By Ken Locke
Lee Engler billed it as the “Winter Moon Twilight Bike Ride,” but it clearly took place in the full dark of a cold autumn evening.
That just gave the hardy souls who showed up one more reason to love the ride. Part of Lee’s brilliance in managing his new business in this tricky economy is his familiarity with technological ways to get the word out. As you enter Lee’s bicycle shop, there is the ever-present stack of flyers touting the “Twilight Ride” and, in the summer months, the “Restaurant Ride.”
Once you make a purchase, he asks if you’d like to be added to the e-mailing list for special deals, calendar events – “addresses never given to vendors.” Lee’s Bike Shop has a Facebook page, too. He uses all these media tools to let people know that he is open, ready for business, equipped and knowledgeable, and serious about your bike satisfaction.
Lee opened the bike shop almost eight months ago, after taking a long, hard look at the market, potential locations, and even a bike company franchise. He’s hit a home run with his independent, family-owned shop in the Auburn Hills shopping center.
The store is located at 13303 W. Maple, Suite 119, just west of the Dillions store at 135th and Maple in west Wichita. Call the shop at 316-978-9623. The shop is open Tuesday to Friday 10 to 6, and Saturday 8 to 5. He carries a full line of Trek bicycles, as well as Gary Fisher, Eastern and Mirraco bikes, too. He has bikes, helmets, apparel and gear for all ages and abilities of rider, and can fix almost anything you bring in.
“We have repaired strollers, exercise equipment, tricycles, tandems and vintage bicycles that have been gathering for ages,” said Lee. “Seeing older machines back in running condition is very rewarding.”
The same day I learned about the Twilight Ride, we had gone in to get my dad’s front axle fixed in preparation for a trip to the bike trails of Lake Kanapolis. Lee not only personally fixed the front axle (the bearing traces had disintegrated, leaving metal shavings and no grease in there), but did it while we waited. It was during this conversation that the Twilight Ride came up.
“Come with us! Everyone’s welcome,” Lee said. “I don’t know how many will show up; it’s the first time we’ve done a night ride, but it’ll be fun, anyway,” he said.
This Twilight Ride was originally taking place a week earlier, but that was the Friday when it almost snowed, and it was still raining by 2 p.m. when he made the decision to postpone. We met at Sedgwick County Park in the south parking lot. It was a surprisingly informal gathering; we waited until about 6:05 until everyone Lee had heard from had arrived. We decided to make the far point in the ride the Braum’s at 21st and Ridge, where those who wanted could get dinner or ice cream.
Other than that discussion, there was little fanfare to the start of the ride, and no discussion about speeds, distance, or the order in which we rode. Lee then said, “Ok, let’s go!” Lee took the lead, and headed east around the Zoo. Everyone had a headlight and a taillight, as well as the normal required reflectors. Helmets were necessary for safety’s sake.
There were 16 people who came to ride on a total of 15 bikes.
There were two recumbent trikes, one tandem bike, several road bikes, and three kids’ bikes. What was so neat about the whole experience is that we rode for a while, waited on the younger riders, and then took off again. Sedgwick County Park under a clear sky of stars can be enchanting.
Two of the riders had ridden the recumbent trikes to Alaska and back last summer and around most of the paved roads of Alaska this summer. Another of the riders, a young girl, was having a great time, but said, “I am not going too fast, because I haven’t riden a bike too much lately.” One young man had just gotten a Trek for “an early Christmas present,” and planned to ride it “a lot during the week.”
It was a group of people happy to put their “to-do” lists on hold for two hours. Lee’s whole family was with him and all clearly enjoy bikes. Their joy may or may not have had something to do with the promise of ice cream near the end of the trip!
“Believe it or not, this kind of ride is very popular,” Lee said when I remarked about the ride’s uniqueness. Since this ride, I’ve noticed several riders around town even as the weather turns cold. The national Rails to Trails Conservancy project is helping communities add bicycling to their list of healthy and family-friendly activities.
The Twilight Rides will continue each month on the second Friday. At least that’s Lee’s plan, depending on how many people show up and the weather. He definitely plans to start up the “Restaurant Ride” once the weather warms in the spring. He currently has a few rides starting from his shop, but hopes to get more groups of different experience/speed levels starting from his base next spring, too. The large parking lot and easy access to less travelled roads make the bike shop a perfect staging area for riders.
You really should show up at the next ride. Look for details in his shop (go in and check it out!) or find Lee’s Bike Shop on Facebook and on the web. The ride shows a whole new side of west Wichita, you get to meet new people, and a bracing ride under the stars is a great “reset” button to start the weekend. See you there.