Nashville, Tennessee, is the country music capital of the world. Step off a plane in the Nashville International Airport and you are immediately greeted by cowboy boots, cowboy hats, guitar cases, and the warmth of southern hospitality. But something less obvious about Nashville is the seriousness of the cycling scene. Nashville has some top-notch bike shops with each bringing something special to the road scene, but there's one shop that really stands out; it's a shop that focuses on the enthusiast and delivers the service and attention to detail that passionate cyclists deserve and demand from their local shops: Gran Fondo. This unparalleled shop is located in beautiful Belle Meade, just down the road from Vanderbilt University.
I've been to Gran Fondo a number of times and, with each visit, I was treated to an array of PRO bikes that would make even the most spoiled cyclist stare in awe. Like many great shops, Gran Fondo hits you the moment you walk in the door. It's both a retail space and a celebration of the objects and people that make cycling so wonderful. Colorful jerseys from era's past are neatly arranged against the soft yellow color of the walls, while hanging along the front of the shop are large PMU and Champion banners serving as reminders of a 2001 trip to Le Tour. In a zen-like moment you feel the "clubhouse effect" taking hold of you, inviting you to let down your guard, come in, and enjoy the scenery.
I've visited hundreds of shops over the years and it seems that any shop worth its salt has at least one signed PRO jersey hanging on the wall. All signed jerseys are cool, but some are more impressive than others. At Gran Fondo, I saw the jersey of all jerseys...a jersey that sent my jaw southward and had me scrambling to find out some additional information.
There it was in all its glory, in Tennessee, VDB's 1999 World's jersey plucked straight from his shoulders, complete with race numbers remaining on the pockets. The jersey, now owned by one of the shop mechanics, was a gift from VDB's longtime mechanic and friend. I'm not a person who collects cycling memorabilia, and there are very few cycling pieces that I honestly wished I owned. This jersey, however, sits at the top of my short list. - (Stay tuned for a post dedicated entirely to this jersey.)
At this point, Gran Fondo had won me over; I was hooked. This shop is PRO. Gran Fondo's dedication to the cyclist is evident. All members of the staff took the time to seek me out. They approached me with open-ended questions that would facilitate a conversation and their warmth and friendliness was a welcomed relief from the common retail experience.
Gran Fondo's love of the sport is not limited to the confines of the shop, Gran Fondo makes it a point to reach out to the cycling community and to do their part to help bring cyclists together. From beginners to seasoned racers, Gran Fondo offers something for every cyclist. For example, in the summer the shop offers a beginners' ride to help make the transition from beginner to full-on cyclist an easier one. The ride serves as a feeder for the local scene and this type of effort is critical for creating cyclists who understand what it really means to ride or race in a group. If you happen to be in Nashville on a Saturday, drop by the shop at closing for discussions of all things bikes while kicking back with some delicious wine and cheese. In 2005, Gran Fondo's owners spearheaded a women's 29, 62 and 100-mile ride to help raise awareness and resources to fight breast cancer, the Hope on Wheels event attracted 400 female cyclists each year and, in the two year history of this event, the HOW100 raised over $160k for cancer research.
Gran Fondo's commitment to the enthusiast is evidenced by the $1,000 starting price for a road bike and driven home by the focused product selection and knowledgeable staff. In both 2005 and 2006, Gran Fondo was the #1 Bianchi dealer in the U.S., bringing the Celeste style into full swing to the cyclists of Tennessee. The road scene is alive and kicking in Nashville and the sheer number of cyclists on choice rides is staggering. Gran Fondo has done an excellent job of carving out a niche and focusing on a smaller segment of the cycling community. When you walk in the doors, there is no doubt that Gran Fondo knows what they do and they do it very, very well.
5205 Harding Road
Nashville, TN 37205