TIME bicycles

Mountain Biking’s Beginnings: Fat Tires, Broken Hubs and the Grateful Dead

Mountain biking took root in the fertile counterculture of the 1970s

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Long before there were gutter bunnies, baby heads or WOMBATS, there were cyclists eager to push the limits of what their equipment and bodies could take.

It began with a group of sporty iconoclasts, wheeling down the hills of northern California, creating a rough-and-tumble style of biking to match their unconventional personalities. They made it up as they went along, modifying their bikes to manage the terrain and enjoying themselves in all the ways that adventurous youth did in that era.

Watch UC Fig. 1‘s video about the early days of mountain biking. Narrated by UC San Diego’s Sarah McCullough, who wrote her PhD thesis on the topic, it tells the history of the sport, the “renegades (including the women) who started it, remade the bikes and helped create a new leisure industry. And it wasn’t just about bikes and terrain in those days, ideas and music played an important part, including a benefit performance by the band that personified the counter-culture.

“[P]eople were creating the kind of world they wanted to live in,” McCullough says. “A world with trails that created a flow through the mountains, paths they could follow fast, without braking.”

If you want to learn more, check out work from off-road pioneers like William Savage (Klunkerz), and Charlie Kelly (Fat Tire Flyer, due out later this year).

TIME

Meet the Company Helping Detroit Get Back Up and Fighting

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If the name Shinola rings a bell, it may be because of an off-color taunt. Founded in 1907, the brand-name shoe polish was a staple for American GIs, who popularized the expression “You don’t know sh-t from Shinola.” Over the past year, the brand–which was bought and relaunched by Fossil Inc. founder Tom Kartsotis–has established itself as a force in American-made design. The company’s watches range in price from $475 to $950 and can be found at Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus as well as its two flagship Shinola-branded stores. In 2013, the company made about 50,000 watches; this year it wants to make 150,000. It has also expanded into customized bicycles, leather goods, journals, soft drinks and, naturally, shoe polish. During its first six months in business, Shinola generated more than $20 million in sales. The company expects to turn a profit by 2017, when revenue is projected to hit $100 million.

More than style is at stake. Shinola is growing at a time when American manufacturing is in full revival and the global trade equation is being rewritten. Climbing wages in China, higher transportation costs, a weaker dollar, rising U.S. productivity and cheaper energy: all these factors mean American firms are finding it increasingly competitive to make things at home. Companies like Shinola–native U.S. manufacturing operations determined to nurture domestic cottage industries that have all but disappeared–are the latest test of these trends. If Shinola can thrive, it could become part of something the Motor City hasn’t seen since the glory days of American automaking: a new boom in manufacturing.

For more, read this story.

MONEY

Single Mom Opens Women’s Bike Shop

Robin Bylenga’s working life hasn’t always been a smooth ride.

Nine years ago, the then newly divorced mother of three young kids reentered the workforce and began honing a career in sales through a series of positions — the most recent of which involved peddling L’Oréal hair products to beauty salons. While Bylenga liked the paycheck, the travel and long hours required took their toll.

Looking to unwind, she climbed on a bike for the first time in years. Something clicked. “I rode and rode and rode,” Bylenga recalls.

When she was laid off from L’Oréal in 2009 after her division was sold, she decided to take an interim job at a local cycling store.

Within no time, she says, “women began to come in just to talk to me, and to ask questions like what trails were good with kids and what bra I wore when I rode.”

The experience gave her the idea to create a bike-shopping experience for women that, as she says, wasn’t all about how fast you rode or what scars you’d acquired. She imagined a boutique featuring feminine décor, stylish cycling apparel, and positive messages.

In December 2010, after a year of researching the market, Bylenga opened that store, called Pedal Chic, in downtown Greenville, S.C.

To drive traffic to the shop, she has hosted weekly group rides — which are BYOBB, “bring your own beverage and bike” — and offered maintenance classes called Women With Wrenches.

Last year, revenue hit $250,000. Based on sales so far, Bylenga expects to take in $500,000 in 2012 and reap her first profit.

She’s also now paying herself $1,000 a month. While she could take more, she’d rather pump cash into growing Pedal Chic’s e-commerce business.

Her next big goal is to expand, either by franchising or opening boutiques within larger retailers.

For now, though, she’s happy with her return on investment. “Every time I help a customer find women to connect with through cycling,” she says, “it’s a payday.”

HOW SHE DID IT

Profit she made on her trial run: 200%

Before deciding to open a store, Bylenga wanted to make sure she could make a go of it. So she invested $500 in a small inventory of women’s bike apparel to sell at a local bike race. After parlaying that into $1,500 in sales, she was convinced.

Amount she needed to start Pedal Chic: $50,000
The majority came from a five-year, 3.5% startup loan from Michelin Development. She also personally invested about $10,000. Together, the money allowed her to sign a lease, buy inventory, and hire five employees.

When Bylenga expects to match her previous pay of $60,000: 2014

In tandem with the child support she receives from her ex, her salary — albeit small — allows her to scrape by while reinvesting in the business. Because she’s been in belt-tightening mode, she hasn’t yet added to her savings but notes, “Pedal Chic is my retirement fund.”

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