BOTETOURT – Rick Schwendeman has been a Botetourt resident close to nine months, but in that short time he noticed there weren’t many places that did bicycle repair—despite the number of cyclists he was seeing in the area.
Enter Rick’s Bike Repair, Schwendeman’s home-based, part-time endeavor that will provide this semi-retired engineer a chance to help other cyclists and make a few dollars.
Schwendeman decided his familiarity with biking, the time he’s spent working on his own bikes and those of friends, plus his engineering background provided the background he’d need to open his own bike tuning and repair business.
While he and his wife Ruth are newcomers to Botetourt, they have a long familiarity with the county. The couple built their home on a secluded three acres they acquired from family on Lugar Lane off Brughs Mill Road east of Fincastle. They’ve been regular visitors for years, and when Rick Schwendeman decided he was ready “to semi-retire and enjoy life a little bit,” they headed south from their home in Massachusetts where he’d been commuting about 100 miles a day.
“We wanted to move to a rural area that has four seasons,” Schwendeman added.
They hadn’t expected the kind of winter Western Virginia’s had this year, but having farm family nearby has helped keep their long driveway passable.
Schwendeman has been cycling for quite a few years. When he lived in Albuquerque, N.M., where he met his wife, he biked to work for about five years.
In the process he learned to fix his own bikes.
He’s turned part of his basement into a repair and tune-up area. An array of odd looking wrenches and other tools hang from their pegboard homes, while one of Schwendeman’s recumbent bikes rests in a bike repair stand where it’s getting its spring tune-up.
Schwendeman explains that many of today’s bikes require special tools and wrenches—it depends on the manufacturer. Bikes these days come from around the world.
“I like biking a lot,” Schwendeman says, “and I like repairing bikes. Maybe it’s the engineer in me.”
He’s a regular rider with his brother-in-law Don Race, and recently joined the Blue Ridge Bicycling Club. He’s found riding in rural Botetourt enjoyable, too. “I’m very happy with the way people drive. They are very courteous (to cyclists),” he said.
Schwendeman does spring tune-ups for those who have had their bikes stored for the winter, derailleur (the gear-changing mechanism) adjustments, he can true rims and wheels, do general cleaning, fix flats, lace rims and other repairs.
On higher end bikes, he said the mechanics are more advanced. As an example, those bikes may use sealed bearings, and that takes one of those special tools to remove them.
The shocks and other parts, too, are more difficult to repair, although they will usually last longer.
Schwendeman rides a recumbent bike—one of those two-wheelers that looks like the rider is almost lying down. The seat is considerably more comfortable than a traditional bike seat. The gearing is different, too, because a rider can’t stand up to pedal, and that requires a different muscle group. “But it’s very comfortable,” Schwendeman says.
“The market for bikes is a tough business,” Schwendeman continues. He said small bike manufacturing companies come and go; and while his interest is in the service end, he doesn’t expect Rick’s Bike Repair to be a big money maker.
“But, if I can provide a service to folks in the local area, that’s a good thing to do,” he adds.
Providing that service includes doing bike pick-ups for customers and access to over 3,000 pages of bike manuals
He’s been a small business owner before and likes the independence, likes being his own boss and setting goals. “It’s enjoyable,” he says.
He’s also pretty avid about bikes.
“My philosophy on bikes—they’re one of the greatest mechanical inventions of all time. To be able to use youR own power is phenomenal…to go up a hill on one side and down the other—it’s fun.”
Biking will keep you in shape, too. “It’s great exercise,” he continues.
To reach Rick’s Bike Repair, call 540-355-6917.