Jack Sheaffer, who has owned Bikes Etc. in downtown Milford for over 30 years, says that cycling is his passion. It is a passion he hopes to spread to others. Surprisingly, however, the first ten years he was in the bike sale and repair business, he didn’t participate in the sport.
“I played tennis for exercise but then I began having trouble with my knees,” Mr. Sheaffer said. “Then, I got into the Senior Olympics. You must be 50 or older to compete, so I decided to start cycling not only to stay in shape but to compete. I have raced all over the country, Florida, Texas, Virginia. You compete with people in your own age category and you must place either first, second or third to get to the nationals. This will be my last year competing as I am getting older, but it has been so much fun meeting cyclists from around the world and competing against them.”
Mr. Sheaffer was born and raised in Milford. His father owned Economy Auto Supply which was located directly across the street from the location of his bicycle shop today. His father sold bicycles, mostly Schwinn, which Mr. Sheaffer said was the “bike to have.” His father’s store also carried English-style bikes, the first store in the area to stock them, and they became extremely popular. When shopping in the downtown area began to slow in the 1980’s and his father decided to close Economy Auto, Mr. Schaefer opened his own bike shop which still is operational today.
“Because this is my passion, I specialize in service and safety,” Mr. Sheaffer said. “Normally, I can repair a bicycle and return it to the customer the next day. One issue I run into is that people will purchase a $120 bicycle from a big box store. When the tire blows out within the year, they come to me to fix it and learn it can cost $60 for the repair. This is why I stress to people that they should purchase high-quality equipment from the beginning, especially if they plan to use the bicycle often.”
Mr. Sheaffer sells brands such as Diamondback, Fuji, Motiv and Raleigh along with several other brands. He also sells all the safety equipment a bicyclist needs, including helmets, mirrors and flashing lights. He recommends that cyclists invest in jerseys that reflect light as well.
“We have lights that attach to bicycles that can be recharged using your computer’s USB charger,” Mr. Sheaffer said. “A few years ago, a man came in with a nice bike and we started talking. We decided to go for a ride together one afternoon and when he came to the store, he didn’t have a helmet. I told him if you don’t have a helmet, you are not riding with me. He bought one. I stress safety over everything. Even if you don’t plan to ride at night, adding lights is important.”
About 10 or 15 years ago, Mr. Sheaffer said he was riding with a friend in Slaughter Beach. He told his friend he suddenly felt ill and did not think he could ride further. They tried calling Mr. Schaefer’s wife, but were unable to reach her. The two decided that Mr. Schaefer needed help, so the two men rode their bicycles from Slaughter Beach to the Milford Memorial Hospital Emergency Room. It turned out he was having a heart attack. His heart had an 80 percent blockage, but his doctor told him the bike ride may have saved his life.
“Even today, cycling saves my life,” Mr. Sheaffer said. “I would have an EKG that was normal but while biking, something didn’t feel right. I’d tell my doctor and he would run further tests only to discover blockages. I’ve had seven stents and two artificial knee surgeries, but I’m still on my bike.”
Mr. Sheaffer said that cycling is one of the best cardio exercises, improving heart and lung health while also getting people outdoors. He said that the recent emphasis on bike trails at the state and national level has been very beneficial to the biking industry, but more still needs to be done to let people know about the benefits of biking. According to fitness experts, cycling increases muscle strength, flexibility and joint mobility while also decreasing stress. People who ride bikes regularly have improved posture, coordination and stronger bones as well as lower body fat levels. Cycling has also shown to be beneficial in the prevention and management of diseases.
Currently, Bikes Etc. offers a line of electric bicycles. Approximately 25 percent of the bicycles in Europe now are electric and the phenomenon is spreading to the United States. The electric bicycles can be pedaled or, when the rider tires, can be powered by a small motor. For people who must travel four or five miles to work, using an electric bike instead of a car is a great way to get in exercise, according to Mr. Sheaffer.
Spin classes are also offered at Bikes Etc. Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 6:30 to 9. The classes are slightly different as the participants can use their own bicycle or use one in the shop for a nominal fee. “Spinning helps get your butt in shape and we workout to music, so it is a lot of fun,” Mr. Sheaffer said.
Families and individuals interested in joining the spin class or learning more about cycling can contact Mr. Schaefer by calling 302-422-8030. The shop at 3 N Walnut Street in downtown Milford is open Tuesday through Friday 10-12pm and 2-4pm and Saturdays 10-12pm.