Nokomis East Neighborhood Association

Adventure awaits everybody


When people talk about bikes, I used to think of fun commutes or quick after work rides that provide short bursts of freedom on an otherwise humdrum day. I never thought about big adventures or using bikes as a form of inclusion before. Bill Finding, the owner of Watt Cycleworks, changed that.
Established in November 2022, on 54th street, Watt Cycleworks is full of all kinds of e-bikes such as mountain bikes, cruisers, children’s bikes, and tricycles for adults. The variety astounded me. E-bikes, or electric bicycles are bikes that have rechargeable batteries with electric motors attached to them to give the rider varying levels of assistance. They are there to boost momentum, if the rider chooses to use them. When I asked Bill to discuss it in more detail, he laughed and said that a rider needs to “obey the speed limits of the trail," but the motors are useful because it can make the bike so much more versatile and accessible to everybody. “You can easily find a campsite 20-30 minutes out of town and not exert yourself so much,” or use the e-bike to get to and from work and not get too sweaty. Parents can use cargo bikes to put their children on the back and go somewhere as a family. The opportunities seemed endless.
“Customers who come into my shop now, before would bike 3-4 times a year, [but with an e-bike] say they bike every day now, and they are going on more adventures and it brings out their inner child," said Bill.
He also explained that not everybody is in a position to be able to take a fall. What if a person is older, or what if they have a disability? E-trikes, or electric tricycles, open up an entire world for people in these situations. He spoke about a friend who was shot in the leg, and unable to ride a regular bike anymore. With an e-trike, he can still get out and enjoy a great ride. Bill’s out of the box thinking and knowledge of bikes completely astounded me.
Bill found his love for biking after high school. He learned how to fix regular bikes and worked in various bike stores. At one point, he suffered from an illness, and was unable to bike anymore. “I got sick for a while, and I couldn’t ride a regular bike for a while, and [the shop that I worked at] loaned me an e-bike.” As a professional mechanic with over 10 years of experience who always needs to know how things work, he needed to know how to fix take care of his new e-bike. He got a job at Crazy Lenny’s eBikes, located in Madison, Wis., the United States’ biggest single location store for e-bikes to gain knowledge of motors, batteries and electronics specific to e-bikes.
Most people can’t fix e-bikes – it’s something someone has to learn on the job, because there are so many intricate parts that may go wrong when fixing an e-bike. Bill spent 14 years in various bike shops including Erik's Bike and Board, Angry Catfish, Machinery Row, Slow Roll Cycles, and Crazy Lennys E-bikes. “The thing that sets me apart is that I’m really trying to find dependable quality e-bikes that are more accessibly priced than most shops around. I’m really really focused on trying to find the bikes that are dependable and fixable that are also inexpensive, so people can get an e-bike if they want. What also sets me apart is I’m one of the few people that is repairing most of the e-bikes out there. Even if I can’t do it, I can figure it out. I’m helping more of the people than most of the industry is willing to do.”
Bill always thought about owning his own shop, but finally decided to make the leap when he realized most bike shops were turning people away because they didn’t want to be held liable for mechanical errors or were simply unable to fix e-bikes. The first year Bill opened Watt Cycleworks, he didn’t pay himself and “kind of made it happen.” He only had 5-6 bikes on the floor. Now, he has all kinds of e-bikes, gear that bikers need, and a part-time staffer named Dave. Dave used to be his manager at Erik's Bike and Board Shop. Bill stated, “He’s an incredible person, and I’m lucky to have him for one day a week.” Bill also has bikes for rent; he allows people to rent e-bikes for a day for only $45.
On top of Bill’s extraordinary mechanical skills, I was surprised by his pure friendliness and wanting to help people get out and explore the world themselves.
“If there’s neighbors that just want to stop by and say ‘hi’, they don’t have to buy anything from me. I’d just like to meet people from the neighborhood,” he said about being a new shop owner in the area. His passion for biking is contagious. I immediately told him I’d see him this weekend, because it’s high time I tried an e-bike.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here