BAR HARBOR — Bike chains clicked and tires buzzed on the asphalt, accompanied by casual conversation and cool, crisp air flowing through the trees of Acadia above.
Joe Minutolo, 58, pedaled seamlessly through the park, showing appreciation for his surroundings as if it was his first ride. However, Joe and his brother, Al, 66, have owned and operated Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop on Cottage Street since 1978, when the pair went into business together.
“It was one of those situations that just kind of fell together,” Al said.
Originally just a fraction of what the shop is now, the Minutolos expanded their business to include three large sale rooms, basement and attic storage space and a workshop. The evolution of the bike shop came with the evolution of Bar Harbor. The Minutolo family moved into a green, (bh house description here) house near the heart of town in 1970, when the inns and B&B’s on West Street were their buddies’ homes.
Much like Bar Harbor has developed, bicycles have evolved since the ‘70s. The newest addition to the bike shop’s rental fleet is the electric bicycle. The electric bike does not sport a bulking battery or super speed like one may expect. The only noticeable difference, other than the power button, is the wider diameter of the top tube on the bikes’ frame.
The electric motor kicks in automatically, sensing when a rider could use an extra push. The cyclist can control the amount of help he or she needs depending on which gear the bike is in. The motor is silent and allows riders a relaxing journey.
At first, Joe opposed the addition of an electric bike, he said. He thought it was “cheating.” However, after meeting customers that asked for them, he thought differently.
“It’s a new tool in the toolbox to commute and get you out of the car,” Joe said.
The electric bike is primarily a commuter vehicle for the road, allowing riders to remain sweat-free and ready-to-work upon arrival because intensive pedaling and extensive effort on inclines are not required.
In addition to aiding commuters, the electric bike can aid those with health conditions that hinder the ability to cycle to the full extent a regular bike requires.
The new additions can be rented for a half-day, which is 4 hours, at the shop. The Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop has full-day rental options for other bikes as well. Additionally, the brothers sell, repair and build a “whole lot” of bicycles year-round, Al said. They try and suit the needs of a diverse variety of customers, he said.
“From the enthusiast on through the recreational tourist,” they’ve seen it all, Al said.
In some cases, kids that they helped when the shop first opened have returned with their own families, which is a cool experience for the Minutolos, Al said. Though it may be a cliché, he said, he really enjoys the mixture of people and camaraderie that the shop fosters.
“We meet a lot of really nice people,” Al said. “And the equipment has kept our interest.”
“The bicycle itself is like a nucleus that pulls the community together,” Joe agreed. “[Cycling] brings joy to people, everybody can relate to a bike.”
Joe worked at the bike shop before the brothers purchased the business to “feed the little bike problem [he] had,” he said.
Joe tinkered on a bicycle in the workshop, full of other bikes awaiting repairs and tune-ups. The always-bustling service area indicates that Bar Harbor has a strong cycling community, he said. However, much of the repairs is a result of the bikes that are rented out.
“Maintenance in a rental fleet is constant,” Joe said.
The constant work is just day-to-day business for Joe and Al, who have run the shop together for almost 40 years. Joe sees no reason as to why family and business cannot go hand-in-hand, he said.
“I love it,” Joe said in regard to working with his brother. “We complement each other,” Joe said. “He’s my partner, my buddy. We’ve both put a lot of time and effort into [the bike shop].”