A decade old in September, G&O Family Cyclery and its outspoken owner Davey Oil have survived fire and industry turmoil to become key influencers in the family cargo biking movement.
Oil is a former Cascade "bike ambassador," Doug Walker Award winner, and important ally in the effort to improve lives through bicycling.
The phone call came at 2 a.m. on March 9, 2016. Davey Oil rushed to G&O Family Cyclery to find the Seattle cargo and transportation bike shop he’d opened three years earlier demolished by an explosion that reduced half a city block to rubble.
“I stayed there all night and most of the next day. My employees all showed up too, and everyone was like, ‘Of course we will rebuild.’”
An investigation found the local gas company at fault. The legal battle to recoup G&O’s financial losses dragged on for years, but within a year the shop was back open in a new location just down the street thanks to an outpouring of emotional and financial support from across Seattle and beyond.
People wrote checks, held fundraisers, and a child donated a bag of coins to the rebuilding effort. Lance Armstrong even tweeted his best wishes. “I still have letters written in crayon from children,” Oil says. “People put us up on their shoulders. It was beautiful. I felt very Jimmy Stewart in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’”
Coloring book art of cargo bikes adorns the walls and windows at G&O.
It’s difficult to imagine such an outpouring of affection for your typical bike shop, but G&O is not a normal shop, and Oil is not your typical shop owner. At a time when the bike industry is still learning the value and meaning of DEI, G&O shows that embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion are not just right but also a key to success.
Visit Seattle today, and you will see moms and dads across the city pedaling electric cargo bikes from Urban Arrow, Tern, and Riese & Muller with their children as passengers. Seattle is experiencing a family e-cargo bike boom, and nobody is more responsible than Davey Oil.
One decade after opening in September 2013, G&O is one of the most positive and influential bike shops in Seattle–and in North American transportation cycling. Before opening G&O, Oil spent years working and volunteering in bike advocacy and social justice issues for Cascade, Bike Works, and others.
“Davey is a hero of the Seattle bike movement, and G&O Family Cyclery is an important ally in Cascade’s efforts to get more people out of cars and onto bikes," says Vicky Clarke, Cascade’s policy director.
A 2016 Doug Walker Award winner, Oil attended Cascade's 2023 "Building a Bikeable Future" fundraiser in support of his friend Tom Fucoloro, the 2023 Doug Walker Award recipient. Oil pedaled to the event (of course) on his Tern electric cargo bike.
“Davey is a good human with a big heart who is unafraid to speak up for what’s right,” Clarke says. "He is incredibly knowledgeable and approachable, and the staff members at G&O are courteous and accepting of all customers no matter their level of bicycling experience. I also love that he calls himself a Car Vegan.”
Oil on the Roadways
He was born David Pasquale Giugliano, an Italian American from Long Island. A former comic book illustrator and author, he took on his Oily moniker as a cool nom de plume. It stuck and he never looked back.
Now 44 and a father with children aged 13 and 10, Oil grew up riding bikes to school and to visit friends. As a teen he decided to never learn how to drive a car. He doesn’t consider himself a bicyclist and dislikes the word because it’s an othering term and "dog whistle" for people who think roads are for cars only. Oil rides for transportation, and he doesn’t fetishize bikes. Bicycles are simply machines for transporting him from A to B with more efficiency and fun than any other vehicle.
Oil became a bicycle retailer after many years of confrontational organizing, Critical Mass rides, and nonprofit bike advocacy. After a police crackdown on Critical Mass, “I realized that this bike movement we are building needed to be about building opportunities for more people to ride.”
In 2005, Oil was among the individuals who helped found the Bikery, a nonprofit collective that provides a free space for people to work on their bikes while acquiring the skills to teach others. The Bikery has social justice baked into its DNA, opposing racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of oppression.
Oil then took a job as a bike ambassador for Cascade Bicycle Club, a job in which he rode to events and showed people by example that bicycling is a viable and healthful form of transportation. After Cascade, Oil went to work as an educator for Bike Works, where he helped start the adult education programming. While pedaling to his job at Bike Works, Oil was pulled over by a police officer and ticketed for the fictional crime of Riding on Roadways.
“I was egotistical enough,” Oil says, “to tell the cop that this was not a crime.” He went to court certain he would beat the charge. The judge, however, sided with the police, despite state law that says people on bikes can use full lanes on most roads. “That was extremely disheartening,” he says.
Inspired by blogs that focused on transportation bicycling and social justice, Oil started the Riding on Roadways blog in the early 2010s. It was a forum for information about the bike movement and the rise of DIY cargo bikes.
“I knew some radical moms who were living car-free in Portland and Seattle and San Francisco, and who were trying to spread the word about box bikes and Xtracyle and cargo bikes and kid haulers. People had to find DIY methods and hacks to make cargo bikes at that time. The blog became a resource for writing about these folks and the bike movement.”
