April 26, 2017 - 12:00 AM

Paul Ebner has dabbled in carpentry, is a whiz mechanic and loves being outdoors.
He’s happiest when he’s on two wheels and pedaling.
“Cycling is one of those things you can do for years and years and years,” Ebner said. “You get the same feeling as if you’re on a motorcycle, rolling through the air.”
And with Iola’s recent development of the Lehigh Portland Trails complex south of town, Ebner predicts more and more locals will catch the cycling bug.
Ebner is a facilities manager with Velo+, which will open its doors Saturday at 112 S. Washington Ave. (the old Sidelines Sports Bar.)
The opening comes amid great fanfare, with a caravan of riders trekking from Lenexa — home of the original Velo+ outlet — to Iola.
The group is expected to arrive around 3 p.m., with a local batch of riders greeting the out-of-towners along the Prairie Spirit Trail and Oregon Road on the north edge of Iola. The local riders are invited to gather at about 2:30 p.m. at the Oregon-Prairie Spirit intersection.
From there, the peloton will make its way to the 100 block of South Washington Avenue, where live music, food and a beer garden will be set up in front of the bike shop.
(Accommodations will be altered in case of rain.)

VELO+ BILLS itself a bike shop that can cater to cyclists of any level or experience or skill set.
“We encourage beginners,” Ebner said.
“One of the advantages to buying from a real bike shop versus buying from a box store is if you buy it, and something goes wrong, we’re here to fix it and make it go right. There’s a warranty and time of service period that comes with buying a bike. The components are much higher quality and less likely to fail. They’re meant to be taken off and adjusted.
“I’ve heard stories about box store bikes, where they may arrive with the forks on backwards, or if you try to adjust something and it breaks.”
Open bike shop nights are for do-it-yourselfers or those simply wishing to learn about the world of cycling.
“We let you put your bike on the stand and use our tools with our guidance,” Ebner explained. “There’s a lot of easy maintenance you can do to your own bike to make sure it’s safe.
The lesson plans can range from the earliest fundamentals, like properly wearing a bike helmet to the wisdom of wearing bike shorts.
“If you’ve ridden long enough, you’ll know why,” Ebner said with a laugh.
Velo+ offers a wide variety of bicycles, from mountain and BMX models to simple, reasonably priced road bikes. Several models are designed to handle a wide variety of terrains.
Velo+ staffers also remain abreast of the newest bike technologies, from bikes that utilize a belt drive system (complete with an internally geared hub and hydraulic brakes) versus those with more traditional chains and sprockets with rim brakes.
“There’s a lot you can learn,” Ebner said.

EBNER SEES cycling as an untapped economic resource opportunity for Iola, thanks to the development of the Lehigh Portland, Southwind, Missouri Pacific and Southwind trail systems, which connect Allen County with 65 miles of crushed gravel, asphalt or more rugged terrains.
“Iola can be a destination for cyclists,” Ebner said. “Fort Scott has some trails less than an hour away. You have a couple of lakes west of here, like Fall River Lake, that have some great tracks.”
As evidence, Ebner points to the newly developed Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area in northern Minnesota, a mining community in danger of evaporating after its iron ore mines were depleted.
That old mining area, however, became a perfect ground to develop off-road mountain bike ranges.
More than 75 miles of pristine cycling tracks attract thousands of enthusiasts each year, Ebner noted. “Those lunatics will ride through anything. They love winter riding, too, with those big fat tires rolling through the snow. It’s just like golf, but there’s no end to it.”
As a net result, “they’ve revitalized that town, even though they’d lost an industry.”
(Sound familiar?)
“We think opening a bike shop here fits for what’s coming around the corner for Iola,” he said. “Iola could be its own thing, and attract more mountain biking.”
Bike and camping accessories also will be available.
“If there’s something we can’t find, it’ll be ordered and here within two days,” Ebner said.

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