Ridgefield Bicycle Company changes location, not personality

The Ridgefield Bicycle Co., owned by Sean and Jacqui Dowd, employs four technicians “who have the same passion for cycling that we do,” said Mr. Dowd. From left: Jared Gell, Adam Ray, Tony Reed, Jacqui Dowd, Sean Dowd, and Mike Ahearn. —Lois Street photo

The Ridgefield Bicycle Company doesn’t simply sell bicycles. Along with the shiny new road bikes, lifestyle bikes, mountain bikes, and kids bikes arrayed on the floors and walls of their new store, Sean and Jacqui Dowd offer a way of life.

“Our bike shop reflects a part of everything we do,” Mr. Dowd said in a recent interview. “We’re a local Ridgefield family and Ridgefield is a town of families. So we service the needs of families, not only in Ridgefield but in surrounding towns.”

“It comes down to creating a community and a culture around what inspires us,” Ms. Dowd said. “Riding a bike is different for everybody. Whether you’re a road-bike enthusiast who averages 22 miles an hour, a recreational rider grabbing your cruiser for a spin on the rail trail, or a parent simply riding with your kids around town — we treat everybody equally, and we create places to go and things to do for everyone.”

Central to the bike shop’s activities is the Ridgefield Bicycle Sports Club, which sponsors rides at the A, B, C, and D levels. Pace and distance change at each level, with A going fastest and farthest. “If you’re a C rider, you’re not going as far or as fast. But it’s what you’re comfortable with, and we try to get that for as many people as we can,” Ms. Dowd said.

While many of the Bicycle Company’s group rides leave from and return to the shop, others start and finish at Ballard Park (with a picnic at the end) or local restaurants, such as Sarah’s Wine Bar and the Southwest Café. Often the rides are sponsored by local businesses. “They provide fun adult refreshments like beer, wine and cupcakes. A 25-mile ride and then a cupcake — it goes amazingly well!” Mr. Dowd said.

The store stocks brands for all types of bikes and riders. “Giant is the No. 1 brand we carry and it does everything,” Mr. Dowd said. Other trademarks are BMC for road riding and triathlons, Felt for roads, triathlons and recreation, Raleigh as a youth and lifestyle bike, and Pivot for mountain biking.

“Our accessories cover everything a cyclist needs — car racks, clothing, shoes, helmets, computers, lights. We also carry triathlon-specific gear for swimming and cycling,” Mr. Dowd said.

A popular new item at the shop is the “GoPro” camera that mounts on a rider’s bike or helmet. “You can have a great mountain ride and immediately share it with people afterward,” Mr. Dowd said.

Free clinics on bicycle maintenance and repair are open to the public whether or not they belong to the club. And the shop fixes more than bikes: “We repair strollers — anything that rolls,” Mr. Dowd said.

The Bicycle Company is the title sponsor of the annual Ridgefield Triathlon, in which both Sean and Jacqui Dowd have competed. But these days, as top sponsors, they’re heavily involved in organizing and managing the event. “We cheer everyone on, which we enjoy,” Mr. Dowd said.

This doesn’t mean, though, that his family isn’t represented in the competition. The triathlon organizers also sponsor a tri for kids in three age groups: 4-6, 7-10 and 11-14. Last year, a young Dowd competed in each: Jack, 11, an active mountain and road biker; Kate, 9, an avid competitive swimmer, and Michael, 6, who came in first among boys and second overall.

During the coming cycling season, “we want to get another youth ride going,” Ms. Dowd said. The Bicycle Company sponsored one last year and it was “a great success — we had 50 people come out.”

Sean and Jacqui Dowd’s ambitions go beyond promoting cycling as a lifestyle activity. They hope to change the local landscape as well.

“People are scared of the cars and very worried about the narrow, winding roads. And families are wary about their kids riding on the roads. So one goal of ours is to develop a safe network of trails that would connect the upper part of town with the lower part,” Ms. Dowd said.

Such a network would include existing trails, such as the Recreation Center’s trail, “a mile’s worth of pavement which has proved phenomenal for kids, especially first-time riders,” Mr. Dowd said.

He envisions a safe, multi-use system of trails connecting many of Ridgefield’s attractions, such as “the Aldrich museum, the Playhouse, the rec center, and eventually the new library and theater. It would have a great positive economic impact as a destination for people in all our neighboring towns,” he said.

The Dowds’ most radical concept is to put bike lanes on some Ridgefield roads, including the center of town.

The Bicycle Company employs four technical experts. “Mike, Tony, Adam, and Jerry are as much a part of the shop’s personality as we are,” Mr. Dowd said.

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