The Dawn of (County Cycles) History – A Boy and His Bike Shop
I remember working on bikes constantly as a 10-year-old. My father was always willing to stop at a bike shop on his way home from work to pick up parts for me. Neighborhood kids asked me to fix their bikes or they’d drop off their old ones for me to have. I knew it was getting serious when the neighbors complained about the mound of bikes behind the garage. My future brother-in-law asked what I would do when I was older as I stood in the center of my bicycle environment in our garage. I said, “I think I’ll own a bike shop.” I didn’t think it meant much at the time.
At 12, my good friends Michael, Roy and I planned our first tour, a week-long ride to Taylors Falls. Our first day’s goal was Forest Lake. We had a 26” wheeled three speed, a two speed kickback and a ten speed - one of the first I’d seen. Steel paperboy baskets held our supplies with our cooking kettles clanging down the highway on a banana seat sissy bar. The second day brought us to our destination, but on the way I discovered the meaning of the term, “bonk”. I also learned that July’s tender corn cobs could be eaten cob and all. I knew then that a hungry cyclist could find food anywhere in the Midwest in summer.
I began to dream of better bikes and components. Our bikes were pretty good but I wanted better and had little knowledge of the options. I devoured every magazine, book and repair manual I could find. One day I tangled with a car and crashed my bike into a bent up piece of metal, frame, wheels and crank destined for the scrap heap. This led to a new bike and the beginning of my unabated pursuit of the bicycle as a part of my life. I kept it in the house, not the garage. I stared at and inspected the new Shimano 600 components like they were made by the finest jewelers. I kept lifting its sleek 21 pounds in amazement. Oh, the miles we rode and the sharp contrasting tan lines I wore!
I gained a reputation for repairing bicycles. When a woman came to pick up her bike and I told her it was going to be $62, I expected her to keel over from sticker shock, but she happily wrote the check and thanked me. OK, maybe I can earn a living at this! At the time, I was just trying to earn money for college. The next year - in the spring of 1981 - I rented warehouse space to open a store. I began with an inventory of five bicycles and an assortment of parts and accessories. I worked a second, third-shift job through the first two winters. By Thursday, my bloodshot eyes made people ask, “Are you OK?” I said that if this thing doesn’t produce income after two years I would hang it up, but the second year more than doubled the first and I was on my way.
Once, while cycling to work, my friend pulled up to a light in a car and asked if I had the day off. I replied that I was on my way to work. I knew my life would be good if I was able to start each day with a bike ride as though I had the day off.
Stay tuned for the next installment in the story.