Bicycle store serves hobbyists in Mount Airy

THE VILLAGE 'BIKESMITH'

January 06, 1995|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Sun Staff Writer

"If you don't do homework and go to school and get a good job, this is what happens -- you end up in the bike business."

That's Larry Black talking, owner of Mount Airy Bicycle, a small, narrow shop on Route 144 crammed with bikes, neon-colored biking outfits and more bikes.

Mr. Black may joke about his business, but the 44-year-old Woodbine resident takes bicycles very seriously.

In the four years since Mount Airy Bicycle opened, the shop has become known as a place to go for personal service and hard-to-find bikes.

"When I opened the store the idea was to be the village bikesmith," Mr. Black said. "I'll get down on my knees to help a 2-year-old and push-start a 65-year-old senior citizen."

In addition to selling standard bicycles, Mount Airy Bicycle specializes in tandem and recumbent models, which are gaining in popularity.

Mr. Black said his bike shop offers one of the largest selections of tandem and recumbent bikes in the country.

Recumbent bikes are lower to the ground than standard bikes and the rider sits on the seat like he would sit at a desk.

"When you ride on a recumbent you see things you haven't seen before," Mr. Black said.

The bikes are becoming popular with older cyclists and people who find it uncomfortable to ride standard bikes.

Younger bikers are turning to recumbents for the novelty and for a higher degree of performance. Mr. Black said the fastest bike in the world is a recumbent, clocked at 67 mph.

Mount Airy Bicycle is selling a lot of tandem bicycles to couples, families and "other kinds of partnerships."

He explained that cyclists of differing abilities can enjoy a ride together on a tandem bike.

"It has an amazing equalizing effect on people," Mr. Black said.

It was a love of machines that attracted Mr. Black to bicycles.

"The bike was a machine that also provided a lot of fun," he said. "It was also a sport and a way to stay fit, I discovered later."

Since 1972 Mr. Black has worked at bike shops and taught bicycle repair and safety classes. He took the advice of his students, and in 1979 opened a bicycle shop, College Park Bicycles, in College Park.

Mr. Black said he opened Mount Airy Bicycle because the area needed a bike shop and he wanted to be closer to his home.

"It's kind of a hobby that's turned into a business," he said of his bike shops.

Mr. Black's wife and three children also enjoy bicycling. On Wednesday, his two daughters, ages 6 and 10, missed the school bus and rode their bikes three miles to school.

"They had a tail wind, but it was still 20 degrees," he said.

Mr. Black teaches bike safety courses at schools, and repair and maintenance classes at Mount Airy Bicycle.

He also leads bike tours in Carroll and Howard counties and founded a youth cycling program in Mount Airy for children ages 4 through 12.

Occasionally, he rides his turn-of-the-century "ordinary" bicycle in parades.

"I want to [entice] people into the sport [of biking] without alienating them into cliques and equipment-conscious sectors," he said.

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