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Meet Old Fort Bicycles: a new shop on the North side shares ways to improve cycling for all

“As Downtown continues to improve, the biggest question I have is: How do we get people to Downtown on bicycles safely?”
Meet Old Fort Bicycles: a new shop on the North side shares ways to improve cycling for all
Dylan Curtis is General Manager of Old Fort Bicycles at 1820 Dupont Rd.

When the locally owned Summit City Bicycles & Fitness sold its business on Lima Road, there was a sense of “community” that former employee Dylan Curtis, 28, felt missing from the North side of town.

“It was a locally owned shop that many people called ‘home,’” Curtis says.

So when his friend Mark Miller shared with him a desire to open a local bike shop focused on re-engaging the city’s North side, it was a “no-brainer” for Curtis to want to be part of it as General Manager.

“So many people are excited to have a bike shop that’s easily accessible to the growing Rivergreenway and Pufferbelly Trail networks in Fort Wayne,” he says. “Especially with the new trail addition that’s accessible from the YMCA off Dupont Road up to Fitch Road.”

As spring cycling season approaches, Old Fort Bicycles is planning its grand opening for April 27, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., partnering with its neighbors, like Sol Bird and Handel’s Ice Cream, to offer goodies and giveaways onsite at 1820 Dupont Rd.

Curtis shares with us his take on the local bicycle scene and what could improve the city’s bicycle infrastructure for everyone from road racers to families.

Old Fort Bicycles offers bicycles, gear and services appointments at 1820 Dupont Rd.

We’ve seen some posts on social media about Old Fort Bicycles already. Are you open?

DC: We did a soft-opening that was word-of-mouth starting the week of Thanksgiving, so we are technically open, and it has been go-go-go. Despite not advertising, we’ve already seen a really big flow of traffic.

Our Grand Opening on April 27 is our first public announcement that we’re officially open. Hours will be 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays (closed Sundays)

Tell us about your background in the cycling industry.

DC: I have been around bicycles from a young age. My mom says at about two-and-half years old, I was riding without training wheels, so it’s been a lifelong love for me. In the fall of 2013, I started going to a local bike shop in Fort Wayne and fell in love with the ins and outs and of the cycling industry. In 2014, I started my first job in a bike shop at Summit City Bicycles. From there, I worked at another local shop and really enjoyed interacting with the community and meeting

so many new people who all had this love of cycling no matter how serious or leisurely they treated it.

I moved to Warsaw for about six years and worked off and on with TrailHouse Village Bicycles. (The owner there was the former sales manager at Summit City Bicycles until he started his shop.) The whole Winona Lake area is very driven by cycling with the huge Fat & Skinny Tire Fest every year. It’s a blast.

I went into the restaurant industry and the insurance world for a bit, but I always felt this underlying desire to serve people through cycling again. That’s what led me to open Old Fort Bicycles with Mark in Fort Wayne when I moved back. There’s a sense of community that comes from bicycling. Many people have those fond memories of feeling free and a sense of joy on their bike as a kid, and that’s what’s kept me in this industry all along. 

Old Fort Bicycles hopes to build bike community on the city's North side.

How big is bicycle culture in Fort Wayne?

DC: From what I’ve picked up, I would believe that probably 40-50 percent of Fort Wayne owns a bicycle and has at one point or another utilized the trail system we have that’s been built up over the years. Other than the trails, the mountain bike trails in Fort Wayne at Franke Park are popular and easily accessible, so our shop sees a lot of traffic from that, as well as the utilization of country roads outside of town for road biking and gravel biking.

When I lived in Warsaw, I actually started my own road racing cycling team, Apex Cycling Team. (Old Fort Bicycles is a presenting sponsor for us.) We compete at the national and regional levels in road biking and criterium racing. There used to be criterium races in Downtown Fort Wayne, and in coming years, I’d like to be part of bringing those back.

What do you think of Fort Wayne’s current road and street infrastructure for cyclists?

DC: The growth we’ve had as a city has been amazing, and in the time it’s taken, it’s been really well done. The trails are amazing. But it’s not always the safest or the friendliest for families to get to the trail by bicycling on local streets and roads, so I think the next step should be making sure our trails are accessible from our neighborhoods.

Currently, I live Northeast and work Northwest, and even as an avid cyclist, I find myself having to drive to work mainly because there’s not a very safe and efficient route on the street. I can start a ride from a trailhead and go to a coffee shop easily. But even when my girlfriend and I are cycling somewhere, we often have to drive somewhere to start because we’re not comfortable getting from the neighborhood to where we want to go on the street.

