By Curtis Wallach | Photos By Hesh Photo, Illustrations by Sam Turner
Located right in the heart of downtown Denver on the ground level of an apartment building attached to Denver’s first fire station (the historic DFD 1, now the Denver Firefighters Museum) is the Track Shack.
Billed as Denver’s first track specific (but not exclusive) bike store, the little place is jam-packed with vintage, rare, and high-end frames, forks, and accessories for fixed-gear bicycles. In addition, there are plenty of parts to repair and customize all forms of two-wheeled, human-powered machines. I, Curt Wallach, the owner and operator of the store, have nearly 17 years of experience in the bicycle industry, stretching back to age thirteen working as a mechanic in my father’s shop (he owns and operates Greentree Cyclery, in the Washington Park neighborhood, to this day).
Track Shack traces its own roots back to the Denver messenger scene of the mid-aughts. For nearly half a decade, before the transformation to retail in 2008, the space housing the Shack was known as Battlesteed. Leased by veteran messenger Sam Turner and the elusive Justin “Juice” Godfrey (of Cycle Jerks fame), Battlesteed offered a comfortable (however dingy) hideout from work.
It was a place to relax, drink, play Super Nintendo or ping pong, tune up your bike, and shoot the shit.At that time, I was working for Denver/Boulder Couriers hustling packages around the city and thinking I was far cooler than I was as messengers are wont to do. I spent quite a bit of time in Battlesteed. For one, I am most comfortable in small spaces with big character, and it was definitely that (Track Shack likely even more so, since it is built on Battlesteed’s foundation). In retrospect, I cleaned and lubed my bike far more often than needed, probably due to some undiagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
For whatever reason, by 2008, I loved the little place. Also, I had fallen in love with bicycles again. For the first time since meeting the neighborhood kids every day in Southwest Denver to jump BMX bikes across from Mojo Wheels at the dirt hills we lovingly sculpted back in my early teens, I was excited about the “most efficient machine.” Sadly, those dirt hills are now condominiums like so many places now revered only in the mind’s eye, but I digress.
It was track bikes that did it for me. Thinking of the negativity associated with fixed-gear cycling these days (essentially, that it’s some “hipster” fad), I feel compelled to elaborate. Whatever cynicism you may harbor toward fixed-gears, and I have certainly suffered from some myself, get on a nice track bike with tight geometry and ride around Denver on a nice day. It’s a great feeling. I ride all types of bikes. I love my road bike and my BMX bike and even the little, vintage folder that we keep in the shop for beer runs, but I have to admit that what made me fall in love with bikes again was a track bike. I’m not going to pitch any bullshit like a person has a better connection with the bike because it has no gears and no brakes or it’s an extension of oneself because of blah, blah, blah. I will, however, say that I have now built countless track and fixed-gear bikes for folks that served as the gateway to loving bikes in a broader sense. They do, without a doubt, make one a better bicycle rider. Your cadence (ability to sustain pace) will be greatly improved. It will force you to be more aware of your surroundings, and predict the movement of traffic. Once you’re acclimated, your ability to make quick decisions on the road will be far more acute. You will look and feel more comfortable and fluid on all types of bikes. And well-built track bikes simply look goddamn great. They’re uncluttered, slick looking machines.
Also in 2008, Juice didn’t want to pay for a bunch of messengers to have a place to hang out and dirty up anymore. Sam, knowing that I loved the place, that I was fond of track bikes, and that I had plenty of shop experience, suggested that I take over the rent and turn Battlesteed into a retail venture. He even came up with the name Track Shack.
I spent a couple of months getting the space and the paperwork in order, and then I put what meager money I had into getting some products to fill the shelves. Several Denver couriers gave me frames and parts to sell on consignment.
The Grand Opening was at the end of September, 2008, which was celebrated with a race, the first Track Shack Attack. I have put on the Track Shack Attack annually since, and the sixth one will be the last weekend of September, 2013.
For more information on the shop or the race, please visit my website: http://www.trackshackdenver.com.