Before mountain bikes became commonplace, before the cycling subculture took off, there was Mike's Bike Shop.

In July 1974, Mike Stanley moved to Cannon Beach and opened the business as a spry 27-year-old.

Forty years later, Stanley, still the only owner and operator, is preparing to sell his business and retire in Corvallis.

"The business has a long history, and it's a very steady history," he said.

The attraction of Mike's Bike Shop -- what he believes distinguishes it from other bike shops -- is that the shop is anything but elitist. Customers who aren't die-hard cyclists feel comfortable in the unpretentious, blue-collar space.

Most of them hail from the Pacific Northwest and Canada. Stanley often finds himself catering to touring cyclists with "fairly unusual problems" that he has to take care of right away. And he has the parts and the skill to get them back on the road in the same day.

One customer's family has bought eight bikes from Stanley. "I've dealt with three different generations," he said. "I'm the grandfather generation."

Stanley is also popular among Cannon Beach's second homeowners (or what he calls "seasonal locals"), who make a habit of keeping their bikes in town while they're away and returning to them during vacation months.

The shop began in an obscure location as a place for renting one-speed cruisers and repairing all manner of bikes. Stanley moved it into a two-car garage (which is now Jupiter's Rare and Used Books) the following year.

In 1985, he doubled his space -- and doubled his business -- when he relocated for the last time to a carpenters' shop next door.

By that point, mountain bikes had been well-established for about five years. And Mike's Bike Shop had evolved over a decade into a six-pillar business: repairs, rentals, retail bikes, parts, accessories and clothing.

Cross-country and beyond

Before founding Mike's Bike Shop, Stanley had spent eight months biking from Portland, up the Washington coast, through the San Juan Islands and across Canada.

He caught a Russian ship from Montreal to London and proceeded to tour Wales, Ireland and, finally, Paris.

He made the journey -- the longest of his life -- on a Gitane, a racing bike of French manufacture whose name means "Gypsy woman."

Back then, cross-country cycling had yet to catch on as a mass hobby, and bicycles were not yet viewed as a viable means of alternative transportation across long distances, he said.

"When you were a solitary cyclist, you were unusual in those days," he said.

Upon returning to Portland, he worked at a bike shop for three months under the tutelage of an old Italian bike mechanic.

This was the only formal training Stanley ever received. By and large, he is self-taught.

Before entering high school, he was a bike enthusiast and taught himself to repair bikes in his mid-teens.

"At that time, you could buy a road bike in a box and assemble it yourself," he said. "There really wasn't much of an infrastructure for cycling."

Neither were there very many bike shops in his hometown of Minneapolis, Minn.

Stanley graduated from Bemidji State University (then Bemidji State College) in 1969 as an art major and biology minor. As an undergrad, he drew illustrations for professors' doctorate theses and, after moving to Oregon in 1970, spent three years working as a graphic artist illustrator at the University of Oregon Medical School.

But he didn't particularly enjoy sitting in one place and "doing intense graphics" all day long.

In 1972, after moving to Portland, he biked all the way to Tillamook and stayed overnight at Oswald West State Park in Arch Cape. It was his first time riding to the Oregon coast.

Two years later, Stanley returned -- this time, as an entrepreneur.

Enjoying the ride

The biggest change came in the early 1980s when mountain bikes hit the market.

"It brought people in who are normally insecure about road bikes," Stanley said.

Thanks to the new product line, 1986 was such a strong year for Mike's Bike Shop that Stanley built a house on that year's profits alone.

Around that time, former Oregon Gov. Victor Atiyeh appointed Stanley to serve on the state's Recreation Trails Advisory Committee, a position he held from 1985-87.

The '90s were a busy decade for Stanley.

In 1994, he helped Bob Teagle, the chief forester for a private landowner, organize the first mountain bike race on the Oregon coast, held along a 22-mile stretch through the trails and logging roads east of Cannon Beach.

During the offseason, he and his wife, Christine Stanley, traveled to Europe twice and spent a month in Honduras.

Meanwhile, Mike's Bike Shop enabled him, as the main breadwinner, to raise his son and youngest stepdaughter in Cannon Beach.

In 2009, Mike Stanley's doctor diagnosed him with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He underwent chemotherapy through the winter of 2010.

The ordeal, which lasted about six months, affected him profoundly and led to his decision to hand over the business to someone new.

"When you face something like cancer, you start reconsidering (your life)," he said. "You want to find more leisure time. You want to go out there and enjoy life."

After being in the bike business for the past 40 years, when cycling became a prominent part of urban society, the 66-year-old Stanley feels "it's time for a change."

Though still looking for a buyer, Stanley plans to pass on his business by summer 2014. He envisions the bike shop becoming a family operation that maintains the harmony of the commercial square.

When he leaves, Stanley will become the latest business owner in that downtown square, nestled between North Hemlock and North Spruce streets, to move on. Laura Cobb-Stewart closed House of the Potter in December 2013, and John and Lisa Fraser, co-owners of Once Upon a Breeze kite shop, are offering their business for sale.

Stanley is grateful for all the friends and loyal customers who kept Mike's Bike Shop open for four decades.

Again and again, he hears from cyclists whose lives he changed by introducing them to road and mountain bikes. Many of them who work in stressful occupations have said that cycling has become their "balance" in life.

"It is a profession that can support somebody down here," he said.

Anyone interested in continue Stanley's tradition can contact Mark Krowiak, owner and broker of Columbia North Business Network, at

This story originally appeared in Cannon Beach Gazette.


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