Thursday, June 17, 2021
June 17, 2021

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‘Bike guy’ pumps up city’s bicycling scene

Wade Leckie opened Bad Monkey Bikes in 2008

By , Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
Published:
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Wade Leckie is the owner of Bad Monkey Bikes in Uptown Village.
Wade Leckie is the owner of Bad Monkey Bikes in Uptown Village. The shop is a hub for the bicycling community in Vancouver, and it's where bicyclists can register their bikes in case they ever get stolen. Photo Gallery

o Equip your bicycle with front and rear lights and reflectors.

o Wear windproof clothing.

o Use fenders to protect against the rain.

o Be predictable while riding.

o The city of Vancouver completed a survey in 2007 that showed only 24 percent of respondents traveled exclusively by car. The rest indicated they carpooled, biked, walked or used public transportation along with driving for their daily trips.

o According to the U.S. Census Bureau:

0.2 percent of people in Clark County commute by bicycle.

1.8 percent of people in Clark County walk to work.

0.7 percent of people in Vancouver commute by bicycle.

2.2 percent of people in Vancouver walk to work.

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The door jingled as a man walked into Bad Monkey Bikes with his bicycle on a rainy Wednesday afternoon.

“What are you after?” asked shop owner Wade Leckie.

“Some ideas,” the man said.

The short exchange is emblematic of the cycling scene in Vancouver, which is figuring out how to flourish. It’s grown in support over the years, as Leckie can attest.

o Equip your bicycle with front and rear lights and reflectors.

o Wear windproof clothing.

o Use fenders to protect against the rain.

o Be predictable while riding.

After years of driving trucks for a living, he and his wife decided to pursue careers they would actually enjoy. She opened a tattoo parlor. And Leckie, a self described bike geek, started Bad Monkey Bikes in downtown Vancouver in 2008.

“I didn’t know how Vancouver would react to a bike shop, so I opened very broad,” Leckie said.

He quickly found out that Vancouverites are interested in commuter bikes, mountain bikes and comfort hybrids — not so much high-end bikes. Those looking for more expensive bikes tend to shop in Portland anyway, he said, to save a significant chunk of change in sales tax.

Todd Boulanger, the city’s former transportation planner, told him that the Uptown area would be an ideal spot to root the shop. His spot on Broadway is along a bus route close to roads with dedicated bike lanes.

Around the city’s west side, he’s known to many as “the bike guy,” and baristas will ask him how his ride was.

o The city of Vancouver completed a survey in 2007 that showed only 24 percent of respondents traveled exclusively by car. The rest indicated they carpooled, biked, walked or used public transportation along with driving for their daily trips.

o According to the U.S. Census Bureau:

0.2 percent of people in Clark County commute by bicycle.

1.8 percent of people in Clark County walk to work.

0.7 percent of people in Vancouver commute by bicycle.

2.2 percent of people in Vancouver walk to work.

“That’s how great the community is,” he said.

In fact, riding around town often turns into promotion for his business. When he rolls up to a shop in the pouring rain, with his dog in the basket and groceries strapped to the back, it starts a conversation, he said. People want to know how he does it.

Finding your stride

The number of people out cycling dwindles when summer rolls away, introducing characteristic gray skies and drizzly days.

“The rain is a pretty big deterrent,” Leckie said. “There has to be an initial passion to get past the rain part.”

Around this time of year, cyclists are shopping for lights and fenders to make their cold-weather rides safer and more comfortable. Business is slower, and Leckie might do only a handful of tune-ups in a day. During the summer months, the tune-up schedule will be booked two weeks in advance.

Leckie is trying to educate people about riding in the rain. Many overdress in thick, non-breathable waterproof clothing and find themselves drenched in sweat at the end of a ride. Either way, they get wet. Cyclists have to experiment with what materials and what amount of layers works for them. If you’re standing outside by your bike and you’re cold, you’re probably dressed just right, he said.

It’s also about being a smart cyclist and getting outside one’s comfort zone.

A lot of beginners may think to ride their bike where they would typically ride their car because it’s a fast, convenient route. But, Leckie said, more often than not that’s a bad idea. Riding a bike down East Fourth Plain Road would be terrifying, he said. South of that is Northeast 28th Street/Burton Road, a much safer and easier ride. That’s why Leckie recommends using a city bike route map to figure out the best way to get where you’re going.

One morning, Leckie sat out near the Interstate 5 Bridge and counted the number of bicyclists who went in each direction, while offering them coffee and bagels. Most people, he found, were biking to Portland from Vancouver.

He’s watched the local cycling community grow since opening his shop. Neighboring Portland is ultra bike friendly and boasts a double-digit percentage of people who commute to work by bike, as well as many more bicycle shops. But, that doesn’t diminish what Vancouver’s got going for it.

Take the long route

Living less than a mile away from the shop in the Officer’s Row area, Leckie usually lengthens his morning commute by riding to Vancouver Lake or crossing the bridge and heading down Marine Drive before looping back.

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But after a while, he found the longer commute just didn’t offer enough challenge or novelty.

As a kid growing up in Orchards, he did BMX racing and got into competitive mountain bike racing. The sport just got to be too much for the 40 year old; he can’t go up against the younger competitors and be good to his body.

So, he’s pursuing a slower-paced kind of sport that’s part cycling, part adventuring — touring.

He’s ridden along the Oregon Coast three times. The first time, he poked along the coast and wasn’t quite sure what he was doing. After more rides, research and preparation, he took his longest trek in September — a 936-mile stretch from Astoria, Ore., to San Francisco.

“I had no idea I could do it. I had no idea how far I could go,” he said. “When you see other people being crazy, it’s a weird justification.”

During his travels, he met people from around the world, including a Japanese man who shared a camp with him and didn’t speak any English. Leckie plans to ride to San Francisco again, but add a lot more milage by starting in Alaska. He’s got even grander plans to bike from Portland to Portland, Maine, and take the train back. Trips to Ireland and the Great Divide are also in the works.

At Clark College’s annual Do It Yourself Fair, Leckie teaches flat repair, as well as the basics of bike touring.

The “soul-nourishing” experience of vacationing by bike, he said, allows him to see the scenery in a more immediate and immersive way than being inside a car. But, you don’t have to trek cross-country to see something new. Miles of bicycle routes in Vancouver and greater Clark County offer a different perspective of this slice of the Pacific Northwest that’s just waiting to be seen.

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
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