During the bike boom of the early 1970’s, Kevin Babcock was hired by Harry R. Beach, owner of Beach’s Bike Shop, Endicott. At that time, single-speed fat tire and three-speed bikes were quickly being overtaken by the European ten-speed with racing handlebars. It was Babcock’s job to assemble, repair, and later sell these bikes for Mr. Beach. On any given day, dozens of new bikes would be sold, thus, Mr. Beach had a staff of good young workers. As co-workers, Kevin Babcock met Dale Buckthal, a collegian whose passion was bikes and anything related to bikes. A lifelong friendship was formed and many miles traveled together on wheels provided by their mentor, Mr. Beach.
Late in the 1970’s, Mr. Beach passed away and Beach’s Bike Shop became Ted’s Bike Shop, as Jan and Ted Makoske bought the 40 year old business and gave it a facelift. Through the passing of the ten-speed, to the mountain bike, to the specialty bikes, such as hybrid and comfort, Ted, Jan, and their family built friendships and sustained the reputation of the Twin Tier’s largest and best-known bike shop.
At the same time, collegiate Buckthal turned into Mr. Buckthal, teacher, and opened a bike shop in Owego, NY, involving Babcock. With Dale Buckthal’s encouragement, Kevin Babcock broke off on his own.
In June 1981, Babcock gained a bit of notoriety. Crossing the U.S. from Los Angeles to New York City was becoming the rage. Ithaca’s Jim Black was sponsored by Lotus Bicycles in an attempt to break the trans-continental record of 14 days. Babcock was hired to be the mechanic on the handful of state-of-the-art Lotus Bicycles. Although the record attempt failed, the experience gained on the road was invaluable.
Shortly after the cross-country journey, Babcock went full-time into the bicycle business and also worked closely with his friend Dale Buckthal, as Buckthal was laying the corner stone for what would be known as the Tioga Velo Club. As the monthly time trial turned into the weekly time trial, and even some road races, Babcock began to focus on the business aspects of cycling.
Babcock began to pack more and more inventory into the rented space at the corner of Main and Page. In the mid-1990’s, John Martens became Babcock’s right-hand man. John’s organizational abilities, along with Babcock’s quality oriented assembly and repair processes, resulted in a loyal following.
The 1990's were not only a growth period for the bike shop; Babcock also had a growing responsibility at home. He and his wife, Tracie, had two children. A girl, Molly, and a son Matthew, an avid hockey player. During this time Babcock purchased an ice skate sharpening machine and began sharpening for Matt. He soon was qualified to offer this service to all, including sharpening for several of the talented local high school players. On July 22, 2003, Babcock was awarded a United States Patent for a tool, “Ice Skate Blade Squaring Gauge, number- US 6,594,914 B1”. Mr. Babcock dons a smile when mentioning that he was able to have both children work along with him during their college years.
The year 2004 brought with it a new sense of excitement. One thousand square feet will only hold so many bikes, parts, and accessories. On September 7th, Kevin Babcock purchased Ted’s Bike Shop. Jan and Ted had felt the urge to live life to its fullest. Without the constraints of having to work six days a week, they were able to bike ride, sail their boat and spend lots of time traveling and visiting their much loved family.
Kevin Babcock vowed to merge all of the best features of Ted's Bike Shop and Babcock Bicycles into one extraordinary biking experience. Ted stated, "it's two great names under one roof". Indeed!
The first several years after the merger were spent integrating all of the inventory of the two stores into one. Several competing bicycle brands as well as hundreds of various parts and accessories had to be sorted and re-organized. Most important during those early days of integration was the melding of both Ted's and Babcock's client bases. Also, the building, built in the 1800's, received update projects each year; central heating and air-conditioning, carpeting, roof, fixture layout, lighting, painting and an interesting back wall mural. All the while, the Babcock staff stayed abreast of the most current fitting and sizing concepts by attending specialty schools from both Fit Kit and Trek.
The bicycle business rolled steadily along until early 2015, when Babcock was contacted by an organization named PeopleForBikes and asked to participate in a funding effort for bicycle transportation. The lobbying group was brought to Washington, DC and had in depth meetings with staff members of senators and representatives in the several office buildings on Capitol Hill. It was an inspiring trip for Mr. Babcock to witness our representative government at work, and funding was granted in that years Transportation Bill.
After being in the bicycle business for 40 years, Babcock wanted to see where his vision of a quality bike shop stood in the hierarchy of American bicycle shops. In a trade journal, he came across an invitation to be graded against the other bicycle businesses in the United States. Following up with an extensive application and being visited by mystery shoppers, Babcock Bicycles was awarded “America’s Best Bike Shops” rating by the National Bicycle Dealers Association in 2015. That award was sought after and granted for 5 straight years. “There is a great sense of accomplishment being named along with the best dealers our industry has to offer” states Babcock. Asked whether he has any future plans, “Now it’s time to climb the next hill on the road of life”.