Bikes@Vienna — The Alternative Ride

Tucked away in an unassuming location between The Pure Pasty Co. and Terra Christa at 128 Church Street NW is a humble, independent bike shop that can only be described as one-of-a-kind.   

“We’re not like most bike shops,” explained Bikes@Vienna owner Tim Fricker. “People come in, look around, and wonder, where are the bikes? Yet they are intrigued by what they find here.”

The small shop specializes in folding bikes, recumbent bikes and trikes, and specialty tandems, as well as a small selection of more conventional bikes, mostly aimed at casual riding and running errands or commuting. They also sell and provide service for non-traditional adaptive products built and modified for people with special needs and various disabilities, such as war veterans with traumatic brain and other injuries, people with neurological disorders or injuries, and many others who can no longer ride traditional bicycles.

The shop’s foray into this niche market stems in part from former owner John Brunow’s daughter being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, which prompted investigation into how cycling could fit into the life of someone with special needs. In addition, the shop began to see a growing number of patients from Walter Reed and the former Bethesda Naval Hospital seeking a means to aid recovery, get fit, and enjoy the outdoors. The shop’s early focus on recumbent bikes was a natural fit for the growing adaptive cycling market, which has lead to an ongoing relationship with the National Rehab Hospital and work with a variety of groups involved in the field.

Frank, and his son with special needs, ride their Hase Pino tandem.

“There is nothing more amazing and rewarding than witnessing the determination and grace of someone who has overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges, get on a bike and ride again,” Tim reflected, recalling a former customer who is an Iraq war veteran who lost both legs in combat, and went on to be a competitive handcyclist. “He has moved forward in his life with uncommon positivity and resilience.”  The shop has also worked with families with children with special needs, including autism and cerebral palsy, and as Tim says “The joy on a young person’s face on that first ride—it’s just wonderful and is really one of the great things about doing what we do.”

Since Tim took over the business in 2011, he has continued offering adaptive products and has expanded the shop’s inventory to include commuter bikes and hybrids—bikes that combined the best qualities of light and streamlined road bikes with the upright and stable qualities of mountain bikes. But the shop’s most popular seller is the increasingly popular folding bike.

“Since 9/11 there has been increased interest in folding bikes,” Tim explained. “People who work in D.C. and/or ride the metro want alternative transportation should they need to get out of the area quickly or if the metro goes down.”

More than just a quick escape, folding bikes can be taken on the metro, carried on buses, and tucked neatly in the back of most cars; checked into coat rooms at the theater; kept in office spaces; taken on cruise ships for port calls; and even stored on boats. Their practicality and useful attributes have helped them gain traction, quickly becoming a top choice in commuting alternatives.

When it comes to cycling, however, bicycle-friendly environments in the Washington Metropolitan Area can be hit or miss, a truth not lost on Vienna. Seeking to make a difference, the Town of Vienna formed the Bicycle Advisory Committee—a group in which Tim is an active member—which has been working to expand and improve bicycling facilities in Vienna. As a result, the League of American Bicyclists, a nationwide bicycle advocacy group, identified Vienna as a “Bronze” Bicycle Friendly Community in November 2016. Now one of 12 Virginia communities to be distinguished with this honor, Vienna is progressing as a bike friendly, sustainable community.

Actively engaged in community outreach, Tim and the Bikes@Vienna crew participate in events year-round such as May’s upcoming Bike Rodeo and Bike to Work Day, Oktoberfest, the annual Halloween Parade, the Committee for Helping Others Holiday Bike Drive, and First Night Vienna.

For more information, visit Bikes@Vienna or email Tim Fricker.

2017 Bikes@Vienna Participating Events:

Bike Month: May

Vienna Bike Rodeo: Saturday, 6 May, 9am–12pm, Vienna Volunteer Fire Department

Fairfax County Bike to Work Day: Friday, 19 May

Oktoberfest: Saturday, 7 October

Halloween Parade: Wednesday, 25 October, 7pm

Holiday Bike Drive: TBD

First Night Vienna

Pictured above: Group getting ready to ride recumbent trikes in the Fairfax Independence Day parade.

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