Bike shop changes hands, but not gears

Dean Eyre loves Canadian Tire bicycles. The cheap, mass-produced bikes help boost traffic at Eyre's Whitehorse business, the newly renamed Cadence Bike Shop.

Dean Eyre loves Canadian Tire bicycles.

The cheap, mass-produced bikes help boost traffic at Eyre’s Whitehorse business, the newly renamed Cadence Bike Shop.

“They’re good for business because they’re really messed up,” says Eyre, standing in the repair section of his shop, a bike hanging on chains from the ceiling.

The bike shop is one of two in the city that cater to the Yukon’s road racers and mountain bikers with repairs, new bikes and rentals.

But Cadence, known formerly as Philippe’s Bike Shop, has always had a unique vibe thanks to its residential home location.

“I’m always meeting people who have previously lived here,” said Eyre, who is 44.

The house, situated on Wood Street, looks like it has bicycles growing out of it. The bathtub is stocked with three rows of bike tires, and the backyard houses a fleet of purple rental bikes hanging underneath a wooden canopy.

And the kitchen, or what’s left of it, is where Eyre hangs the bikes up for repairs.

It’s also where he whips up his special sauce.

“This is the house mix,” he said, spraying oil from a small bottle into the handle bars of his bike. “It’s just WD40 and engine oil. You can buy a lot of fancy oils out there but they’re pretty much like this except they’re $6 for a little jar.”

But this is the laid-back world of bike junkies, who don’t mind doing away with ceremony or big brand names.

They’re just in it for the bikes.

“It’s one of the great human inventions,” said Eyre. “Scientifically, the only thing that takes less energy to provide equivalent propulsion is bird flight.”

The bicycle’s excellence at melding distance and energy efficiency are what make it a nomad’s most valuable asset.

“You can travel for a really long time just on food and whatever campgrounds there are,” said Eyre. “And people will help you because they respect you. You’re not a hitchhiker – you’re self-motivated.”

Eyre’s fascination with bikes began when he was a kid growing up in Saskatchewan biking to school twice a day, 45 minutes each way.

After he left home, he had a stint as a courier in Montreal for a year. Eyre’s done bike tours from Vancouver to Montreal and from Banff to San Francisco.

Tractor trailers never bothered him too much on the open road.

“It’s the motorhomes,” he said. “When you seen someone in a rental motorhome who can barely see over the steering wheel – I mean, I don’t look any different than a bee on his windshield.

“Those are the ones that scare the shit out of me.”

Eyre arrived in the Yukon in 1992 and life took a turn for the literary.

A playwright with four produced plays under his belt, Eyre has been an everyman in Whitehorse’s arts community, taking a stab at everything from set designs to film festivals. He’s worked in construction and at a recycling centre. He helped launch a short-lived literary magazine, Out of Service, and has just finished working on the Yukon’s cultural show at the Olympics.

“I was getting tired of it,” he said.

For the last two years, he’s worked at the bike shop under the helm of Philippe Leblond, who opened it four years ago.

When Leblond mentioned his interest in selling it, Eyre casually walked into a new line of work.

“I thought it would be kind of fun,” he said. “It’s not everyday downtown property comes up for sale.”

The move suits Eyre’s nomadic approach to life, which find his hands in many things and his feet never in one place.

“This is the next chapter,” he said. “I don’t know if there’s a plan. If there’s a plan, it hasn’t been revealed to me yet.”

In cycling circles, nomadism runs deep. Leblond is currently bike touring in Tasmania for a couple of months, but he’ll back to run his purple bike fleet in the summer.

And Eyre knows plenty of people on the bike touring circuit, especially the ones coming through Whitehorse during pan-continental trips.

The most memorable visitor was a man who had been biking for six years.

“He had fallen in love with this girl,” said Eyre. “She was riding south and he was riding north and he was kind of figuring out what to do. He had been to China and I think he was getting tired of it.”

He doesn’t know if the man ever turned around.

“We’re (one of) the only bike shops on the highway,” he said.

“There’s not a lot between here and Edmonton.”

While the long-haul bikers provide some entertainment during the bike season, the shop’s bread and butter are new bike sales.

The shops sells between 200 and 250 new bikes every year, for about $700 apiece.

“That’s the most cash flow but probably the least profit,” he said. “You don’t make a lot of money by selling a bike.”

The Yukon’s mountain biking junkies also provide a lot of work and the road racing community has grown in recent years.

“Since the Haines to Haines came about in 1994, that’s built a really big road racing community,” he said.

Eyre recommends that everybody bring their bike in for a tune-up once a year, but it really depends on how much you use it.

“In a bike everything is controlled by steel cables,” he said. “And these are all spring loaded.”

“The cables stretch and stainless steel stretches, so eventually they leave alignment. And in modern bikes everything is indexed. So everything has to be precisely set.”

Eyre doesn’t plan to change the business much.

He bought the shop with his girlfriend, Nicole Bauberger, who will use some of the building’s rooms for art exhibits. Currently, a set of her sculptures, titled 3-D Dresses, is hanging in one room, while What is Trash?, a collage work by Linda Leon, is in another.

“I’m going to keep it conservative and keep it pretty similar,” said Eyre. “We’ve got a really great clientele here that’s really well-established, and I really want to hold onto their confidence.”

Just don’t be fooled by the name change, which refers to the speed at which gears change on a bike.

“I used to be a writer, so I thought it was poetic,” he said.

He’ll try to keep the homey atmosphere that the shop is known for, where kids and bike aficionados can be found lounging out front in the summer.

“Bike shops are good places to hang out,” he said.

He’s at least counting on his 11-year-old daughter to keep him company.

“She’ll be a shop rat, I think,” said Eyre. “I might teach her to change tires, make her useful.”

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