Gulfport — Cyclist Choice and Fitness gives off positive vibes. It has a bright, spacious atmosphere and an abundance of bicycles and every imaginable accessory and item having anything to do with cycling. It’s well stocked and well organized. There are even whimsical bicycle items and memorabilia scattered around.
Thanks to an increased interest in cycling for health benefits and American hero Lance Armstrong’s riding feats in France, business is brisk.
The Wall family opened the shop on 25th Avenue nine years ago when Randy retired from the wholesale beauty and barber supply business and was looking for something to do. He and his son, Rodney, took over a bike shop that had leased space in their building and was having trouble.
“I was always in a service-oriented business,” Randy said, “and with all the interest in riding this seemed like a good thing to do. Cycling is becoming more popular all the time.”
They’ve expanded the store to include 8,000 square feet on two levels. In addition to the two Wall men, Randy’s wife Melva keeps the books and “does a little this and that.” Three other employees bring the total to six people taking care of assembly, service and sales.
Rodney went to school to learn to be a cycle mechanic and has trained others to service and repair bicycles. “That’s a big part of what we do and we can take care of anything,” Randy said. “In addition to servicing the bikes we sell, we see a lot of old bikes with sentimental value and we get them rideable.”
He says it’s important for a small shop to do something that super stores don’t do, like fitting people to the right type and size bike they need. “Just paying less is not the answer,” he said. “For someone just starting to ride we find out where they want to ride and what they want to do. Then we go from there. It might be fitting a husband and wife together so they can ride on the beach.”
Close to great riding
The beaches in Harrison County have a wide boardwalk for riding and walking and a multi-use paved pathway winds along the beach from Bay St. Louis to Waveland in Hancock County. Soon, Pascagoula will have a multi-use pathway too. The proximity to major bicycle trails in Slidell, La., and Hattiesburg are also good for business.
The mountain comfort series and road/racing bikes are popular with mountain bikes coming on stronger in the fall of the year. Sales for the recumbent bicycle that allows a stretched-out ride in comfort are growing, as they become not quite so pricey. Sales are also picking up for stationary bikes and trainers to turn regular bikes into stationary.
“Fortunately we pretty much have year-round riding here but the trainer is good for those times when it’s raining or too cold or too hot to ride outside,” Randy said. “It simulates gears and speeds. Some guys get together and ride on trainers in someone’s garage.”
Cyclist Choice keeps 250 to 300 bicycles in inventory and can get quick delivery on the variety of choices available. They even sold several unicycles last Christmas. The brands they carry include Trek, Lamond, Recumbent, Gary Fisher, Haro and Giant. Financing programs are available, too.
“Trek is the number one seller with independent shops,” Randy said. “A lot of them are made in Wisconsin and sales are good.”
The shop has a section devoted to women cyclists with an array of riding apparel, accessories and drop frame bicycles.
“The drop frame is called a unisex frame and is for both men and women now,” Wall said. “We see a lot of women riding the standard frame in mountain bikes now, too.”
Getting out and doing it
Randy, 64, was not a rider before opening Cyclist Choice. He’s had problems with his knees, but rides when he finds the time. He says it’s not as much as he would like, but points out the healthy merits of riding.
“You have to get the heart rate up to a certain level and maintain that,” he said. “Riding really helps anyone stay in shape. A lot of people have been inspired to get out and do it. Cycling is the second best thing a person can do for the cardiovascular system because it doesn’t pound the joints. We see a lot of runners changing over.”
Not only does cycling prolong a runner’s life, it becomes part of cross training with the increasing popularity of triathlons.
“I have no regrets about getting into this shop,” Randy said. “There aren’t a lot of bike shops on the Coast and my son will take it over.”
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.