June 2007

A Passion for Peddling

Author: Becca Dupps Edwards

Elliot “Red” Gray, the Manager of Hilton Head Bicycle Company, stays in constant motion, peddling the island’s largest rental and retail bicycle shop. “This business is full, flowing and continuous,” he said, pushing up his sleeves and exposing a Lance Armstrong “Live Strong” bracelet.

Gray gets into gear early every day in order to produce an efficient and steady rotation of incoming and outgoing rental product by fully servicing all the bikes in the morning, coordinating delivery and completing the cycle by picking up bikes to be maintained and prepped for the following day.

Of the 1400 bikes Gray rents, he says he is usually out of inventory every week by Tuesday. “Between Internet and call-in reservations, our busiest days are Friday through Monday. If someone wants to rent a bike, they should contact us at least a week in advance,” Gray advised.

The path to success for the Hilton Head Bicycle Company began in 1994 when owners Elaine and Harold Meister started the company. Over the past 13 years, the company has trekked to the top with a simple and effective philosophy. “We could have gotten a lot bigger over the years,” said Harold Meister, “but size is not important.”

Gray nods in agreement. “Our company does not focus on growing bigger; it focuses on getting better,” Gray said. He believes that the quality of Hilton Head Bicycle Company’s product is where the rubber meets the road. “Over three years ago, I began switching from steel to aluminum frames to increase the durability of our product. We also store our bikes in a warehouse to protect them from environmental elements,” he explained.

In tandem with sparkling spokes and greased gears, Gray also gives close consideration to outstanding customer service. “We give a promise here to the customer,” he said. “If you have a mechanical problem, we can swap you out within the hour.” Inasmuch, Gray says he deals with several people from outside the state who do not know how to ride a bike. To accommodate their needs, he offers “trikes” (adult bikes with training wheels) and “ally cats” (children’s bikes designed for first-time users).

Likewise, the retail component of the company walks the consumer through the process of owning and caring for a bike. “We are an authorized dealer of Caloi, Cannondale and Giant bikes,” said Gray. The benefit of buying from Hilton Head Bicycle Company is that you can speak at length with a knowledgeable person and select the bike that best suits you. In addition, Hilton Head Bicycle Company will help you with the regular upkeep of your bike by washing it with solvent, lubricating the cables, adjusting the brakes and gears and making the wheels “true.”
According to Meister, “There is no one on the island who knows more about bikes than Red.” Gray smiles in appreciation and says his extensive background in automobile mechanics steered him towards bicycling in the first place.

“I learned from the best and I became a competitive bicyclist several years ago,” Gray said, pointing to a bike in the shop. “That one right there is mine.” Gray looks at the bike as if it was an old friend, and his passion for peddling becomes even more apparent. His enjoyment of the sport is contagious. It keeps old clients coming back year after year. And it has made Hilton Head Bicycle Shop a trailblazing success.

Popular Places to Bicycle
•Bristol Bank Park
•Coligny Beach
•Over the Cross Island Parkway Bridge into Spanish Wells
•Daufuski Island
•Newhall Audubon Nature Preserve
•Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
•Sea Pines Forest Preserve
•With a pass, any plantation on the island

Interesting Bicycling Facts
•First introduced in 19th-century Europe, bicycles now number over one billion worldwide, providing the principal means of transportation in many regions, notably China and the Netherlands.
•A 15-minute bike ride, five times a week, burns off the equivalent of 11 pounds of fat in a year.
•In terms of the amount of energy a person must expend to travel a given distance, researchers have calculated bicycling to be the most efficient self-powered means of transportation.
•Historically, materials used in bicycles have followed a similar pattern as in aircraft, the goal being strength and low weight.
•The diamond-frame safety bicycle gave women unprecedented mobility, contributing to their emancipation in Western nations.
•Cyclists and pedestrians actually absorb lower levels of pollutants from traffic fumes than car drivers.
•Moderate exercise has been found to reduce levels of depression and stress, improve mood and raise self-esteem, relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and reduce the risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and the most common form of diabetes.

Elliott Red Gray

“Bicycling is a marriage between the bicyclist, who is somewhat adaptable, and the bicycle, which is somewhat adjustable.” Elliott “Red” Gray

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