Employees work on an e-bike at G&O.
A Decade of Oil on Bikes
Oil started G&O, of all reasons, to make more money. His spouse was about to give birth to their first daughter, and he realized that nonprofit bicycle advocacy and blogging wouldn’t provide the income needed to support a family.
Along with co-founder Tyler Gillies, who left G&O in 2019, they opened G&O in September of 2013.
A decade later, G&O has proven that you can succeed by serving the growing market for cargo bikes and practical family transportation bikes. “Cyclocross and mountain biking and competitive cycling, while I’m sure well-meaning, are often alienating and homogenous as a result,” Oil says.
Oil took lessons from pioneering cargo bike shop Splendid Cycles in Portland. “Splendid taught us a lot about starting a bike shop with a niche focus where there aren’t many models in the established retail chain.”
G&O hoped to sell 12 to 20 bikes in the shop’s first year but surpassed that in the first several months. Their first models included the Bullitt, the Xtracycle Edgerunner, and Brompton. Bionix was the leading electric bike motor at the time, and “we added Bionix hubs to about a third of the Xtracycle and Bullitt and Yuba cargo bikes we sold in those early years.”
Then Bionix went bankrupt, which taught Oil about the need to work with brands that are in business for the long term.
G&O now carries Urban Arrow, Tern, Riese & Muller, Gazelle, and for kids’ bikes Cleary and Frog—along with all the locks, accessories and add-ons needed to individualize each bike sold. Oil considers G&O an outfitter more than a traditional bike shop. Every bike is customized for the rider or their family, with racks, saddle bags, child seats, and more.
Oil on the Bike Industry
Oil hopes that G&O can serve as a model for how to run a successful bike shop that values its workers. It is no secret that bike mechanic jobs are often low-paid and have high turnover. “The stupidity and shortsightedness of this industry means there is no expectation of a high- degree of profitability for bike mechanics, no expectation of professionalism or a lifetime career holding tools.”
Oil supports the call for more federal regulation of e-bike components and safety. He encourages bike buyers to purchase from local shops rather than online, lest their e-bikes become unrepairable. “We need stores. Bikes need to be fixed by experienced mechanics, and those mechanics need to be compensated fairly. The industry needs higher standards for the quality of our products and for the quality of service in shops. We need inclusive spaces staffed by knowledgeable and skilled sweethearts.”
Oil calls the traditional low wages and high turnover of bike shops toxic.
A knowledgeable and skilled sweetheart slow cooking at G&O.
“Most of our employees have been here for years. They know that their job is not just to fix bikes but to keep moms and babies safe. Our main goal is to bring people in who have been excluded. Most shops have no strategy for training. We have layered safety checks and quality control checklists, and our mechanics are good listeners. It’s slow cooking.”
Eighty percent of G&O employees are transgender and nonbinary, says Oil, who identifies as queer. G&O has seven full-time and two part-time employees, which is big for a shop of its cramped footprint.
“We have the highest retention rate of any bike shop that I know of. People ask, ‘Yeah but what have you compromised?” The implication being that his mechanics are less skilled because they aren’t cisgender males. “What have we compromised? Sexism. Homophobia.”
Oil on Seattle
Located on a tree-lined street in Seattle’s Phinney-Greenwood neighborhood, G&O is helping to refine the products that transportation bike brands bring to market.
“We participate with brands in product development,” Oil says. “We punch above our weight class. The reason is because we have a bunch of weirdos who care more than anyone else about our riders. Bikes are great. But it’s about families.”
Oil says G&O’s business is still growing. “We have a good problem in that we’ve got more work than we can handle. We want more competition.”
Arleigh Greenwald, marketing and social media manager of Tern Bicycles, calls Davey and his crew at G&O “a litmus test for the industry.”
When Greenwald opened a bike shop in Denver, she asked Oil if it was OK to borrow the Family Cyclery name. Bike Shop Girl Family Cyclery, since sold, is among the multiple Family Cycleries that have opened in the past decade, including Hardt Family Cyclery in Aurora, Colo., and Four Star Family Cyclery in Chicago.
“Davey showed that you can be a successful shop by being nice, by being inclusive, by stocking only transportation brands, and by catering to families,” Greenwald says. “We are always excited to show a new bike or product to G&O. They will take your bikes apart and tell you what they like and what you missed, and we bring that feedback right back to our product team.”
Cascade salutes G&O and recognizes Oil’s contributions to improving bicycling in Seattle, and for his efforts to make bicycling more inclusive, safe, and accessible.
“I love this city," Oil says. "This is our community. We want to help improve it.”
Editor’s note: A version of this story was printed in the September issue of Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.
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