Growing up in the projects of New York City, a teenage Frank Lopez discovered his bicycle was a way out. He got a job as a bike messenger that took him through parts of the Big Apple he never thought to see. He took up road racing and raced professionally for seven years. Some of the races were in Florida and in 1992, at age 22, he decided to make the Sunshine State his home. "I called my mom and said, 'You know what, Ma? I'm not coming back,' " he recalled.
Four years ago, he met his wife on a bike ride. A Pinellas County native and local schoolteacher for 21 years, Sheila Lopez is a former triathlon competitor. Now she competes in road races with her husband.
After working many years as a bike store manager and mechanic, Frank Lopez decided last year to start his own business, serving beginners to professionals with sales and service.
Friend and former customer Dr. Hector Arango of Clearwater shared his philosophy and joined Lopez as a partner. With an investment of some $250,000, the business opened in late November.
"I wanted to offer high- and low-end sales, repairs and a friendly environment where people could come in and hang out with no pressure to buy something," Lopez said. "I have two plasma TVs and a nice big couch where people can sit down and relax and watch the Tour de France."
What are the benefits of bicycle riding?
It's a good way to get exercise and keep healthy. It's good for your heart, lungs and legs. Because it's a low-impact sport, it doesn't hurt your joints.
Has bicycle engineering kept up with technology?
Bicycle technology has come a long way. For instance, the Colnago bicycle is made in Italy from the same carbon fiber materials used in Ferrari cars.
Do you have bikes for all age groups?
We have bikes and accessories for kids, for seniors and first-time owners up to serious competitors. Prices start at $250 and go as high as $15,000.
What brands do you carry?
We carry Scott, Guru, Colnago, Look, Jamis, Redline and Fugi/SE, including bikes for kids, comfort, BMX, road and triathlon racing.
Does the shop offer cycling activities?
On Saturdays, we meet at 7 a.m. for coffee and bagels before a ride of about 54 miles. We go from 30 to 32 miles an hour.
On Sunday mornings starting at 9:30 a.m., we have a 20-mile fun ride.
On Wednesdays at 5 p.m., there is a ride for women. It goes from the shop to the beaches and back for about 13 to 18 miles.
Christina K. Cosdon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.