Job Title: Owner and operator, Pedalhead Bicycle Works
Why He’s A Top 40: He has taken Pedalhead from a bike shop to a bike institution, not only getting people on two wheels, but also getting them to explore the city through its trails.
Key To His Success: “People don’t feel like we’re just trying to get them out the door with something new. They understand that we’re trying to make their experience better and get them into a sport we’re excited about.”
When Chris Check opened Pedalhead Bicycle Works in 1996, it wasn’t so much a culmination of a dream as the only logical place for him to be. Growing up with parents who owned a motorcycle shop, Check, a former BMX racer, was always around the two-wheeled retail world. It was just a matter of finding the right fit. So when adolescence petered out, it was time to start making career choices. “I thought, ‘Well, I could either work all day so I could maybe have some time for my passion later on, or I could just turn my passion into a job.’ That seemed like the road to take,” he says.
Though he’s been riding that road with pedal power, it has taken him a long way. From a tiny shop on 109th Street (a 500-square-foot space he nicknamed “The Shoebox”), Pedalhead has become a fixture of Edmonton’s bike scene. The city now has more cyclists, bikes and trails, and Edmontonians take twice as many bike trips each day as they did when Pedalhead opened. And the company has grown along with the city’s cycling interest. Pedalhead now has two spacious locations, on Whyte Avenue and Calgary Trail, plus a third in Calgary (though he’s no longer a partner in that store). It outfits everyone from BMX riders to mountain bike trail enthusiasts to committed commuters.
Check achieved this by building stores that are more than just places for parts. Gregarious and knowledgeable, he is an ideal advocate for bike life and he takes his passion well beyond the store walls. Since it opened, Pedalhead has led Wednesday night rides during the spring and summer through the river valley’s vast trails, helping novices get comfortable and showing veterans new routes.
People have also become used to seeing Pedalhead’s name as a sponsor at almost every cycling event, including Bikes for Kids, the Ride to Conquer Cancer and the 2005 World Masters Games, which Check chaired. That same year, the Alberta Bicycle Association awarded him – its former president – with the President’s Award for his work promoting cycling in the community.
To sum up his mission, Check says, “It’s about taking people who buy bikes and turning them into bike riders.” That it comes naturally to him is all the better. “It’s still work, it’s not play, but how bad is my worst day at the bike shop?”