. “I think I just found my new best friend,” he said after his first visit. The generously tattooed and pierced owner, Fran Badgett, was a very good listener. Brandon found every excuse to ride down to the Lower Greenville shop for Lord knows what. Handlebar tape. A bike light. Different colored handlebar tape. I knew well enough that these were things he didn’t really need. I also knew it didn’t take two hours to buy a bike part.
When we saw the Instagram post announcing Transit’s permanent closure, we sat stunned and read the comments. Several said it was the only bike shop in which they felt comfortable. Others touched on Fran’s generosity (“He sold me a hip pouch off his own hip,” said one). Some said the shop changed their lives or helped them through hard times. “That’s the thing,” my husband said, “I’m sure everyone who walked in felt like they just found their new best friend.”
The shop was a hub for all kinds of riders: daily bike commuters and scrappy explorers, freaks and geeks, teens and Boomers, straight and queer. Fran, himself a transgender gay man, welcomed all. The shop hosted weekly social rides, regular campouts, occasional alleycat races, and participated in trends like cyclocross competitions. Often, exercise was an added benefit—the joy of seeing the world on two wheels was the main point.
Like many small businesses, the shop has fallen prey to online retailers. (Fran says people would often come into the shop with a part they bought online and ask for advice on how to fix it themselves.) Retail sales will stop this Saturday, June 29. An all day goodbye party begins at noon on Sunday. Some aspects of the community, such as social rides, will live on, but the come-one-come-all clubhouse will be gone.
I spoke with Fran and others in the Transit orbit to collect some of the shop’s history and memories.
Fran Badgett, 36.
My first bike was a pink Huffy something with training wheels and a little basket with flowers on it. And even at four years old, I was like, ‘Ew, I don’t want this.’ I think I accidentally got it stolen—accidentally, as in air quotes. I needed a new bike and I got a red GT Vertigo ST, which is a 20-inch BMX with pegs on it and it was badass. And I would ride that all over the neighborhood till the lights came on.
The bike after that was a Peugeot mountain bike from a [North Dallas] shop called Cycle Spectrum that I grew up around the corner from. That’s what I rode to high school. That’s what I took to Chicago. That’s kind of where I got into riding bikes because there’s no point in bringing a car living in downtown Chicago; storing a car would have been like renting an apartment. So I dropped in and out of school while I was up there, but I got a job as a bike messenger and fell into the culture.
I ended up moving back to Dallas permanently in 2007 and working for Borders Group, the bookstore chain. Yeah. Obviously it was circling the drain, but it was next door to the bike shop, Wheels in Motion. It was very performance oriented, lots of road bikes and stuff. I’d hang out there a bit, but there wasn’t that Chicago bike culture feel. So that was the onus and the impetus to start Transit.
I found a little shop that was doing something sort of familiar. It was called West Village Bikes at the time, over at Blackburn and McKinney. Every time I would go in and talk to the guy who was running it, he was clearly kind of burnt out because it was a one man show, and his running joke was, ‘Hey, do you want to buy a bike store?’ After nine months of that I was like, ‘Yeah, sure, yes I do.’
I have always, always prided myself on inclusivity and accessibility, right? So when I moved back to town and was riding a bike around, there were only a couple shops and I don’t know if it’s looking the way I did or the bikes that I was riding or that I wasn’t showing up in spandex or in a car with a bike on the back, but I would get either outright ignored or mansplained. There had been this sort of haughty, closed-door attitude. You don’t know if the person wearing whatever they’re wearing has the money on them to buy you and sell you. You can’t make assumptions based on what people look like.
That was the biggest reason I thought that I should do this, to open that door, cause it’s a bicycle. Like, it’s a toy. Everyone has one as a kid. I think that’s the biggest barrier to a lot of people. It’s kind of like walking into a record store with like the guy from the Simpsons working there. There’s this kind of attitude, ‘What are you doing in my club house?’ I wanted a bigger club house. Everyone has to start somewhere, and you have to kind of like fall in love with the customer being there. So I wanted a third place, like something other than home or work or a bar for people to gather in and socialize.
