Valdosta Daily Times

April 24, 2013

Valdosta Bike Center repairs commuter wheels

Jason Schaefer
The Valdosta Daily Times

REMERTON — If you’ve spent a few months regularly riding bikes, you know that maintenance is necessary. There are chains to be tightened, derailleurs to be adjusted, screws to be tightened, wheels to be trued, brake wires to be trimmed.

And putting a new bike together straight out of the box? Forget about it. You might get the headset and the handlebars together, slide the wheels into the fork and rear stays well enough, but more often than not, your new bike will need adjustment.

That’s where bicycle repair and service technicians like Blake Waagner come in. The owner of the Valdosta Bike Center, 1907 Baytree Place, Remerton, Waagner offers a competitive inventory of the most necessary parts and equipment to get riders set up and out on the road or the trail.

“If you can’t find something in here, we can order it,” Waagner said.

In the small shop that occupies a remodeled house, new cyclists and experienced racers alike will find the things they need. The shop offers an all Trek-brand inventory, including high-end carbon and alloy racing bikes, mountain bikes and hybrids.

“We have nice bikes, but most of them are in the $400 to $800 range,” Waagner said. “We sell comfort bikes and cruise-around-town bikes, but mountain bikes are our best sellers. Road bikes don’t make the best commuters.”

In the past 20 years, North Florida has been an excellent destination for road cyclists, with bike-friendly roads featuring cycling lanes, an established racing and triathlon community and corporate retail shops, but with the push for green transportation and healthier lifestyles, South Georgia’s cycling community is blossoming, according to Waagner.

“We opened over 10 years ago, when Morris Repair Shop was still around, but he didn’t carry much inventory because he didn’t think there was a market for it,” Waagner said.

When he was young, Waagner and his friends had to order bikes and bike parts through catalogues or travel to Tallahassee to make purchases. Recognizing the local need for a more comprehensive cycling retail center, he opened shop with the help of his father, and business has boomed.

“Bikes are getting more popular, especially with students, the military living on base, and with gas prices on the rise. More communities across the board are commuting on bikes,” Waagner said.

Over the years, the money has come not from retail, but from repairs. Repair technician Taylor Bosch joined Waagner several years ago to help work on bikes and assembly.

“We can repair anything,” Waagner said. “If it doesn’t have an engine, we can fix it.”

Repair jobs range from small parts repair and adjustments, such as ball bearings, chains and brakes, to full front fork and suspension rebuilds. Waagner and Bosch can replace a tire on just about anything with spokes, and in the past have done some custom builds for clients with particular taste.

Waagner sticks with a small inventory of between 45 and 60 bikes, all of one brand, to save overhead and guarantee reliability. Trek honors its warranties and has shown loyalty to the bike shop with inventory and the quality of their bikes, according to Waagner. The shop currently holds six road bikes, 20 hybrids and 20 mountain bikes, he said.

“We also do fittings,” Waagner said. “A lot of people don’t realize that there are many different heights and different sizes of bikes. You can come in and we can make sure everything is adjusted so you fit right on the bike.”

At 32, Waagner still exercises his passion out on the road with cycling clubs around Valdosta, and invites other cycling enthusiasts to join him out on the road. Club schedules are available on the Facebook page “Valdosta Rides a Bike,” with a current membership of about 105, he said. Bosch regularly competes in amateur races.