Most adult cycling is data-driven: the number of miles ridden, average speed, max heart rate and other criteria folks use to establish credibility on two wheels. However, in the bicycle universe being built by Marshall Thomas, memories are as important as metrics, and more attention is devoted to personal style than athletic personal-bests.
“I come from the sneaker world, so if someone has a fresh pair of kicks I can design the color of their bike to fit that fresh pair of kicks,” says Thomas, 48, known around Atlanta as DJ Mars. “I create custom bikes for people to give them their own personal individuality. We all can go ride the black bike or the green bike, but when you get a Made by Mars bike I put a little touch to it so it’s yours.”
After two years of modifying BMX-style bikes for local celebrities like Greg Street and Big Tigger and for parents wanting to surprise their children with the dopest bike in the neighborhood, Thomas has partnered with Atlanta Influences Everything to host a Made by Mars pop-up shop, dubbed “The Pull Up,” at Atlantic Station throughout April.
The hybrid retailer fuses fashion and fitness, with Atlanta Influences Everything apparel displayed beside some of Thomas’s BMX creations as well as esteemed cycling brands like VAAST and Marin gravel bikes, Fuji single-speeds, and Cannondale mountain bikes. The rides that are Made by Mars are easy to distinguish from traditional bikes, with designs inspired by sports teams, Greek-letter organizations, and high school and collegiate colors.
“Most bike shops look like your dad’s garage, so we’re trying to steer away from that,” Thomas says. “We’re selling fun: You walk into the store, we’ve got bright, colorful merchandise, we’ve got dope music, we feature dope DJs on the weekend, and we just create a different vibe.”
The day before his fiftieth birthday, Arnold Lizana was in the pop-up shop brainstorming with Thomas about how to personalize the Marin hybrid bike he was purchasing so he could join his wife on rides.
“Now that Covid is sort of starting to turn the corner, I felt like I needed to get out more and be more active and get some exercise,” Lizana says. “One of the things I like about the store is that it really is Atlanta-focused, just kind of promoting Atlanta, which is dope. I wanted to support that and support a Black business.”
The pop-up shop has brought a new local flavor to Atlantic Station, and the energetic response from shoppers and Atlanta’s booming Black cycling scene have organizers hopeful their temporary market can establish a fixed presence.
“I think it’s very important for people of the community, of the culture, to be in Atlantic Station,” says Tory Edwards, 48, co-owner of Atlanta Influences Everything. “I think we can actually bring a lot to the table and broaden the spectrum here, and I think it’s inspiration for independents and entrepreneurs with smaller brands to come here and [succeed].”