THUNDER BAY -- When the original owners of Rollin’ Thunder decided to move away and sell the business, the timing was right for the Fiorito family. Nik, who had previously worked there for a few years, was already on another career but his younger brother Dan was still working there and was ready to commit to staying at the shop, managing the daily business. Both of them had kids that they thought might be interested in the shop one day. “It was a cool chance to have a family business,” Nik says.
In January 2016, Nik and his wife Dana bought the business, and the following year, they moved the business to its current location on Memorial Avenue, next to D&R Sporting Goods.
The store sells bicycles, clothing, parts and accessories, and in the winter, many of the bicycles make way for both downhill and cross-country skis, snowboards, fat bikes and winter clothing. All the staff are dedicated cyclists (some are competitive) and the shop does repairs and tuneups as well.
Thunder Bay’s streets don’t have a great reputation for being cyclist friendly, but a few minutes away from the shop by car, there are miles and miles of great trails. Fat bikes are growing in popularity. With tires 4 to 5 inches wide, they are “great for winter but people use them all year round as well,” explains Nik.
Dan, an executive on the board of Black Sheep Mountain Bike Club, an organization that promotes mountain biking in Thunder Bay and hosts events, says the club recently acquired a groomer for the trails, which means that the summer trails are mostly ridable in the winter as well. “Before we had to snowshoe all the paths,” he says. “The old trails used to be a lot more lung-busting, lots of ups and downs, for the hardcore people. There are more accessible trails now, kids can ride them.”
Recreational biking along the shores of Lake Superior is growing exponentially, and this year, Thunder Bay hosted its first gravel bike race, with participants coming not only from northwest Ontario but Minnesota as well. “Off-road cycling is a year-round thing now,” says Nik.
Black Sheep Mountain Bike Club membership has more than doubled in the past three years, with more than 300 people this year, and with the growth of the community, Rollin’ Thunder has flourished as well.
The brands they carry (such as Rocky Mountain and Norco, both of which are Canadian), don’t sell their bicycles online, which helps small local retailers like Rollin’ Thunder. “They want you to go through your local shop so that you can be properly fitted,” Nik explains. Being a small business allows them to be flexible, and they are always looking for up and coming brands.
“We sponsor a lot of events in town and host our own events, such as small group rides, viewing parties and learn-how-to-tune-up-your-bike events, so we’d like to continue doing more of that,” Nik says.