People found us, but it was a little more of a destination. We weren’t drawing a lot of traffic from the West Village, Uptown neighborhood. I just think that the culture doesn’t quite sit there the same way. So we stayed for four years.
Trading Uptown for Lower Greenville
We looked in Deep Ellum and East Dallas, and ended up settling on Lower Greenville in January 2012, before Trader Joe’s went in on that block. That strip had been a bunch of increasingly seedy bars and nightclubs. The neighborhood association, to my understanding, had gotten together and started to rezone that neighborhood, forcing these bars out. The place had been the first-ever location for Ghengis Grill. It had been a bar called The Tiger Room.
We walked into this space and it had these just like God-awful murals of Latinas with very large boobs and no hands; clearly like the artist had his strengths and just didn’t bother. So it was me, for a month, with white paint and a roller. The bar counter is still in place. We cut out about 15 feet of it. I’m kind of bummed I never went. It looks like it was a real dive. We had about a dozen signs that had like a picture of a couple dancing with a circle and a line through it and said no dancing, no se permite bailar, which I still have one.
We started drawing customers from the neighborhood. A lot of other younger families, a lot of young professionals. We started seeing people that had like lived in Seattle or New York or places that had like kind of a more commuter bike culture. And they definitely brought a little of that to us too.
Cruise, Don’t Race
Transit has always been a small enough shop that I can adjust inventory on the fly. When we first opened, the big trend was brake-less fixed gears, which is totally what brought me into biking. There’s sort of a hipster cachet to it at this point. Urban Outfitters was starting to sell these things online. So we were like, okay, there’s a market there as this kind of younger, hipper crowd started to really get into bikes, they realize they want to be more comfortable. There was this move toward more utilitarian stuff that you could put racks in, fenders on stuff you could just hop on in whatever clothes you were wearing and not have to suit up in spandex or wear shoes that attach to the bike. Just vehicular cycling. That’s sort of the direction that we grew. I also had a love for steel frame bikes over and above like aluminum, titanium, carbon.
At the time, if you were an adult going to buy a bicycle, companies assumed that your ultimate goal was racing. This is before Lance Armstrong got defrocked and road cycling was a big fun thing for Americans to rediscover. But racing bikes are really good at just that type of riding. So there were a couple of smaller niche companies that were building bikes that were a little more utilitarian, but nobody was representing them in town. You could walk into any of the bigger bike shops and buy your Trek, starter road bike, but you couldn’t go get something that you could just pedal around town.
So that was my stock in trade, selling stuff that was a little more Swiss army knife, a little more real world. It’d be like the only car being available being an F1 racer. It’s a car, yeah, but functionally, in your day-to-day, you don’t need that. So there was a lot of like explaining that to people. Why don’t you sell road bikes? Well, many other people do. You can go buy one there. This is more of a real-world road bike. Try it. We promise you’re going to like it.
Everything I know about business, I learned from Miracle on 34th Street. The Macy’s Santa Claus would send kids and parents to the opposing department store and it ended up growing Macy’s business. I thought, that seems about right. You don’t have to compromise what you want to sell to help this guy. So we got a bunch of customers that way, who were convinced that they needed this thing that was being marketed to them by every bicycle magazine in the world at the time. And then it turns out 40-something-year-old men with beer guts don’t really need carbon race bikes.
Even before opening the bike shop, I would ride my bike to work from West Dallas to Lovers and Greenville. I know that there were bicycle commuters in Dallas before me, but I didn’t know any of them and I rarely saw any of them. So if you thought bikes in Dallas, it was that you put your bike on your car, drove it to White Rock Lake, rode in a circle once or twice and then went home, which just didn’t make sense to me.
When I moved to Chicago, it’s a huge city, it’s a really well-paved city. It’s really easy to navigate. It’s also a city of neighborhoods, kind of in the same way that Dallas is: block by block, it’ll change totally demographically. Like two blocks from here [his home in Oak Cliff] is a completely Hispanic neighborhood and that’s the language you’ll hear. And that’s what you’ll smell cooking. Signs will be in Spanish, then pedal on for another three minutes and it’s rolling hills and multimillion dollar mansions, and then on to the industrial west. if I were a Realtor I would absolutely want to show houses via bike just to give a sense of what the neighborhood does. At the time I had to bring that from somewhere else.
