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Bike curious? Montreal’s queer bike shop can help

From lesbian haircuts to co-producing the Bicycle Film Festival, shop carves out a niche in Montreal

Bikurious' Marissa Plamondon Lu and Mackenzie Ogilvie. Credit: Amelia Shaw photo

Originally, Bikurious was kind of a joke.

When Marissa Plamondon Lu and Mackenzie Ogilvie took over the small, community-centred bike shop they worked at, they intended to keep the shop’s name, Revolution Montreal. They found out, however, that registering the business in their names meant choosing a new name for the shop as well. Slightly panicked, they scribbled down the first thing that came to mind, a friend’s tongue-in-cheek suggestion.

“Every person that the form was being passed to was giggling,” Lu says. “Then the security guy [at the registration office] was like, “You know, I’ve seen a lot of businesses come through here and that’s a good name.'” It stuck.

Bikurious is a funky little bike shop just north of the Village. As for what makes the bike shop queer, Lu explains, “I think that a lot of it is the ‘Lesbian Haircuts for Anyone.’ Generally, if a place has the word ‘lesbian’ placarded twice, people get the idea that they’re going into a place that’s queer aware.” She is referring to the $15 haircuts styled by J J Levine, whose leopard-print salon chair has been set up in a corner of the shop since its inception.

The larger world of cycling, according to Lu, “can be scary. Even going into bigger shops, I’ve been made to feel really stupid and feel really bad about myself, and I’m like, ‘What the hell? I know what I’m talking about. I’m just asking a simple question.’ They double guess me, just because of how they’re visually classifying me. I can’t even imagine going into that shop and asking for a job, if they won’t even listen to me about asking for a spoke.

“Cycling is very male-dominated and macho and very heteronormative. We’re trying to work to bridge that gap, to empower people, whether they’re queer or not, to explore their full potential in cycling and to feel good when they leave here.”

Already well known in the cycling community for fixed-gear and single-speed bikes, Bikurious has started selling new bikes. Lu and Ogilvie have big plans for the future.

“We’d like to have a full-blown coffee shop at some point. We’d like to have more film screenings, more riding groups and more shows. I dream about having a mega space.”

Bikurious aims go beyond repairing and selling bikes to becoming a mini-hub for the community. “We’re up for any kind of event,” Lu says. In the winter, she runs bike mechanic workshops and this August, Lu will be co-producing the Bicycle Film Festival.

“It’s basically a celebration of bikes within art and film. It’s politicized in some ways, but it’s kind of just depoliticized and a fun time for all different kinds of riders to come out and talk about their love for cycling.”

Those riders don’t fit neatly into one category. “We’ve got this really wicked spectrum of customers,” Lu says. “We’ve got your bear couples and your middle-aged women who are going on their big bike trip to Quebec City, and then we’ve got your young hipsters who just want a sweet, pimped-looking bike.

“A lot of our customers are our friends and community members. We’ve spent $50 in three years on advertising,” Lu marvels. “It’s literally just been word of mouth, because we are constantly aware of what this space is doing for the queer community, and that’s making it safe for them to come in, whether it’s bike related or not.”

Bikurious is located at 1757 rue Amherst, Montreal. bikuriousmontreal.com

The Bicycle Film Festival will take place in Montreal from August 12-14. bicyclefilmfestival.com