Posted by Jennifer Clunie (Contributor) on May 5th, 2010 at 12:36 pm
With over 25 years of service, Coventry Cycle Works at 2025 SE Hawthorne is one of Portland's oldest bike shops. Last year, Marilyn Hayward took the reins from a retiring Sherman Coventry and has brought a renewed energy to the business. I dropped by a few days ago to meet Marilyn and learn more about this little gem of a bike shop.
Specializing in recumbents and folding bikes, Coventry fills a distinct niche in a city that seems to have a bike shop on every corner. Offering short and long-wheel based recumbents and tricycles (of both the delta and tadpole variety), Hayward's shop caters to people looking for high-end performance as well as those simply seeking a more comfortable ride.
Recumbents -- or ‘bents, as commonly referred to -- come with their share of sterotypes in the bike world. With a typical customer age profile in the mid-40’s, Hayward says she's noticing a downward age trend of late. The cool rigs below, all on sale at Coventry, might be part of the reason way..
There's also the knock that recumbents can't climb. Hayward says that's not true at all. "Contrary to myth, recumbents can climb—it’s all about the engine." she says. As proof, she cites the 2009 Race Across America (RAAM) record set by Team RANS (a 4-person recumbent team out of Kansas) who climbed over 110,000 feet of elevation in their cross-country race from San Diego, CA to Annapolis, MD.
Hayward's got plenty of first-hand experience herself and an enthusiasm and love for competition is evident when talking with her. A master's category ultra recumbent racer with a goal of qualifying for RAMM, she once pedaled 252 miles in 21 hours before 20-40 mph wind gusts and freezing cold temperatures forced her to abandon a race. Undeterred, she’s already planning a race next year with hopes of completing a 350 mile RAAM qualifier.
With a staff of 6, this small shop quickly unfolds itself -- much like the Bike Friday and Dahon folding bikes they carry -- to reveal a number of choices for bicyclists.
Hayward, who told me she's "not young, but far from dead” when I asked her age, was a natural fit for Coventry. With a strong passion for the sport and determination to give back to the community from which she makes her livelihood, Marilyn would like to see the shop offer clinics to “help give people confidence and inspire them to get out and do more on their bikes.”
With their expertise in specialty recumbents and trikes, Coventry has been able to outfit people afflicted by multiple sclerosis, stroke, or limited usage of limbs who never thought they’d be able to ride a bike again. Being able to assist such individuals in their quest for open spaces, fresh air and freedom, while being present to witness the look on their faces, is what Hayward finds most rewarding.
However, despite switching to a recumbent herself five years ago after a cancer injury and subsequent shoulder surgery, Hayward is adamant that a recumbent is “Not a handicapped person’s bike” or a “geezer bike.” Instead, she refers to them as “super-neat machines” in which riders are often more noticed than upright bikes and are “treated like rock stars” when rolling down the road.
If you're still not convinced, Marilyn offers these reasons why recumbents rule:
- Speed: Banned in 1934 from UCI races, recumbents are still breaking speed records.
- Comfort: Often considered more ergonomic, less pressure is placed on the neck, back, wrists and/or glut (butt) muscles
- Safety: You can't flip over the handlebars, avoiding the dreaded “endo,” and trikes supply ultimate balance for special needs riders.
- They're fun!
Stop by Coventry next time you're in the neighborhood to see rock-star-worthy bikes from brands like Volae, ICE trikes, HP Velo-Technik, Bachetta, Greenspeed, RANS, and many others. You can meet Marilyn Hayward at the Bike Economics event tomorrow night in North Portland where she'll be one of 20 featured presenters.
See more photos from the shop in the slideshow below: