Paul Bogaert: the Bike Doctor will see you now

Vancouver bike shop owner and activist puts fun first

Paul Bogaert of Bike Doctor

Paul Bogaert of Vancouver's Bike Doctor store.

By Ulrike Rodrigues

Larry Ruble is considered a bike industry guru who knows a good thing when he sees it. In 1982, the Mountain Bike Hall of Famer spotted a future in Paul Bogaert.

Recounts Ruble, “I was waiting for a young man at the Purdy’s Chocolates outlet in the lobby of the Empress Hotel to finish serving a very fussy woman … I found her requests and manner very exasperating.” Ruble turned his attention to the sales person serving her and noticed he had “the patience of Job.”

“He had the skills all retail clerks need, but seldom have,” said Ruble. “Being quite impressed, I asked him if he liked bicycles. My wife was pulling on my arm to get our chocolate order in, but I persisted with my questions and finally asked him if he would like to work for me at Russ Hay’s Bicycle Shop.”

Bogaert worked at Russ Hay’s through the summer, traveled, worked with his brother and then figured it wouldn’t be too hard to run his own small business. He opened a second-hand sporting goods store in Victoria, Canada in 1984: the first “Bike Doctor.”

Shaping Vancouver’s cycling advocacy

By 1989, Bogaert had traveled and worked in Mexico, Ottawa and Whistler, and opened Broadway Station Bikes. The East Vancouver shop attracted the city’s emerging cycle-activists, including Marilyn Pollard, Grant Watson, Allison Davis, Gavin Davidson, Andy Telfer, Richard Campbell and Jeff Hohner. With Bogaert’s encouragement and support combined with the strengths each of these leaders brought, they formed groups that shaped Vancouver cycling advocacy.

“The small group of people I was connected with in the early 1990s were doing all the work to promote cycling and to foster groups like BEST (Better Environmentally Sound Transportation) and OCB (Our Community Bikes),” said Bogaert.

Bike Doctor bike store counter

Stickers just for bikes at Bike Doctor in Vancouver, BC

As interest in trail cycling grew, so did Bogaert’s store. Bike Doctor moved to the Boundary area of East Hastings, then near its current location on West Broadway.

Community support and good fortune

Unlike many of his bicycle retail colleagues, Bogaert’s emphasis has always been on transportation biking. He thinks it’s “good fortune” that consumer interest has shifted toward the kind of cycling he promotes.

“It’s not that I knew this was coming, but it’s super-needed. It’s something that I’ve been wanting, working at and trying to support, and it’s now becoming popular.”

Bogaert has also always been a reliable supporter of the bike community. When he closed his Hastings Street location, he donated thousands of dollars’ worth of product to BEST’s fledgling Main Station Bikes store. When Momentum Magazine started, Bike Doctor was one of its first advertisers. When Bike Summer, Bike Shorts and Velopalooza arrived in Vancouver, Bogaert provided funding, prizes and elbow grease to the events.

The community has supported him in turn. Bike Doctor still regularly rates as one of the top bike stores in city polls.

Says Bogaert, “But my greatest satisfaction is seeing people who came in and said ‘I really don’t plan to ride to work much’, and six months later they’re like, ‘I can’t believe how much I’m riding!’ That great connection that happens with a person and the right bike and – suddenly they become a cyclist. They realize that they can do it, and it’s fun, and it’s really not that hard.”

To Bike Doctor’s Paul Bogaert, having fun on a bike just makes sense. Maybe it’s even better than chocolate.

Bike Doctor, 137 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC, (across from MEC), 604-873-2453, thebikedr.com

Published in the January/February 2010 issue of Momentum: the magazine for self-propelled people.

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