The Lance effect: Local shops see more interest in road biking
Bicycling fanatics aren’t hard to come by in the Roaring Fork Valley, whether it’s mountain biking or road biking.But now that American Lance Armstrong has won his sixth consecutive Tour de France, the sport of road biking appears to be pulling ahead in popularity at local bike shops.Several shop managers and employees say they’ve noticed increased interest in the sport with the skinnier, smoother tires. In Carbondale, Ajax Bike & Sport manager Ed Phillips estimated that mountain bikes used to make up 90 percent of the store’s sales. Now the ratio of mountain to road bikes is more like 50-50, he said.”I think people have discovered that you can train for mountain biking on a road bike,” Phillips said. “It’s easier to walk out the door and go for a ride than hook up all of your gear and go to the trailhead.”Phillips said he hasn’t necessarily noticed more of a road biking craze during the Tour de France, but the popularity of the sport and Armstrong has manifested itself in other ways.On the streets of Aspen, Armstrong fever might be most visible in the yellow “Livestrong” bracelets that have grown popular. The thin, canary-yellow band costs $1, and proceeds go to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes education, advocacy and research for cancer patients.At the Hub of Aspen, bike mechanic and salesman Anthony Denham said they were having a hard time keeping the bracelets in stock. On Friday they were all out, though plenty of people came in to the shop to ask for one. The dollar bills from the bracelets get put into an envelope at the Hub of Aspen and sent directly to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.As for sales of road bikes, Armstrong’s fame as a record breaker probably increases the sport’s visibility, Denham said.”There happens to be an American setting records, getting lots of exposure on television, and people who previously may not have had an interest in the sport are now saying, ‘Hey, maybe this is something cool,'” he said. “Before this people might have thought it was only something racers and bike geeks did.”The owner of the Hub of Aspen, Charlie Tarver, is vacationing in Europe to catch part of the tour in person, as is another local bike-shop owner, Aspen Velo’s Mike Wampler.Joel Mischke, manager at Ajax Bike & Sport in Aspen, said an influx in road bike sales is basically former mountain bikers discovering something different.”Mountain bikes introduced a whole new group of people to cycling 10 or 15 years ago, and all those people are now discovering that road bikes are fun and cool,” Mischke said. “It’s a second bike purchase for people.”But when it comes to his crowded shop during the Tour de France, Mischke said that’s just timing. After all, the race happens in July – typically the busiest month for bicycle shops in Aspen.”Our shop would be crazy busy anyway, but Lance Armstrong definitely helps promote cycling,” he said. “To what extent it all promotes business, I can’t say.”Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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