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Feels like the first time

Walker’s Bike Shop is booming in downtown FD

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Chris Walker, owner of Walker’s Bike Shop, and his wife Tina, pose with a Trek Verve+2, at the shop. Walker opened the business in May of 2019.

Chris Walker, owner of Walker’s Bike Shop, said everyone has memories of their first bicycle or the first time they rode one.

And he’s no exception.

“It was a Schwinn Sting Ray,” Walker said from his shop, 808 First Ave. N.

The proof is in a picture circa late 1970s or early 1980s. The bike was red in color with long handlebars and a black banana seat.

“Bikes to me remind me of being a kid,” Walker said. “The freedom of your first bike. Everybody remembers their first bike and when they get on it and ride it, you feel so free.

-Submitted photo
Chris Walker stands with his first bicycle, a red Scwinn Sting Ray, circa late 1970s or early 1980s.

“All the cares in the world don’t matter, just cruising on your bike. Everything is so quiet and calm. So calming to me. So whenever I get on a bike, I remember being a kid and can forget about all the stresses. It can slow life down immediately — or you can go as fast as you want to. You can slow life down or speed it up.”

Walker has had a love for bikes almost his whole life. And in 2000 he began working for his parents, Dawn and Eugene at The Bike Shop.

He attended Barnett Bicycle Institute in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he became a certified bike mechanic.

Walker worked at The Bike Shop until 2018. He then left to work construction full-time.

Within that year, his parents decided to leave the business.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
A view of downtown Fort Dodge is seen through bicycle spokes in Walker’s Bike Shop. Chris Walker, owner of the shop, said every community should have a brick and mortar bike shop.

“I’ve always had three to four jobs at a time for the past 20 years,” Walker said.

He’s worked for construction companies like Doyle Construction and Hepp Construction, both of Fort Dodge.

In May of 2019, Walker decided to come back to bikes and he opened his own shop.

“This was his dream,” said Walker’s wife, Tina, who helps out most days after her regular shift working as a medical assistant at UnityPoint Clinic Family Medicine — Second Avenue North. “He’s always wanted his own bike shop.

“A lot of people were happy to see him open up because they knew him though his parents. When he left they were so bummed. It’s definitely great to see him doing what he loves to do. It gets a little crazy.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
A Schwinn Twinn is on display at Walker’s Bike Shop.

And the Fort Dodge customers have kept him busy.

Within one hour of a recent business day, a lady came in to buy purple streamers for a bike for her granddaughter’s birthday. Another customer had a bike with squeaky brakes. Someone needed new tires. A fourth customer needed new tubes for a tire that came off a garden cart. And another customer bought a new bike.

“This is first bike I sold all week, so I feel good,” Chris Walker said.

Tina Walker and Chris Walker first met while attending Fort Dodge Senior High in the 1990s.

“We were high school sweethearts,” said Tina Walker, who helps with things like inventory. “I was a freshman going to be a sophomore. He was a grade older. We’ve been together ever since.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Chris Walker, owner of Walker’s Bike Shop, works on getting a new tube in a tire for a garden cart. Walker’s business is all about bikes, but occasionally will get repair requests for other things with tires.

“He was more the bad boy type in high school. I was the good girl that went after the bad boy. At that time he had long hair and a leather jacket.”

Chris Walker credited his wife for helping to make his dream a reality.

“I help out how I can,” she said. “Do books. Do inventory. Some stuff he can’t get to. That keeps him focused on being on the floor and doing repairs.”

When Walker first opened up the shop, that’s about all he did do was repairs.

“He had just a few bikes to sell,” Tina Walker recalled. “We had no bikes to sell for almost two months. Did most of our business off repairs.”

Walker offers the full range of service on repairs.

“Any brand, any bike,” he said. “Anything on a bike I can fix.”

Walker is also a Bosch authorized dealer to service Bosch electronics.

He sells Trek and Reid brand bicycles.

“Trek is a family-owned business in Waterloo,” Walker said. “Been in business since 1976. Reid are a small company out of Australia. They are very small, only a few dealers in Iowa, but offer a really good price point on a good quality bike.”

Trek bikes can range from $400 to $16,000.

“Super high end to entry level,” he said.

Hybrid bikes are a top seller.

“That’s where most of my sales are,” Walker said. “Typically a bike that will be a more upright position, bigger seat, more comfortable. Second is mountain bikes. With all the trails here in town, the paved trails are great for hybrids. And we have a new mountain bike trail system in Fort Dodge with over 10 miles of trail there and more to come.

“That’s with the Fort Dodge Mountain Bike Club — super excited about that. That’s super great for our community.”

The shop’s third biggest seller is the electric assist bike.

“An e-bike will make it easier to ride for anyone with a physical ailment,” he said. “E-bikes are the biggest boom right now in bicycles. In Europe they are everywhere. They are the bike in Europe.”

Walker described working in the bike business as a “roller coaster.”

“It’s a hard business to be in, but it’s my passion,” he said. “I learned a lot of positives and what no to do. The business model has evolved since 2000 drastically with more online sales taking more of the market. But it’s really important for a community to have a brick and mortar bike shop to get that personal experience and service.”

He enjoys selling bikes because of what they mean for people.

“I love selling bikes to people because I’m selling fun,” he said. “I’m selling fitness. I can sell something that is changing someone’s life for the better. It’s awesome.”

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