Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle! I want to ride my bicycle, bicycle, bicycle!
Though Queen didn’t write their single “Bicycle Race” till 1978 in their album, Jazz, bicycles have been around a lot longer.
Kirk’s Bike Shop, located in downtown Muncie, was established in 1865 in the same block as their current location. The first bikes sold were the “high-wheel” bikes, which predate the automobile. A high-wheel bicycle (also known as a “penny farthing”) is an antique type of bicycle that was widely popular in the 1880s. It had a large front wheel and a much smaller rear wheel.
Kirk’s Bike Shop would transform over the decades, merging with the B&B Campus Bike Shop in 1999 to be called B&B Kirk’s Bike Shop. In 2003, the bike shop was renamed for the last time, returning to its original name — Kirk’s Bike Shop.
Kirk’s Bike Shop changed ownership, and now works together with Trek Bikes, a well-known bicycle and cycling product manufacturer and distributor. Kirk’s Bike Shop has adapted over the years — going digital, aligning with Trek Bikes, and expanding its niche in the Muncie community.
Jason Allardt is the present owner and manager of Kirk’s Bike Shop.
Allardt first entered the business in 2007 as a manager.
“Things were starting to make progress, and we were really turning things around. When I came into it as a manager, the store was in pretty bad shape,” Allardt says.
Allardt would become the owner of Kirk’s Bike Shop in 2010 when the opportunity presented itself. Under Allardt’s ownership, Kirk’s Bike Shop became a Trek Bicycles-exclusive seller.
Allardt would continue refining the shop’s image, helping every customer that walks through the door, no matter what they need. Allardt emphasizes the importance of positive customer service, especially with so much competition from both online and traditional stores. The face-to-face interaction and a positive customer experience means everything, he says.
“Our niche is the casual cyclist for the Cardinal Greenway,” Allardt says. Kirk’s Bike Shop caters to people ranging from 3-years-old to 75-years-old. However, most of their customers are between 25 and 65.
Keeping up with this large range of customers, Kirk’s Bike Shop narrowed their inventory to specific products. They cut many luxury accessories and equipment because it was easily available online, as all Trek items are. Given their target audience, Kirk’s Bike Shop stocks up more on leisure and exercise bikes. They’ve increased the amount of mountain bikes as well.
The shop has remained a staple business in the community, having been open so long and providing the community with quality bicycles, whether it be for sport or leisure.
The shop is active with the Cardinal Greenway, a private, not-for-profit organization that encompasses the Cardinal Greenway, White River Greenway, Historic Wysor Street Depot and Cardinal Equestrian Trail.
Kirk’s Bike Shop participated with the Cardinal Greenway in events such as the Great Greenway Tour, a community bicycling event. It’s organized through local bicycle clubs, bicycle shops, and Greenway volunteers with the intent to promote a healthier lifestyle through cycling.
They also participate in the Muncie Bike Fest, a popular weekend event in July which includes a USA Bike-sanctioned race, the Grand Prix Circuit Race. There’s bicycle tours, where attendees can learn about the different parts of Muncie.
Photo by Nathan Abbott
Kirk’s Bike Shop: 1865 to present
Kirk’s Bike Shop opened in 1865 with a variety of items. It was a bicycle-toy store-magic shop-conglomerate. They began selling the English-made high-wheeler bicycles, but became a Schwinn Bicycle exclusive-dealer in the 1890s.
Nearly a century later, Muncie would gain two more bike shops. A man named Bill Boothby in the mid-1970’s would start a business known as The Outdoor Store, selling Trek Bicycles. However, The Outdoor Store would close and another store, B&B Campus Bikes, became the local dealer for Trek bicycles.
In 1999, B&B Campus Bike Shop and Kirk’s Bike Shop were combined, and for a short time, the shop was known as B&B Kirk’s Bike Shop. Around this time in the late 1990s, the Kirk Family would withdraw from the family business and the store would be taken on by its new owners. It would be on a rocky road as bad management would cause the well known bike shop to lose it’s hard-earned reputation.
Finally, the 2000s would bring about fresh and positive changes.
In 2003, B&B Kirk’s Bike Shop would change its name one last time, returning to its roots and original name — Kirk’s Bike Shop, keeping the well known family name that the community fondly remembers.
“When the shop moved in the late 2000s from across town back to downtown Muncie, we kept the Kirk’s name even though the family isn’t really involved anymore. We kept it because the name had been in the community for so long; people remember it,” says Allardt.
For smaller events, Kirk’s Bike Shop does test-ride days where cyclists can try new models and types of bikes. These are most popular in the spring and summer.
The shop has plans for the new year of 2020 to keep cycling alive in Muncie. Allardt agrees the cycling community has room to grow, and the Muncie community can play a part in its development. There’s room for creating more bike lanes and pathways. Some people even ride a bicycle rather than driving a car for transportation.
According to Statista, in 2016, 12.4% of Americans cycled on a regular basis. Additionally,the number of young adults ages 18 to 24 who participated in bicycling has remained relatively stable at around 4 million.
Ball State University has its own plan to make campus more accessible and cycling friendly. According to the Bicycle Master Plan posted on Ball State’s main website, the university is encouraging cycling as an alternative to commuting to campus via a personal automobile.
In addition, Ball State University built bicycling lanes on the main roads in Spring 2017 for easier travel around campus. This was both for the safety of cyclists and those walking on sidewalks. However, there’s bike lanes on only a couple university roads.
Allardt expresses positivity when thinking about the goals he has for Kirk’s Bike Shop and the new decade. The store’s goals include narrowing down the focus and stocking the perfect products for the Muncie community. They also aim to continue providing a positive experience for their new and returning customers, and providing customers with everything they may need for an enjoyable cycling experience.