Billy Yates (Left) and his Pedal Power crew.
Billy Yates was first introduced to cycling in the early ’90s as a student at Morehead State University. A friend offered to let Yates ride his mountain bike, and it didn’t take long for him to become hooked.
“I immediately fell in love ... I’ve ridden bikes all my life, but I’d never ridden a good one. This was a good one, and it was like totally night and day — a different experience,” Yates said.
Now the owner of a successful bike shop, Yates spends his days helping keep those who are already hooked on the roads or the trails. But equally as important is serving the customer who is new to biking and trying things out for the first time, he said.
As Pedal Power Bike Shop manager Alan Brady said, “Lexington’s a very diverse place, and we have to fit the needs.”
Fitting the needs of local bike riders has kept Pedal Power in business for 40 years, as cycling’s popularity has experienced the ebb and flow of changing times and hobbies.
“[Bicycles] are very practical and quite efficient getting around in traffic,” Yates said. “You can do a lot of different things on a bicycle. I’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. The town has really improved in a lot of ways. Is there still room for improvement? Of course. But I think we have made major strides in a direction we cyclists can appreciate.”
Yates first came to Pedal Power in 1995, working for the original owner, Gary Collins. After five years, the opportunity to buy the shop presented itself, and Yates said he and his wife decided to try running the business themselves.
“I was an avid cyclist and now do mostly family riding with my wife and my children and try to help with local advocacy as much as possible,” Yates said.
Alan Brady also came to the shop in 2004 because of his love of cycling. At the time, Brady was an architecture student at the University of Kentucky and took a job at Pedal Power as a break from school. After graduation, Brady decided to stay on at the shop and was eventually promoted to manager.
“I just liked the atmosphere here,” Brady said. “I’ve gone from a nameless mechanic to manager.”
During his nine years at the shop, Brady has served bike commuters, road cyclists and mountain bikers. Staff members at Pedal Power are trained to help customers select the right bikes for their needs and to maintain those bikes for optimal performance.
“You get the commuters that come in pretty regularly, and people who say, ‘I haven’t ridden a bike in 30 years,’” Brady said.
The shop’s proximity to UK on Upper Street has also been a boon to business, Brady said. Students frequently come in looking for bikes to help them get around campus so they don’t have to pay for parking a car.
“We continually stay educated and go to trade shows. We go to maintenance classes. We are members of all the cycling advocacy groups, and we try to keep our finger on the pulse of what’s going on, both in cycling and in business trends,” Yates said.
Ultimately, Yates said, the shop’s success depends on knowing the product and listening to customers to better serve their needs.
“We feel if we take care of them, they’ll want to do business with us,” Yates said.
During his years of working in bike shops, including a shop in Louisville, Ky., prior to coming to Lexington, Brady said he has seen attitudes toward biking change. In the ’90s, for example, mountain biking took off in popularity, and in 2008, with the economic downturn and high gas prices, there was a growing trend toward commuting.
“We in the industry as a whole were scrambling to fill the need,” Brady said.
Now, in addition to the economic benefits, cyclists also are seeing the health benefits of cycling, Brady said.
And Pedal Power has been filling those needs for decades. Both Brady and Yates are passionate about getting people on bikes, whatever their goals.
“We succeed because we listen to our customers. If you are on a bike, you are a cyclist in our eyes,” Brady said.
Pedal Power is located at 401 S. Upper St. For more information, visit www.pedalpowerbikeshop.com.