The Norman Transcript

December 16, 2012

Shop specializes in folding bicycles

By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — “From commuters to long-haul truckers, from campers to pilots -- folders offer a way to make your bicycle a take-along,” said Hank Ryan, owner of Al’s Bicycles.

Folders, or folding bicycles, is a category of bikes in which Al’s Bicycles of Norman specializes. The bike is growing increasingly popular and can be used not only for recreation, but also transportation.

Al’s Bicycles of Norman are the center for the multi-functional bikes and has been an authorized dealer for Dahon folders since Hank and Ann Ryan bought the shop in 2010. They have also added Tern folders when they were introduced in fall 2011, as well as English-made Bromptons in August, to expand the variety of folding bicycles at the business.

The bicycle shop is the only one in a 300-mile radius to have all three brands in stock. This allows potential buyers to able to look at the bikes in-person and also give them a test drive before they buy them said Ann.

“We want our customers to test ride,” Hank said. “Anyone coming into the shop can get the feel of the bike before investing in it.”

The Ryan’s keep more than a dozen different models in stock at all times so potential buyers can test drive the bicycles. So far they have sold bikes to folder seekers from Arkansas, Kansas, Texas and others from all across Oklahoma.

Hank bought his first folder because he wanted a small-wheeled bike that was easy to get on and off and that would fit more easily into his car.

“I had been riding a semi-recumbent bike. It was a great bike, but it weighed 50 pounds and took, of course, a special bike rack. If you have any back, neck or shoulder problems or any difficulty swinging your leg up and over a standard bike, folders are a great solution,” he said.

The bikes can also be checked at the airport, train or bus station inside a case made for that purpose. It takes an average of 30 seconds to fold a folder to carry it into the office, apartment or house.

“Other bike stores have other specialties; we want this to be ours,” Ann said. “We offer a full line of standard bikes and accessories and full repair service, but we want to focus on folders. With the ever-increasing interest on greener living, bicycles are becoming more central to not just exercise and recreation but transportation. Folders are good for all three, of course.”

The bikes fold as compactly as 24 inches by 24 inches by 11 inches. Larger wheel models go up to 37 inches by 41 inches by 14 inches. They weigh from 20 to 30 pounds.

“Adjusting the seat or handlebars is a quick, one-step process. You don’t have to ‘gear up’ to ride them; they are made for street wear. They may not have the speed and long-distance attributes of a road bike, but they are a superb general-use bicycles,” Hank said.

Ann said not only are they fun to ride, but they are also nimble.

“They spin up faster, meaning you get going faster. They are generally simpler in their gearing with more robust gear systems to withstand the folding,” Hank said.

Al’s Bicycles offers a lot of bikes with 21 to 24 gear options, of which most people will use only a very few he said.

“Folders generally have from one to 11. Nicest of all, folders are unisex and can accommodate a wider range of body sizes, so they are easier to share among family members or with guests,” he said.

The folders range in price from $400 to several thousand dollars and can be bought off the floor or customized to fit all body sizes or individual needs. However, when a bike is customized it does mean ordering and waiting anywhere from a few weeks to 12 weeks, especially for a Brompton, which is a higher-end folder Ann said.

“The folder market is a growing one. Dahon alone is now selling more than 300,000 folding bikes worldwide. Al’s Bicycles of Norman wants you to join the fold.”

For more information, got to www.alsbicycles.com and click on “Norman.”

Jessica Bruha366-3540jbruha@normantranscript.com

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