Pedal to the Metal
“There’s just something magical about riding a bike through the streets of New Orleans,” says Marin Tockman, owner of Dashing Bicycles & Accessories in the French Quarter. As a young girl growing up in the backwoods of Maine, Tockman enjoyed the “sense of independence” that riding a bike gave her. But she did not find the true joy and greater calling behind cycling until she moved to New York City in her 20s.
“I really started to appreciate bikes as a young person, trying to make a living in the most expensive city in the country,” recalls Tockman, who was working in the film industry at the time. “Biking in New York City was affordable, faster than walking and much safer.”
Tockman quickly became an advocate of bicycle commuting. “The advocacy route really sealed my passion for cycling,” she says. “I’ve found that it changes people’s lives. It’s healthy, better for the environment and just encourages more contact. Cycling has a lifelong effect on people!”
Tockman first came to New Orleans in 2005, pre-Katrina, for a work project, and formally relocated in 2010. She quickly connected with a local biking advocacy group, Bike Easy, where she helped gain citizen support for bike lanes on major routes like Decatur Street, Esplanade Avenue and St. Charles Avenue. During her time working on the non-profit side, Tockman noticed a gap in the local bike industry for everyday cyclists, and, after developing relationships with other shop owners, she applied her knowledge, passion and her own commuter experience to open Dashing Bicycles & Accessories on North Rampart Street in March 2014, and “has watched it grow ever since!”
The shop specializes in city bikes, which feature an upright riding style optimal for leisure riding and safe commuting. Tockman’s most popular brand is Public Bikes, colorful Dutch-style bikes created by the same minds behind Design Within Reach. She is the only Public retailer in the entire Gulf South area.
Her one-woman shop also carries plenty of functional, stylish and affordable accessories, from national brands like Giro, Bell and Blackburn, as well as local creations like handlebar purses by Tchoup Industries. She has colorful, hand-painted helmets to “encourage safety without sacrificing style!”
“I want to promote cycling as fun and attractive, and obviously safe,” Tockman says. “So I carry unique gear that is stylish and functional. It’s stuff [that] people want!”
The retail shop, which is open seven days per week, also offers free air for bike tires and has a repair department, which Tockman is working on expanding. She also hosts free monthly workshops. Tockman has designed her shop to cater to all bike enthusiasts, although it is primarily geared toward the everyday city cyclist.
“I am obsessed with making people comfortable when buying a bike,” she says. “The point of my shop is to make the shopping experience less intimidating. If someone walks in and says she hasn’t biked in years, my first question would be, ‘How do you envision yourself riding? In the park? Commuting? Are you a weekend rider?’ Then we build the bike from there.”
Dashing shares space with Arrow Cafe, which specializes in high-quality, single-origin beans, brewing coffee that Tockman describes as “so good, you don’t put sugar in it!” Depending on the customer, Tockman says one could view Dashing as a popup inside a coffee shop or Arrow Cafe as a popup inside a bike shop.
“It all depends on what you’re here for,” she says. “We’ve converted regular cyclists into great coffee-drinkers and vice-versa!”
Her shop is extremely welcoming and social, which is one of the aspects of cycling that Tockman appreciates the most. “Connecting with people is what I really care about,” she says. “Yes, it’s a great workout and a great way to get around, but biking is friendly; it’s social. I love seeing one of the bikes I sold or repaired around town! It’s great to see people out, using their bikes for leisure or transportation. They’re my ambassadors — paving the way to make it more possible for more people! So if I can make someone feel safer and make biking easier for him or her, then that’s what it’s all about!” dashingnola.com