There’s more infrastructure by far now than there used to be. There are share rows painted on roads. There are a couple separated bike lanes. The bridge across the Trinity on Zang has a separated bike lane, which actually, one of my former employees is responsible for. A guy named Dallas Torres. He was riding in Oak Cliff before that bridge had a path on it and got hit from behind by an uninsured motorist going, like, 45 miles an hour. He was in the hospital for a while and he had a plate put in. His bike was terrifying. It came back in six or seven pieces. But I think that was kind of the canary in the coal mine for bike infrastructure in Dallas. A bit of a wakeup call to the city that it will be useful to not have your citizenry mowed over. So let’s build some bike trail. So they started.
Cycling Is Social
I think social rides started with a Taco Tuesdays, just a Tuesday night ride to random taquerias cause they’re all over town. Every one is its own special little animal. So we’d have a dozen or so people meet up and ride from the shop and go explore and end up back at the shop. Alicia Pol, she’s since moved to Seattle, she was a regular customer. She decided she wanted a woman led ride, so she started a ride called TITS Tuesday, which stands for Time In The Saddle. It goes on to this day. It meets at the Whole Foods over in Lakewood. It has been led by a woman every time. That’s a huge ride. So still they’ll have 60 or 70 people.
Women should be on bikes, non-gender identifying people should be on bikes, people of color absolutely should be on bikes. It doesn’t need to be like straight white guys.Fran Badgett, Transit owner
I never plan anything. There’s never a set route. They last anywhere from 12 to accidentally 30 miles. It’s a social pace. It’s open to everybody. The whole idea is to just introduce people with at least one thing in common with each other and to get out and explore Dallas. The whole city has been our oyster. Lots of trips to the FOE over in East Dallas. I don’t know if they had a bike rack before us, but they definitely have one now. Tietze Park and Kidd Springs pools, we’ve hopped in and gone swimming. Crashed a couple apartment complexes. I’m not going to endorse jumping the fence at The Village, but there’s enough pools.
We added a gravel ride a couple of years ago. There’s a whole trail system hidden away behind White Rock Lake that people jog on, but it’s never trafficked. It can even be just an unknown alley or the levies of the Trinity River that haven’t been paved yet, but it’s so remarkable how quickly things change when you get off the pavement. You don’t really feel like you’re in the city,
Cycling Gets Loud
One of my very earliest customers I can name is Victor Lopez. He was 17 when he started showing up at the shop in the West Village. And he’s still hanging around. He was a music nerd. We would talk about what bands I was into and he would come in and we would work on his bike. I think he had a fake ID and was getting into shows every night of the week. He got hired on by Parade of Flesh, which is a local talent booking agency. A couple of years ago, they were looking for a small venue for their smaller acts that were traveling. They wanted something all ages so these young bands could bring their friends and family. A lot of these kids were fresh out of high school.
So we’ve had bands, local, national, a couple international. We’ve had a couple groups from England, from Scotland. We’ve had some Canadians. We’ve had an Australian group. Some of the bands had been like, Oh, I thought this was a bar called The Bike Shop. By the end they seem to be pretty sold on it.
A Place for All
I transitioned fully I guess seven years ago, six years ago. Female to male transgender, and I’ve never been quiet about it or private about it. I mean, if somebody asks, I’ll tell them. It’s an aspect of my life. It’s not a facet of my personality. But I’ve gotten no negative feedback. I’ve gotten no death threats, no bricks through the window. At this point, I think new customers who’ve come in might be surprised to learn because it’s not something that I advertise. [Ed note: Many, including me, have asked if Transit was a play on words. Fran says it was not, but “it’s pretty funny after the fact.”]
I joined the board of directors of the Resource Center of Dallas, which is a large scale resource center for the LGBTQ+ community. It started as a food pantry for HIV patients and has blown up since then. I started volunteering in the center with the Youth First program, which is kids ages 13 to 18. It seemed like something like that would have benefited me if it had been there when I was that age. It is just like the coolest, weirdest group of people there.
