Achille Bianchi

Bike Doc: An Endangered Species

Hazel Park, Mich. — Surrounded by tools and vintage bicycles, Continental Bike Shop has a welcoming feel. Randy Martin, the shop’s owner since 1996, greets his customers warmly when they arrive.

When I stopped by the shop which is just off John R., north of Woodward Heights in Hazel Park, Martin was doing a tune-up.

Continental Bike Shop is a spacious venue for nearby customers in need of bike repairs, apparel and information about cycling. Customers from Ferndale, Royal Oak and Huntington Woods come for its unique selection, including Giant, Electra, Redline, and Bianchi. They return for good service. Or, if you want, Martin will make house calls.

“I don’t advertise it much, but I’ll do it whenever someone asks for it,” he says.

Martin, who is known as the Bike Doc, has been making house calls in his van-turned-mobile-bike-shop since 1989. RAM Trucks recently awarded him a new van so he could create his ideal bike shop on wheels.

Changing perceptions

Martin’s not just a shop owner. He also helps promote healthy communities and change drivers’ perspectives of cycling by hosting a weekly 15-mile ride around the area. Many drivers are unfamiliar with cycling etiquette and laws, as are many casual cyclists.

He says he’s not trying to appeal to what he calls the “Lycra crowd,” but rather “the casual new person … to help new cyclists get acclimated to riding on the road.”

The ride turns into a social club of sorts when it ends at local restaurants or bars, which Martin says he likes to do to help promote local businesses.

“We’re also trying to get Hazel Park to put in some bike lanes – of course they don’t have money like everyone else, but we’ll see what happens,” he said.

He says he thinks the community would support a bike lane initiative and some city officials have approached him about planning one.

Vintage is his thing

While he wants to build a culture that takes cycling seriously, his group rides, which are well attended by regulars, are relaxed. The bikes are as eclectic as the people riding them.

Martin says one man who attends the weekly event rides a 1957 Schwinn equipped with a basket so his dog can ride along too – memorable to him because those bikes, he says, reminds him of an era he grew up in.

“A couple of weeks ago you would have seen six or eight old Schwinns in here getting [rebuilt] – I’ve been working on those for 35 years,” Martin said. “I enjoy working on those.”

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