After a bike trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina in 1981 with Harold Boyd, Ken Weatherman and his 12-year-old son Clay Pullen, the now retired Georgia Highlands College history professor decided during a night on the beach that they ought to come home and open a bike shop. “The next year we did,” Pullen said.
The business started out in the old Hamilton building, where C&S Trophies is now located, which at the time was owned by Charles Southerland of Southerland Transfer. “I put on my biking shorts and helmet and rode down here one morning, and I told him I was out scouting around for a place to put a bike shop,” Pullen said. “After a while he said, ‘Why don’t do you put it in here?’”
Pullen bought the building in 1984.
Back in the early days, his son Clay served as a teenage manager for the shop before heading off to Emory University where he earned his way through college at Bicycle South. Clay returned to the business for a while, wanting to help grow the bike business and added some other outdoor recreation gear.
The business moved to its present location in the early 1990s.
The bike business has been just about what Pullen had imagined through the years. “If it had grown much more I couldn’t have done it,” Pullen said. After all, he was working full-time as a professor at Georgia Highlands until 1997. “This was always kind of a hobby on the side. As long as Clay was here, he was the teenage manager of the shop,” Pullen said. His son did bike repair work, purchasing and basically ran the shop. “I was right at his side the whole time,” Pullen said.
Pullen said the he looks at the current movement to establish more trails in the Rome and Floyd County area from a couple of different perspectives.
“It’s beneficial for the bike business,” Pullen said. He remembers a couple from Rockmart who came in and bought a couple of bikes to take advantage of the Silver Comet Trail.
I think one of the greatest things we could do is connect with the Silver Comet Trail in Rockmart,” said Ann Pullen, the professor’s wife. “If that could be accomplished it would greatly benefit outdoor activities in Rome and all the way to Atlanta.”
As a trail user, he thinks there needs to be more trails because some of Rome’s trails, particularly Ridge Ferry Park, can get pretty congested.
The industry has come a long way during the past 30 years. Pullen said his top road bike in 1982 sold for $155. “It was not anything like what we have today,” Pullen said. A good road bike today might sell for $750.
Michael Barger has been Pullen’s right hand in the shop for close to 15 years.
“Specialized is a world class, Tour de France class bicycle, and that’s our main stuff,” Pullen said. “We don’t need but one brand like that.” Specialized sponsored the HTC, Lampre-ISD and Omega Pharma-Lotto teams in the 2011 Tour de France.
The Haro line is a cluster of three different bikes. Pullen has carried Haro since you couldn’t buy a Haro bicycle.
“You bought a Haro frame or fork,” Pullen said. Haro has grown into a full line of bikes, moving from BMX to mountain bikes and are very protective of their niche in the industry. They make a road bike under the Masi name and a comfort-hybrid bike under the Del Sol name.
One of the 30th anniversary deals Pullen is planning for the month of May involves the Del Sol brand.
It wasn’t too long ago that mountain bikes, or all-terrain bikes, were the leading selling in Pullen’s shop. Back when he was first getting into business, Specialized had a mass production mountain bike, which it called the Stumpjumper. The mountain biking segment of the industry became huge, especially in the South.
Now hybrid bikes, or comfort bikes, the recreational bikes, are the big sellers.
Cycling in Rome got a boost after the city-hosted stages of the Tour de Georgia. “I never realized a spike in sales at the time, but certainly it generated interest and been good for the bicycle business,” Pullen said.
Increasing gas prices has also spurred additional interest in bikes. “I don’t think many have taken to commuting (on their bikes) yet,” Pullen said.
A Complete Streets movement was picking up steam in Congress before the recession hit, developing new thoroughfares that promoted a safe share the road concept between motorists and bikers. Pullen said he hopes that can be recaptured as the economy improves.
Service has always been one of the hallmarks of Pullen’s Ordinary Bicycles.
“We’ll not only have a model like you want, but likely, we’ll have it in a size, from extra small to extra large to fit your body,” Pullen said. His wife Ann Pullen said, “Somebody really needs to be measured for the right bike size; you can’t just go in and say, ‘I think this one will fit.’”
“We encourage our customers to take them out and ride them. That’s why we located in the Cotton Block, on the original bike trail in Rome, so that our customers could safely test ride their bikes,” George Pullen said.
After those test rides, customers can have the bicycles adjusted to exactly fit their own precise body frame.
“You can pay $129 for a discount store bike and it’s got bearings that are likely to wear out. It’s got cheaper gearing and brakes,” Pullen said. “We think we’re worth the extra money.”
In addition to sales and service, Pullen’s Ordinary Bicycles has a fleet of three-speed bikes that it offers to rent to customers.
The downtown bicycle store also provides a wide variety of bike accessories ranging from helmets to jerseys, gloves, shoes and so on.