The story of Eric Drake and Drake Cycles is the type of story I love to hear and showcase. From a 21-year-old kid reluctantly planning to attend CSU’s engineering school to an entrepreneur running arguably the best full-service and independently owned bike shop in Fort Collins. Drake Cycles has come a long way since Eric’s roommate first urged him to plant a sign in his front yard and an ad on Craigslist. While the growth has been slow, it has also been done with specific intent.

And yes, his last name is Drake, and the shop is located on Drake Road.

The story of Drake Cycles finds its roots in Springfield, Illinois, where a young Eric Drake was introduced to the world of bicycles at the tender age of three. Those early rides ignited a lifelong passion, with Eric becoming immersed in dirt jumping and street riding during his formative years. Fuelled by the adrenaline rush and captivated by the “New World Disorder” videos, he spent countless hours building ramps and honing his skills.

These early forays laid the foundation for Eric’s affinity for mechanics and bicycles, eventually leading him to RM Cyclery in Springfield. At just 13, he embarked on a journey that melded his natural mechanical inclinations with his deep-rooted passion for cycling, serving as a harbinger of things to come.

Eric’s quest for knowledge and his pursuit of a degree in engineering led him to Fort Collins, where he was destined to make his mark in an entirely unexpected manner. While the engineering path seemed preordained, life had a different trajectory in store for him.

In the spring of 2011, annoyed by and always complaining about all the college kids riding by on squeaky, poorly maintained bikes, Eric posted an unassuming sign in his yard and an ad on Craigslist offering bike repair services. “My roommate at the time told me to put a sign-out and an ad on Craigslist to try and get some business. I thought he was crazy at the time every shop under the sun was operating in fort collins. But soon we began to be busy doing pick up and delivery service. I immediately was so confused I started taking notes about why people were choosing to come to my garage for bicycle service. Over a month I found the people just didnt feel welcomed by local shops and were intimated. This is when I immediately began writing a business plan and looking for commercial real estate to operate in. I didn’t at the time, know how I was going to get money, and my dad had always said I had some money set aside for school, I showed him my plan, and we agreed to get a loan for 10k to start my shop. This was all very scrutinized and, at the time, not looked upon as the best since I did not want to go to school. We realized at the time that the market had yet to rebound from the 2008 recession, so we negotiated an amazing deal at 2100 west drake road in 2011 and opened up on July 11th, 2011.”

Eric’s innate understanding of his customers’ needs and his commitment to fostering a welcoming environment became the bedrock upon which Drake Cycles was built. With unwavering resolve, he channeled his energy and resources into transforming a fledgling idea into a fully-fledged bike shop.

Drake Cycles rapidly outgrew its modest 1000sf beginnings and moved to its current location at 902 West Drake Road. In May of 2023, with eight employees on the books, the shop expanded from 2400sf to 3800sf. Over the years its offerings expanded beyond repairs and parts to encompass a diverse array of bicycles, accessories, and apparel. The shop currently sells brands such as Cannondale, Kona, Rocky Mountain, and Scott, showcasing a commitment to providing customers with an unparalleled cycling experience.

Drake’s community engagement has been central to the business identity. With the help of J2 Consulting, the shop is leading the charge to get the Lory Bike Park’s jump lines and pump track rebuilt, they host mtb and gravel group rides, sponsor the CSU Rams Cycling Team, and support local events like the Send Town Short Track Races.

More from the Q&A

 YGR- Had opening a shop of your own ever entered your mind? I had absolutely never thought of a bike shop, but business was constantly on my mind we would come up with ideas and write business plans for fun.

YGR- Was it just you in the beginning or did you have a partner/employees? I started the shop by myself but had the help of one employee.

YGR- Do you remember your first sale in the shop?  Yes, I do it was a gentleman named Dennis we have since become friends and he still to this day comes in.

YGR- Tell us about the shop when it first opened. When we first opened our shop was just under 1000 sq ft. For the first two years we just did service and parts sales. In 2012 we got Breezer city bikes and in 2014, we got Rocky Mountain mountain bikes and in 2017 we got Cannondale and Kona bikes. We started off with just two people for a year or so then we added an additional person and ended up with four of us working in that location.

YGR- Tell us about the recent expansion. We have added an additional 1400 sq feet mainly for additional retail space to make the shopping experience better and more shoppable. We will add an area to do full suspension services, nitrogen and all, as well as an additional service bench for the mechanics. We are excited about two new offices for our management and inventory responsibilities but we also added a break room which feels pretty high-end for a bunch of bike shop people haha.

YGR- Did you ever think Drake Cycles would become one of the number-one shops in Fort Collins? You know my goal has always been to do the best I think being so young sometimes seeing into the future in terms of half your age can be difficult but I’m a person who never gives up and always is trying 100% to innovate grow and be the best. So with time and continued efforts, we have slowly grown our business to be an excellent experience for both our employees and customers

YGR-  How has your business model changed throughout the years? Well, originally, we had only planned to do service but that was because of financial constraints, so as we have earned more money and market share we have evolved to become a bicycle dealership offering everything bicycle relates. Bike, service, parts, car racks, clothes, helmets, all accessories. Our core values have always been the same, create a welcoming environment where everyone is treated fair and we help our customers make their dreams a reality.

YGR- A lot of people are surprised to learn that your last name is Drake. Was opening a shop on Drake Road always part of the plan? Well, that’s a funny story my sister was quite older than me, 11 years, When she came to CSU we discovered drake road I always wanted to be an engineer and start a business on Drake Road, haha Drake Engineering. Of course, when the bike shop became a thing, it was a no brainer.

YGR- Why do you think the shop has been so successful? Im relentless, I have built everything from the store to the fixtures to the relationships with the employees, vendors, and customers. I love taking risks and seeing it come to fruition. When I get discouraged, I regroup with tenacity and ever-evolving tactics. But at the end of the day, none of this would be possible without our wonderful staff, over the years we have had many, many wonderful people help us along this journey, thanks are owed to them for their dedication and hard work.

YGR-I know you like work with your hands, tell us about some of the fixtures that you built for the shop. Well, building things is absolutely my favorite thing in life. I have built all the bicycle display racks in the shop, our work benches, display counter almost everything in the shop I built.

YGR-Plans for the future? Continue to grow Drake Cycles to the point where I can expand into different business ventures.

YGR- Have you considered additional locations? I don’t believe in multiple locations I think more people have proved that to be unsuccessful than successful, but if I have learned one thing it’s to be careful what you say because anything is possible.

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