LEWISVILLE, NC (BRAIN) — Recumbent bike retailer Neighborhood Transportation is closing after six years in business as owner Bruce Hermann contends with health issues.
Hermann was struck by a motorist while riding his recumbent four years ago, suffering extensive injuries. He returned to the business, but this past January he underwent surgery to remove tumors related to the trauma, weakening his back.
“I can’t lift anything anymore, and that makes running the shop difficult,” he said. “Now is a good time to sit back and re-evaluate what my next step is. So I’m just going to sell out the stock and close the shop.”
Neighborhood Transportation is coming off its biggest year of growth, with sales surging 50 percent in 2012, but Hermann said profitability never reached the level he had hoped for. With the nearest dedicated recumbent shop more than four hours away, the North Carolina shop drew customers from several neighboring states.
Due to the highly personalized service recumbents require—“The fit of the seat is so important. It’s like finding the right chair,” Hermann said—he never sold bikes online.
“Usually when a customer would first come in it would be a three- or four-hour visit, which is why most bike shops don’t like to deal with recumbents,” he said. “Recumbents are such a different animal. It’s really best to get the customer in here to ride it.”
Hermann now plans to deepen his involvement in cycling advocacy, perhaps in promoting greenways and bike lanes or working in urban planning to better integrate cycling into transportation systems.
Although he’s leaving retail, Hermann is proud to have helped make cycling more accessible to older and disabled riders by getting them on recumbents. “We have a lot of people who haven’t ridden in years, and they get on these things and go and go and go,” he said.