Therapy Through Cycles

Waterford, Michigan — No “average” or “typical” customer walks through the doors of Cycletherapy Bicycles in Waterford.

Owner Ernie Dell and his staff see avid mountain bikers, road cyclists who log thousands of miles a season and plenty of families, new commuters and kids who are looking to spend more time on two wheels.

Dell, who admits to having six personal bikes at home, opened the shop in 2004. After a couple of years wondering every day if he would make it, in the last five years, he’s settled in as a destination store and opened a second location in Walled Lake in 2010.

Cycletherapy operates under the principles of fantastic customer service, a vast and creative inventory of not just bikes but all the accessories like helmets, seat options, clothing, lights, hydration systems and nutrition that cyclists need and community service.

“We have a lot of customers who come to cycling. I wouldn’t say they’re all new, but they want to get into it because it’s more than fitness. It’s friends. It’s family. It’s commuting. It’s good for the environment,” Dell says.

Dell, 40, grew up in Union Lake riding mainly BMX bikes, the precursors to the racks of them now on his store floor. He built ramps in his backyard and rode everywhere as a kid.

“It was also a huge part of my teenage years,” he says “If I wanted to go somewhere and it was 10 miles away, I would never say no, I’d just get on my bike and ride.”

“It was also a huge part of my teenage years,” he says “If I wanted to go somewhere and it was 10 miles away, I would never say no, I’d just get on my bike and ride.”

He’s promoting that attitude with his young family. He and his wife recently bought a house in West Bloomfield in a neighborhood that allows their twin children to ride to school, a lakefront park and the library.

Dell came to bike shop ownership after his first adult life as a fiberglass insulator. About 10 years ago he got serious about opening a store of some kind, seeking to own his own business. His first option was a pet shop, but then the former business at his current location went out and Dell jumped in to re-invent a second career for himself.

Fresh coats of paint and new lighting livened up the shop. He considered the name “Uncle Ernie’s Bike Barn” but thankfully listened to a long term employee who suggested “Cycletherapy.”

He moved bike displays from the crowded front to the middle and rear of the x-foot-space. He added accessories and made sure he had ample inventory of cruisers, BMX, mountain and road bikes. He got certified as a bike fitter so that he can customize seat placement, handlebar angle and other features so riders have the most comfortable and efficient postures and positions when they pedal.

He started showing up at events like the Tour de Cure, bike safety days at local schools and sponsoring riders in mountain bike races. He held demo days.

And he enjoyed successes. New customers come in every week. The regulars return for service, repairs and new bikes. Customers report losing weight, being healthier and seeing the world in a new, friendlier way.

“It’s not just a vehicle,” Dell says. “Cycling is a way of life.”

He knows about the recent resurgence of cycling in Detroit proper and laments it hasn’t hit central Oakland County’s infrastructure.

“It’s very tight on some of the lake roads,” he says. “But I have less people honk and me and less people bothered by me riding.”

He hopes federal, state and local policies will continue to support cycling infrastructure. The nearby Clinton River Trail is an example of a community project that he’d like to see expanded, and efforts such as the Complete Streets legislation give him hope.

“I want it to be important to Michigan,” he says. “The life improvements that happen to people as individuals riding, those can happen to a community too.”


Get yourself fitted for a bike at Cycletherapy and let us know what you think in the comments below!

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