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Shop Focus: Recumbents for everyone at Coventry Cycle Works

Posted by Jennifer Clunie (Contributor) on May 5th, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Coventry Cycle Works-1
Coventry Cycle Works is a Portland gem.
(Photos © J. Maus)

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..

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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.

Cycle Oregon Day 1
Marilyn Hayward in action
on Cycle Oregon 2006.

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.”

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Shop employee Adam Amundsen.

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:

-- CoventryCycleWorks.com

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Comments
  • GlowBoy May 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    I have to rave about Coventry. Several years ago when I was recovering from car accidents, I shopped there for recumbents. I was thrilled with the personal service given by the store's employees, their ability to answer very detailed, specific questions, and their policy of allowing you to go out on test rides long enough to really get a feel for the bikes. All of which were really needed because there are a lot of different styles of recumbents, and for the uninitiated a lot of unfamiliar choices to make. After a number of test rides I was able to confidently say which model was right for me (Bacchetta Giro in my case) in the event I found a recumbent necessary for my continued recovery.

    Fortunately my recovery went well enough that I didn't buy a 'bent after all. But as I continue to work towards getting the ideal fit and comfort setup for long rides on my bikes, I increasingly find myself attracted to the "Crank Forward" category of bike, a sort of semi-recumbent style (of which the Electra Townie and Amsterdam are probably the best known examples). Coventry carries these in the higher performance Rans brand, and they were again kind enough to let me take some test rides and find out about it for myself.

    Haven't made a purchase decision yet, but if I get one it will definitely be from Coventry. HUGE thumbs-up for these guys!

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  • Paul Souders May 5, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    riders are often more noticed than upright bikes and are “treated like rock stars” when rolling down the road.

    Seeing a 'bent on the road is like seeing a wiener dog. Or a rainbow. They're like micro-doses of unicorn magic.

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  • Dave2 May 5, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    I'm a bike industry lifer and only slightly younger than Sherman; his (former) shop has tons of respect from his peers. I hope the new owner can keep up the level of service and maintain the discerning product selection that Sherman established. Anecdote: when the shop sold Trek, the only road bike that was stocked was the steel touring 520--the only bike that Sherman deemed a "real" bike for the Northwest. Imagine that--an Oregon bike store owner that knew what climate his customers were riding in!

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  • Bill Stites May 5, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    The Coventry torch has been passed to a very worthy receiver - Marilyn brings new energy and vitality to a great old shop.

    These folks are creative, open-minded, and will take care of just about any need - special or not.

    And the recent return of Heintz is a real coup!!

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  • Jackattak May 5, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    I have never personally shopped there or been to the store, but I have heard only praise from my cyclist friends and would drop in there in a heartbeat if I were on that side of the river and needed something.

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  • jeff smith May 5, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    ..and if it's a folding bike you're after, shop employee Jeff Smith (my doppleganger, no relation) is very knowledgeable on the Bike Fridays they sell. Good shop!

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  • Paul Tay May 6, 2010 at 2:15 am

    'Bents, way under-rated. Bakfiets, over.

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  • Roma May 6, 2010 at 9:53 am

    Speed? Never in my life have I been passed by a recumbent. Plus, I think you have to have a PhD and/or a white beard to ride one. Or listen to public radio like Squidward (who also rides a recumbent).

    Personally, I would be too nervous to ride one around town due to the low profile.

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  • Alan May 6, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Speed?

    IHPVA

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  • John C May 9, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Our own State TT champ and all around nice guy Rob English holds several records using a recumbent as well as a Road Bike. One record being the British Human Powered Speed record at 51.07 miles traveled in one hour. Rob also produces some really nice road bikes, English Cycles (http://www.englishcycles.com/). He also is employed at Bike Friday, designing really intricate folding bikes. Rob's approach to cycling is much like my own. Ride and experience everything!

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  • GlowBoy May 12, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    Speed? Heck yes! The reason you don't often get passed by recumbents is their owners tend to be pretty mellow, slow riders. But if they felt like it they could blow your wheels off. 'Bents are far more aerodynamic than diamond frame bikes, and they can go much faster given the same pedal input.

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