HAMMONTON — Some forks in the road of life lead to sharply different outcomes that are not necessarily obvious when the choice is made. That was the case for Jeanne and John Bradley.
“We wanted our own business. We were casual bicyclists then, and we couldn’t decide between a Carvel Ice Cream store and a bike shop,” said Jeanne Bradley, of Hammonton.
“Believe it or not, we couldn’t afford the Carvel franchise, so we chose the bike shop,” she said.
They opened Pro Pedals Bike Shop in 1984 in the same White Horse Pike spot where they are today, in an 1890 building that’s deceptively large.
The Bradleys — including son Jason, 43, who manages the shop — sell Trek, Cannondale, Scott and Mirraco bicycles.
The store sells 800 to 1,000 bikes a year, and bike sales make up about half the business, Jeanne Bradley said, with bicycle service accounting for 30 percent and clothing/accessories about 20 percent.
Sales nationwide of full-sized bikes have been pretty stable since the Bradleys got into the business, rising from 10.1 million the year they started to a high of 14 million in 2005 but still a healthy 11 million in 2011, the National Bicycle Dealers Association said.
Most good bikes these days are made of light and strong carbon fiber, she said, although Cannondale still makes aluminum bikes too.
She said most people these days choose hybrid bicycles, which offer a comfortable ride on pavement, with larger wheels and the rider sitting somewhat upright.
She said she’ll try to talk people intending to ride on the road to buy a road bike instead, and use the store’s fitting station to make sure they get one that’s comfortable.
“I think it’s better psychologically if you’re doing 25 miles a day in the same amount of time than 10 miles on something else,” Jeanne Bradley said.
Many customers come for fitness and health, and guys especially tend to lose weight when they start riding, she said.
“I can’t tell you how many people we know who have diabetes or high-blood pressure and have controlled it by biking,” she said.
Biking is also simply fun and some like to race, and for them, Pro Pedals sponsors a team, holds weekly training rides and is the promoter/sponsor of four bicycle races a year.
Jason Bradley oversees staging the bike races each summer, including the N.J. State Road Race Championship. He said this year the championship will be raced on 40 to 90 mile courses on roads in nearby Mullica Township.
Racing bikes have evolved to where two models sold at Pro Pedals now weight just 14 pounds: the Cannondale EVO and the Trek 7.9.
He said most racing bikes now have 10 gears on the rear hub (compared to five on the old 10-speeds), and nearly every mountain bike has shock absorbers for comfort and control.
“And everybody uses clipless pedals. It’s very rare we sell a road bike that doesn’t have clipless pedals,” he said.
Group rides for fun start at the shop at 7:30 a.m. each Saturday, with three groups in summer to match the speeds of all participating riders.
Jeanne Bradley said Jason someday will inherit the business from her and her husband, who are both 66.
“I don’t look that far ahead. We’re both too young and healthy. We only look 66. We don’t feel it,” she said.
They may not feel it soon. They recently went on three group rides in Florida, and “instead of being the oldest people, which we usually are, we were in the middle,” she said.
“Some of those people were in their 70s and 80s and they were flying, going 20 mph.”
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