Bike shop valuable piece of Americana

Grant McGee: CNJ columnist

Quietly and without widespread fanfare, Clovis lost its bicycle shop. The last day of 2004, when Ace Trading at Main and First closed its doors, so did the only bicycle shop for 100 miles in any direction.

A sign on its door reads “BIKE SHOP FOR SALE.”
Another piece of Americana gone.

I love bikes. It’s something about the simplicity; it’s faster than walking and not as complicated or financially involved as something with an engine. Then there’s the peace of just you, your bike and the wind. It’s natural Prozac.

My first bike was a red Sears one-speed with a coaster brake. When it came time to learn how to ride it, my mom, dad, bicycle and I went to the back yard; my mom at one end my dad at the other. My mom pushed me in the direction of my dad. I was rolling! Then about three-quarters of the way there I fell over. In no time, though, I had the hang of bike riding.

I rode that bike everywhere with my friends. We did stuff like pin playing cards near our wheels with clothespins. That made loud motorcycle-like sounds, or at least that’s what we thought.

We’d slam on our brakes, making skid marks on the sidewalk, discovering if we kept doing that we wore out our tires.

When I got a three-speed bike I learned the value of having a town bicycle shop. Something went wrong with the gears and I took it in. I remember the smell of grease and tires, bicycles crammed into every nook and cranny.

Then there was my 10-speed bike. One summer afternoon I started riding toward the mountains around my home town. Before I knew it I was miles from home. Going back, I went down a long mountain grade. I had no way of knowing my speed, but I know it was the fastest I’ve ever ridden.

Once I found myself without a car for a while. I rode my bike back and forth to work. One day a car got just a little too close to me. I started to wobble, then I was off the pavement. My front wheel hit a patch of gravel. That stopped the bike cold, at least the front wheel. The momentum on the rest of the bike acted like a catapult. I went flying through the air.
Believe it or not, that was a great sensation … but it only lasted a couple of seconds.

I bought a cool Schwinn from our Clovis bike shop in 2001. When I went to Arizona, working for the paper in Tombstone I would ride it around town delivering bundles of the week’s edition.

I traded in my Schwinn for a folding bicycle when I was a truck driver. After delivering our load and waiting for our next one, I’d pull my bike out from under my bunk and ride around. I rode in New York City and Los Angeles, in small towns like Eldridge, Iowa, and Groveport, Ohio.

When I returned to Clovis, the bike shop wasn’t selling new bicycles anymore, just doing repairs. Now it’s closed.

Some may say, “It’s progress. If something goes wrong with your bike, just buy another one.”

Some of us are going to miss it, though.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at:
blisscreeksw@yahoo.com