At Milford bike shop Lifecycle, bikes are more than alternative transportation or recreation—they’ve become vehicles to create a cohesive community.
Ben Jones and Jenn Rowan opened Lifecycle just two years ago bolstered by both their entrepreneurial spirits and a strong sense of idealism. Both native Sussex Countians, their marriage around the same time created a blended family with three sons ages 16, 13 and 11, “the dudes,” as Rowan says. She’s the outspoken extrovert, while Jones, a U.S. Marine veteran who saw combat in Afghanistan, is the more reserved mechanic.
Soon after they met, the couple realized their shared love of bicycles would someday become the path to their own bike shop. Both admit that Milford wasn’t their first choice;, and seriously considered relocating to Colorado to open a shop. But Rowan suggested they take their plans and implement them close to home.
“We decided to be the change we want to be in the world—here. To stay and create,” Jones says.
A registered nurse and occupational therapy assistant, Rowan draws on both her education and additional research to help fit customers for their new bicycles.
“Lifecycle is based on OTA (occupational therapy assistant) theories, centered on holistic wellness, functionality and physical activity that promotes a healthy body and mind,” Rowan says.
Having had prior experience with cycling communities that are based around expensive custom bikes and can seem unapproachable and elitist, both agreed that wasn’t what they wanted to create.
“Bikes are a great equalizer, a unifier,” says Rowan. “So, we wanted a community focus on how we help clients find a bike, how we make clients feel valued.”
Their approach has attracted clients with special needs—many of whom have become into friends. Now amputees as well as riders with autism, traumatic brain injury, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and cerebral palsy all enjoy adaptive cycling.
Jones, who previously worked in another bike shop, says he “fell in love riding to work in the Marines. I arrived to work happy. It’s good for the mind, good for the body, for the endorphin release.”
Those joys of cycling are exactly the experiences the couple like to share with community-based bike rides promoted through social media for all skill levels and ages and designed to promote rider safety and bike awareness for drivers. Rowan maps out the course, and then rides out to literally sweep the path.
“It’s awesome, surreal,” says Jones. The shop’s first summer night “glow ride” drew about 45 riders; the most recent attracted more than 200 cyclists who pedal together around Milford creating a joyful convoy embellished with glow sticks and ropes, bubbles and music.
“Wednesday nights are slow cruise, and we go all over Milford,” Rowan says. “People pour out of their houses cheering. It’s a happy feeling.”
“This is my dream come true,” Jones says. “I’m here being fulfilled every day. We put a lot on the line to make this world a better place: time, energy, focus and finances. Lifecycle is a for-profit business but structured as a nonprofit. We’re dedicated to growing the community through bicycles for all.”
For the future, the couple is focused on seeing more bikes on Milford’s streets. In addition, Rowan is working with local artists and DelDOT to create whimsical crosswalks around town for beautification and traffic calming.
“I’m surprised at the community response. Bicycles have become part of the culture and fun,” says Rowan. “I truly believe people on bicycles can change the world.”