Riding the vintage wave: Edmonton company bringing old bikes back to life

·3 min read
Kenilworth Bike Company owners Ryan Kelly, left and Davis Knight pose with a vintage Apollo racing bike outside their repair shop.  (Min Dhariwal/CBC - image credit)
Kenilworth Bike Company owners Ryan Kelly, left and Davis Knight pose with a vintage Apollo racing bike outside their repair shop. (Min Dhariwal/CBC - image credit)

Davis Knight's garage is a bike picker's dream.

On one side of the old double garage, bikes in all kinds of conditions are stacked side-by-side. Frames, rims and other bike parts hang from the ceiling and walls. There have even been a few 60- or 70-year-old Kuwaharas and Raleighs.

And from this assortment of bicycle bits and pieces, Knight and his business partner Ryan Kelly are building two-wheeled dreams.

"We're able to put a frame together with used parts and make a bike work again," said Knight, who co-founded the Kenilworth Bike Company in 2017 after finding two 10-speeds in a back alley.

"They were beautiful frames and beautiful colours that you just don't see anymore today."

Bike rims are stacked high in the Kenilworth Bike Company's workshop garage.
Bike rims are stacked high in the Kenilworth Bike Company's workshop garage.(Min Dhariwal/CBC )

'Really caught fire'

Then, says Kelly, the pair realized there were bikes — and possibilities — almost everywhere.

"They're in alleys, in garages," said Kelly. "It just inspired us to put them together and try and make a go of it."

And they have. The Kenilworth Bike Company, named for the south-central neighbourhood where it's located, has refurbished and sold more than 100 bikes in the last four years, including 40 during 2020's pandemic cycling season.

Now the pair, assisted by Kelly's 17-year-old son Russ and another bicycle mechanic, fix up old bikes or build something new from the ground up depending on the parts they have available and what their customers want.

"There's an attraction for younger people to ride older bikes now," said Kelly. "They think they're really interesting and unique and they've all got stories of their own now and it's really caught fire."

When they're not scouring old barns in rural communities or estate sales for vintage two-wheelers, Kelly and Knight also get a look at some cool bikes that their customers have tracked down.

Nathalie Batres' dad saved a vintage 1980s Corsair touring bike from his neighbour's garage. It had been gathering dust for decades and was on the verge of going to the landfill.

'It's the second life'

After the Kenilworth Bike Company got it running again, her spandex-clad dad has clocked more than 1,000 kilometres on it.

"Now [the neighbour] sees my dad riding it around," added Batres. "It's the second life that you don't usually get when you go to a traditional bike shop."

Rogoberto Batres poses on his refurbished 1980s Corsair Touring bike.
Rogoberto Batres poses on his refurbished 1980s Corsair Touring bike. (Nathalie Batres)

The bikes, once they're built or brought back to life can range in price from $300 to as much as $800.

That was the price tag on Czechoslovakian racer Kelly and Knight found abandoned in a farmer's field two summers ago,

The bike was rebuilt and sold with its original golden handlebars, which is what caught their attention when they first saw it, said Kelly.

"A couple of them, we've pulled out of barns and they haven't been ridden in 40 years," he said. "It's really cool to think about that ... a bike that's been ignored and forgotten about, that's back on the road.