The Conway Area Chamber of Commerce appreciates The Ride for signing on as a lifestyle sponsor for the inaugural Conway Regional Health System Biketoberfest. Owners Erik and Tara Leamon are no strangers to Conway. They have owned Conway’s only full-service bicycle shop for more than 16 years and have been instrumental in building Conway’s cycling community.
The couple met while attending the University of Central Arkansas and eventually moved to Fairfield Bay. They were working at a local fitness center there when they learned that the bicycle shop in Conway had closed. The Leamons decided to turn their hobby into a business, and more than 16 years later, they are still at it. We talked to them about how they got their start in cycling and about the products and services The Ride offers.
What attracted you to cycling and how long have you been at it?
ERIK: I grew up riding back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I lived in the small town of Wynne, Arkansas, and we didn’t have anything else to do, so we rode our bikes all day, every day. We built ramps and did everything on our bikes. After I met Tara at UCA, she encouraged me to start mountain bike racing, and I did. I have been racing on a bicycle in some form or facet ever since.
TARA: I’m from Rogers and rode my bike around the neighborhood, but I wasn't into bicycling as much as he was; I was more of a runner. Erik tried to convince me to ride a bike for many years, even after we opened the shop, and I was convinced that I couldn't and shouldn't. But then I started riding with some local girls, and I just really enjoyed our time together. Riding with them was a lot different than riding with Erik... [laughs]
ERIK: She didn’t enjoy riding because we tried to ride together. I had a different idea of what I wanted out of a ride than she did.
TARA: I just wanted to play and talk. He wanted to hurt. I had a lot of fun riding with other women but realized there weren’t as many women to ride bikes with, so I developed the Women Bike Arkansas clinic. We just finished our seventh year.
What’s your favorite type of cycling?
TARA: For me, I love the road. I've been mountain biking for four years now, and I do really love that too. I just road bike more often just because it’s easier to access the road than it is finding a trail.
ERIK: It’s a miracle because I never thought I’d hear her say that! I love it all. If it’s on a bicycle – road, mountain, gravel, using a bike for transportation or commuting – I could spend my whole life on a bike. I just love riding bikes.
Talk about the products and services The Ride offers.
ERIK: We’re the only shop in town, so we try to do something for everybody. In the same way that I love to do it all, I really tried to make sure we have an offering and a skill set to really help everyone. If it involves a bicycle, I’ve done it, which has helped me know what different people want out of a bike – what a commuter wants, what a triathlete wants, what a mountain biker wants. Having that experience has helped me understand each customer and speak their language. And each of our staff members has their own area of expertise, which helps us service a whole lot of different people.
TARA: When someone comes into the store and tells us they want to start riding, the first thing we ask them is where they want to start riding and what their goals are. And those are the things that guide us to what bike they are going to be most inclined to ride. For example, someone may come in to get a mountain bike, but the more we speak with them, the more we realize they don’t plan to ride in the woods; they just want a bike with a thicker tire, more of a hybrid bike. They may not realize there’s a difference between a road bike and a mountain bike or that there is another option between those. So once we start asking them questions and finding out more information, we can guide them to the correct bike.
ERIK: We’ve really found that one of the things people love about cycling is community. For that reason, we always recommend people talk to their community. A lot of times, they're getting involved in cycling because one of their friends is a cyclist or someone in their church has inspired them, and they were just drawn to it. So we encourage them to talk to the people in their lives that they have seen riding and try to ride with different folks because that community aspect is one of the biggest draws of cycling. Conway Advocates for Bicycling offers weekly group rides every Monday and Wednesday evening. They leave from the McGee Center at 5:30. The Blue Sail ride is every Saturday morning at 8:00.
Located at 2100 Meadowlake Road, The Ride is open on Sunday from noon until 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are closed on Saturday. Visit them at therideonline.net or call 501-764-4500.