Bike Month: How cycling is improving Iowa communities

Bike Month

As many are aware, May is National Bike Month! This is a big deal to countless Iowans who love the beautiful trails that crisscross our state. Although Iowa may have a reputation of being flat, did you know it is also the World Capital of Trails?

Iowa boasts hundreds of trails all over the state, giving riders the opportunity to discover our state’s nature, rural landscapes, and welcoming communities. Whether you’re in the Des Moines area or near the rivers, you won’t have a problem finding a trail you’ll fall in love with.

If you’re new to the area or looking to explore a different trail, download the Iowa By Trail app! The app features Iowa’s 1,800 miles of trails, allowing you to travel the state by bike. The trails allow riders to understand the connection between communities, natural resources, and the economy while the app helps businesses communicate with travelers passing through. The app is the perfect opportunity for communities to showcase all they have to offer and potentially drive business to smaller towns.

Not only does Iowa have a plethora of trails to choose from, it also hosts RAGBRAI each year. RAGBRAI, an annual seven-day bicycle ride across the state is the oldest, largest, and longest bicycle touring event in the world. Riders make a stop in eight “host” communities along the route.

Between the abundance of trails and RAGBRAI, many people travel through and to towns not normally frequented. The two-wheel traffic has added to the quality of life in towns along trails.

Iowa Bicycle Coalition, a local coalition that educates Iowans and helps to establish safe and enjoyable bicycle transportation and recreation networks throughout the state, was started in response to a senate file to ban bicycles from Iowa highways.

“Yep, they wanted us off the roads,” stated Mark Wyatt, executive director for Iowa Bicycle Coalition. Although they abandoned the bill on the senate floor after some opposition, Mark’s team decided to create an advocacy organization.

“Our first effort was to create the Iowa Bike Summit,” Mark explained. “It has become a conference to educate planners and city officials on how to become more bicycle friendly.”

A recent study done by the Iowa Bicycle Coalition revealed that the economic impact of recreational cyclists’ spending generated $364.8 million, directly and indirectly impacting the state of Iowa. 

As the weather heats up, there is no better way to enjoy the outdoors than to hop on your bike and enjoy all that Iowa’s trails have to offer! Click here for upcoming bicycling events.

See you on the trails!
Restoring Iowa Jobs Team

Business Spotlight – Bickel’s Cycling & Fitness

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Name of the Owner/Manager:
Melinda Bickel, Co-Owner & Vice President, Bickel’s, Inc.

How long has Bickel’s Cycling and Fitness been in business?
50 years!

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Can you describe a typical day in the life of owning/managing/working at Bickel’s?
The best part of owning a small, family business is the opportunity to work with people. Our business can be split into two primary operations – bicycle sales & repairs and residential & commercial fitness sales & repairs. We pride ourselves on having an excellent selection of quality products available for home and business use and see to it that those items are operating at their best at all times, servicing things in a very timely manner – many days, offering same-day repairs.

While we have our daily routines, flexibility is always the name of the game. Being in the retail sector and dealing with the general public, no one day is truly the same. Like many working families out there, once my husband & I get the kiddos off to school, we hit the ground running the minute we step through the doors. That said, truthfully, we are always ‘on call.’ Being small business owners & living in the social realms around us, both physically in the community as well as on online media, we represent our company 24/7. Much of our personal life gets incorporated into our work life and vice versa. Many times, we find ourselves communicating with our customers & our team well past closing hours.

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What is your favorite part of doing business in Southeast Iowa?
Our family-owned business has a humble, grassroots beginning with a simple passion to do for others and treat people how you want to be treated. In turn, we have this wonderful opportunity to give back to our community, taking on new challenges every day, striving to learn and do better with each and every experience.

We enjoy doing business in Southeast Iowa because this is our home! Our families have been born and raised here just like much of our team and customers have as well. Being in business for 50-years, we have served generations of families, individuals & businesses; that sense of loyalty and community is very strong. In a world where there is so much flux and change, there’s something very reassuring about knowing your neighbors and connecting with local businesses who are known for their integrity, good products and services. That’s something that isn’t produced overnight, mail ordered, nor easily sustained for the longevity that we have been blessed with.

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In your opinion, what makes Southeast Iowa a great place to do business?
It’s a very interesting time right now with such rapid changes in technology, a vast global marketplace and multiple generations working side-by-side together in the workforce. This environment creates for some very unique dynamics in how we live and carry out our daily lives. That said, folks around here still value & desire a grassroots connection. As long as they feel they are treated respectfully, get good, individualized service, and access to product at a price that is fair & competitive, they seek out that direct, local contact. It’s that word-of-mouth reference that simply becomes part of the cultural landscape.

What positive changes have you seen in the Southeast Iowa business environment over the last several years?
We are very excited to see some new manufacturing business come to the area. These projects have certainly been a boost to job growth & local economies. There has also been a continued effort in increasing outdoor recreational activities, including trails for bicycling, which is a wonderful way to get people outside and exercising in a safe and fun environment.

What is one thing you want people to know about Bickel’s Cycling and Fitness that makes your business unique?
We are who we are! We look at everything we do as an investment into the future, taking a long-term, sustainable approach when it comes to the decisions we make. We invest a lot in our community services so inevitably we are always paying it forward to those who support our business.

We have a very seasoned, experienced team with a staff that averages 20 years of service. One of our mechanics is actually blind and has worked for us for the last 25 years, doing all of his work by touch. Leroy Bickel, the founder of Bickel’s, Inc, was one of the original founders of Bike Burlington, one of Iowa’s oldest bicycle clubs which is still in full operation today! The club was created on the heels of RAGBRAI’s inception and is well-known for weekly Wednesday night dinner rides.

That aside, interestingly enough, most bicycle businesses are not the size we are for the market we are located in. We draw from quite a broad radius due to our rural demographics. Being a destination, specialty business, we boast over 600 different styles, sizes & colors of bicycles. Like people, bicycles come in many different shapes & sizes, where one size does not fit all. Due to strong marketing efforts of discount retailers, many people believe bicycle sizing is based off wheel size when in fact it’s based off frame size. Most discount retailers offer just one frame size making for many uncomfortable, improper fittings. When people get properly fitted for a bicycle at our store, let’s just say they enjoy many hours & days riding their bikes.

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