Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cycling boom gives Indy bike businesses a boost

Cody Malone (middle) helps customers Brooke Showalter (left) and Stephanie Scruggs to coffee and drinks at Joe's Cycles in Fountain Square.

Imagine hopping on a bike, riding Downtown, parking and showering, then walking into work.

Scott Hoke, radio host at WFYI-FM, does exactly that, starting his 15-mile trip from Avon to Downtown before 4 a.m.

Hoke is a longtime bike enthusiast, but new bike lanes, trails, services and other facilities are making such a commute safer, more comfortable and more stylish for all cyclists.

Indianapolis City Market's Indy Bike Hub YMCA, which opened in September, can secure up to 148 bikes. All-day parking and shower amenities cost $10, while parking caps at $5 per day.

That's just one of many bike-related businesses Indy now offers.

Nationally, the industry has seen sales recovering to pre-recession levels. They increased 15 percent from 2009 to 2010, reaching $6 billion in sales of bikes, parts and accessories, according to the National Bicycle Dealers Association. In that time, participation also was up 3 percent, according to the National Sporting Goods Association.

Increased demand for bikes is due to many factors: the emphasis on fitness, increasing gasoline prices and the costs of owning and maintaining a vehicle -- $7,179 per year for the average family, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Aaron Corey, owner of Bikes on Mass Ave., cites Indy's improved cycling infrastructure as one reason he opened his bike shop this February.

Indianapolis now has a network of 64 miles of on-street bikeways, 60 miles of greenway paths and plans for 75 more miles of lanes and trails by 2015.

Corey's sales-and-service shop has been going "100 percent full steam" since opening.

"The weather this year has been fantastic," he said.

Tim O'Donnell, owner of Shamrock Cycles, sees sales for his custom bikes picking up. The average price of a complete custom bike: $4,500.

O'Donnell's $7,000 commuter bike won "Best City Commuter Bike" at the 2012 North American Handmade Bicycle Show. The bike boasts many high-end features, such as a belt drive, and will be displayed on the wall at Flat 12 Bierwerks.

"Not a lot of people are looking for a $7,000 commuter bike," O'Donnell said. "But that bike has generated a lot of interest for buying a Shamrock bike."

Joe's Cycles, a full-service bike shop, opened in 2007. Customers can buy a custom or prebuilt bike (Cardinal Bicycle Co. is the manufacturing side), get an old bike fixed or have a vintage bike restored.

"Any kind of bike is welcome here at our shop -- racers, commuters, cruisers or kids' bikes," said Cody Malone of Joe's Cycles.

The culture is what's unique: Roll your bike inside and enjoy a cup of cappuccino or espresso in the company of fellow bike riders. Noncyclists come just for the coffee, touted as "the best in Fountain Square."

Malone said there's not a huge profit margin on the coffee side, but he finds it breaks the ice with customers.

Another business showcases how biking adds to the flavor of Downtown: Active Indy Tours offers guided bicycle tours.

Nathan Smurdon, formerly with the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association, opened the venture in April. Tours leave from Indy Bike Hub YMCA, and rentals are available.
credit: / Robert Scheer @ The Indy Star

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