Shifting gears: Retiree turns a passion for bikes into a business

Kurtis Dobson loves bikes — to ride and to fix, but also for the childhood memories they evoke.

The Streetsville native vividly recalls using money saved from his paper route to buy his first bike, a black and red with gold trim Redline.

“I still remember my dad going down with me saying, ‘You’re going to spend $120, I’m going with you.’”

He fussed over that bike, washing and shining it every day. Now he’s fussing over other people’s bikes.

Part of the migration of retirees moving to Kingsville from Toronto and the GTA, the former heavy construction salesman opened Kingsville Cycle Works last month.

Dobson and his wife, Penny, moved to town late last year. They spent a lot of time gutting and renovating their new home and once that job was done, Dobson, wanting to stay active and engaged in the community, began looking for things to occupy his time. Dobson chose to repair bikes. He took an 11-day course at Conestoga College near Kitchener and became a certified bicycle mechanic.

Around the same time Dobson was learning to repair bikes, the owners of Beachcomber Hot Tubs on Landsdowne Avenue were thinking about opening a bike shop to complement their hot tub business.

They had mulled it over for a long time and ultimately decided against the idea. Two weeks after making that decision, Dobson walked in the door, pitched his idea and asked to rent space at the rear of their building. The bike shop had kicked into gear.

Kingsville Cycle Works, located near the Chrysler Greenway, has no street presence. It’s been open more than a month and Dobson hasn’t done any advertising. Still, he is busy.

“Sometimes you just capture lightning in a bottle — everybody is so happy about the bike shop opening up. It’s something the town doesn’t have,” he said.

Because of social distancing, cycling has boomed; many bike shops are having trouble keeping bikes in stock. Dobson said at least 70 per cent of his repairs are done on older bikes that have been lying in basements or garages, unused. He removes rust, trues the wheels, fixes flats, changes cables, installs new brake pads and replaces old and worn-out parts, like shifters.

Dobson also offers roadside assistance. He will pick up bikes that need fixing or do repairs along the greenway. All he asks is the cyclist in need of help walk to the nearest concession road.

Visits to the shop are by appointment and he blocks off 45 minutes per customer. He is perfectly fine with customers staying in the shop and watching him work.

“I am the second barbershop in town,” he said “People love to talk about their bikes.”

Those childhood memories of his first bike still resonate with Dobson and as a result he has a policy of giving children preferred treatment on bike repairs. They come first.

“It’s very important for kids to have a sense of freedom and with a bike they get it.”

Dobson is also negotiating with various bike manufacturers and hopes to sell bikes and accessories later this year.

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