Regional WA bike store owner Erik Mellegers is selling his famously quirky Crank’n Cycles store to focus on spreading the word about the thriving off-road cycling scene in the State’s South West.
The one-time theology student has been in increasing demand as a commentator at sporting and community events and will also concentrate his efforts on running off-road cycling events in and around his home town of Collie.
The multiple Bunbury criterium champion and former elite mountain biker says the change in emphasis will enable him to spend more time on the bike again and, more importantly, more time with his young family.
“It’s one of those stores that is a destination, to have a look at what he’s got stashed away.”
Erik has found a buyer for Crank’n Cycles, warehouse logistics expert Adam Richards, and the handover is on track to take place by September.
Adam, who started his working career as a mechanic in Geraldton store the Bicycle Entrepreneur in the mid-1990s, says he was transfixed by Crank’n Cycles when he first visited the shop in 2014.
“I came down to Collie to visit friends and do some mountain biking, and they said ‘you’ve got to go see Erik’s shop’. Everyone knows Crank’n Cycles. It’s one of those stores that is a destination, to have a look at what he’s got stashed away,” Adam said.
“We spent close to an hour just exploring this little shop that day. He has a museum up above the store and all this bizarre road gear you won’t find anywhere else.
“People come for a look and they always leave with something, whether they need it or not,” he said.
“Nipping at the heels of Margaret River as the State’s top off-road cycling destination.”
“I aim to keep the quirkiness but I want to modernise it to a point, without losing that olde charm. It’s going to be a balancing act, to keep it a destination shop when people come to Collie to ride its trails.”
Adam said that influx of cycling tourists was growing steadily because of massive investment by the WA government, which was a large motivation for purchasing the store.
The State Government is three years into a four-year, $10 million program to construct mountain bike trails and associated facilities in the Collie district.
Adam said the town of around 7,600 people is “nipping at the heels of Margaret River” as the State’s top off-road cycling destination.
“While Margaret River still has the tourism reputation, Collie’s strength is it has trails for everyone,” he said.
Built on a coal industry spanning more than a century, Collie is benefitting from a concerted WA government campaign to convert the town into an outdoor adventure destination – complete with massive mining pits transformed into lakes.
Erik has been a pillar of a similar, community-driven campaign that easily pre-dates the government’s efforts to morph Collie into a more sustainable economy and insulate it against the global shift from fossil fuels.
Soon after buying the bike store 17 years ago, Erik saw the potential for mountain biking in Collie.
“Collie is well on its way to becoming WA’s first registered trail town.”
The town has been a hub for road and track cycling, particularly during the mid 20th century, and that heritage helped inspire Erik to emerge as a road cycling champion and local time trial record holder.
As he progressively shifted his own focus to racing as an elite mountain biker, Erik was prominent in the establishment of a local mountain bike club, under the umbrella of the town’s road cycling club, and headed the roll-out of volunteer-built MTB trails.
“A lot of things have happened over those 17 years and now Collie is well on its way to becoming WA’s first registered trail town,” he said.
“There are still a few boxes the council and Parks & Wildlife are ticking off to complete that process.”
Erik said trail town status, under a framework formed by the State Government, would be bestowed on regional centres that met criteria for the distance and quality of available trails, accommodation and bike maintenance and storage facilities.
He said Collie would have close to 300km of cycling and walking trails once the Government’s four-year program was complete, as well as facilities for kayaking, swimming and water skiing.
“They’re also looking at restoring and resealing the 320-metre banked velodrome, and build a pump track in the middle, to bring together the different disciplines in cycling,” he said.
It is one of the State’s few remaining open-air velodromes and was the scene of regular Friday night events that drew riders and their families from throughout the region.
“A large number of riders would travel the 50 or 60km from Bunbury to race,” he said.
Born in Holland, “the home of cycling”, Erik grew up in Collie from the early 1980s after his father got a job in the mining industry.
After studying engineering and theology, Erik decided he wanted to own a bike shop. He started working in hi-fi and white goods retail and gradually built the experience and capital to buy a bicycle business.
He took on a sales position at a Bunbury bike store but when plans for him to eventually buy the business didn’t materialise, Erik instead bought the Bikes ‘R’ Us store in Collie in 2007.
It was primarily a family bike shop created nine years earlier by Harry Wiggers, who combined two Collie businesses, Robbie’s Bikes and Bill Atkinson’s Bike Shop. The latter had a history dating back to the 1930s.
Erik kept much of the store’s country town charm, including its smattering of games and toys, but immediately changed the name to Crank’n Cycles and increased the selection of higher-end bikes.
“We became one of the biggest BMC accounts in Australia,” he said.
“Collie was also huge for street and freestyle BMX and we were one of BMX International’s biggest customers.
“We now concentrate largely on mountain bikes and electric mountain bikes, as well as a hire fleet for all the tourists coming to the area – and that will grow going forward.”
Introduction to Commentating
Deeply entwined in the bike racing scene, Erik got involved with Margaret River farmer and keen amateur cyclist Brendon Morrison, who founded and owns the Tour of Margaret River stage road race and Seven gravel event.
Brendon’s company, Cycling Eventures, 24-hour road races and Erik found himself on the microphone commentating one of those events.
“I then got calls to do other commentating roles and, over time, became known for my fairly zany and colourful outfits, including my trademark matching fedora hats and Crocs,” he said.
Erik is now commentating at events including Seven and the Tour of Margaret River, as well as the Goldfields Cyclassic road race and the Cape to Cape and Dwellingup 100 mountain bike events.
“Now the impact I can have locally with the bike shop is a lot less than the impact I can have with developing and growing events in Collie.”
At 44 years of age, Erik recently created his Ride Collie company and website as part of his greater emphasis on commentary – which this month included commentating at the World Transplant Games in Perth.
Erik is also moving into event management and will run a new Collie River Mountain Bike Marathon in late July, as well as a planned major gravel race in the district next year.
“Over the past 17 years, I’ve grown the bike shop and the market around it, with the trails and so forth,” he said.
“Now the impact I can have locally with the bike shop is a lot less than the impact I can have with developing and growing events in Collie.
“I had a choice to keep the store … or run events and other activities ancillary to that, and still be able to spend more time with my wife and two sons, who have just turned five and nine.
“I’m also keeping the trophy and engraving side of the business, which will work well with being involved in events.
“The new owner of Crank’n Cycles will put his own spin and ideas into the bike shop and give it a new lease on life.”