Bicycle enthusiasts looking to take their sport to the next level can secure customized wheels at Lincolnton’s Ride-A-Bike Bicycle Shop.
Manager Calvin Stiles completes all the customized work through a brand he established four years ago called “No Gas Wheels.”
The brand caters to a local market — primarily residents of North Carolina, he said.
Ride-A-Bike also markets its customized wheels to intermediate-level riders wanting to invest more in the sport.
“It’s no different than a baseball catcher having a customized glove,” Stiles said.
He and shop owner Brantley Smith paired up as business partners in 2011, after Smith purchased the business.
The two bike riders have known each other for years, forming a friendship while working together at the store as teens.
“We have a long history with the shop,” Stiles said.
When the store’s previous owner decided to sell the business a little more than two years ago, Stiles contacted Smith about the opportunity, encouraging him to head the facility.
Located along Court Square in the downtown area, Ride-A-Bike has been around since 1981, Smith said.
In 1998, he joined the shop as a wheel builder but also tackled a number of other responsibilities for the owner at the time.
He worked at the shop until heading off to Western Carolina University, but returned after graduation.
Riding has always intrigued Smith. The Lincoln County native even rode cross-country with a group of friends during college, taking eight weeks to travel from San Francisco, Calif., to New Hampshire.
“If I could, I would do it again,” he said.
These days, the owner is too busy dealing with store operations to continue customizing but still finds time to ride between 80 and 100 miles a week.
“It’s a way to just get out and not have to think about anything,” Smith said.
From the start, he and Stiles believed the business could build a larger clientele list by combining their efforts, Smith running the store and Stiles making wheels for the shop under his brand name.
Stiles has been creating customized wheels for 15 years, working for four different bike shops during that time.
He said he builds between 50 and 100 wheel sets per year for Ride-A-Bike customers and has no doubt the special offer sets the shop apart from others in the region.
“It makes us different,” Stiles said.
The High Shoals resident also considers the part-time trade good for his health.
“It’s kind of a stress reliever,” he said, “to sit down and lace up a set (of wheels).”
Wheels are customized based on details such as bike type, riding style, hub style, color and weight.
“A 150-pound (rider) versus a 220-pound (rider) is going to have a lot of different demands,” Smith said. “There’s a lot more to it than you think at first.”
Because a builder can give each wheel a sufficient amount of attention and time, they often last longer than factory-manufactured ones, Smith said.
Ride-A-Bike also uses standard parts to build wheels, allowing bikers to more easily locate a part from another store if it happens to break during a ride.
“They’ll have something that can get you back on the road,” Smith said.
He can also use pitch to fix a spoke — plucking its two adjacent ones to match the sound.
The pattern of the spokes also affects how a bike rides, Smith said.
The shop additionally maintains a “truing stand” to test the straightness of a wheel, which oftentimes need realigned rims.
The process involves spinning it inside the stand and listening for any sounds — evidence of a crooked wheel.
“The goal is to get the rim not to wobble when it spins,” Smith said.
Stiles often takes 45 minutes to an hour to produce a single wheel.
While each pair is priced differently, based on its unique features, pricing starts at $750.
For more information on the shop, call (704) 735-1746, visit rideabike.com or facebook.com/rideabike.nc.
For additional details on customized wheels, visit nogaswheels.com.