This summer visitors to downtown Riverside – or Riverside residents themselves – will be able to rent bicycles to tour the village’s genteel neighborhoods or take a spin on nearby trails courtesy of a new tenant at the Riverside Metra station.
On April 7, Riverside trustees voted 5-0 to execute a license agreement with Gears2You, a business started in spring 2021 by Riverside residents Pete Janunas and Paul MacNerland.
Started with the sole purpose of providing mobile bike repair and maintenance services, Gears2You is adding a roughly 300-square-foot bricks-and-mortar location inside the east wing of the train station, 90 Bloomingbank Road. Gears2You will continue to provide mobile services with its custom-outfitted van.
“Riverside is a perfect community for all of this,” Janunas told village trustees during a presentation at last week’s village board meeting. “There are so many cyclists that go through here.”
The month-to-month agreement, at $500 per month, requires the business to pay any associated costs, including any property taxes levied by the county. In addition, Gears2You agrees to host at least six free bike maintenance clinics or events related to bicycling and will participate in at least six community events annually.
According to Janunas, Gears2You will open its doors at the train station location on April 30.
“We’re mostly doing maintenance and service, so there’s not a lot to do,” Janunas said. “It’s not going to be your typical retail spot. We’re not going to sell bikes. We will have some accessories like helmets and locks, but it’s primarily service. The van will continue doing the van thing. That’s us – that’s Gears2You.”
Bike rentals will be available May 1 to Sept. 30 on Saturdays, Sundays and extended holiday weekends. The business may also choose to rent sleds during the winter.
“The bicycle rental was an addition we had not foreseen but I think it fit in really well,” said MacNerland. “We were happy to add that to our offerings and having a train station and a bicycle shop in kind of an intermodal area I think … seems like a natural fit.”
Gears2You was a child of the pandemic, conceived during what MacNerland called “an idle conversation during the depths of COVID around a fire pit in his driveway. The two men are neighbors on Groveland Avenue and both bike enthusiasts.
Janunas, who was general manager of a fitness studio when COVID-19 shut down his entire industry for months, decided it was time to change career direction. For the first time he would be an entrepreneur.
“It’s scary, but it’s nice being in charge of my own destiny, my own thing,” Janunas said.
A month after incorporating the business, they bought their van from a bike repair business owner in Virginia. The van was already fitted out with a pump, work stand, cabinets and tools. By September the van was wrapped in Gears2You branding.
In the meantime, Janunas headed off to Colorado Springs, Colorado, for a two-week workshop to further hone his skills and receive certification from U of Q Institute, a trade school for bike mechanics.
More and more people responded to limited indoor activities because of the pandemic by pulling bikes out of storage and seeing they needed a tune-up before they’d be roadworthy.
“They’re dusting off the bikes that were in their garage or basement, and that’s where we came in,” Janunas said. “We decided to open this mobile bicycle repair service, because people either couldn’t fix their bikes or take their bikes to the shop.”
The company’s first big marketing endeavor was driving the van in the Riverside July 4 parade and handing out fliers.
“We kind of wanted to look at last year as the beginning, just getting the word out and knowing that in 2022 we were hoping that the pandemic would be less and we’d be able to add more business,” Janunas said.
The plan from the outset was for the business to be strictly mobile, stressing the “to you” aspect of the name. But Janunas at the same time was looking for locations to host clinics and work on bikes.
He first met with Village President Joseph Ballerine in January, and the train station location appeared a natural fit.
Janunas said the business will be open early in the mornings and in the evenings to serve commuters who may need work done on their bikes and then pick them up when they return from work.
MacNerland and Janunas also embraced the rental aspect of the business, one they hadn’t considered previously. Right now they have a fleet of four to six bikes, but they’re open to obtaining more – at least one tandem is on the way – depending on demand. The business will have outdoor access under the east portico to use for that part of the business.
“Ideally we’d like to have people come in from the city, take the train in — and we’re right here — grab a couple of bikes, tour the village, check out all the different architecture we have,” Janunas said.
Janunas said he hopes Gears2You can find creative ways to partner with other local businesses – there’s Sips & Sweets Café conveniently located right across the street – and organizations.
Gears2You partnered with the nonprofit Cycle Brookfield on a bike repair clinic in February and the organization will return the favor on May 6 when its Slow Roll Social Ride will cross First Avenue to visit Gears2You at the Riverside train station. Gears2You will also be the starting point in October for the Tour de Proviso bike ride.
“The dream is to conquer this area and then buy a van and conquer another area, and keep going wherever the direction takes us,” Janunas said.
Gears2You is the first business to occupy the eastern portion of the train station since 2012, when a coffee shop called Soul Amici Express exited the space. A real estate office occupied the space prior to 2009.