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Plain Dealer: Century Cycles owner says we have grown into a big bike burg

June 23, 2013

Scan of Cleveland Plain Dealer article of June 23, 2013 (part 1)

Scan of Cleveland Plain Dealer article of June 23, 2013 (part 2)

My Cleveland

Grant Segall

Scott Cowan, owner of Century Cycles in Rocky River, Medina and Peninsula, says bicycling's booming here.

Q. I thought you left town to run Tulane?
A. I've had a lot of confusion with the Scott S. Cowen who was the dean of Weatherhead. I'm Scott S. Cowan. When I was a young guy, I got a message from some jeweler inviting me to a party at his house. He wanted Scott Cowen. I didn't go.

Q. How's Cleveland for cycling?
A. Twenty years ago, when we started the business, my vision was that someday Cleveland would be a big biking town, and it has become one. We're not a Portland, but we're ahead of a lot of other cities

Every bus in Cleveland has a bike rack. A whole lot of railroad lines have been converted and obviously, the towpath. Century does a "bike to school" program at some schools in Bay, River and Medina. At Bike Cleveland, Jacob VanSickle is young and enthusiastic, and he's done a great job. There's real opportunity to grow something here.

Q. How's our terrain?
A. You can get anything here. You can go west and ride on flat land or ride south and get hills.

Q. How's our weather?
A. Our weather's a challenge for sure. But it makes the nice weather that much sweeter. I took a great picture of my buddies with a black cloud behind them and beautiful sunshine they were riding into.

Q. Do bicyclists ride here from out of town?
A. We're on a national cross-country trail that comes right down Lake Road. And they now have an Underground Railroad trail through Oberlin. We've got a map on the ceiling in Peninsula of where people are from. We get a lot of Asians, Dutch, English, French, Canadians.

Q. It must help that Peninsula's in the middle of the national park, right?
A. It's in the top 10 national parks for visits. It's a great place for hiking, walking, sledding, scouting, motorcycling, fishermen, rafters, artists, photographers. Tons of schools bring kids down there. But we still find local people who've never been there.

We do night rides on the towpath. We started them 19 years ago. We used to have 12 people. Our first one this year, we had 231. One of our night rides is a pajama party, with a Godzilla movie at the finish.

Q. Where else do you like to ride?
A. I live in Sharon Center and work out of the Rocky River store. Once a year I do the full ride, which is about 40 miles each way. Other times, I park in Strongsville and ride the 17 miles up here through the Metropark.

I like the vista out in the country, Wayne County. You pass more tractors than cars. People are friendly and give you lots of room.

I also ride a lot along Lake Road heading west, with bike lanes and wide berms, spectacular views.

Q. As a collector of old bikes, tell us about some local manufacturers.
A. The Cleveland Welding Co. on Berea Road made bikes maybe 50 years. They make Roadmasters, one of the premier bikes, and frames for other manufacturers. I have a couple bikes Viktor Schreckengost designed. And I have a 1941 Goodyear Double Eagle Clipper; the line was made for about six months before the war by the Colson company in Elyria.

Q. Do you play any other sports?
A. I play a ton of volleyball indoors and out. I'm going to be playing in the National Senior Games here this June. We're the North Coast Masters. We won the state level. I'm the shortest guy, and I play only in the back row.

Q. Where else do you hang out?
A. My girlfiend, Anna Roberts, was in Verb Ballets. We've been going to dances at Playhouse Square, that totally revitalized area, with world-class facilities and great restaurants. I go to the Wine Bar Rocky River. I love the ambiance and the wine.

Olmsted Falls has a nice, locally owned wine store: The Olde Wine Cellar. They have wine tastings on the weekend. I made some great friends there; we toured Napa together.

Q. Favorite food to soak up all that wine?
A. I have a favorite place in Wadsworth: Marie's Pizza, locally owned. We usually get the pizza with their sausage. It's homemade.

Q. Where do you shop?
A. I like antiques. I go to the Antique Mall in Medina a lot.

I like to buy local, not just because I'm in the business. Local owners are on the front line of customer service. The decisions are made right there.