Working With Your Hands

Joe Nocella designs buildings by day and bikes by night.

By Tom Vanderbilt

Bikes. Click image to expand.Custom bike shops are sprouting up in BrooklynBy day, Joe Nocella works in a tall, 1950s building in Midtown Manhattan for architecture giant HOK, creating virtual models of construction projects. By night, and on weekends, he repairs to his small, unheated shop, 718 Cyclery, on the edge of Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighbourhood, where he builds real bikes – involving equally demanding schedules, clients and just-in-time supply-chain coordination. Not to mention the occasional punter coming through the door with a dusty mountain bike that hasn’t seen the light of day in years.

Like many New York cyclists of a certain age, Nocella was a bike messenger in the 1980s until he had a career-ending collision. His riding quietly ebbed as he morphed into a father and nine-to-five architect. A few years ago, however, he had another quintessential New York bike experience: His was stolen. Instead of heading to a bike shop, he decided to put one together himself.

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