Brunow empowers riders with special bikes
JEFFERSON – The bicycles that fill the showroom of All Ability Cycles are different from those often seen on trails and roads around Iowa.
For starters, the bikes at the Jefferson shop are lower to the ground than a typical 10-speed. And most of them are actually tricycles.
For those who can’t climb on a conventional bike because of a disability, the specialized bicycles and tricycles are nothing less that a ticket to exercise and social interaction, according to shop owner John Brunow.
”Somebody may be in a wheelchair, but when you get them onto a trike they can do extraordinarily well and cover a lot of distance,” he said.
His business, which opened on the City Square in August 2011, specializes in bicycles and tricycles for the disabled that are called adaptive cycles.
”Most of our work is finding products that are adaptive,” Brunow said.
”Local bike shops want to help people, but maybe the adaptive work is more than they want to do, so by us having good relationships with other bike stores, they refer people to us,” he added.
Many of the bikes and trikes in the shop are imported from Europe. Others come from Australia.
Brunow said he sells a lot of tricycles.
There are two common styles of tricycles, he said. The delta style has one wheel in the front and two in the back, just like a child’s tricycle. The tadpole style has two wheels in the front and one in the back. Both styles can be equipped with hand cranks rather than pedals so that those who can’t use their legs can propel the tricycle. Hand brakes or coaster brakes are available also.
Many of the customers at All Ability Cycles haven’t ridden a bicycle for years or thought they would never be able to do so again, according to Brunow. Getting those people back on the road or trail is the most rewarding part of the job for him, he said.
Brunow said he spends about one day a week visiting with medical professionals and groups like the Iowa Parkinson’s Disease Association to promote the availability of the specialized tricycles and bicycles.
There are some bicycles for sale at All Ability Cycles that aren’t tailor-made for the disabled, but few people would probably call those bikes conventional because they fold up.
Brunow said the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, got him interested in the folding bikes.
On the day of the attacks, he was running a bike shop in Vienna, Va., and his wife, Celia Melson, was working in Washington, D.C. Amid the chaos, it wasn’t certain how she was going to get out of the capital and to their home in the suburbs. Brunow considered riding their tandem bicycle into Washington to get her. That proved unnecessary and Melson got home safely. But the incident caused Brunow to believe people may want a folding bike in their office for emergency transportation or just to take a spin on their lunch break, so he began selling them.
The bicycle business is a third career for the Centerville native. He started in politics, serving six years in the Iowa House of Representatives. He was then elected auditor of Appanoose County.
Next, he went into insurance and worked in New Hampshire and Washington, D.C.
He left the world of insurance for that of bicycles.
”I made a career change and have been happier ever since,” he said.
Brunow completed a two-week mechanic’s course at United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, Ore.
While running the bicycle shop in Virginia, he became interested in adaptive cycling for the disabled. The shop, he said, wasn’t far from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethseda Naval Hospital and as a result he saw wounded veterans who could benefit from the specialized bicycles and tricycles.
In 2009, he and his wife decided to move back to Iowa. Because they were planning to open a bike shop, they looked for a community that was close to a bike trail and had a cycling club. Jefferson is near the Raccoon River Valley Trail and is the home of the Cyclists of Greene.
Brunow brought many of the bikes and trikes for the disabled from his shop in Virginia to his new one in Jefferson.