WisBusiness: Schlick Cycles aims to put new “wheels” on Baby Boomers

By Tyler Donovan

MENOMONEE FALLS — It takes a man with a little vision, inspiration and frustration to begin a market allowing middle-aged adults to take their recreational life to the next level. John Schlick, owner of Schlick Cycles, has brought another dimension to the world of recreational bicycles with his innovative design targeting the “baby boomer” world.

The opportunity to bring something new to the recreational world has influenced Schlick to expand the market and focus on a state-of-the-art bicycle that will influence middle-aged people to get off their couches and riding again.

“All bikes are designed for younger people than me, and frankly, younger than most of the population,” Schlick said.

Exploring the ins and outs of the industry, Schlick went nose-deep in researching the positives and negatives surrounding bicycles and aging. The first step in this process pertains to understanding the problems people have with typical bikes.

Some popular complaints Schlick focused on included seat comfort, riding posture, seat positioning, wrist pressures, safety issues, complicated brake and shifting controls and significant maintenance requirements. Many of these problems arise from “hybrid” and “retro” bikes, which are usually heavy and low quality.

“I got fed up in 2004 when I turned 36. I wanted a new cycle for my birthday but my wife and I couldn’t find anything that met my needs,” Schlick said. “During my teenage years and into my 20’s, I loved the bikes that were available. But, as my body and interests have changed, so has my opinion of what the big bike companies are producing.”

With a little frustration and knowledge on the subject, Schlick took things into his own hands and brought his passion to life for ideal adult bikes. He started Schlick Cycles in 2004 located in Menomonee Falls, Wis.

“For my day job I own and manage a software design firm, but my true passion is with cycle design. For as long as I can remember, I’ve frequented bicycle shops, read bicycle magazines and, more recently, scoured the Internet, to stay up-to-date with the newest and coolest developments in the bicycle industry,” he said. “I’ve always owned several bikes at one time, with at least one that I had put together by uniquely combining parts from different types of cycles.”

The high inspirations of Schlick Cycles to make the ultimate adult cruiser eventually led the company to join forces with Waterford Precision Cycles, one of the nation’s premier custom steel bicycle builders. At Waterford, Schlick worked on designing, riding, and testing prototypes for his masterpiece.

He decided to take a different approach to the bicycle world by promoting a High Performance Cruiser that would fulfill the need for comfort, style, performance, safety, and prestige many bicycles lack. Two years later, Schlick felt he had something worth talking about — the Schlick Shark.

“My goal was to create a cool bicycle which would cause people over 35 years of age to rekindle that joyful feeling we once all had in bicycle riding,” he said.

Focusing on the individual, Schlick Cycles was able to study the negative experiences the typical cycle brings and focus on turning it into positives through functional requirements. The Schlick Shark’s technological design advancements guarantee a ride to remember.

• Riding posture has been emphasized to minimize stress on back, neck, wrist and hands.

• Proper seating position brings comfort and proper vision.

• Easy on and off access for rider where feet can always be on the ground.

• No safety risks from riding in street clothes.

• Optimal pedal leverage to ensure efficient use of the rider’s muscles.

• Easily transportable and very light weight.

• High safety profile that addresses the primary reasons for falls.

With all the cycle-design benefits closely tested and researched, Schlick believes the company has created a bicycle that was a cross between a city bike and a recumbent. The bike maximizes the efficiencies of the two, while minimizing the problems.

“Since no one else had ever designed a cycle meeting these requirements, I knew my work was cut out for me. But, I also knew the big bike companies had probably never made a credible effort to do so,” Schlick emphasized.

Schlick Cycles has filed a patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The company found a great response at the National Bicycle Show in Las Vegas and received some media accolades from the Los Angeles Times as well as the largest men’s magazine line.

While making positive gains through this unique market, it’s still a work in progress. The company has been financed thus far through Schlick himself, waiting for the market value to increase.

“If all of a sudden things take off, we would definitely look to investors to finance a growth plan. A lot would depend on the speed of growth,” Schlick said. “Slow growth, I would try to finance myself along with additional funds coming from family members.”

The one thing Schlick Cycles isn’t going to do is sit around and wait for the markets to come to them. The company is sticking to its strategy and tactics, finding ways for improvement.

“We would like to grow our niche and prove the desirability of our design. At some point we would like to reduce the price by a large margin to broaden the market we could reach,” Schlick said. “This would either involve investors to create the needed business structure or a licensing agreement with an established bicycle manufacturer.”

Schlick said the company intends to seek business communities when things start rolling and his marketing expertise for financing advancements in the future.

“For large growth, I would look to the business community for both financing as well as my expertise in growing a manufacturing/marketing business,” he said.

Donovan is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.