Pedal Power celebrates its 30th anniversary
EAGLE-VAIL, Colorado – Long before spandex-clad cyclists were a common sight in Vail, Bruce Kelly took up the sport.
It was the ’70s. Kelly rarely saw other cyclists when he pedaled along the streets here. (Mountain bikes would not become the rage until the ’80s).
One day, Kelly took his bike into a shop for repairs. He was surprised by how much it cost.
“I thought: Well, I’m going to get a book and try to do some of this stuff myself,” Kelly said.
He invested in some wrenches and a bike stand and took to fixing his bike on the porch of his rented Vail duplex. He left Vail for a while but kept riding his bike. He rode to and from classes at University of Colorado at Boulder, where he studied commercial recreation from 1977 to 1979.
When he returned to Vail, Kelly’s vision for opening a bike shop took shape. He and three other guys opened the business in Lionshead. Thirty years later, Pedal Power is still thriving. The shop celebrates its 30th anniversary next week with a block party in front of the Eagle-Vail business.
Pedal Power continues to succeed, despite the threat of big-box stores and Internet competitors – something Kelly humbly attributes to his love of the sport.
“There are probably savvier business people than me, but there are very few that like to ride more than me,” he said.
Kelly is the furthest thing from an absentee owner. He spends most of his days repairing bikes in the back of his bustling shop. Tan and muscular from his frequent rides, the 58-year-old Leadville resident tries to commute to and from work a few times per week. When he’s not at work, he spends his time mountain biking, riding along roads or competing in races, such as 24 hours in Moab.
Avon resident Mark Lenfest has been coming to Pedal Power for years for bike maintenance.
“They’ve always had a loyal local following, and they’ve had some of the same employees for as many years as they’ve been in operation,” he said. “It’s just always comfortable when you’re dealing with some of the same people.”
The shop has changed with the cycling industry. In the early days, Pedal Power operated only in the summers, first for 12 years in Lionshead and then three more years in Vail. When Kelly moved the shop to Eagle-Vail 15 years ago, the operation became year round. He started a winter business mounting hiking boots or sneakers directly onto snowshoes. He also launched the Nordic Adventure Series, a string of snowshoe races that have raised about $30,000 for charity. He’s had various business partners throughout the years, most recently Dave Duchesneau.
Today, the bulk of the business is composed of bike sales, repairs and accessories. Kelly stays on top of the new models.
“I don’t think it ever ceases to amaze us, the technological growth of the industry,” Kelly said.
The future of the local cycling industry, he thinks, hinges on the next generation. Will young teenagers take up the sport? And if so, will a generation that seems born knowing how to program a cell phone turn to a store, instead of the Internet, to satisfy its cycling needs?
“That’s going to be our challenge, and it’s been our challenge,” Kelly said.