OSBORNE — Not many people who pull into the north-central Kansas town of Osborne, population 1,291 (as estimated in 2018), will expect to find a working bicycle shop.
After all, many larger Kansas communities can’t claim a bicycle shop.
"I’ve had it happen a dozen times. People will stick their head in the door, with a little trepidation, and then notice the tools, smell the oil, before they finally exclaim, ‘This is a bike shop,’ " said John McClure, proprietor and mechanic at Blue Hills Bikes.
McClure grew up on a farm in Osborne County and learned all he needed to know about mechanical work from his father and other area farmers.
"If you had a problem, you couldn’t just take it into town to be repaired," he said.
His father taught him that you first had to troubleshoot and then get to work fixing the problem. He carries that same philosophy into his bicycle shop, which began as a hobby and has since evolved into a full-time business.
McClure started a bicycle repair business in his garage in 2002 and began operating out of the current shop location around 2013.
While he has several local customers, McClure said, the small town of Osborne is not large enough to sustain the business on its own.
"I have customers who come down from Nebraska and as far west as Colby," he said, as well as from nearby towns like Russell, Beloit, Smith Center, Phillipsburg and Stockton.
While Blue Hills Bikes posts daily hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., McClure is readily available for emergencies outside of this scheduled time. Another hobby of his is clearing out nature’s growth at the Shady Bend Bike Trail, but he answers his cellphone and comes out to meet those who need his services.
Troubleshooting is really his specialty, and he told of a recent rider who came in with a shifter problem on his bicycle.
"I spent a couple of hours diagnosing the problem and applying various treatments, such as drilling the opening where the cable housing rests inside the shifter so it would set deeper inside this mechanism to eliminate a cable crimping problem," he said.
The customer left with a bicycle that he said shifted much better than it ever had, and he went on to enjoy the remainder of his Kansas cycling vacation.
The Blue Hills shop is located at 107 S. 1st St. in Osborne, and for those cyclers who might be traveling through the area and need a repair, his cellphone number is 785-346-6156.