History

1990's

I needed a gig. I had always kicked around the idea of having my own bike shop. I borrowed some money and leased a small store front in Centerport. Centerport Cycles Inc. was born in March of 1990.

Centerport Cycles first location

I had been away from the retail side of the business for 15 years. The experience that I had was as a mechanic. It didn’t occur to me that I had no idea how to run a bike shop. I rolled up my sleeves and had at it.

It was hard getting any bike lines because the shop was too close to some existing shops. I knew that I could get Bridgestone though, and that was my ace in the hole. Bridgestone was an off beat little bike line that was a perfect fit with my shop. I was a roady and I dug Masi so I started selling them as my high-end road bikes. I also sold Marin Mountain Bikes and Klein.

My friend Craig Roberts had started his racing career when he was 6 years old, with a club called the Long Island Wheelmen's Association. The club had been defunct since the late 60’s. Craig and I decided to resurrect the Long Island Wheelmen with Centerport Cycles as sponsor. Before too long we had over fifty U.S.C.F. licenced riders. We got nice jerseys made up. I found some other companies to chip in as sponsors. Craig had the old L.I.W.A. racing rollers so we started running roller races in the Winter. Craig was already promoting a race in Cedar Creek Park in Wantagh so that became the club's race.

The Long Island Wheelmen's Association in 1993

I hired a 15 year old kid named Mark Young. Mark was polite and mature. He was a great mechanic and best of all he was a protégé on the bike. We worked in the shop and talked endlessly about race tactics. On Sundays he would go off and win races. Mark was a category 2 when he was 15 and he had enough points to be a category 1 before he became a senior.

With his up-beat attitude and his humble demeanor Mark ingratiated himself to the members of the Long Island Wheelmen. He was our mascot and everyone called him Young Mark. When he got invited to go race in Belgium for a month, we had a fundraiser to help him pay his way

Mark Young riding 1993 Junior Nationals at Trexlertown,
Pennsylvania on an aerodynamic "funny bike" that I built.

I had purchased a mountain bike in the early 80’s, when they first came out, and I rode in the woods by myself. It was a lot of fun, but for years I didn’t know one other person who owned a mountain bike. When I opened the shop the mountain bike thing was starting to catch on and I was selling quite a few of them. I started riding with a few of my customers.

The best local spot for off road riding was the Nassau / Suffolk Greenbelt Trail. This trail was built by hikers for hikers. They were pretty upset that we had invaded their trails. One of the guys I rode with, Pat Astegher, thought that we should start an advocacy organization to deal with the brewing conflict.

Pat invited eight friends to meet in his parent’s basement and we started Concerned Long Island Mountain Bicyclists (C.L.I.M.B.). The club was huge, almost over night. I think the roster was around 800 at the end of the first year. There was tremendous vitality. People were coming out of the woodwork to get involved. We had monthly meetings, a great newsletter, weekly rides, an annual picnic, a Christmas party.

We did our best to make friends with the hiking club and we started meeting with various land managers. This was the area that I got involved in. We got permission from Nassau County Parks Department to build a new trail in Stillwell woods. Within a year we built a trail in Rocky Point on state land that was controlled by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

We worked out a deal with the Long Island Greenbelt Trails Conference to build a separate mountain bike trail next to the Nassau Suffolk Trail. They got a federal grant for $10,000 to pay for tools and materials.

C.L.I.M.B. had trail maintenance parties going on every weekend. I started a trail patrol where trained volunteers went out on the trails to assist and educate trail users about how to coexist harmoniously. We were going great guns.

We were associated with the International Mountain Bike Association (I.M.B.A.). They are the world mountain bike advocacy organization. In the winter of '95/'96 IMBA had its first (and so far, only) International Advocacy Summit at the Biosphere in the desert of Arizona. I was one of the invited speakers. It was a big deal. There were hundreds of people there including all the cycling press. I got a bad case of stage fright but I fought through it and gave a well recieved presentation.


Here are a bunch of my friends from CLIMB on a night ride.
Left to right: John Nason, CLIMB founder Pat Astgher, Mark Young,
Gary Schacker, Glen Soffen, Me, and Larry Hladki.

I was up to my ears in all this stuff... There were a number of people who made a big effort to make Long Island a good place to ride mountain bikes while coexisting harmoniously with other trail users. I was one of them.

All of this involvement with L.I.W.A. and C.L.I.M.B. was a lot of fun but it wasn’t paying the bills. The shop wasn’t making much money. Mary was doing freelance writing jobs to make ends meet... Mark went off to collage. I decided that the shop needed to be bigger and sell more bikes if it was going to make it. After 4 and a half years in Centerport I moved the business to a bigger building on a busier road (25A) in Northport. I decided to keep the name Centerport Cycles even though the shop was now in Northport. My business M.O. was pretty quirky so why not the name? The new location was about a quarter of a mile from my home. That was nice. I hired a full time mechanic named Todd Hogeman.

Centerport Cycles second location

Bridgestone had decided to stop selling bikes in America, so I needed a new bike line. I was pretty established by that point so I was able to pick up Specialized. I also started selling Waterford Precision Cycles. We worked hard and sold a fair number of bikes. The shop seemed to be hitting its stride.

That April (’95) I was hit by a car on our Thursday night shop ride. My leg and ankle were pretty busted up. I had compound fractures in three spots. I was in the hospital for 10 days and had a couple of surgeries. I was in bed for a month and a half with an external fixator on my leg. It sucked.

OUCH!!!

Mark came home from school for the summer just in the nick of time. He and Todd ran the store while I convalesced. They did a great job. Once I got my leg in a cast I was able to come to work. It was really hard. I was the president of CLIMB at the time so I had to deal with that as well. I wore the cast for 3 months. Then I had to wear a full leg brace for another 5 months and I wasn't allowed to drive.

It was a year and one day from the date of my accident that I finally got back on a bike. I did a 10 mile ride and it felt like a hundred. That Summer I got myself going again by doing about a million miles on a fixed gear. By the Fall I felt pretty good. I decided to try racing again. It was almost 10 years since the last time I pinned on a number.

I went and did the non-licensed race for 40+ year olds at Craig's Cedar Creek race. It was pouring rain. There were only about 20 guys in the race. It came down to a sprint. My timing sucked and I missed the jump. Once I finally got myself moving I ran down every guy but one and I was bearing down on him too, but I ran out of road. It was cool to be back in the game but I was annoyed at not beating that guy.

When the raced ended I was soaked but I wasn’t tired and the field was lining up for the catagory 3/4 race. I thought maybe I would do that race too. Mitch (you remember him) was running registration. I rode up and told him that I wanted to buy a racing license and register for the 3/4 race. This would normally be a lengthy process involving a bunch of paper work and paying various fees but the riders were lined up and the gun was about to go off. Mitch just handed me a number. I rode up to the start line and asked the guy next to me to pin my number... Next thing I knew I was zooming along in a pack of 50 guys. When the important move happened on the last lap I knew what to do but I didn’t have the legs. All in all it felt great though…

I trained through the winter. I did the Spring Series in Central Park the next year. I was going pretty good and was close to being competitive in the Masters category but the shop started getting busy and I couldn’t keep it up. I trained hard the following winter too but I also started building an addition on my house at that time and that cut into my training. I rode the Spring Series again the next year (‘98) but it was just too much effort to keep racing…