Back in college – having enrolled in one with a Quaker tradition without even knowing it – we were mostly limited to one dining hall in an effort to keep alive the tradition that the community should all “eat under one roof.” When I wasn’t running on carcinogens [Parliament Lights] and what I believed to be a healthy balance of carbs, fat, protein, and caffeine [dirty chai lattes], I would head to a brown building that resembled a tired ski chalet with the rest of the school population. Crouched at the bottom of a hill, the front of the building was bordered by a stone ledge enclosing a big courtyard, with low, wide, slate steps leading to the entrance. Although my best friend [a dedicated omnivore] still mentally savors the vegan apple crisp [Lauren: it was GOOD.], the food inside was unremarkable. And as spoiled, slightly bored college students, we remained communal in only our complaining and gossiping.
Except on particularly lucky, sunny, spring days, when an odd mix of girls would linger outside the dining hall. I would sit on the stone ledge and smoke a slow cigarette or nibble from a Styrofoam cup filled with Life cereal, my best friend deliberately eating ice cream. We’d watch the townie boys, like all the other girls, on their BMXs and skateboards and pretend to talk until either our stalking got uncomfortably obvious or they rode away. In hindsight, it was a mutually beneficial exchange: they probably loved the attention, and we shamelessly indulged in checking out guys still in high school, who probably lived in rooms with piles of clothes, BMX/skateboard parts, shoes, and magazines strewn all over the floor. They were unrealistic, superficial crushes [the most we ever did was look], but we kept coming back nonetheless.
I remembered this attraction to messy youth when Kyle and I stopped by the only place he definitely wanted to see in Tokyo: Blue Lug.
A large space by Tokyo bike shop standards, Blue Lug offers a well-rounded collection of gear, apparel, brightly colored bikes, and parts. The usual suspects are in attendance: Swrve, Outlier, DZR shoes, and Nari Furi, alongside a random selection of jerseys [Mash, Geekhouse, Cadence]. Messenger bags hang high near the ceiling on the left side of the room while the other side is dominated by colorful rims and tires. Saddles and top tube protectors are displayed in classic beverage displays, playing up the store’s Japanese roots.
Geared towards the urban fixster, Blue Lug has some impressive offerings. But expecting its brick-and-mortar store to be as slick as its online shop is like hoping that teenage boys on BMX bikes can do their laundry on a regular basis. When asked to deliver, they do – impressively [and attractively!] so – but don’t expect the perfection of BMX tricks to translate into tidiness. Displays can be messy, necessitating occasional digging, and as a consequence, there’s the sense that some gems are getting lost in the piles of products.
But like sloppy-haired boys on skateboards, it’s easy to forgive the short attention span and irregular bouts of orderliness. The rough edges of the shop imply, too, that they are a result of a life too busy riding and finding cool gear to worry about absolute perfection. Compared to painstakingly curated bike shops, the disheveled, slightly distracted personality of Blue Lug is refreshing, and it makes the experience – like townie spectating – something to look forward to. And something to remember and savor a little bit; even if, as a predominately road rider, I won’t be buying out their inventory any time soon.
Kind of like, how years later, while stuck in our respective law schools, Lauren and I were still talking about them: “Reminds me of licking ice cream cones while watching the [townie] dudes on their BMX bikes,” she said.
“Yeah,” I replied, “creepy older college girl stalker.”
“Yeah, I think you mean,” she said, “sexy coed stalker.”
[Bigger pictures here.]