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Rideon Bicycles  

Helping Culver to ‘Rideon’

    June 29, 2013
    By Jeffey Kenney - Culver Citizen >

    It's officially the first day of summer -- and the most active day of registration for Culver Summer Camps -- and that means, despite the alternating steamy heat and cloud cover, that Chris Chambers of Rideon Bicycles is busy.

    That's no surprise. At 630 E. Lake Shore Drive, in one of the historic buildings along what has always been a busy hub of Culver's retail life due to its proximity to the town beach (and in earlier days, the railroad), Rideon is at ground zero for summer fun in Culver. Add this to the fact that he's one of a few places in the area offering access to outdoor recreational opportunities -- including rentals -- and there's bound to be a fair amount of foot traffic into the shop, whether it's dropping off a bicycle for repair or maintenance, renting one for a day or weekend, or purchasing either a bike or one of the wide array of bike and outdoor-related supplies available.

    Chambers' Culver connection goes back to his kindergarten years, when his father was offered a job at Culver Academies as a swim coach and history teacher (he also worked in real estate here for several years, with Lake Realty). The Chambers family left in 1985, and Chris himself returned briefly around 1990, when he helped build the Culver Cove Resort on Jefferson Street.

    He returned for his present stint in 2006, then as now specializing in painting and plaster, though he says he does "a little bit of everything," including roofing and flooring. As he did so, he noticed Culver had little to offer in terms of entertainment and recreation. He saw boats and bicycles as one obvious way to address the shortage, "for locals and people who come in from out of town."

    After approaching several people before her, Chambers says he finally found some interest in the notion from Elizabeth Thompson-Beauchamp of Elizabeth's Garden on Plymouth Street.

    "She said, ’When do you want to start?' You can use the (Elizabeth's Garden) building here and I have (a) garage you can store the bikes in.' She was a big supporter and part of me getting going."

    Rideon Bicycles was born with 10 rental bikes and one tandem, though the venture soon led to people asking if Chambers would also fix those and other bicycles.

    "It was supply and demand," he explains. "Within a year I had to move out of the (storage) garage and to here."

    Though it's been home to a variety of businesses over the course of the 20th century, Rideon's present home was most recently Renfrow's Rock & Roll Cafe, though Culver Coffee Company owner Dawn Minas Brockey had been using some of its space in connection with her business.

    Chambers says he handled renovation of the building himself, including adding the present dividing wall behind the sales counter, with work wrapping up in 2007.

    Initially, he offered parts and service in addition to bicycle rentals, though he began calling bicycle company Electra out of San Diego, California, in hopes of becoming a dealer. After three years, he was given an account and also became a dealer of New York-based Worksman Cycle's products ("They're one of the last bicycle companies in America; they've been making them since 1898," he notes).

    Electra, he says, specializes in flat-foot and forward-pedaling technology.

    "The pedaling is in front of you verses below you, so you're not straining," he explains. "They sell themselves after a ride. I don't sell them. I've had more mountain bikes traded in on those."

    And yes, Rideon does accept trade-ins and sells used bicycles as well as new. He also restores vintage bikes, which goes back to his childhood.

    "I never had a bad time taking a bike ride," he says of his affection for the vehicles. As a child in Culver, he raced BMX bicycles, though those wound up hung up in his garage when the driver's license years came along. As the years passed, says Chambers, he would find old bicycles while working in homes and would "be in awe of the craftsmanship and detail, of the quality."

    Homeowners would frequently give the bikes away, or sell them for $20, and over time Chambers built up storage building full of old bikes. As he'd take one for a spin and park it somewhere for a bite to eat, Chambers began to notice the bicycles would be stolen when he was finished.

    "There's a big interest in them," he says. "They've started becoming collectible."

    Of course one down side to the increasing phenomenon of vintage bicycle collecting is that, "Now, because it's an old bike, everybody believes it's worth something. There are really only a handful worth much money."

    Regardless of their place on the collectability scale, Chambers has a passion for restoring quality vintage bicycles, which likely involves hunting down original decals and parts on Ebay and elsewhere. When he's done, he says, "they're as good as or better than new."

