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By Peter Vankevich
This headline is not about a music group.
Conventional wisdom says one does not ask a plumber to wire a new house. So, it might seem reasonable to say you don’t ask a technologist to fix a bike. In one case, at least, that would be wrong.
Dale Russell has had a long career in the information technology field, including stints with AOL and working in Silicon Valley. These days, he lives on Ocracoke and is proud of his start-up – Ocracoke Cycles on British Cemetery Road.
Russell not only has a strong technology background, but also has a life-long passion for bicycles. “My first job was in a bike store in the Richmond area where I grew up,” he said.
Getting around the village on a bicycle is a popular means of transportation. It’s also environmentally friendly and good exercise.
Before Hurricane Dorian hit last September, Tim Parker of TJ Outfitters offered bike repairs. Since Dorian and the departure of Parker, no one has offered that service.
“I saw there was a vacuum, so I started this,” Russell said.
Not only did Dorian wreak havoc on homes and vehicles, but it also destroyed many bicycles and required many others to be repaired or in need of a good tune up.
“With Dorian, people were consumed with their homes and it wasn’t till spring that many discovered their bikes had rusted beyond repair,” he said.
He has a strong word of advice for bike owners. There is a lot of salt in the puddles on the village roads after a heavy rain.
“When you come home hose (your bike) off, especially the chains,” Russell said. “Nothing is rust proof with salt water.”
What kinds of bikes are best for Ocracoke’s sandy, salty, potholed habitat?
“I recommend a beach cruiser,” Russell said. “There’s nothing that can break on a beach cruiser really other than the tires and chains.” The Jamis Bikes Taxi is a popular beach cruiser on the island for rentals.
“For (longer) rides to see the island’s incredible scenery that would be a mountain bike,” he said. Mountain bikes were designed to handle mud and sand.
“All the technology on a mountain bike has been designed the same way a pickup truck is different than a luxury car, and everything’s been designed around them to be rugged, durable and weather resistant.”
He has mixed feelings about fat-tire bikes, such as the Mongoose line.
“They’re very durable, but not for novice riders,” he said. “It’s a very bulky bike to ride. But you can literally ride it over anything like in Maine through the snow and sand on Ocracoke. It’s kind of like riding in an old Jeep short wheelbase.”
As for frames, “You can start a holy war among cyclists when you start talking about frame materials,” Russell said, “but the pragmatic answer is if you’re living in an area where there is this much salt in the air, if you have a steel bike, it will rust. There’s no stopping it. The affordable aluminum is better.”
Replacing rusty chains and ball bearings and fixing flat tires are common repairs for this bike shop, but advanced custom work is also possible.
“I hope by the end of the summer to have the materials to start actually making custom bicycle frames,” he said.
Ocracoke Cycles has a Facebook page and to make an appointment, call Dale at 252-588-2502.