Kyle Printer, a recumbent specialist at Bike-On, calls the company’s Warwick location a well “kept secret.” This much is true, as the shop is tucked away at 72 College Street in Apponaug and is …
Kyle Printer, a recumbent specialist at Bike-On, calls the company’s Warwick location a well “kept secret.” This much is true, as the shop is tucked away at 72 College Street in Apponaug and is rather difficult to locate. But finding it can be life changing for many, as the staff there creates various recreational and sporting bikes for people with disabilities.
“Our entire goal is inclusion through cycling. We can build a bike for anybody regardless of their ability [and] any obstacles they may face,” Printer said.
Scott Pellett, who started Bike-On “in a closet on a Gateway computer” with his wife Lynn, writes on the Bike-On website that he was injured in a “teenage escapade gone wrong” in 1971. But thankfully, he was “blessed with just the right amount of naive optimism and a quest for life’s adventure – equal doses of Walter Mitty and Forrest Gump.”
The Pelletts founded and sold several businesses in the fitness industry in the 1980s but resumed a 9-to-5 lifestyle after starting a family. The desire to get “back in the game” of business never dissipated, and Bike-On was born. It began selling handcycles to customers in Rhode Island, but Bike-On expanded its sales to regional nonprofits and got an inquiry from someone in Israel, which made them realize the business was “serious.” Within a few years, the Pelletts were working full time on Bike-On.
Today, the company’s bikes have been sold worldwide and used in high profile events like the Boston Marathon. However, Printer seems to find the impact the bikes have on those who use them even more noteworthy. He was friends with one of the Pelletts’ sons and had worked part time at Bike-On, but actually “dropped everything” and began working there full time once he saw how happy people became with the bikes.
“Their disability just goes away once they get on the bike,” he said. “It’s exciting to see somebody that didn’t think they could ride a bike and we can say ‘yes you can’ with confidence.”
He adds that the company has met people who “before getting our bikes, they were scared to leave their house.”
Bike-On’s bikes give riders confidence as well as mobility. It makes everything from handcycles to recumbent trikes to devices that can accommodate a wheelchair. Many of the company’s clients are veterans – Printer points to a bike that has a “pendulum pedal” that makes riding painless for amputees with prosthetic limbs. There’s also a large, bike that allows those who are blind to experience bike riding; it seats two people side by side, one side steers, and both pedal. Two more seats can be attached to the back. Printer also describes a recumbent bike that helps people who have difficulties balancing on regular two-wheeled bicycles; it offers full back support and takes the strain off knees and legs that would otherwise be there on a regular bike.
Printer said Bike-On generally has a bike for every budget (they can range from $600 to $16,000 depending on their functions) and that the company works locally with nonprofits and rehabilitation centers that can help cover costs if affordability is an issue for an individual. Some they work with include The Shriners of Rhode island, Spaulding Rehab, Achilles international, Northeast Passage, and The Veterans Administration.
Bike-On is hoping to branch out more into the Warwick community. Printer said they’ve seen more walk-in clients from Connecticut and Massachusetts that come to check out their bikes, which he said helps people get a real feel for the bikes and decide which one is best for them.
“As long as you have the willpower to do it, we can find a working bike for you,” Printer said.
Bike-On is looking forward to partake in the Best Buddies Challenge in which part of their employee team will ride 100 miles to raise funds to “help people with developmental disabilities thrive in their communities.” To learn more about this event or donate to the team, visit www.bestbuddieschallenge.org/hp/support2017/#Bikeon.