Wheeling it

New kind of bike rolls out in Blount County

Spring has arrived, and it is time for many to pull out that two-wheeler for another year of riding. Blount County boasts an expansive greenway for walking, bicycling and the like, not to mention the miles of opportunity in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

But for those visiting, or for those at home who want to try something new, not having a bike is no longer a problem, according to Douglas Benton, owner of Wheels 4 Tomorrow in Alcoa. Just across from the greenway on Aluminum Avenue, Wheels for Tomorrow offers a different kind of cycling trip.

Benton’s store rents and sells “chainless” 7-speed and battery-assisted bicycles. If you’re wondering what this means, the difference can be found in the design of the new-style “shaft driven” bicycles that is without sprockets. And if pedaling is not your thing or you want a little help, the battery-assisted bicycles give bikers a little or a lot of extra push for the ride.

Since its opening at the beginning of March, Benton has been getting the word out about the bikes. “The new bikes make it a pleasure to ride a bicycle again,” Benton said. “We have people who thought their riding days were through who can enjoy riding again with these bikes.”

The bikes are “shaft driven” two wheelers that allow riders to change gears without moving, unlike the sprocket-turning counterparts. In addition, they have a gear life of over 10,000 miles and are virtually maintenance free,” said Benton.

The battery assisted bicycles come in a variety of designs including two and three wheel combinations that can go 30 miles on a single battery charge.

The absence of sprockets mean no more accidental nicks or cuts and riding with long pants on is no longer a problem with snagging. The seat was comfortable, and the front shocks and rear support springs are an advantage for every day riding.

“It is a safe bicycle to ride,” says Benton, and the only things needed in order to rent a bike is a photo ID and a deposit.

Coming back to his old stomping grounds in 2000 after 20 years on the west coast, Benton says he always enjoys being in this part of East Tennessee. “I love the people here,” he says, “This is where I grew up.”

Douglas Benton is no stranger to leg issues and injuries, as he had his knee replaced two years ago. But that doesn’t keep him from being active. “I can’t run anymore, but I can swim, and I can sure pedal,” says Benton.

Opening the business is also partly to encourage a continuing move to stay fit and live a healthy lifestyle. “We have the best food here in the South, but we need to be a little smarter (on health choices),” Benton says.

Benton and his wife Trysh see their shop as a new choice for people, environmentally and economically. The Bentons say that because of “people’s concern for the environment and the rising cost of gas these days, a lot of people are looking for alternatives.”

Douglas Benton says that he wants to keep the business family-oriented, and welcomes anyone to see his new shop. “Bring your family, and meet ours,” says Benton.

Wheels 4 Tomorrow and the Bentons can be reached by phone at 865-984-0006 and online at ww.wheels4tomorrow.com.

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