There are a couple of nonprofits in the Pacific Northwest that are all about getting queer youth out in the world, which is important. Like the kids that I work with are, I kind of hesitate to call them indoor kids, but it’s so easy to live this internal life online, right? These are kids who are struggling with their gender identity or the sexual preference and all of them have a phone. They’ve all got a built in community of people they may never actually meet in cyberspace. I mean, you’re already a teenager, you’re already sort of disconnected from your body. It’s betraying you in a whole host of ways. And these are kind of amped up if you’re going through this. And I think that physically interacting with the world is a great way to re-center yourself with whatever your personhood is. You can exist outside of yourself for a little while if you’re sweating and get up a hill or if you’re hiking or if you’re sleeping outside and you don’t have access to your computer or phone thing. So I don’t have a curriculum formed or anything, but I know something in me, it’s like, this is important.
I’ve tried very hard to, this is kind of a bummer, but I would love to have had more female employees. The bike industry, nationwide, is very male dominated. If you watch the Tour de France, the only women you see are the ones that are handing the trophies away on the podium. Like, that’s where we’re at? It’s not even like NASCAR.
It should be more advanced than this. There is a long political history with women and bicycling. It dovetails with the suffragette movement. Women should be on bikes, non-gender identifying people should be on bikes, people of color absolutely should be on bikes. It doesn’t need to be like straight white guys. It’s the most egalitarian way to get around.
Jeanette Desser, 45.
Former copywriter at Neiman Marcus Group, now living in France.
First bike: Shared a Huffy with two older brothers and they “rode the hell out of that thing.”
I lived on the same block in Lowest Greenville and some friends at work told me that they had a weekly ride at Transit. I had just gone through a major breakup after 12 years and needed something to get past my loneliness. My son was graduating from high school, going off to college. I wandered into to the shop and asked about the ride. They called it the Taco Tuesday ride. It evolved into a Sunday ride later. But the owner, Fran, became one of my best friends, as well as Johnny [the general manager] and past people that used to work there as well. I was pretty close to them. And just being able to walk into the shop, sit down on their sofa and shoot the breeze was just an experience I’ve never had in my life to go into a business and not do business. I’ve never known any entrepreneurs on that level. So it felt like family, it really did.
We did some rides where we made coffee over fires in parks. Those were terrific because we would go to unique places around Dallas off the beaten path and unplug and put out a picnic basket and have donuts. One time someone brought a cassette player. [Laughs.] It was a little vignette. You know, here I was, turning 40. I wouldn’t have expected that I could join this group, some of them very young, late teens, twenties, and fit in. And I did, so that was such a cool thing. Age didn’t matter.
Alex Estrada, 47.
Transit customer, works in higher ed.
First bike: “One of those banana, heavy bikes from the 1970s. Purple. I don’t remember the brand.”
I moved to Dallas in ‘97 from Laredo. I was born and raised in Mexico. So by 2013, I find myself with no mission in life. I was coming out of a long relationship. I also had a triple bypass—I had open heart surgery in my previous life. So I had been watching also my health and I needed more physical activity. I have friends who cycle around Dallas, one coworker in particular. I used to tease him about it. I had this impression this idea that cycling, you have to have your kit, you have to your road bike. I had a negative view of the whole bike culture in general because I wasn’t familiar with it. But before you know, I’m shopping around for a used bike. Lo and behold I realize the bike has some issues, mechanical issues. I showed up with my bike and everybody’s teasing me. It turned out that the seat post was stuck to the frame. It was like pretty much a newbie error. Fran is the kind of rider who’s very easy going, no racing; you want to get to point A to point B and enjoy the ride. We share that experience. I commute daily from my apartment. I ride with the rain, with the sun, with the snow, you name it.
