climate champions

Head bike mechanic Dave Pruett and Athletic Feat proprietor Damé Rahal accept Napa Climate Champions Award on behalf of Bob Hillhouse and the Bicycle Works team from Napa Climate NOW!’s Dave Kearney-Brown.

In October, five Napa residents and two organizations were named Napa Climate Champions by Napa Climate NOW!, a local citizens organization advocating smart climate solutions based on the latest climate science. Awards were presented during the organization’s local “Connect the Dots” climate bicycle ride. This is the second of five articles sharing their inspiring stories.

Bicycle Works, a leading Napa bicycle shop, has helped cycling enthusiasts ride safely, have fun and reduce their carbon footprints for nearly 40 years. This year, proprietor Bob Hillhouse and the entire Bicycle Works team were recognized as Napa Climate Champions for decades of “bicycle advocacy, putting people on bikes, weekly rides, and support of the local club cycling.”

It’s not the first time Bicycle Works has earned accolades. The shop was recognized as one of America’s Best Bike Shops four years in a row by the National Bicycle Dealers Association. Fewer than 5 percent of more than 4,000 bike shops nationwide earn this award annually. Those that do are honored for their “great shopping experience, expert staff, bicycle advocacy, [and] dedication to their community.”

These are the essentials needed to encourage new riders and support established ones. They are also keys to overcoming some of the obstacles to bike riding, a major alternative transportation option for commuting, errands, and exercise that avoids the production of greenhouse gases.

This year, when Bob Hillhouse retired, his loyal customers worried that this important Napa institution would disappear, along with its advocacy for a safe, robust bicycling community. To everyone’s great relief, Bicycle Works was instead folded into neighboring athletic store, Athletic Feat, tucked in the corner of the Redwood Plaza shopping center in north Napa.

Athletic Feat’s owner Damé Rahal not only incorporated Bicycle Works’ inventory into its shop, but, she also hired Bicycle Works key staff, including beloved chief mechanic, Dave Pruett.

During the Climate Champions award presentation, the climate riders, 40 strong, met Rahal, Pruett, and other staff, who shared the shop’s interesting history.

Founded as Pedal and Jog in 1979, the shop, under Bob Hillhouse, narrowed its focus to bicycles over time. Now, things have come full circle, combining Bicycle Works’ specialization with Rahal’s emphasis on running sports.

On a recent shop tour, before joining a Christmas light viewing ride led by Pruett, Lee, I talked with Rahal and sales manager Ana Garibay. The two pointed out merchandise, beginning with the bikes themselves, which line the walls and hang from overhead racks.

“The most popular are hybrid and comfort-style bikes,” Garibay said.

“They allow you to ride upright, not in racing position,” added Rahal.

The shop carries cycling basics, from tools and parts to safety, commuter, and everyday gear, such as a high visibility windbreaker jacket with zip-off sleeves, fold-up baskets, waterproof shoe covers, and loose-fitting, wicking clothes. True to its mission, the shop loaned Pruett’s riders pavement-illuminating 800-lumen lights that were a great asset for night riding.

The expertise recognized by the National Bicycle Dealers Association extends to Pruett’s repair department. Here, I can offer a personal testimonial, as many times over the years they have solved problems. A series of mysterious flats turned out to be caused by leaks in the plastic anti-puncture strip. The repair team gave new life to a failing floor pump with a quick application of lubricant. They taught me how to use a chain-wear measuring tool, and they regularly teach riders how to fix flats in their free monthly tire-repair classes.

In addition to the exercise and health benefits, cycling is fun. It “brings out the child in people,” Garibay said. Cycling can be a social activity, such as during a family ride or one of Pruett’s group rides.

Rahal said, “It can provide some time alone to unplug from your devices and clear your mind. Cycling can actually save time during rush hour and by reducing park-and-walk time. It saves wear and tear on your car, and saves you more money because it saves fuel.”

By reducing fuel use, we reduce tailpipe emissions and greenhouse gases. Certainly, this is a small contribution toward combating a vast problem. But along with other lifestyle choices lowering one’s personal “carbon footprint,” cycling can begin to make a big difference.

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