Colorful and shiny bicycles hang upside down from the ceiling like giant ornaments — their spokes and cranks gleaming in the fall sunlight as the shop owner opens the door.
“I don’t have a single department store in here,” says Mikial Denker staring upwards at the bikes. “I only sell quality used bikes, not junk.”
Tucked into the Surina Business Park, located on 50 Malcom Street, Denker’s “Travel Light Cycles” gives old detailers, wheels, tires, handlebars and more a second life as recycled bicycles.
“It’s not just a bike shop it’s a Bicycling Recycling Center,” said Denker.
Denker started his first bike shop off island in 1984. He also owned two bike shops on Orcas from the winter of 2009 to August 2011, then he consolidated those shops at his new location on San Juan Island.
He calls his space the perfect size and during busy months he has room for two work stations and dreams of expanding his shop to products like roller skates and skate boards.
The shop reconditions, repairs, and recycles bicycles and parts back into the community, but his specialty is refurbishing bicycles. Denker certainly knows how to deal with wear and tear on bikes with an abundance of mileage — he completed two trips, one spanning from Washington to Wyoming and another foam Tallahasse Fla., to Key West, Fla.
Denker’s motto is to “recycle literally and figuratively,” meaning that he not only builds bikes from recycled materials, but he recycles all the metal he doesn’t use.
Denker said he has hardly any waste and only orders three to four times a year from bike part companies.
Sustainability is important to Denker, “Its’ something to aspire to and be proud of,” he said looking at all the bike parts he’s stored over the years. ”Right now I pretty much have everything I need right here in this space.”
And he’s got the boneyard, where at least a dozen bikes are piled on top of each other just waiting to be tuned up or taken apart to create a new bike by Denker’s able hands. He gets these bikes from garage sales, thrift shops and by donation.
Not only does he work in a “green” environment, he also has a very low carbon footprint in his personal life.
Instead of owning a car, he has an electric bike, charged by a battery that typically knocks off about 15 minutes of travel time. The bike, also comes with a trailer for hauling items. “It’s my work bike so to speak,” he said.
Denker predicts that in the near future the price of fuel will skyrocket and when that happens he’ll be ready. He urges current non-bike riders to think about taking up biking part time, like on trips to the grocery store or to run other errands — they might be surprised at the money they save on gas.
Most of his “recycled” bikes sell for $100 to $300. In fall and winter he has a sign that reads that labor, $50 per hour, is negotiable.
“I really enjoy what I do,” Denker said. “I’ve really found my niche.”
For more info, visit travellightcycles.com.