As Downtown continues to improve, the biggest question I have is: How do we get people to Downtown on bicycles safely? If you’re talking about the Pufferbelly Trail, there’s a big gap between the Cookie Cottage and the SportONE Parkview Icehouse part of the trail, and that’s an issue for a lot of families. They’re not going to cross Washington Center Road or Coliseum Boulevard. That’s not safe or doable – even for someone like myself.

Something we’ve heard when we’ve asked city officials about protected cycling infrastructure on Fort Wayne’s streets is that: Only serious cyclists want to bike on the street in Fort Wayne. How do you feel about that statement?

DC: It’s a bit misconstrued and even off point from the fact that: Your serious cyclist is not going to train in town. It’s your recreational cyclists — your commuters, your families and your locally owned businesses — who stand to benefit the most from safer bicycling infrastructure on streets, like protected bike lanes. And safer street infrastructure is not only beneficial from a small business perspective (getting people out to walk and bike more), but also from a health perspective because if your streets are accessible to pedestrians and cyclists, you don’t have to drive everywhere.

Are there other cities you think have done bicycle infrastructure well on streets?

DC: I’ve been really blown away with the development of Indianapolis over the last 10-15 years and their bicycle friendliness, adding bike lanes, and taking into account that: when you widen roads and add turn shoulders into a bike lane, then that bike lane is not very usable. But if you actually make a dedicated (protected) walking and cycling lane, you’ll see more use of it. I’ve also witnessed that in South Carolina, and it seems to work very well.

In Warsaw, the Ride + Walk Committee does a lot of education about topics like this. Fort Wayne is a bigger city, so it can be difficult to get a lot of different cycling and safe streets groups together. But when we come together, there’s so much more that can be done. It’s a topic that’s important to many people, and working together is so important.

Old Fort Bicycles sells eBikes and traditional bicycles.

What are some of your most popular products at Old Fort Bicycles?

DC: We offer Specialized brand bicycles that are known and trusted, and we offer a bike shop you can call home that’s going to have everything from kids’ bikes to mountain bikes to road bikes to family friendly eBikes.

Our first bike sale not even three days into opening was an eBike. That’s a growing demand across the U.S. for cyclists, not only from a perspective of aging and needing some reassurance assist in riding, but also we also see it increasing the use of a bicycle from a commuters’ perspective or someone looking to get exercise who is also on a schedule that doesn’t allow as large of a time to ride. Kids bikes are always popular sellers, too. Bikes are such a fundamental piece of childhood.

What’s the cost difference between an eBike and a traditional bike?

DC: Safe eBikes tend to start at about $2,800 as opposed to non-eBikes around $600. In any bike shop, those are your standard two price points for starting with both lines. There are many options out there for eBikes at a lower price-point, but the unfortunate side is, their batteries can cause house and garage fires. By going through a local bike shop, you can rest assured

you’re getting a product that meets industry standards and will be safe for your home. The other biggest benefit of shopping local these days is the customer service. If anything does go wrong with your bike here, you can give us a call, and we’ll get you taken care of.

We have service options from small things, like gear and break adjustments, to wider service packages that clean and refurbish a bicycle. We’re happy to service and take care of bicycling needs regardless of whatever type of bike you have.

What are some of your favorite places to ride around town?

DC: I’m really looking forward to bike rides with my girlfriend this summer to Vinland Reserve Winery, taking trails around Parkview Hospital and then sidewalks or streets the rest of the way. On Saturday nights, they have live music, so that’s a fun ride. I also love riding from my neighborhood Northeast to Downtown and visiting any of the locally owned brunch spots or going to Tincaps games. I like to go to Kreager Park and take the Rivergreenway from there all the way past Anthony to Berry Street, which goes right through the core of Downtown.

Anything else we should know?

DC: We’re really happy to be joining the other locally owned bike shops in town, being INRUSH Bicycles and Fort Wayne Outfitters. We’re showing love to them because they have done an amazing job of serving the community. We’re not hoping to take anything away from them by opening, but simply to add to the community and give people an opportunity who might be further away from those shops to have one more option. It’s been really fun sitting down with Fort Wayne Outfitters management and talking about how a rising tide lifts all boats.

We’re also trying to get plugged into the Fort4Fitness Spring Cycle event on June 1, so stay tuned. We will run some service packages before it to encourage people to get their bicycles tuned up before event, and we will have a presence on site the morning of the spring cycle with Fort Wayne Outfitters to make sure people’s bikes are ready to go.