WILKES-BARRE — Dave Temarantz has tried nearly every aspect of cycling.
“I’ve raced it since I was a kid,” he said. “I’ve been BMX racing since the ’80s and ventured into freestyle riding and then into mountain biking, road cycling, everything.”
“The only thing I don’t do personally is ride a unicycle,” he added with a laugh.
The enthusiasm that Temarantz, 41, of Kingston, shares with customers inside Valley Cycles, 667 N. River St., Plains Township, is seen in other shop owners in Luzerne County, including some with cycling roots planted about 70 years ago.
Kingston resident Tom Jones’ family history is closely linked the area’s bike shops. His uncle, Leo Sickler, started Sickler’s as an automobile tire store in 1933. The shop entered the bicycle business in the 1940s, and Jones’ grandfather, Loren Sickler, helped run the business with his older brother Leo in the 1950s.
“I grew up learning and working with them,” he said.
Jones is now co-owner of Around Town Bicycles, 59 N. Main St., Wilkes-Barre, with Rich Adams, of Swoyersville. The shop recently started its 10th year, and business has picked up over the last two weeks after a late break in the winter weather.
Louie Colarusso, 26, of West Pittston, began working at Sickler’s Bike and Sport Shop about 10 years ago. The bike technician and jack-of-all-trades at the Exeter store, 1069 Wyoming Ave., said the area goes on a sort of roller coaster ride in terms of interest in cycling.
“We’re coming out of a valley. We’re definitely on an incline and growing,” he said. “There are more bike shops in the area than there ever have been. Competition has gone up, and customers have more variety and more options.”
Events open sport
Shop owners and managers have taken notice of the need to nurture the cycling community by creating their own riding events.
One popular trek organized by Around Town Bicycles is an indication of how diverse area cyclists are.
“We will have 50 people show up on our Saturday ride. It won’t be the same 50 people every week. The faces change, so that tells me that our riding group is very deep,” Jones said.
Saturday riders come from Scranton, Weatherly, Blakley, Tunkhannock, and even as far as Bloomsburg on occasion for the 8 a.m. start. The group often includes a 12-year-old cyclist, some in their 70s, and one in his 80s.
By taking on a leadership role and hosting regular rides, Temarantz is also trying to bring more cyclists to the tight-knit community.
“There are about five rides that we actually lead per week,” he said. “Every week, there’s another rider.”
Temarantz said he attracts new riders by maintaining a slower pace during his events, where he also addresses cyclist etiquette.
“I was a street rider, BMX kid, jumping on people’s walls. I was unruly on the sidewalks. People were in my way, but really they’re not,” he recalled. He’s now focused on educating riders on signaling, passing and other respectful rules.
Sickler’s Exeter store manager, Phil Cable, 44, of Exeter, has leveraged the Internet to unite riders. He maintains www.upstatevelo.com as a forum for cyclists to share their routes.
On the same team
Cable noted that several families this year have already come in to Sickler’s to purchase road bikes for kids around age 12. That’s a relatively new trend that he’s excited to see as a parent.
“I noticed that there’s kind of a hole in the age group riding. We’re starting to see that fill back in with more 20-somethings riding,” he added.
The co-ed sport is on the uptick, according to several owners and workers. Temarantz said he has seen a widespread crowd each weekend at Cedar BMX Park in Clarks Summit.
“I think it’s growing, definitely, and it’s growing in a positive light, because when I go up there I see kids taking off their soccer cleats. They’re still wearing some of their other sport. It’s not that they’re giving up other sports. They are adding this,” he said.
The secret to the success, said Temarantz, is inclusion.
“Everybody can do it. There’s no bench. If you’re the slowest guy, you’re in the back. If you’re the fastest guy, you’re in the front,” he said. “It doesn’t discriminate to how good you are. You don’t have to make the team.”
Riders often find shared interests off the bike, too.
“The nice thing that we’ve seen is that a lot of the cyclists that have met through biking have another common interest,” Jones said. “A lot of friendships have developed. They like to go out, they’re having dinner together or going to a movie. There’s definitely a social aspect.”
Temarantz sees the chance to collaborate with other owners to continue the boost to the cycling community. He said, for example, that he’s purchased three handmade bicycles from Adams over a lifetime customer of the valley’s cycle shops.
“I want to create my own clientele here,” he said. “I don’t want to take anyone else’s customers.
“If anybody wants the community to grow more than me, I’d be amazed. That’s not a business thing, either. I just love it.”