Navy veteran Dan Caton had ridden bicycles for as long as he could remember — he used to deliver newspapers on his bike when he was a young boy in his native Astoria, Oregon.
But when tendinitis in his elbows threatened to keep him off of a two-wheeler, Caton did his research and happened upon an alternative: the recumbent bike, which places the rider in a laid-back reclining position.
Caton started riding recumbents, at leisure and in races, in 2007. “I’ve never looked back,” he said.
In fact, he became so recumbent-happy that he started selling and repairing the machines. He opened A Different Bent out of his garage in 2010 as a representative for CruzBike.
Caton was working simultaneously for Schneider Electric in the IT department when he was laid off in 2014.
“So I just went with my Plan A — the bike shop,” he said. He opened a retail store in a 425-square-foot office unit in 2014.
Sales have tripled since he opened the business, although he was only hitting about three percent of the cycling market by specializing in recumbents.
“The recumbent side of the cycling industry is the fastest growing segment of the cycling market,” he said.
Still, not many people ride them compared to upright bikes. That might be partially because of their cost — they can run double or triple what an upright bike would cost — and because they’re not allowed in many professional races under Union Cycliste Internationale rules.
When Susan McGuire and Kirk Bailey recently decided to sell Clovis Bicycle Company and retire, Caton thought it would be a good time to expand his business to serve the entire cycling community.
Caton purchased Clovis Bicycle Company and moved its inventory from its 3,500-square-foot space at Sunnyside and Shaw avenues to a 5,200-square-foot store on Bullard and Minnewawa avenues in February.
A grand opening and ribbon cutting was held Feb. 29.
The shop stocks a mix of upright bikes and recumbents for children and adults, along with shoes, clothing and accessories for all riders.
Caton and his staff are knowledgeable in all bicycle styles and will take the time to help customers choose equipment that is right for them.
It may take an hour or so for a customer to pick out an upright bicycle, but “recumbents are a completely different animal,” Caton said.
Customers spend about four to six hours deciding on a recumbent, usually over several visits and test-rides, he said.
“The trike itself averages about $2,550. You’re not going to drop that kind of money before trying it out numerous times,” he said. “A lot of people will actually rent it for a day so they can take it out to Woodward Park or things like that so they can test out a particular one.”
Recumbent customers are typically “people uncomfortable on regular bikes either because of age or injuries,” Caton said. “ They like to ride, but riding a regular bike is a pain in the butt.”
Figuratively, and literally.
The reclined bikes allow riders to get a great cardiovascular workout and toned legs without putting additional stress on the joints, back and upper body.
“After a long ride, the thing that’s sore is your legs, which they should be,” he said. “But nothing else is hurting.”
Clovis Bicycle Company also offers full-service tune-ups, repairs and customizations on all bikes.
Caton’s eyes light up when he talks about customizing recumbent bikes for those with disabilities. He outfitted a recumbent with special pedals and straps that allowed a disabled Hanford cyclist to ride again.
“He had been hit by a driver and was in a wheelchair,” Caton explained. “We were able to put something together for him so that now he’s riding again … His friends will come up to me at races and say, ‘it’s so neat to see him out riding again.’”
Caton plans to organize community rides on the third Saturday of each month, welcoming upright, tandem and recumbent cyclists.
Visit Clovis Bicycle Company at 50 W. Bullard Ave, Suite 113 across from the Clovis Post Office, online at www.adifferentbent.com or at www.Facebook.com/clovisbicyclecompany.
What: Clovis Bicycle Company and A Different Bent
Where: 50 W. Bullard Ave., Suite 113, Clovis
Who: Owner, Dan Caton, (559) 325-2453