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Small Biz Saturday: Wheels in Motion keeps cyclists moving around Ann Arbor

Family-owned bicycle and repair shop is helping Ann Arborites to keep cycling

Wheels in Motion mechanic Nick Ramsey and shop dog Kali Plotner.
Wheels in Motion mechanic Nick Ramsey and shop dog Kali Plotner. (Travis Plotner)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Established in 1933, Wheels in Motion has served Ann Arbor cyclists for 87 years.

The family-owned-and-operated shop started out as Campus Bike & Toy on Depot Street and has moved to different locations throughout its long history.

Now located on Washtenaw Ave, the bicycle business and repair shop has been busy working to help essential workers and Ann Arbor cyclists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wheels in Motion co-owner Travis Plotner said, at first, the shop could only work on bicycles used by essential infrastructure workers, but the relaxation of restrictions under Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order have allowed the bicycle shop to help more customers with repairs and cycling gear.

“We still decided to keep our showroom closed for the safety of our staff, because that’s been at the forefront of every decision that we’ve had to make as we’ve had to pivot through all these situations,” Plotner said.

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Dexter Desantz-Cook working on a bicycle at Wheels in Motion.
Dexter Desantz-Cook working on a bicycle at Wheels in Motion. (Travis Plotner)

But there have been other impacts of the pandemic. During the summer, he usually has a staff of around 30 people between his two locations. Now he is down to just 10.

Although the business is operating, he and his staff have had to navigate new, inventive ways to serve more customers, reorganize their inventory and repair more bikes. Plotner said that the company typically delivers between 20 to 40 bikes a day while also picking up between 20 to 40 bikes for repair.

The showroom of Wheels in Motion has become an improvised garage for bicycles awaiting repair.

“There’s definitely a bicycle boom right now in America and globally,” Plotner said. His suppliers are actually out of new bicycles, so he’s moved all of his inventory to the Ann Arbor location of Wheels in Motion.

With more people staying home and choosing to cycle, Plotner said there has been more work for his reduced staff.

“There’s a ton of opportunity right now,” Plotner said. “And the whole staff feels the electricity that we’re getting all of these people who normally wouldn’t be in the bike industry or who normally wouldn’t be on a bicycle, so it’s giving us a lot of energy and excitement to talk to these new people.”

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The Wheels in Motion has been repairing bikes from around Ann Arbor since the end of April.
The Wheels in Motion has been repairing bikes from around Ann Arbor since the end of April. (Travis Plotner)

Around 80 percent of online sales for Wheels in Motion have been new customers, which Plotner said has made working at the shop really positive.

“So although we’re really busy and there are some inefficiencies, I think the vibe in the bike shop right now is a really positive one -- to know that we are able to do our job and that we’re able to bring people a healthy activity to help them right now with what they are probably dealing with.”

In the future, Plotner envisions that once it is safe to reopen completely, that he and his staff will transition to more one-on-one appointments.

Over the course of its long history in Ann Arbor, the bike shop has been involved in community events and organizations. It regularly sponsors free rides, works with mountain bike race teams and local fundraisers.

Wheels in Motion is at 3402 Washtenaw Ave. It also has another location in Plymouth, Michigan.

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Bikes awaiting repair are being stored in the Wheels of Motion showroom.
Bikes awaiting repair are being stored in the Wheels of Motion showroom. (Travis Plotner)

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