It’s a crisp December morning in Salt Lake as Greg Steele pulls up to the front porch of his 15th and 15th bike shop, Beehive Bicycles, on his Surly commuter bicycle. A small sign is embroidered on his saddle bag that reads: “This bike runs on 53 miles per burrito.”
Turns out, some wise soul really did calculate the actual mileage one can ride after consuming a burrito, says Steele: “Oh, yes. Someone figured out that a great big burrito is enough calories to fuel 53 miles of cycling.”
Whether or not that burrito-and-bike-centric science is legit, there's no arguing that Steele's shop is a staple on the Salt Lake biking circuit. The interior boasts clean design with neat rows of bikes, helmets, and accessories arranged around a large open space anchored by Steele's bike mechanic station. Comfy couch seating is tucked into the back area.
“I like keeping my workspace in full view: repairing, servicing, and building bikes isn’t done by elves in a secret hideaway," Steele explains. "It’s something we keep in the center of the action, so people can see what we’re doing and ask questions."
One centerpiece of the workshop area is an eco-friendly parts washer, which uses grease-eating microorganisms to restore bike parts to a shiny-clean state rather than relying on petroleum-based cleaning products. This green approach carries through the rest of the shop’s day-to-day operations: Beehive recycles all its shipping boxes and packing materials and uses washable cloth rags rather than paper towels to tidy up.
And then, there are the community areas, which beckon bike-loving types to sit and stay awhile. Inside, the couch hangout area boasts a nice espresso machine and large-screen TV (plus, a beer fridge if you know where to look). In warmer weather, the outdoor patio is a gathering spot for friends and neighbors to sip beers and mingle while listening to music drifting out of the nearby restaurants.
“This isn’t just a shop—it’s a hangout for neighbors, friends, people who come in to talk bikes,” Steele says. “I don’t spend much time advertising to far-off folks. Most of my customers walk in with their broken bikes and ride them home after I fix them.”
Not that his shop’s reputation hasn’t spread beyond the tree-lined streets of Sugarhouse. Beehive Bicycles draws customers from the farther reaches of the valley and even some Park City dwellers, something that Steele appreciates.
“People go to where they trust a shop’s expertise," he says. "It’s easy to drop a lot of money on a bike. But if it’s more or less than what you really need for your purposes, then you didn’t talk to the right person.”
Approachability is a consistent theme at the shop, starting with its playful, cheery walls, down to the well-curated selection of merchandise. (The oversized bicycle graphics spanning the north wall were hand-painted by Steele himself over the course of several days. That’s commitment.)
Steele doesn't overstock his store, instead maintaining his selection of gear, bikes, and parts with an eye for what works for all types of cyclists. If he doesn't have a certain model or brand in stock, he's happy to order it or custom build it to the customer's exact specifications.
"I have a little bit of all the right things, so people who come in are comfortable chatting about what they need in a bike and I can steer them to the right answer," Steele says. “Not everybody needs a high-performance, ultralight bicycle. I mean, I do offer that and it’s awesome to work with top-end bikes. But some people just want a cool, useful commuter bike or something to pedal around town or on dirt trails. I can make sure they get a quality bike that doesn’t overreach their actual needs. By keeping our intimidation factor low, we stay approachable for people to talk about what they really want.”
While looking over his inventory, Steele explains that he only sells the bikes he likes to ride: cross-country bikes, adventure bikes, commuter bikes, road bikes, and even snow bikes from the likes of Salsa, Surly, Pivot, and Spot.
“Snow biking is getting big right now," he says. "These suckers have huge fat tires that grip hardpack snow, ice, and dirt. They’re a little heavier than a summer bike, of course, but it’s surprisingly not that bad. And if the snow conditions aren’t conducive to good skiing, then they’re probably conducive to snow biking. It’s a nice complement to skiing for winter exercise."
Beehive also now carries Cleary kids’ bikes. The brand exclusively makes quality bikes for kids, with strong, lightweight parts that can last through multiple siblings’ use. Three little Cleary bikes hang in the shop window, starting at a diminutive 12-inch frame size.
“Hey, some kids crush it on their bikes, and they need something a little better than what you’ll get on the cheap at a big-box store," Steele says. "It still costs a tiny fraction of what you’d pay for an adult bike, but the quality construction lasts through wear and tear. And kids just have a blast riding them.”
Indeed, fun is something the shop takes very seriously. Steele is an avid biker with a degree in engineering, so he delights in tinkering, building, and fine-tuning when he’s not on the trails himself. He’s deeply embedded in the bike community, so whether he’s competing in a 24-hour mountain bike race or helping a neighbor pick out an entry-level steed, Steele is in his element, and it shows, from his excellent shop right down to that eye-catching burrito sign on his Surly.