I joined the TITS Tuesday group because my coworker used to ride with them. What’s key about their group is that it’s always a woman leading the ride and I found that pretty fascinating. That was in 2013. I met my wife a couple of years later. Christina. And initially, I think the way she puts it, I guess I was clueless, you know, that she was interested in me, but a couple of our bike riding friends noticed and they tried to make us happen. She didn’t really catch my eye—we joke about this—she was riding a not-so-desirable bike at the time. I guess I’m known in the bike community as a retro grouch, someone who likes old bikes. Her bike wasn’t very pleasing to the eyes. Then a couple weeks later she started riding something that caught my eye, and then that’s where love blossomed. It’s an old vintage Japanese bike from the 1970s, I think. It’s kind of geeky bike love. We just had our first anniversary.
Sheryl Lanzel, 41.
First bike: “It had training wheels. I vividly remember riding for the first time without training wheels the feeling of freedom and soaring exhilaration that follows.
I didn’t ride that much in Boston, a little bit. When I came here, I had an Airbnb on Morning Side which is in the M Streets. So I went to the closest bicycle shop to look for a group social ride. I found out they had a ride that met at Transit on Monday nights and it was all women. It’s called Femme Pedal, and I met all my closest girlfriends because of that ride. You know, this little bike shop has created this vibrant community of a variety of people, people that I never ever would have met if it wasn’t for bicycles, if it wasn’t for Transit. That’s not going to happen in any CVS or Wells Fargo that is taking over Greenville Avenue. I think that there’s so much depression and loneliness. We moved to these cities alone, but we have to find our tribe and we have to find our family. And I know this is how I did it.
I have a friend named Joel. He and I have a 130 plus friends in common on Facebook and all of them are cyclists. I don’t think Dallas is thought of as a cycling friendly place. And it shows like that there is a strong community here. We go to the City Council meetings and we go to the Dallas Bicycle Coalition meeting. People are involved and they care.
I’ve ridden my bike, and I’m not exaggerating, through every single neighborhood because of Fran’s rides. And when he leads the rides, he doesn’t have his map, his phone, anything written on his hand. He just knows Dallas so well, and it’s like this fearless, easy, joyful bike ride. And you know, I don’t have to think, I can just follow him and follow the people in front of me. They call these rides “no drop rides,” which means if somebody has a problem, everybody is supposed to stop and we’re supposed to help that person. If you have a flat tire, everybody rushes to your rescue. We don’t start rolling again until that person’s ready to go. There are rides in the city that are not that way. They’re like, we’re riding for exercise and we’re riding to ride fast and to get miles in. So these rides are meant to be accepting of people and welcoming of people. I’m making a documentary about this now and filming inside of Transit as much as I can before they close. It’s kind of like Cheers but cooler. It’s like the place where people go to just hang out.
Danny Curry, 62.
Works in metal manufacturing.
First bike: Columbia 10-speed.
When I was in high school I used to race bicycles. Basically, I’ve been collecting bikes for about 40 years. I’ve got about 35. Ninety-five percent of them are out of the 1970s. At one point I went over to the original bike store got them to start helping me with maintenance. Then I helped them move to Greenville six years ago and they had the box window in the front, so I would decorate it every month with a different theme and different bicycles, two bikes a month. It took about four day every month to take it apart and set it up.
For January I would do all-chrome bicycles and a whole bunch of calendars. February, I would have all sorts of restaurant menus and things about Mardi Gras. We did a recreation of a 1970s French bicycle mechanic shop. Had all these French bike tools and then an empty champagne bottles laying all over the floor and these old Peugeot French bikes. That one was real fun. There’s a certain brand of French gear shifters, and I had a champagne bucket with about a hundred of them falling out that had all broken. It’s kinda an inside joke if you know how those things work; they were absolutely terrible.
I’ve never taken a nickel from them. I’ve always paid for all my decorations. Then when they need help with things around the shop as far as electronics or lighting, one time we painted the floors, but that was my gift to Fran for letting me display the bicycles. Everybody who collects loves to show off their collection. So this gave me somewhere to display the bikes and then do the themes. It’s an extremely unique opportunity. It’s the only one like it I’ve ever seen. How many bicycle shops, when they have a birthday party, they have free music, free beer, and free tattoos? That was the party for the shop’s seven-and-a-half-year anniversary, because I think they forgot it on the seventh year, so when they finally realized, ‘Oh yeah, we missed that.’ They were doing these little two-inch-by-one-inch Transit tattoos for free. And you know, they asked if I was going to go down there and get a free tattoo. I’m like, sorry guys, wrong generation.
