Beer & Gear: Splendid Cycles at Gigantic Brewing

Welcome to Beer & Gear, a series where we get to know individuals making big moves in Portland’s Athletic and Outdoor industries at well-loved breweries around town. In this edition, author Ellee Thalheimer talks with Barb and Joel Grover of Splendid Cycles over a beer at Gigantic Brewing.

“Thirty-six years ago, I got a summer job at a bike shop right out of college,” says Joel Grover, who co-owns Splendid Cycles with his wife, Barb. “Today, I guess I still have my summer job.”

One afternoon during a deluge, I caught up with the Grovers at Gigantic Brewing, which sponsors the CX Pistols, a Portland cycling team. Both car-free, the Grovers pulled up on customized Bullitt cargo bikes.  

It’s safe to say that Joel and Barb have spent most of their lives fully immersed in the Portland bike community. For over three decades, they’ve performed almost every role possible in the bike shop business: manager, community outreach coordinator, mechanic, buyer, analyst. 

It’s fitting that they met while working for the same shop. “Since then, we’ve been each other’s bosses at various points in our careers.” Joel smirks. “And we’re still married.”

That deep well of industry experience was put to practical use in 2010 when they opened Splendid Cycles, a cargo bike specialty shop in Southeast Portland on SE Ivon St. and 4th Ave. 

“My friends said I was crazy,” says Joel, but he trusted his own industry analysis. 

As a buyer for Bike Gallery (now Trek), Joel crunched numbers and saw that demand could bear a cargo bike specialty shop, so he seized the opportunity to venture out on his own. Splendid started out small but quickly gained traction. They grew their staff and moved to their larger, current location. Barb, who had been dabbling in other career pursuits, eventually succumbed to the allure of working at Splendid and jumped back into the bike business full-time. 

In the years since its beginning, Splendid Cycles has enjoyed incredible success. It has earned the Retailer Excellence Award from the National Bike Dealer Association eight years in a row, and is the Bullitt dealer for the entire West Coast. The Grovers have embraced an unorthodox business model that shies away from selling accessories, prioritizes staff work-life balance (they are closed for a week in December), and wholly focuses on a highly curated selection of cargo bikes and ebikes. 

Splendid is a local favorite in the cycling community and taps into an aspirational version of Portland: families squeezed onto cargo bikes, riding on greenways and waving at each other.

“Cargo bikes transform people’s lives. Riders are more connected to nature, neighbors, and their family members in tow. They reduce pollution, traffic congestion, and their own stress because they are getting exercise and don’t have to drive a car.”

-Barb Grover

The Grovers shared a story of one family who bought a cargo bike because they couldn’t afford a second car. Their one-year-old was diagnosed with cancer, so one parent had to stop working. The little boy loved riding on the cargo bike with his parents so much that they made a habit of going on a longer ride on the way to the hospital to put them all in the right mindset. 

“One interaction at a time is how the world changes,” says Joel. “We wake up every day and figure out how to serve others, to say yes, to make something happen, to show up and be good.” 

Ellee Thalheimer is a Portland-based freelance writer and guidebook author. When she can’t get to the trails, she’s writing fiction, relishing local IPAs, falling off bouldering walls, and obsessively scheming the next adventure. Find her on Instagram: @pnw_hedonism.