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4/6/2003

Training wheels off

By Elisabeth Nardi
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — After 30 years in business, Bike-n-Hike owner Dave Swenson still peddles around his store and is willing to jump on a bike to demonstrate its features.

His key to success, he said, is still being excited about what he sells and caring about his customers.

“Our purpose is and has always been to serve the needs of the community — more than making money,” Swenson said. “If that’s uppermost in your mind, you will be successful because service really is the key.”

The 4,500-square-foot shop at 1136 Main St. has sold and repaired bikes, rented skis and provided snowshoes since 1973.

Swenson, whose store carries Trek, Specialized, Harro, Diamondback and Burley brand bikes, said the biking industry has seen many changes in the last 30 years.

He said when the business started, it could order only one, three and 10-speed bikes.

Now, he said, Trek alone has more than 80 models, not including sizes and colors.

“We make the decisions on which to carry with great frustration,” Swenson said. “We try and carry the ones that are the best value and meet the needs of our customers.”

To celebrate the anniversary, Swenson said, he will put up a “nostalgia wall” titled “The Way We Were” that will have pictures of the store and how it’s changed over the years.

The display will feature memorable times in the shop’s history, such as when the store sponsored an award-winning BMX racing team and photos of Swenson with his family in advertisements they’ve done over the years.

Besides bikes, the store offers ski and snowshoe rentals.

Swenson said Bike-n-Hike was one of the first shops to bring cross-country equipment to Longmont in the ’70s, offering ski clinics and taking people out for tours in the mountains.

Larry Kilgore and his wife have been customers at Bike-n-Hike from the beginning.

In fact, Kilgore said he learned how to cross-country ski by signing up for one of Swenson’s clinics.

“I am still skiing on those same skis,” Kilgore said. “We come back because Dave is an original — he has always been honest and up-front with us.”

The Bike-n-Hike originally was owned by Swenson’s father-in-law, Nick Baki.

Swenson joined him in 1974, and they became partners.

Baki retired in 1984, but Swenson said Baki still gets “special privileges.”

The store remains a family-run operation. Swenson’s wife, Bonny, is secretary and bookkeeper and son, Troy, works on the bikes.

Daughter Kori, who used to be the sales manager, now stays home with her daughter.

“(Troy’s) been working since he was old enough to lift a wrench in the service department,” Swenson said. “It is a family business, and it has been from the start.”

Swenson has four permanent employees and hires part-time help as needed — usually in his busy season, April through September.

The store originally was on 11th Avenue.

In 1993, it was moved to its current location.

Swenson also offers a program in which he fixes and donates old bikes to needy families.

He said that many times people need a bike as their main form of transportation to get to a job or find one.

Swenson said that after all these years, biking has changed.

Recently, he has noticed that adults are re-discovering bike riding.

Many people are buying road bikes with the skinny wheels for exercise and efficiency.

And younger people are interested in the BMX bikes to perform tricks and jumps with.

“I love this business because it’s a business that promotes healthy activities,” Swenson said.

Elisabeth Nardi can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 389, or by e-mail at enardi@times-call.com.