For the love of cycling: Fitchburg Cycles acquired by Wheel and Sprocket | Company

The love for recreational cycling and the passion for bike culture runs strong in many families, but there are arguably few families for whom it’s stronger than Kegels.

Chris Kegel, founder of the Wheel and Sprocket bicycle sales and service store in 1973, promised his four children that he would pay for their college education – if they cycled to college.

His children accepted him, but they did not make it easy for themselves. As young adults, the four Kegels traveled from the Milwaukee area to Montreal, Texas, Montana and British Columbia on two wheels, while their parents carried all their belongings in a car.

“A 10-day trip is the coolest way to show up at school,” Amelia Kegel told The Star.

She is the cultural director of Wheel and Sprocket, in addition to co-ownership with two of her siblings, Noel and Tessa. Their father passed away suddenly in 2017 and they decided to continue his cycling-loving legacy. Luckily, Amelia had already dropped out of college to study plant ecology to come and work with her dad every day for five years before he died.

Older brother Julian carries on a different family legacy as the owner of a century-old Bavarian-style brewery and German restaurant in West Allis named Kegel’s Inn.

The Kegel Clan’s passion for life on two wheels has now spread to Fitchburg as they have taken over the assets and inventory of Fitchburg Cycles from longtime owner Edwin Benet.

Benet contacted Kegels “out of the blue” in April, Amelia said. His lease at his 7,000 square foot bicycle shop at 2970 Cahill Main was about to be renewed, and Benet decided he did not want to continue operating Fitchburg Cycles.

He asked if Wheel and Sprocket were interested in buying him out, which wasn’t on Kegel’s radar, but they decided their business philosophies aligned and took the plunge.

It is now the second Wheel and Sprocket location in the Madison area, with another in Middleton. Fitchburg is now Wheel and Sprocket’s 12th largest location in the world, with nine in Wisconsin and three in Illinois. They open or acquire one new store per year. The first site was opened in 1973 in Hales Corners, Wisconsin

The transition from Fitchburg Cycles to Wheel and Sprocket took exactly one week. Fitchburg Cycles marked its last day of business on June 30, and the space reopened as Wheel and Sprocket on July 7. There wasn’t much to change inside, but Kegel said they cleaned things up in a roomier and more suitable way. bicycles.

The acquisition worked out well, she said, because Benet already carried a lot of Giant-branded bikes, which Wheel and Sprocket also does. Trek is another of the brands that the company mainly offers.

Other brands they carry for bicycles, e-bikes, and recumbent trikes include Salsa, Surly, All-City, Catrike, TerraTrike, Tern, and Riese and Müller.

“Our general motto is ‘bikes for everyone,’ instead of mountain or triathlon bikes,” Kegel said. “We have a lot of things for everyone. We have to know a lot about a lot of things, which is to our advantage.

She said a big part of Wheel and Sprocket’s success is that it shares products among its 12 stores, with multiple weekly truck trips between locations exchanging inventory. And she said the diversity of Wheel and Sprocket’s products is one of her strengths.

“There are a lot of stores or Trek-owned stores where the selection is narrow,” she said. “We are proud to have diversity. We try to offer the best of the best in each product category by brand rather than just 80% of Trek. »

One of the growth sectors of its activity is that of electric bicycles or “e-bikes”.

Electric bike sales have “exploded,” Kegel said and are doubling every year, but sales are only just beginning to scratch the surface, she said. Europe has moved to around 70% e-bikes and 30% ‘acoustic’ (non-electric) bikes, but those numbers are reversed here in the US. However, Wheel and Sprocket is seeing a change.

“E-bikes take people who never thought they could ride again and help them do it,” Kegel said.

For herself, her old 90-minute ride on an acoustic bike has been cut in half to 45 minutes. And as the mother of a six-month-old, she said it was key to ensuring she chose her bike over her car to get to work.

Kegel doesn’t just sell bikes, she loves to ride, and at its 12 locations, Wheel and Sprocket participates in more than 100 local cycling events a year, she said.

This is why she adopted the title of Chief Culture Officer.

Growing up in her father’s stores, she spent a lot of time helping out with everything from merchandising to vacuuming to checkout.

“I have a new age title, that’s right,” she said. “But the new business books are really finding that people are an important part of retail and hospitality-focused businesses. We can have great products, but if we don’t have great people, we miss the mark. It is a fully-fledged family business. I’ve always enjoyed working here, it’s an amazing work environment.

An important part of this is the bike maintenance department, which Kegel calls “the heartbeat of the whole organization”, as they service bikes beyond those they have sold themselves.

“It’s not exclusively a family business, but we treat employees like family,” she added. “We have a great bond that brings whole communities together – the love of bikes. The love of bicycles can relate to people of any age, any level of ability and on any side of the political spectrum. If you love bikes, we’ll love you.

A non-profit arm of their business, called the Chris Kegel Foundation in honor of their late father, aims to boost underserved populations. It will set up bike repair kiosks on some of Fitchburg’s bike paths.

They also aim to get involved in community action, engagement and political advocacy by joining councils such as Bike Fitchburg and Wisconsin Bike Fed, to help influence bike-friendly legislation and funding.

“We try to make real connections in the markets we serve,” Kegel said.

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