An office career couldn’t quite cut it for six-year Valley resident Ric Howland.
A bike lover, racer and former national competitor, Howland started a bicycle business online four years ago. On April 1, he opened his first brick-and-mortar bike shop in North Bend.
Rattlesnake Lake Cycles is located at 410 Main Ave. S., North Bend. Howland is building his selection, balancing between high-end pro models and bicycles and gear for all ages that can fit into a family budget.
“I love working on bikes, selling bikes, talking to people about bikes,” Howland said. “To me, they’re really elegant. It’s the most efficient transfer of manpower to motion that you can get.”
One look at Howland, and you might not assume he’s a cyclist. For one thing, he went to state three times as a wrestler. Howland’s love affair with bicycles began in an offhand way. He got involved in marathons, then triathlons, and discovered he was a natural in the cycling portion. From there, he went on to bicycle “sprint” racing and other competitive track matches, racing on the national level.
“I’ve always worked on my own bikes,” he said. He’s managed bike shops in California and Washington.
After he stopped racing, he joined the Marine Corps, then got a “real job,” working in operations management for 15 years.
“It’s not a lot of interaction,” he said of his former line of work. “I’d rather create my own destiny than have somebody do it for me.
“What I really enjoy is working with people on bikes,” Howland said.
“Somebody will come in here, I don’t care if it’s a kid or some guy who wants a $5,000 road bike. We’ll sit and jab for a while, and I find out more about him and what he really needs, and get him the bike that he needs.
“I like being a good neighbor, getting people what they need, not necessarily what I have in stock or trying to bump them up to thenext hundred bucks,” Howland added. “You can either be there for the money, or you can be there for the customer and everything else will follow. You treat the customer the way they want to be treated, and hopefully they’ll come back and tell people.
“I sell worldwide online,” said Howland, who still runs his Web sites.
His business is located in the same retail plaza as Ace Hardware.
“So far, my customers have been finding me,” Howland said.
The former floral and gift shop got a makeover when Rattlesnake Cycles moved in.
“It’s challenging when you rent a space that’s hot pink and you have to repaint it,” said Howland, who painted cool greens and blues on the walls.
The name stems from his home neighborhood near Rattlesnake Ridge.
“I thought the name of the lake is unique,” Howland said.
“This shop is going to be half-and-half,” he said. “Half pro road, half family shop.”
“I carry brands that I feel are quality brands,” such as the Italian brand Bianchi and the value brand Haro. “I carry products that I would want to have myself.”
Howland is assisted in the store by his son Trevor, and plans to hire mechanics for service as business needs grow.
Hours of operation at Rattlesnake Lake Cycles are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, closed Tuesday. To learn more, visit www.ratttlesnakelakecycles.com.