The crew are always very nice to everyone. They had a rolling cast of characters that was always coming in the doors. Everything from the two teachers that were having bicycles built to go on the Appalachian trail for a summer vacation to the guys that live on the streets who they would fix bicycle tires for.
The collection is going to start going up for sale. Being 62, I’m a few years away from retiring. The value of the bikes range from $1,000 to $6,000. So I’m hoping to sell them off and use the money to buy airplane seats. I’m going to travel around the world with it.
Herrick Griffin, 35, and Julie Griffin, 32.
Herrick works in Telecom sales, Julie is an engineer. Both now live in California.
Herrick’s first bike: “All I know is my parents say the bike had solid rubber tires and I completely wore the tires out cause I rode it so much.”
Julie’s first bike: “It was pink with purple and pink hearts and purple and pink streamers and a white basket on the front.”
Herrick: I started this hobby when I thought, okay, watching TV all the time isn’t very productive. Instead I’ll just fix up old bikes. We had a ton in our garage. I won’t tell you how many, but it was a couple dozen. So I started basically visiting there every week or so to buy various parts. Most shops, your relationship starts and ends with the transaction. Transit was more like hanging out at a friend’s house and then buying all of his cool things. A testament to that is that a lot of the people at the wedding were customers of the shop, including us. [Fran married his husband, Crisman Liverman, in January.]
Julie: We decided to have a bike built specifically for me or to purchase the frame and then I can just pick all the components. Being the engineer that I am, I really wanted to build it, but I knew I didn’t have the skillset or the tools to properly build a bike. Fran came in at like 8 a.m. one Sunday morning and we brought breakfast tacos from Taco Y Mas and just had so much fun building my bike together. He taught me so much during that time, like how to grind out a bottom bracket, and that’s all he wanted out of it was just, you bring the tacos, I’ll provide the equipment and expertise.
Mario Sanchez, 37.
Carpenter, who helped renovate both Transit locations.
First bike: Grew up riding BMX.
I bought an old Schwinn and I converted it into a fixed gear right around the time they opened Transit. I started going there for parts and immediately got sucked up into the culture. I’m a carpenter by trade, so they kind of came to me with things that they needed. I think we all remember how sketchy parts of Greenville were at that point. I think it was the Yucatan before they moved in and they had a shark head for the sign out front. It was just super grimy. And so I was like, well, I’ll help wherever I can.
Then they sponsored me on this tour I did down the coast with my best friends. We all went up to Portland, Oregon and rode our bikes down to Los Angeles. It took us about a month. It was kind of like a life changing experience for me. I was going through all kinds of things at the time and I didn’t really have all of the proper equipment to do it. I ended up quitting the job that had after like 10-plus years to go. And so I sold one of my track bikes to Fran and the shop lent me some saddle bags, panniers, and a crank set and a couple other things just to make it possible for me to make it down. So, I mean, it meant a lot to me, that the shop has been there for all kinds of things. I couldn’t have done it without them.
Johnny Aiken, 36.
Transit general manager.
First bike: Sparkly, seafoam Huffy
My mom didn’t drive until I was a teenager, so I grew up riding bicycles. I’ve been in the bike industry a little over 10 years. I’ve known Fran since Transit opened in the West Village. I was working at Rockwall Cycling, but I was living in Highland Park, so I was actually a customer first.
It was my 36th birthday last year and we were all hanging out at the shop because that’s what we did when we wanted a place to hang out. We would all gather here, friends, family, employees, some customers. That was one of those nights, and I ended up proposing to my wife, who I just married in May. That’s pretty big for both of us to have people that I care about so much, that they were here. It was kind of spontaneous, it just felt right. That’s the vibe of this place. I wouldn’t do it any other way.
I am going to leave the bike industry for the time being. The thing that probably is going to hit hardest is the community. I’m the jaded, grumpy old bike mechanic. But the community that we built, it’s gonna be tough to overcome, not helping people out every day and seeing the same people; as corny as it sounds, that you made a change, and if you didn’t make a change, you at least made an effort.