To say that the world of cycling is unique would be an understatement. There are few recreational activities which produce disciples so dedicated that many cannot bear to imagine what it would be like if they couldn’t get out on their bikes—pedaling until their legs are burning, their lungs are bursting and their bottoms are black and blue. We joke, of course… kinda. But in truth, with great effort comes great reward, and as any avid cyclist would attest, the exhilaration of riding through stunning scenery under your own power is unlike anything you have ever fallen in love with before. This is why an entire community has developed around cycling, from members’ clubs to cycle-friendly businesses to specialty service shops.
Lynx and Hare Cycles is one such shop, located in Alton, in our Headwaters region of YDH. (If you’re wondering why you’ve heard that name before—yes, it is a quirky play on the scientific lynx and hare population cycle we all learned about in school.) Stephan Schneider, a mechanic of 30 years’ experience, owns the business with his wife. “She does pretty much everything around here,” he laughs. “I just kind of change tires once in a while.”
Owning his own bicycle servicing shop is something Stephan has always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity. That is, until he came to Headwaters and found the little old general store building in Alton. According to his recollection on first discovering this hidden gem, the location was perfect because it would allow the couple to live onsite, using the upstairs rooms for their home and the ground floor for the shop. “It works for us as a business today the same way that it worked for the people who built this building in 1915,” he says.
The fact that he has combined his work and his home life is a testament to Stephan Schneider’s passion for cycling. But, as he points out, it is often said that the bicycle business is a passion-driven business. “You won’t ever find someone who got into it because they did research and found out it was a great way to make money,” he states. “We are in it because we are all cyclists. We think about it all the time, talk with our friends about it all the time. We get up in the morning and plan where we are going to ride and what parts we are going to put on our bikes. There is a reason that every bike shop is full of happy people—because we are all doing the thing that we would be doing even if we weren’t being paid for it.”
The majority of Lynx and Hare Cycles’ business is focused on service, rather than retail. “We are a very small bike shop,” Stephan says. “You won’t come in here and find rows and rows of expensive bikes. Every bike shop has their own flavour. There are bike shops that are more upscale, shops that cater to the Italian racing crowd, and there are shops full of bikes that cater to families. At Lynx and Hare Cycles, we’re kind of like a cult classic. We are here for people to have their bikes worked on, to provide a hub for the cycling community, and to provide people with information on cycling opportunities in the area.”
He adds, laughing affectionately, “There are a lot of oddballs in the world of cycling, and I think many of them find a home here.”
Not surprisingly, the Lynx and Hare Cycles customer profile ranges from the super-dedicated to the brand-new. One customer owns several road bikes which have cost thousands of dollars each. It is Stephan’s job to take care of this client’s “stable” of bikes, like a groomsman. Then there is a young man in his mid-twenties who has never learned to ride. “I have a bike here for him and I’m going to teach him how to pedal while pushing him down the street,” he exclaims. “We are so excited; it’s going to be a life-changing event for him.” Stephan has even worked on a vintage bike made in Czechoslovakia before the Communist Revolution, restoring it so that a five-year-old child here in Headwaters could ride it.
Cycling is one of those passions that even those who know cannot adequately describe. “When you go on a long trip through the countryside, all of the energy to make that happen has come from your own legs and your own lungs,” Stephan says. “It’s the food that you’ve eaten and your own body’s energy that makes you go down the road. It is also something that you can continue to do through your whole life. A lot of my super hardcore customers are over sixty years old.”
If you’re just beginning your cycling adventure, Stephan advises that you don’t focus too much on getting the ideal bike for your first time out. In fact, most local bike shops will stock entry level mountain bikes, which can go anywhere. “You don’t know what part of the world of cycling you are going to enjoy until you have done it,” he points out. “If you do become a dedicated cyclist, you are not going to want just a mountain bike. You’re going to want a road bike, a gravel bike, and maybe even a BMX bike. But these things can be accumulated eventually, as you learn what you enjoy.”
19785 Main St.,
Alton, ON L7K 0C2
Story by Katherine Ryalen
Get ready to cycle with Stephan Schneider, owner of Lynx and Hare Cycles, as he takes you through bike basics. Grab your bike and follow along while Stephan shows you how to complete a Circle Check to ensure you’re ready to ride safely. He’s also got hints and tips for choosing the perfect bike to suit your riding style.