Pedal-pushers save on gas

JAMES CHILTON/Miner<br><br>
Ran Hanks does maintenance work on a customer’s bike at Bicycle Outfitters Friday afternoon. Hanks said he has observed an increasing trend of customers bringing in their bikes for retrofitting or repair.

JAMES CHILTON/Miner<br><br> Ran Hanks does maintenance work on a customer’s bike at Bicycle Outfitters Friday afternoon. Hanks said he has observed an increasing trend of customers bringing in their bikes for retrofitting or repair.

The good news is, gas prices are finally dropping a little. The better news is, Ran Hanks hardly needs to use any gas.

Hanks is the owner of Bicycle Outfitters, a bicycle shop located at 3001 Stockton Hill Road.

Business has been on the rise for Hanks over the past year, and while gas prices are hardly the sole cause, the commuter bikes he's sold tell a different story.

"It has surprised me," he said. "I thought it would have to get much more expensive before people would start buying bikes to commute."

Hanks said it's not as easy to gauge interest in bikes during summer, as triple-digit temperatures tend to discourage many prospective buyers from making the investment. He has seen a definite uptick in sales, however, and expects even more once autumn rolls around.

"I think people are starting to realize there are more options for them," he said. "I think they're buying different types of bikes because different types of bikes are available."

Traditionally, the only types of bicycles available to consumers were mountain bikes and classic road bikes.

Now, however, enthusiasts have a range of commuter bikes, racing bikes and fitness bikes available to them.

"The biggest thing I try to do here is fit the correct bike to the right person," Hanks said. "Not everybody needs a mountain bike. In fact, most people don't."

While his high-end mountain bikes run for as much as $1,900 and beyond - a hobbyist can sink substantially more into their favorite bike - Hanks said he can set customers up with a high-quality, reliable commuter or fitness bike for between four and five hundred dollars.

What's perhaps more important, however, is that you don't need to buy a new bike for commuting or fitness. Hanks is perfectly capable of retrofitting different types of bikes to meet a consumer's needs.

"If they've already spent money on a mountain bike, there's no reason for them to come in for another bike," Hanks said. "You can commute on any bike; that's the beauty of the bicycle."

Jim Kloepfer is the owner of Bicycle World, another bike shop at 1825 Northern Ave. While he has yet to see a stampede for commuter bikes, he does see customers come in every day seeking to restore their old bikes to working order.

"We're repairing a lot of bikes," Kloepfer said. "People are bringing a lot of older bikes in, getting them rebuilt and putting them back to use."

The most obvious trend Kloepfer has noticed, however, has been an increased interest in biking for fitness. He speculated that many of the customers who buy bikes for fitness might be testing the waters for a day when gas prices do make commuting by bike more practical than driving.

"I think a lot of people are probably looking at that in the future," he said. "A lot of people say they need to get in shape first, I hear that a lot. They're probably checking it out to see if they can get around Kingman okay on a bicycle."

For Hanks, in a town this size, commuting to work by bike only makes sense.

"I feel like an idiot when I drive to work, because it takes me three or four minutes longer to commute on a bike," he said. "Anything under four miles should be done on a bike, and I think that defines about 80 percent of the (Kingman) population."

Hanks noted that, in addition to mitigating gas costs, a well-made bike also offers longevity to its owner, with nowhere near the amount of maintenance a car requires. They also tend to depreciate slower, and with gas on the rise, it takes less time than ever before to recoup the cost.

"You (used to) have to ride your bike every day for six months to pay for it; it takes less than half that time now," Hanks said. "I bought a $500 bike in college and I rode that thing everywhere for 13 years. I know for a fact there's very few things you're going to get that kind of return on."