    He's taken the childhood bicycles of several Culver area residents -- from as far back as the 1950s -- and made them like new.

    Chambers often uses the term "rescue" in reference to bicycles he says are headed to scrap yards or "left to let Mother Nature take another victim. I like to take them and get them on the road. These bikes were made to last, but water, especially, is the cancer of bicycles. It breaks them down to where they can't function anymore."

    Rideon also finances the purchase of bicycles. Chambers notes $200 is probably a minimum cost for a good quality bike, and the $500 to $600 price tag for many very good models "is a lot of money for a bike. I'd rather see someone out pedaling around than (the bike) siting here in a short season. I sell a lot more bikes that way. People can pay weekly or monthly."

    Bicycles can be rented by the hour, the week, or the month, on a pro-rated basis ("The longer you have it, the cheaper it is," he explains).

    And to clear up any confusion, Rideon is out of the kayak and paddleboard renting business. As much as it seemed like a natural fit for his location and clientele, Chambers says it also took away from his ability to concentrate on the bicycle end of things (he's quick to note there are several area entities which rent or sell boards and/or kayaks, including Jeff's PWC, the Culver Marina, and Saill22 -- so there's no dearth in the market).

    Rideon Bicycles is open daily except Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Sundays until 3 p.m.), and may be reached by phone at 574-842-4788 .

    Chambers will also be visible next month, as he's entering his second year of heading up the L'Max bike ride, a fairly recent (this is the 6th annual) addition to Culver's Lake Fest, on Sunday morning. In the past few years he's also coordinated with the Culver Elementary School and others to assist with distribution of bicycle helmets for 3rd graders there. He has ambitions to spearhead some other bicycle-related events in Culver in the future as well.

    "A town needs something like this," he says of his business. "You have to have a variety of business to give it character and culture. I'd like to maintain that and pass it on to my kids. We say that (son) Ethan will one day do the paperwork and Daniel will work on those bikes!

    "I do this," Chambers adds, "because it's good for the community - it's good for the town. There are local kids here that didn't have bikes, that I've given bikes to. People donate bikes and I give them away. When I see them around town on those bikes, it's very rewarding."

Jul 2009 - 630 Lake Shore Dr. - Rideon Bike Rentals - Chris Chambers - property owner, - Sanim Properties LLC

Moving Oct 1, 2014 to the basement level of 120 S. Main St.

2014 - Oct - ? Rideon Bike Rentals - Chris Chambers
    The First Tenant (120 S. Main - Basement)

    ... addition of a sliding door out to the courtyard, which will allow customers to bring bicycles easily into the shop by utilizing a new ramp from the sidewalk. The original "human" sized door, facing onto Madison, is still present and will be restored as well

    Will locate in the basement with the entrance being on the Madison Street side...

    The grassy courtyard area outside will not only host for-sale bicycles, but allow seating for people waiting for their bikes to be services

    Signage for the shop will be visible from Main Street as well as on Madison.

    Rideon - will expand its road bike offerings, as well as a much wider array of used and vintage bicycles and also will sell an expanded line of "anything bike-related. Rideon will also continue to rent bicycles as well as servicing them.

    Rideon will technically vacate its Lake Shore Drive store by Oct. 1, and expects to spend November setting up the new store and will be open weekends during the winter - culver Citizen 10 Sep 2014

2015-2017, Jan - Its moved again in a vey few short months later to 115 E. Jefferson

Has changed hands from longtime owner Chris Chambers who is moving from the area to take a new career direction. It was sold to Joe Barnes of Plymouth

The new Rideon location -- already lined up before Barnes purchased it

Barnes is broadening the product line. He's already added Fuji brand road and mountain bikes, as well as Surley bicycles and Stolen brand, a high-end BMX bicycle. Elektra bikes will continue to be the "headliner" at the store in addition to new, used, and restored vintage and modern models. The new line represents an expansion into mountain bikes previously not carried at the shop.

2017, Jan - 103 Lakeshore.

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