Anderson, Indiana

Business Profile: Buckskin Bikes teaches Zen, art of bike maintenance

Tue, 2013-04-09 11:17 -- univcomm
April 9, 2013

Name of business: Buckskin Bikes

Location: 517 W. 11th Street, Anderson

Owner: Ben Orcutt (2011 Anderson University Department of Art+Design graduate)

Opened: June 2012

Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday

Services: Parts for bicycles, repairs, classes on how to do small repairs at home

In the owner’s words: A bicycle is more than just metal gears, tires and chain — it’s freedom.

“When everything else in your life is crazy, it’s a way to take control,” said Ben Orcutt, an avid rider, mechanic and amateur bike philosopher. “It’s empowerment. It’s a tool of liberation.”

Last summer, Orcutt opened Buckskin Bikes parts and repair shop at 517 W. 11th St. It’s nothing fancy — no high-tech bike gear or colorful, Tour-de-France-style spandex suits, because “that’s not Anderson, and that’s not me,” Orcutt said.

Orcutt opened Buckskin after observing bike lovers in Anderson who couldn’t afford expensive parts, repairs or who couldn’t reach shops on the city’s East side.

“For some people, a bike is their main form of transportation,” he said. “If it’s broken and you need it fixed, it’s not like you can walk there.”

It all goes back to the idea of freedom — which is the reasoning behind another, more counterintuitive side of the westside bike shop.

At the front of the store, high school kids line up along tool benches, turning socket wrenches and smudging instruction manuals with chain-grease fingerprints.

Orcutt provides the manuals and tools for free as a part of his non-profit side business, Shadeland Bicycle Collective, which seeks to empower people by teaching basic bicycle maintenance.

A big chunk Buckskin’s profits comes from making repairs, but “I don’t look at it like I’m giving away business,” Orcutt said. “We live in the age of the Internet. All that information’s out there anyway. So why not come here, where there’s an actual person?”

Riders still pay for big repairs, Orcutt said, and an added bonus is that he can build a relationship with potential customers.

“They’ll come back and sometimes only buy from me,” he said. “They know I know what I’m doing and that I’ll give them a fair price.”

Orcutt also does paid lessons some mornings, and is considering adding a summer series beginning with how to change a tire. People can bring their own bikes, so the lesson is tailored to their specific needs.

“We see people who ride street bikes, mountain bikes, expensive ones and ones people maybe found in an alley and ride to work,” he said. “All ages, all demographics. They (bicycles) are hugely wide-reaching.”

—Baylee Pulliam is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin. Photo credit: John P. Cleary. Story republished with permission.

The Department of Art+Design at Anderson University offers majors in the areas of fine arts studio, visual communication design, and visual arts education. Students gain experience through intensive studio practice, professional internships, and by working closely with a faculty of professional artists and designers.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.