Thursday, June 28, 2012

Three generations keep Frederick’s wheels spinning

Originally printed in the Frederick News Post By Ike Wilson

The Bicycle Escape boasts three generations of bike repairmen.
And 3-year-old Geoffrey Rinker, who pretends to repair bikes when he's in the shop, seems to be well on his way to continuing the family tradition into generation four.
Roger Rinker had been fixing bikes all his life, so when his son graduated from college and was contemplating a career move, father and son talked about opening a bike shop. The Bicycle Escape was born in 2005 on Monocacy Boulevard in Frederick.
Tom Rinker, 32, Roger's son, said he was tinkering with bikes before he could drive a car.
"The attraction for me is just a passion for bikes," Tom said. "I romanticize the machines. I love the simplicity of them, the efficiency of them, the smile they bring to one's face."
His grandfather's 50 years as a machinist also came in handy over the years, Tom said.
"He made many custom tools for us, and anytime a complex problem came up, he was there with his expertise to help," Tom said.
Victor Rinker, 90, visits the business once a week.
Business was good at their former shop on Monocacy Boulevard, but their new location at Clemson Corner shopping center offers more visibility and foot traffic, Roger said.
The business has benefited from customers who treat them like family, Roger said.
"People bring us food and drinks. That's very nice," Roger said. "It's a good way to make a living."
That type of response from the public is the result of treating people right, Roger said.
"Some people come in, they don't know what they want," he said. "We talk, and after some time they return to buy a bike for their kid or send their friends here."
Individual attention is key, according to Tom. "Being a family business, we're trying to be polar opposite of a chain store, paying attention to customers' needs and offering advice based on personal knowledge and general care."
When they were preparing the original store for the business, people would come by and say, "We can't wait until you're open," Tom said. "It's pretty cool to be integrated into a community and help fuel the passion for bike riding."
Tom and Roger also helped establish the Frederick Bicycle Coalition, which advocates for bike paths, bike lanes and recreational cycling facilities.
"We're excited to say that all the bike store businesses are members, and you see a lot of good happening for bike riders in Frederick County because of that," Tom said.
No matter your age, it's fun to ride a bike, Tom said.
"You feel like a kid again. Exercise offers health benefits but not all of them are fun," Tom said.
Roger started a Bicycle 101 class and got an incredible response.
"It seemed to touch a need," he said.
In addition to being the founding chairman of the Bicycle Coalition, Roger is a member of the mayor's ad hoc committee on bicycling. Tom is the coalition's president. Victor Rinker said the country needs more youngsters who are interested in becoming engineers, or working with their hands.
"You got to be able to make stuff with your hand, build things people can use," he said.
The Bicycle Escape carries all kinds of bikes, Tom said -- from a model for 2-year-old riders to Tour de France quality.

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