B & L peddles two-wheel technology

B & L Bicycles shop owner Brice Erickson talks about the features of his electronic bike after gliding up High Street on Monday in Pullman.

JACOB MOORE, Former Evergreen sports editor

Brice Erickson and his wife Leanne opened B & L Bicycles in downtown Pullman roughly two decades ago without fully understanding the extent of Pullman’s hilly climate — a complex issue for any startup bike shop.

“We didn’t realize the effect of the hills when we started the store,” Erickson said. “If I had read up and looked at the bike racks up on the campus, I probably would have had some second thoughts on that. It’s always been a little bit of a challenge.”

Erickson said the shop is anything but standard for this town. In large areas, shop owners can decide to fit specific niches, like road bikes or Italian bikes, he said.

“We don’t have that option out here,” Erickson said with a chuckle. “So, we have to be a pretty broad range of capability. This store is not what you’d expect to find in Pullman.”

It’s not uncommon for customers to be surprised when they walk into the shop for the first time, Erickson said. The combination of bicycles and technology tends to overwhelm people.

Saddle pressure mapping, high speed motion capture cameras, the fit cycle, electronic bikes and more. As Erickson said, bikers won’t find this variety up in Spokane.

In fact, some equipment can hardly be found in America, he explained.

“You will not go into any other bike shop and see this equipment,” Erickson said. “Most of this equipment is strictly in fit studios, and you have to be in large metropolitan areas for it to even work.”

Pullman’s hills are intimidating, but with the technology in Erickson’s shop, like electronic bikes, they are more approachable.

Some riders use them as a luxury, while others use them to commute, Erickson said. Whatever the case may be, they are beginning to sell at a much higher rate.

“The pedal-assist bikes are really taking off now,” Erickson said. “We’ve sold a number over the years, but this year has been a whole new category.”

While the multi-thousand-dollar price tag may jump out at potential buyers, Erickson emphasized that there’s a reason people are using electronic bikes over vehicles. Some of those reasons include the price of gas, the environmental friendliness and the ability to ride gracefully up hills.

Instead of pedaling up huge slopes, e-bikes give customers the option to propel up hills, letting the bike absorb the workout.

For customers who purchase this technological bicycle, or any bicycle, for that matter, Erickson provides a basic level of fit. That is to say, customers are guaranteed a proper frame size and a bike tailored to match their needs.

For a lot of people, Erickson said, the biggest complaint is that their seat hurts. This is typically caused by a muscle imbalance — something detectable in the saddle pressure mapping, a seat cover that shows what happens between the pelvic structure and the rider.

“We also have this for insoles,” Erickson said. “I have the first one of those shipped out in North America, and it was here in Pullman.”

B & L Bicycles deals with a variety of bikers, Erickson said. They have customers with pain issues, like hip replacements, knee replacements, back surgeries or traumatic brain injuries. Sometimes customers are just looking for better performance or a tailored bike that’s more comfortable to them.

The mechanical technology near the back of the shop indicates B & L offers more than just selling and tailoring.

“We can pretty much work on anything that comes through our door that’s bicycle-related,” Erickson said. “I started as a mechanic, and the store has always had a strong mechanical edge to it because we deal with everything from very inexpensive bikes to very, very high-tech bikes.”

LUKE HOLLISTER | The Daily Evergreen
B & L Bicycles employee Joseph Maloney works on a customer’s bike seat Monday in downtown Pullman.

This is likely to bring in even more customers who may need a bike fix, but Erickson and his employees are excited about the bike trails that should enhance the biking atmosphere around Pullman.

The new Cougar Climb bike trail was recently added to the list of paths around the community. However, there’s one that Erickson wants to see more than others — the Bill Chapman Palouse Trail.

“That’s the rail trail going from Pullman through Albion and out to Colfax,” he said. “If we were to connect that to the Latah Trail, that would get us close to 50 miles of trail, which would then become a huge draw.”