A bike shop is more than a collection of frames, forks, spokes and lugs; steel, aluminum, rubber and carbon fiber. What makes a shop great is knowledgeable and truly helpful people that are open, welcoming and informative. There are many different types of shops in this city—from the gearhead track bike specialists who'll snort at anyone that rides with brakes to the beater suppliers.
Now, you could prepare for Bike Month in May the way the League of American Cyclists recomends—which last year apparently included decorating a cake and riding a unicycle (so Bike Month is sort of like joining the circus?)—or you could go to a bike shop to tune up your trusty ride or get some slick new wheels. Depending on what you're looking for and your credit limit here a some very good places to start:
Whether you are looking for a custom-built rig, flashy fixed-gear, or vintage road bike, Continuum (199 Ave B @ 13th St, 212-505-8785) is one place you must stop by. The prices are reasonable, the bikes drool-worthy, and the selection is broad for a small shop (one that also stays busy maintaining and servicing bikes). Affable owner Jeff Underwood is about as helpful as they come, and he says not to be put off if you see a crowd there. "It's probably mostly just friends hanging out," he says.
If you are looking for a shiny new bike and nothing else will do, NYC Velo (2nd Ave @ 4th St, 212-253-7771) stocks a very nice selection of Felt, Bianchi, Surley and Scott bikes. Felts in particular provide a good option for those looking to step up to a better bike without emptying their wallets. NYV Velo is a pretty large shop and can outfit riders for racing, track, mountain and cyclocross biking, or just with a pretty cruiser to roll into the park on.
NYC Bikes (140 Havermeyer St, @ S. 2nd St, 718-599-2409) in Williamsburg specializes in what it calls "city bikes"—simple single speeds with cross bars and fat tires that can take some abuse but ride more smoothly than a mountain bike. They build all their bikes up from custom frames and also do rentals. This is also the perfect place to come if your old bike needs a little bit more than the standard tune up—like say that rear cassette is rusted shut. It's also one of the few shops you may hear blaring Tom Waits.
If you want to do good while riding well, pick up a starter or commuter bike at Recycle-a-Bicycle in Manhattan (75 Avenue C @ 6th St, 212-475-1655) or Dumbo (35 Pearl Street @ Plymouth St, 718-858-2972). Donated bikes are rebuilt with salvaged parts and sold to support the organization's youth environmental education and job training programs. Both shops will also repair and service the bike you already have as well.
All of these shops are fine places to go for that springtime tune-up—just don't wait until the day before the Five Borough Bike Ride.