By Nancy Griffin-Bonnaire, reprinted with permission

Originally published as a Business Profile several years ago

What’s your definition of spring?  For some, it’s watching trees and flowers bud or working in a garden.  For others, it means more active outdoor recreation – and getting back to riding a bicycle.

Bicycles are a part of Jeff Carlson’s life year-round.  As owner of The Bike Shop in Centreville, the longtime cycling enthusiast is already busy with customers seeking tune-ups and repairs in addition to those wishing to purchase a bicycle.

A native of Illinois, Jeff has been interested in cycling since he was a child.  He recalls when the popularity of bicycle motocross (BMX) racing increased exponentially in the 1980’s, and he frequently participated in races on the short dirt tracks created for the sport.  He continued racing after relocating to Northern Virginia and even had a Schwinn sponsorship for awhile .  “That’s what put me in bike shops,” says Jeff, who is adept at building and repairing bicycles.

Jeff notes that the store first opened on Route 29 in 1988, and he joined the staff in 1995, serving as the manager until he bought the shop from the original owners in 2005.  He moved to the new location – just across the street on Braddock Road – four years ago.

“We do bikes from A to Z,” says Jeff, adding that their stock includes a variety of choices (on-and off-road, performance, and casual bikes) for kids and adults alike in a broad price range.  He explains that the difference in purchasing a bicycle from a specialty shop vs. a department store is getting one that properly fits the individual and his/her needs.

“There is a bike for everyone,” Jeff says, explaining that the key to a proper fit lies in a series of measurements.  He also notes that quality bikes come in at least five or six sizes, and in addition to the frame height, adjustments need to be made to the stem links and seat.  “A bicycle can be fine-tuned to anyone’s body type,” he points out.  “You need to be comfortable in order to want to keep riding.”  A bicycle that isn’t properly fitted to its rider can lead to back pain, numb hands, and other discomforts.

Open seven days a week, The Bike Shop features new bicycles in well-respected brands, including Marin, Raleigh and Redline.  In addition, a great variety of used bikes in many other brands are also for sale.  Jeff encourages people to be green by bringing in bicycles that they no longer want.  Rather than having them go into the landfill, he can refurbish them, providing a quality bike at a reasonable price.  He even has bicycles available for consignment – one of the only shops in the area that provides such a service.

And speaking of service, customers delight in discovering that every purchase includes two years of unlimited tune-ups – at no extra charge. “A bike is like any other vehicle – it needs maintenance,” Jeff says. Considering that a tune-up can cost up to $70, this is a great deal.

Among the many bicycles and a host of cycling accessories (helmets, pumps, seats, locks and more) on display in the shop is an item dear to Jeff’s heart – a 1965 Schwinn Stingray.  Although it’s in near-perfect condition, Jeff doesn’t ride it, but keeps it as a nostalgic conversation piece – it was the bike of his dreams as a child.

First-time visitors to The Bike Shop often become repeat customers because they quickly see that Jeff and his experienced staff members are not simply there to sell bicycles.  Their goal is to ensure that riders remain safe, comfortable, and most importantly, on the road.