Free Ride

Bike shops team up to promote cycling

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Mike Gaertner, owner of Vertical Earth, discusses the different characteristics of bike frames with a customer at his store in Riverstone.

COEUR d'ALENE - Sure, Mike Gaertner, Carrie Martin and Adam Haeusler are competitors.

Can't be helped. Not when all three own bike shops in Coeur d'Alene.

There's Gaertner and Vertical Earth at Riverstone, Martin and Bicycle Sales and Service on Fourth Street, and Haeusler with Terra Sports on Sherman Avenue.

Each loves being part of a growing sector of cyclists. Each would love to provide the bikes, accessories and handle the repairs for anyone to take two wheels on the road. They would love to work together bringing bikes to their community.

They think they've found a way to make that happen and they're calling it the "Coeur d'Alene Bicycle Commuter Challenge."

The idea is to get folks out riding bikes instead of driving their cars, trucks and SUVs to reach their in-town destinations. Not only will they gain fitness and save gas, they can win prizes, too.

"With so many bike shops in town, we compete against each other," Gaertner said. "With this, we get to work together to promote cycling in the community."

"We're forming more friendships, too, which is great," Martin said. "We'll always be competitors, too, but the friendships are great."

Here's how the Bicycle Commuter Challenge works.

Starting May 1 and throughout the summer, stop at any of the three bike shops and pick up a stamp card. Then, each time you're pedaling to work or headed out on your bike, stop and have your card stamped.

Stamps are worth prizes. The more stamps, the better the prizes. At the end of the program, Aug. 31, there will be a drawing for the biggest and best prizes for those who have at least 10 commutes to their credit.

"The idea is, they want people to ride their bikes," said Kent Eggleston, Carrie Martin's father.

Gaertner agreed.

The Commuter Challenge is beneficial for everybody and can easily be expanded down the road if other bike shops would like to get involved.

"If it gets people out biking, that's a good thing," he said.

Haeusler said the community has a high focus on endurance sports, so many athletes are already committed to their bikes. The commuter challenge is an example of how others - kids, students and parents - can spend more time traveling by pedal power.

"It shows people there are other things you can do," Haeusler said. "You don't have to be an Ironman to get out and ride a bike."

Quick trips in town might be easier on a bike, which, when considering gas prices, is the far cheaper option as well.

He also pointed out each of the three bike shops has "a little different focus."

"We are competitors to a point, but this shows people we're on the same page. We're working with each other," he said.

North Idaho is already a popular biking area, with the Centennial Trail and Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes for road bikes, and Canfield Mountain or Farragut State Park for mountain bikes.

And with Ironman and triathlons continuing to gain a strong foothold, cyclists are taking to the roads in groups come spring and summer.

Gaertner hopes they'll keep riding, beyond the competition.

"We're trying to expand that into something more all-encompassing, not just ride for Ironman. Make it a lifestyle," he said.

Martin hopes that leads to more people biking to work.

"We needed something in this community that brings people together who are commuting," she said.

That's easy to do, considering the abundance of paved and mountain trails within easy reach of cyclists. - but not Tubbs Hill.

"You'll get a ticket on Tubbs Hill," Martin said.

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