ELY - Ely Bike & Kicksled opened its doors at 125 North Central Avenue this week, adding another spoke in the wheel of the recent economic development renaissance taking place in this community at …
ELY - Ely Bike & Kicksled opened its doors at 125 North Central Avenue this week, adding another spoke in the wheel of the recent economic development renaissance taking place in this community at the end of the road.
Owned and operated by Ryan Wahls and Sarah Malick-Wahls, the new business fills a niche missed by Ely residents and visitors since the previous Ely Bike Shop owned by Denise Meyers closed several years ago.
Ely Bike and Kicksled offers full service repair, bike and kicksled sales, accessories sales, and bike and kicksled rentals year-round. “We’re also exploring the idea of offering a bike shuttle service to take visitors to the many trails in the region once our new business gets established,” Wahls said.
The business initially carries the Reid brand of bicycles, and hopes to add additional brands over time. “We were impressed with the quality of bike Reid offers at a nice price point that makes them affordable to most riders,” he said. “We were initially attracted to Reid for their fat-tire bikes, which are important especially for the winter season component of our business. We were also pleased with the variety of other bikes they offer and the manner in which they promote small independent bike shops like ourselves.”
Wahls, who will also serve as the primary mechanic in the repair shop, brings over 25 years of technical expertise to the new business. He previously served as a Cadillac and Arctic Cat mechanic and most recently as a master carpenter. “Bike repair has always felt natural to me,” he said when asked how his education in auto mechanics relates to bike repair. “Once you understand physics as they relate to vehicles, it’s just a matter of piecing together different components. My interest in becoming a mechanic actually started with bicycles, as I have been working on them since I was a teenager in the mid-1980s.”
There is growing interest in winter riding fat-tire bikes in the region and construction of new single-track mountain bike trails at Hidden Valley, and completion of the connector to the long-distance paved Mesabi Bike Trail are both anticipated within the next couple of years,.
The couple said feel this is the perfect time for a bike shop in Ely. They are located a quick pedal from an in-town four-season trail, in the former Bloomer’s Flower Shop next to the Ely Surplus store. “We chose this specific location because it’s a beautiful old downtown building with great proximity to the Trezona and Mesabi Trails,” said Malick-Wahls. “We are pleased that young riders, especially, will have access to the trail from our doorstep without the need to cross a busy street like Sheridan.”
The building has a long history in Ely, from it’s early days as a general store first operated by Swedish immigrants in 1900, then later as a series of antique stores, and more recently as Steger Mukluks, Northwoods Co-op, and Bloomer’s Floral. “The gold ceiling is really what sold us on the place. It is just gorgeous,” she said.
Bike repairs will be completed in a full workshop in the rear of the building.
A most unique component of their business is sales and service of kicksleds. “We fell in love with them while traveling in Norway and Finland and thought this form of winter recreation would be a perfect fit for Ely,” Wahls said, “especially with our persistent snow here and residents’ love for outdoor activities and proud Finnish heritage.”
Kicksleds look like a small wooden chair mounted on long runner skis and are maneuvered on crusted snow or ice by holding handlebars behind the chair and kicking as if on a scooter.
The shop expects their shipment of Finnish-made Esla kicksleds in before the snow flies. They have two of them on display in the shop. “Kicksleds perform best during the periods when the snow is too slick for comfortable skiing, but I use mine all winter on packed trails, roads without sand, and on lakes with a hard crust,” Malick-Wahls said.
In Scandinavia, kicksleds are used for training by professional skiers and casual users. While traveling in Lapland a few winters ago, the couple saw kids pushing each other home from school, tourists playing, and even older folks using them to hold grocery bags and increase stability while walking on icy sidewalks.
While kicksleds are most commonly human-powered, one can also harness a dog to the sled. Wahls said he has a friend who uses her kicksled to exercise her retired sled dogs on area lakes. “If you can train your dog to skijor, you can do the same with kicksleds,” he said.
“We are excited to contribute to the positive energy surrounding Ely’s renaissance through promoting a healthy, outdoor activity in this beautiful corner of Minnesota,” he said.
For more information, call Ely Bike & Kicksled at 218-365-BIKE.