Perth bike shop a passion still being passed on

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Ed Agans CHARLES ERICKSON/FOR THE LEADER-HERALD

By Charles Erickson/For The Leader-Herald

PERTH – When the weather was damp and holiday lights were reminders of how the calendar was about halfway between the nice weather of last fall and that of next spring, the temperature was warm like late May recently inside Bike Barn Cycles.

As they came and went from the shop, different customers carried on conversations with the proprietor, Ed Agans. Most of the talk was about bicycle hardware, fixing bicycles or the act of riding a bicycle.

“I feel like a kid in a candy shop here,” said Josue Martinez, 22, from Ballston Spa, who had brought in a second mountain bike so Agans could do what he had done to the first: improve its aesthetics and operation. “He put on new tires, new chain, pedals, pegs and brake levers.”

Chris Cox, from the town of Florida, paused as he rolled a mountain bike out of the store. The bike belonged to the son of a friend, and Cox had failed in his attempt at servicing it.

“I did a poor job of adjusting the derailleur,” Cox explained, “so I had Ed do it because he’s better at it than I am.”

Agans opened shop in Perth at 4360 State Highway 30 in late June. The building previously functioned as a body shop and features three large roll-up doors, though those have been shut for the winter.

“Come April, these doors will open and a bunch of bikes will be outside, and we’ll have a really happening vibe again,” Agans said.

A WINDING ROAD

Agans opened Bike Barn Cycles first in Bennington, Vermont, in 1993. The shop took its name from the converted barn Agans leased.

“I’ve got a lot of background in bikes,” he said. “I love it. I’m still passionate about it.”

In the 1970s and early ‘80s, Agans’ father was a partner and later the sole owner of A&G Bikes and Hobbies, which had stores in Albany, Latham and Saratoga Springs. In 1983, when the younger Ed Agans was about 17, the father offered the business to his two sons. The brothers declined.

“It seemed like a lot of work for someone just coming out of high school,” Agans recalled.

Bike Barn Cycles operated in Bennington until 2002. Agans said he decided to close the store because he resumed living in the Albany area after he and his wife divorced.  

Free of running a bike shop, Agans began managing a Latham swimming pool company. But he worked on bicycles as a sideline and word-of-mouth brought him a growing customer base. So, in 2010, he reopened Bike Barn Cycles in Cohoes. The second incarnation no longer operated from a barn but Agans was still a tenant.

In the summer of 2020, Agans said, he could not reach a new lease agreement with the owner of the Cohoes building. The landlord wanted to add apartments to a second floor of the structure on Remsen Street, which would have consumed a lot of the store’s available parking spaces.

Agans began looking for a third home for his shop. He spotted an interesting property while driving through Perth. It was the same route his father had used when piloting the family Winnebago towards campsites near The Great Sacandaga Lake.

The real estate on State Highway 30, for sale by the owner, included two buildings on more than seven acres of land.

“The location is great,” Agans said. “I love the area. I guess the writing was on the wall. There are no negatives at all.”

He purchased the property in November 2020. An auto-body shop continued to rent space there until last April when Agans entered and spent two months getting the main building ready to host a bike shop.

EXPANSION POSSIBILITIES

Agans had three employees in Cohoes, where a full-time technician and two part-timers worked alongside him. Now, he is the only person on the payroll but he expects to hire new help this year.

“Attention to detail is everything,” Agans said about the traits of a good bicycle technician.

A look around the Agans’ shop reflected his thoughts on the matter. Everything seemed neatly in its place, including the parts inventory, new stock and the tools on the owner’s workbench.  

“Even a small little turn of the screw the wrong way can send a derailleur into the spokes,” he added.

Cameron Alkinburgh, a high school student from Amsterdam, brought his mountain bike to the shop so Agans could install a new crank set. He leaned on a counter and spoke with the proprietor about cycling hardware. He also mentioned his desire to turn wrenches in a professional capacity.

“For sure, I’d love to work as a bicycle tech,” said Alkinburgh, who presently works in a hamburger restaurant but will seek employment with a car dealership or bike shop after he graduates. “I love being around them and fixing them.”

Beyond expanding the workforce, Agans wants to use some of the Perth property to build a road course for two-wheelers.  Such a fixture, he said, is uncommon in the bike retailing industry. 

“It would be a test loop for mountain bikes and hybrids,” he said. “People could try bikes on a trail in an outdoor environment.”

If the weather allows, Agans hopes to begin marking the outlines of the course in March.

ALL BIKES WELCOMED, LOVED

Servicing bikes brings in about 60 percent of revenues, according to Agans. This work includes basic services, like $9 to fix a flat, up to $70 for a tune-up and $170 for a complete overhaul.

He subscribes to the belief shared by many automotive technicians: Regular service is the key to extending the life of any wheeled conveyance.

In the store’s service queue was a folding bicycle made by Peugeot nearly 50 years ago. The whitewall tires and large reflectors on the spokes helped identify this bike as being from another time, but it was in remarkable condition.

“Service is the way you really build a relationship,” Agans said. “Anyone can sell a bike and have someone go out the door.  A higher level of service – that’s what we do. We make sure that bike is running top-notch and create a returning customer that way.”

The owner said another 10 percent of receipts are from the sales of parts and accessories, and the remaining 30 percent of revenues come from sales of new bicycles.

The new inventory carried by Bike Barn Cycles runs from $400 to $7,000 for adult bikes, and $250 and up for bicycles designed for children. The store’s new rides are more expensive than the bikes typically carried by big-box stores but Agans is not a cycling snob, and welcomes all makes and models into the servicing department.

“I love to work on those types of bikes,” he said. “Those bikes mean a lot to people. Not everyone can afford a higher-end bike.”

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