For Bike Month we like to hear from people participating in the challenge and bike commuters. This year we decided to ask one of the longtime sponsors and a Princeton fixture, a few things about the shop and the people running it. If you live in Princeton or in the Princeton area, you have heard and been to Kopp’s Cycle. Charles Kuhn, the owner of the shop, talked to us about the interesting history, the people and services. Check out what he had to say:
GMTMA: When was Kopp’s Cycle open? What was the street/area when the shop opened?
CK: Kopp’s Cycle Shop was established in 1891 by E.C. Kopp and is the oldest continually running bicycle shop in America (2nd oldest in the world). My Father bought the store from the Kopp family in the late 1940’s. The store was originally located on Nassau Street near where Palmer Square is now, then moved to Chambers Street, John Street, Witherspoon Street and is now located at 38 Spring Street next to the new Municipal garage.
GMTMA: What type of cycling are people interested in based on your experience?
CK: Our time is spent almost equally between transportation and recreation. Princeton has always been a great town for commuting but it has gotten more popular over the years because of increased awareness of the benefits to the environment and health.
GMTMA: What type of bicycle is the most popular?
CK: The hybrid bike is most popular because it can be transportation during the week and for longer recreation rides on the weekend. Hybrids have tires that aren’t too fat or too thin so it pedals easily and is durable. It’s also easily fitted with fenders & rear rack.
GMTMA: What services do you offer?
CK: Besides selling new bikes we tune and repair all makes of bicycles (once a year is recommended by most manufacturers). We do flat tires to complete restorations of vintage bikes. Our factory trained and authorized mechanics also will assemble and fit your bike purchased online.
GMTMA: Do you sell used bikes?
CK: Yes. We offer repaired secondhand bikes that usually sell for about half of what the original cost of the bike was depending on condition.
GMTMA: Do you sell electric bikes?
CK: Yes. E-bikes have grown in popularity and come down in price so that we have them in stock starting at $1499. We have been to the academy and are certified by Shimano, Bosch, and Bafang. European E-bike sales have topped 50%, we’re still at the beginning [of the trend].
GMTMA: What are your plans for the future?
CK: Our goal is for more people to become aware of the benefits of cycling and help them with their needs.
GMTMA: Do you have regulars coming to the store and for how long you have known them?
CK: We have 1000+ “shop friends”. Some people have been coming before I started really working here in 1963.
GMTMA: Any famous people visited your store?
CK: Princeton is famous as are all its residents. I’ve helped people out and found later they’re Nobel prize winners, author, actor, politician, etc. Everyone is treated the same and acts like everyone else. The exceptions are when someone like the Prince of Morocco comes because of security guards or Eddy Merckx (the greatest cyclist ever) because someone like him makes me a little nervous. John Nash, Brooke Shields, Bebe Neuwirth, Einstein, Benchley, Lemond, Oppenheimer, deGrasse-Tyson to name just some.
GMTMA: Any word of advice for first-time bikers?
CK: Put air in your tires! At least every 3-4 weeks. If your bike has not been ridden in 30 days the first thing is air. Skinny tire bikes need air before every ride.
Choose a lower easier to pedal gear. Your legs should be spinning the pedals not pushing them.
GMTMA: You’ve been a Bike to work week sponsor for a long time, what other events around town do you support?
CK: We try to help with any bike related event we are aware of.
GMTMA: Tell us something special about your shop/location/employees
CK: Kopp’s has been a special place since before our tenure. Mr. Kopp was into all the latest technology. He offered photography, the radio and many other things for the cognoscente that wanted the cutting edge of what was being invented.
My father had similar traits but was also more into bike racing so Kopp’s became ground zero for cycle racing in the USA. He was responsible for the first sponsored cycling team in America and helped many riders that are now the sports leaders and legends.
It seems the shop has its own life that has helped anyone associated with it build character, experience goodwill of man and encourage thought.
It’s especially satisfying seeing some staff come in very young or downtrodden and grow to become an individual that has a hunger to keep learning and really care about others.
Thank you Kopp’s Cycle!