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What's the bike collection of two cycling shop store owners look like? For Erica (Kwi-Hyun) Kim and Hacheon Park, the owners of Bike Makes Me Happy in South Korea, their lineup includes four different No. 22 models.
The journey of how the Toronto-founded, Johnstown, N.Y.-manufactured titanium frames ended up in east Asia dates back to 2014. Hacheon, a then-fixed gear rider for State Bicycle Co., was at that year's Red Hook Crit Brooklyn when he spotted a No. 22 Little Wing. Wanting to bring brands like No. 22 back to South Korea, he and Erica figured it would be cool to sell the products in Seoul, where they currently reside, work and, of course, ride.
"We focus on [selling] handmade bicycles, and we try to share information about handmade frames, builders and history."
Erica and Hacheon met five years ago, through a mutual friend, and the two opened Bike Makes Me Happy, first as an online store, then as a retail space. “We felt we needed a store,” Erica says. Originally, the store sold otherwise-unavailable-in-the-area products like AARN and MASH SF, as well as pins and patches with the Bike Makes Me Happy logo, and now the store carries a more expansive line of cycling products including from brands Team Dream Bicycling Team, No. 22 Bicycles and Breadwinner Cycles.
The store name itself is rooted from Hacheon’s search, four to five years ago, of a unique hashtag on Instagram, a way to categorize his bike-specific photos. Since ‘Bikes Make Me Happy’ was (understandably) taken, he used a variation of the term, swapping around the spot of the 's' (#bikemakesmehappy). “We didn’t expect to use it as our shop name at that time,” Hacheon says.
“Most of the bands we carry in-store are exclusive in South Korea,” Erica says. “We focus on [selling] handmade bicycles, and we try to share information about handmade frames, builders and history. We also carry cycling jerseys and socks, and they are very unique and limited. Most of our customers love [the] handmade culture and they are tired of mass products.” In fact, Bike Makes Me Happy just recently received their latest shipment of No. 22 Bikes.
Why No. 22, both for themselves and in the greater South Korean market?
“First, the ‘who’ is important," Erica explains. "It isn’t a big deal where the bike is made, like in the United States, Italy or Asia. The ‘who’ is more important than the ‘where’ [manufacturing location]. Second is No. 22’s design. They’re high-quality titanium with a modern design. No. 22 offers stock geometry with several options like beautiful anodized finish and name on the top tube. Also they design their own dropout. It's apparent that No. 22 has details throughout.”
“The third aspect is quality,” Erica says. “You see it, and feel it when riding."
Hacheon owns four bikes, three of which are No. 22, including the Great Divide, Reactor and the Little Wing. “People think it’s too much, but how can I say 'this is good' if I don’t ride them often?” he says. “Reviews from the internet are not enough, I need to experience the bikes myself."
Erica owns two bikes, including her most recent addition, the No. 22 Drifter. “I got my purple-yellow anodized Drifter with burgundy painting last month,” she says. “We try to ride every morning before we open the shop [noon or 1 p.m. local time most days].” She explains that they typically ride Mt. Namsan and Mt. Bukak (Bukaksan), a combination known as ‘Nambuk,’ a central location in Seoul. (The ride is about 40K and includes 510m or so of climb.)
"The ‘who’ is more important than the ‘where’."
Describing the cycling culture in the country, Erica says that road and mountain biking are most popular in South Korea. In Seoul, a metropolis of more than 25 million, itself, the road along Han River is particularly beautiful. “I think carbon is the most popular [bike], but people are interested in various types and materials these days. Not only well-made handmade bicycles, [but] also gravel and cross bikes,” she says.
“On Sunday, we ride with friends," Erica says. "It’s not competitive or serious. It’s more of a coffee ride, so anyone can come.”
Away from being business owners, and avid cyclists, Erica and Hacheon spend their downtime through other passions, including sleeping - "I can sleep all day if no one bothers me," Hacheon says - and knitting - "I like to make things by hand," Erica says.
Each have their own dream cycling trips. Hacheon’s is Puerto Rico. “I was there few years ago, and it was good to me. So chill,” he says. Erica says she wants to visit Switzerland. “Everyone who has been Switzerland said it’s awesome,” she says.
With their No. 22 collection, chances are they'll be travelling with plenty of luggage.
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