Icycle Sports started in the summer of 1998 by Patrick Plemel in his basement in Riverdale. In 1999 they opened their first location on Wood Street, then had multiple locations until 2006 when they moved to their current location on Quartz Road.
Since its inception, it has undergone many changes, including a change in ownership.
Originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Jonah Clark has owned and owned and managed Icycle Sports since 2012.
“In my early 30s I realised I needed to do something more with my life,” Clark said. “I always thought I could open a bike shop, it’s always been a dream.”
“It’s an incredible amount of work. It’s not that easy to start a bike shop”. Things like inventory, access to brands, existing competition, etc.
“Taking over ownership and responsibility was daunting.”
Clark has a philosophy degree and has worked as a bike messenger and mechanic. In his position as a bike messenger, he learned how to run a business. “You learn to have an affinity for working for yourself, managing your time and your job,” Clark said. “I really enjoyed working for myself.”
He has always ridden a bike and used to compete in cross-country racing in Manitoba. Clark came up to Whitehorse to visit a friend in April 2005. “I walked into Icycle Sports and asked for a pedal to fix my bike – and asked if they needed a mechanic,” Clark said. “The wages were better up here; so I flew home, quit my job, packed my stuff and drove back to Whitehorse.”
His plan was to work “just for the summer” in 2005 as a bike mechanic, but like many, the spell of the Yukon captured him and in 2006 became service manager at Icycle Sports.
“I love Whitehorse, it has amazing access to nature and outdoor sports.”
In 2006, Icycle Sports went on to sell winter products such as Nordic skis and snowshoes, broadening their product lines and enabling a year round business.
They introduced fat bikes to Whitehorse in 2007.
“The initial challenge was to convince hard core bikers to ride in winter, and the first four to five years it wasn’t successful,” Clark said.
But after this period of time fat bikes became popular and has allowed for Icycle Sports to run a bike shop in the winter.
In addition to the changes over the years, Icycle Sports has benefited greatly from the growth of Mount Sima and their with pre-season training camps. These have created busy times in November as skiers require products earlier in the year.
In 2016, as they were looking further into winter business products and servicing, a change came about. “Last year out of the blue, we heard Up North (Adventures) was stopping their winter business, this allowed us to expand into backcountry and avalanche touring equipment,” Clark said.
This is the just the most recent step that lead to business growth.
There have been many challenges and a common one for the Yukon is staffing. “Staffing is difficult as the products and servicing are highly technical,” Clark said. “I came up with a strategy to increase winter business, such as fat bikes, which allowed for ongoing service business. There is a constant challenge with seasonal change over and levels, so now there are more year-round permanent jobs.
“When people do leave you need to see it as an opportunity to bring new skills, background, knowledge,” Clark said. “You need to make a fun workplace, pay staff well and invest in them.”
Not only does Icycle Sports provide a variety of advanced equipment and services, but they also involve themselves heavily in the community.
“We try to sponsor everything we can. We help where we can,” Clark said. “Typically we try not to turn people down.
“In this type of community it’s important to support each other. Successful shops are engaged in the community.”
Staff are involved and engaged with the community from the mountain bike clubs and trails at Mount McIntyre.
“We helped the Single Track to Success program work with suppliers to get bikes cheaper for the volunteers involved in that project,” Clark said. He added that they continue to sponsor athletes and have a sponsorship program.
Mountain bike trail development is expanding. It’s no longer just Whitehorse and Carcross, but also developments out in Haines Junction and Dawson City, which allows for a stable growth in products and also servicing.
“Back in the day when I moved here, you had to know somebody who knew where the trails were. It was like an initiation into being a Yukoner,” Clark said. “Then the City of Whitehorse got involved and categorised, improved and developed trails in Whitehorse. This allowed mountain biking to explode here with the accessibility and safety.”
The future for Icycle Sports is to expand further into winter business with backcountry skis and snowboards and add more advanced winter servicing.
About Icycle Sports
Icycle Sports has bicycle sales, servicing and rentals in the summer and in the winter. Their products include fat bike (sales, service and rentals), cross country and backcountry touring skis, alpine and alpine touring/telemark ski sales and service.
They are located at 9002 Quartz Road.