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District cyclists turn their hobbies into businesses

Philip Ankney of District Bamboo Bikes makes custom bicycles with bamboo frames

A Give Love Cycle bag, designed by a DC- and NYC-based duo, is just one of the District's new bike-based businesses

The following story looks at how the "bike-based economy" is growing in the District.  After reading this piece, read the national companion piece about how these same trends are playing out nationwide.

The rapidly growing commuter bike scene in the District is turning bike enthusiasts into entrepreneurs.

According to the League of American Bicyclists, there was an 82% increase in commuter bikers from 2005 to 2011.

In response to that trend, several small businesses catering to the biking population have popped up, focusing on providing consumers with sustainable solutions to their biking needs. That's true across the country as it is in D.C., where quite a few small businesses provide bikers with everything from maintenance to accessories to custom-built bicycles.

District Bamboo Bikes began as a hobby for Philip Ankney, an avid biker, and evolved into a full-fledged business a year and a half ago. The amount of people who are choosing to bike opens up a huge opportunity, he says. (Enough so that District Bamboo Bikes is one of three bamboo bike makers in the District.)

The demand for bike accessories and maintenance has resulted in a number of other stores "peddling" bike-related wares. Bicycle Space, located just north of Chinatown, is one of them. The bike shop opened at the end of 2010 and provides consumers with bikes that can withstand hazards common to urban living, in addition to providing maintenance based on the assumption that consumers are using their bikes on a regular basis.

One of Bicycle Space’s service managers, Austin Stubbs, started his own business making custom bicycle luggage, including panniers and bike rolls, in early 2013.

“The only reason my business is possible is because in the last (few) years we’ve seen a [doubling] in ridership in the city,” he says.

Squid Stitch Works, which he co-owns with his wife, adapts its creations to fit the individual needs of each cyclist. In addition, the company uses recycled bike materials from Stubbs’ job that would ordinarily be thrown away.

The duo’s cycling experience also allows them to critically test their products before they sell them, Stubbs says.

For some, the rise in bike-based businesses is attributed to larger scale initiatives that have encouraged people to use bikes more often, such as Capital Bikeshare or the addition of 56 miles of bike lanes.

Debra Zusin, D.C.-based co- owner of Give Love Cycle, began cycling when Bikeshare stations popped up around the District. But Zusin became frustrated with the lack of attractive helmet bags.

She started Give Love Cycle in January 2012, aiming to provide women with feminine and functional bicycle bags.

Still, the bike-based economy in the District isn’t solely focused on commuter biking. Urban Delivery, a courier service, launched earlier this year. The company's couriers will deliver anything to your door that can fit on a bike or in a messenger bag. 

Read more articles by Danielle Cralle.

Danielle Cralle is a journalist hailing from Chicago. She loves to write about any and everything, but she has extensive experience writing about health care. She can be reached at daniellecralle@gmail.com.
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