Saluting the man who launched Nyack’s bicycling craze

Long before Nyack became a mecca for the Lycra-clad, carbon-frame crowd, there was Nyack Bicycle Outfitters. Jim Skelley (pictured at left in above photo) started the small shop on North Broadway in 1973 and rode it through nearly a half-century of ups and downs before closing the doors earlier this year.

The storefront space became a local institution almost as renowned as Edward Hopper’s boyhood home just a block away. You were just as likely to get the scoop on what was happening in the riverside village during a visit to the shop, as you were down the street at Village Hall. 

The legendary 50-mile, aptly named Rocket Ride Jim founded in 1972 is still a draw for serious cyclists.

The vibe at Nyack Bicycle Outfitters was what I imagine the local barber shop was like in the old days. Jim was a true raconteur, trading stories with regulars and NYC day-trippers as he fixed their flats and repaired their derailleurs. 

Saturday, April 24, was Jim Skelley Day in Nyack, so proclaimed by Mayor Don Hammond. Jim also was feted by State Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick — who rode to the ceremony on a bike he bought from Jim last summer.

Jim said he was enjoying his retirement and spending more time on his bike after a grueling year of pandemic-induced craziness at the shop. The lanky Tomkins Cove resident got a bit choked up during his brief remarks to the crowd of some 50 people.

“Over the years I’ve seen Nyack change in many ways, but there’s always been a strong sense of community,” he said. “I can’t think of a job where I would meet people as interesting and diverse as I have here in Nyack. For many years I knew this was the best part of the bike store.”

I bought a steel Bianchi Super Sport from Jim around 1980, and he straightened the frame after I got doored by an oblivious driver a few blocks from the shop. The carbon-fiber Trek 5200 I purchased from him in 2002 is still road-worthy.

Bigger, fancier bike shops have popped up around the area over the years. And there are countless online outlets for replacing any part or accessory. But some things can’t be replaced.

Thanks, Jim. Hope to see you on a ride one day.

The door at Nyack Bicycle Outfitters, which is being replaced by a book shop, on April 24, 2021.

Published by Robert Brum

Writer/editor/storyteller, bicyclist and hiker roaming the Hudson Valley on two feet and two wheels. Brum as in drum; not Blum or Broom.

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