Many people have their favorite barber, or the only dentist they implicitly trust; while some folks have the bartender that makes their drink just right or the tailor they bring all their clothes to.

Cyclists honor those artists and craftsmen as much as everyone else, but most of us have a pedestal that is only reserved for our most trusted artist and technician … the bicycle mechanic.

For many years, my go to guy was Joel Flood, formerly of Via Bicycle. I would bring my cobbled together messenger work bike in for spoke replacements so often that he was the first person to ever build a wheel for me.

After I got hit by a car, I walked past the hospital so I could stop by Via and have Joel look at my bike.

What can I say? I trust the guy.

Along with his technical skills, Joel would always share some new music that he had just discovered or just shoot the breeze about life.

Over the years, Joel grew his knowledge of and reputation in the cycling world. From an art school kid looking for parts for his lowrider to a well respected name in the vintage cycling world, Joel has lived a cyclist’s dream job for the past 19 years, his last day at Via Bicycle was back in December.

After I got hit by a car, I walked past the hospital so I could stop by Via and have Joel look at my bike.

Joel has retired and just like the end of any good story, he is heading for the sun and sand of sunny California. I had a chance to hang out and talk shop with him on one of his last days at Via.

We easily began our conversation talking about bike collectors and our own collections since Joel was still sitting at his computer doing deals with collectors from all over — even on his last days.

He related the story of the hunt for one of his Eddy Merckx bikes as the story of hunting down the bike, finding it, and then riding it. He said, “there is something to be said about the thrill of the hunt. It takes a lot of time to find whatever you are collecting and then once you have it, you start to think … what’s next on the list?” He loves the hunt and enjoys doing hunting for both Via and their customers.

Once he shared his plan to head for California, this lead to many people asking about what Joel was going to do next. He explained, “People have asked if I was going to do a Via West Coast or open my own shop, but there are not a lot of people that ride like we do here. The people that are riding out there are generally not commuting on an old Schwinn. They are not looking for a classic derailleur. In San Diego, so many people drive everywhere and when they do ride, they are generally riding road bikes and mountain bikes off into the mountains. It is just so different there than here.”

He continued to talk about what he is going to do in his “retirement”  and he reflected, “Bike collecting is one of my passions, and it is something that I am good at, I want to continue to do it. I would still acquire bike parts and sell them but I will just do it for myself. When I was at Via, we would sell vintage parts that would cover some of the financial responsibility of the shop, but now I get to do it on my own”.

I asked him about how working with the bike collector crowd has trained him to deal in other aspects of his life. He expressed, “I am bringing my girlfriend to swaps out in California and I have started to teach her some of the negotiation techniques that I have used over the years. We were able to buy a new car and some furniture out there with some of the negotiation skills I have learned while working with the vintage bike buyers.”

As we were walking around the second floor of Via Bicycle which reflects equal part horder and collector of bike parts, we both bumped into some of the piles of bike parts precariously positioned about which prompted me to ask Joel about leaving all of this behind.

He said, it will be nice to leave some of this stuff here. I feel that it is kind of like mine. I have helped to locate and catalog some of this stuff, so there is part of me that is here, but I know that I can easily walk away from all of it, because it is still in great hands. It will be here after I leave and still here if I ever come back.

We were able to buy a new car and some furniture out there with some of the negotiation skills I have learned while working with the vintage bike buyers.

Personally, Joel said that he has been able to liquidate some most of the things he has collected, all except for two bikes and some books, he said, “I have sold everything! I have amassed a collection of all sorts of weird stuff. 2013 was the year where I turned all of my junk into money. I shipped out some books and some clothes, but everything is totally gone”.

I asked him about how he got involved in bikes and he shared an interesting story with me, “I got involved in bikes because I was into building lowriders in high school. I was in high school when I went to visit California. I borrowed my uncle’s van and went to the Compton swap meet and a car show to see lowrider bikes. I saw them in the Dr. Dre video and I thought they were cool. I came back to east and started to work on lowriders. Then when I came to Philly, I stopped by Via because I was looking for parts for a coaster brake hub that I had lost pieces from. Curtis (Anthony, owner of Via Bicycle) asked me what I was doing for work. I told him that I was going to school to be a painter. He ended up offering me a job.

Joel mentioned that he would work for free because he didn’t know much about bikes, but Curtis refused saying, “if I pay you, you will work harder.”

Joel worked for Via through college and afterwards had to decide if he was going to be an art teacher or work in a bike shop. He remembers scrubbing his hands after a shift at the bike shop before he had to head out to his art teacher gig and realising that he had to make a choice as to what he wanted to do. He picked working on bikes, but says “who knows” – maybe he can go back to teaching art after he moves west.

“I have known for a year that I was moving and I have been working out an easy transition, but I have been working a ton and ended up being so busy up till the last minute. I don’t know how I will feel when I leave. People have asked if I will cry or what I will feel when I leave here. I honestly don’t know. It has not sunk in that the only constant in my future is that I will not be here. When I leave, it will be strange that I will not be going back to my house.”

My last question was: “What are you going to miss the most about Philadelphia?”

“I am going to miss a lot of my friends. I have various personas and I have different groups of friends that surround those personas. In some circles I am the old bike dude. I am the DJ to some people, and I am the artsy person in some circles. I am going to miss having those folks to call on but I know they will be here if I ever come back.”

“A collector found out that I was leaving and they said, ‘What the fuck?’ They were very upset. They were not thinking of what I was going to do next. They were upset because I was his guy that could find whatever he wanted.”

“I passed them along to a new guy that is taking over for me here, but there are some people that don’t understand what I am doing. I’m retiring.”

Joel has moved to the San Diego area where he is taking some classes while crafting his new life near the beach. We wish him luck and miss him already.