The Ride in Fairfield, Iowa.
Mark Smith is the new owner of the bicycle store formerly known as AJ’s, located at 123 North Court.
The name of the business has changed to “The Ride…” but a lot has stayed the same, including Mark, who worked at AJ’s for eighteen years before buying the business this year. A new sign and some changes on the inside but you can still find AJ wrenching in the back once in a while and some new young faces have shown up to learn the skills necessary to keep your bike in top notch shape.
Mark grew up in the Bonaparte area and has been a number of different things in his life, including working as a cook on ocean going vessels, being a wildfire fighter, and numerous stints as a chef at a number of Iowa City’s well-known restaurants.
Ask Mark why he settled into the world of bikes and he will look out to the horizon and smile and talk about the people he meets and the fun that happens when people get together to pedal. With the pandemic putting a halt to most indoor activities the bike business has been especially good this year. Electric bikes are becoming more popular, and traditional bikes are selling well also, but replenishing the supply has become more difficult due to the pandemic. Orders are backlogged ninety days or more as bike manufacturers affected by COVID-19 work to get back to full production.
In his free time, Mark has been one of the driving forces behind the development of the Chamber’s, ”Bike Fairfield” series (https://bikefairfield.com/) being offered this year. The first event planned was a bike rodeo, where kids in the after-school program at Pence Elementary would learn bike safety. Quietly, (which is Mark’s style), he donated an assortment of bike helmets for that event and then found another source for even more donated helmets. Unfortunately, the rodeo was scheduled for March 24th, about ten days after schools were closed due to the pandemic. The helmets will wait until next year.
The Ride… is currently open Tuesday-Saturday from 10AM-5PM. Winter hours are Saturdays only from 10AM-5PM. You can reach The Ride… at 641-472-1719. Stop by the store and check out their inventory, or dust off that bike in the back of the garage and get a tune-up. The “Level B Service Ride” is coming up on July 25th, and BAFLTAFR, “Bike Around the Fairfield Loop Trail Annual Fun Ride” is scheduled for August 8th.