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A family’s life cycle rolls on

The Cuisinots have been in the bike business for 3 generations

  

Andrew Wedgbury

Nevada City Advocate


A passion for cycling that began with Pierre Cuisinot before World War II continues to evolve today with his son Charlie and grandson Cory at Xtreme Outfitters in Grass Valley. 


Walking into the store on Maltman Drive, your eye is not only drawn to the large selection of new bikes, but by the history lessons that are mounted on the wall. Classic road bikes, hand-wrought frames and even a Campognolo with wooden rims remind you of the cycling legacy that has propelled the Cuisinot family. 


Born and raised in Paris, Pierre Cuisinot grew up riding bikes and then had a promising educational and artistic career interrupted by the war. After his father passed away, he went to work at a friend’s shop, hand-making bikes. 


“They had a factory in the back of a store, and they were building their own frames, wheels, painting them, and selling their own brand,” said Charlie. “He used to ride his bike to work and had many stories of riding through where the Germans had set up. You never made eye contact, he said, because you never knew what might happen.”


After the war, Pierre came to the United States in 1950, and eventually settled in the Bay Area after stops in New York and Louisiana. He originally pursued electronics and television servicing, and received a job offer from IBM.


“But his calling, his passion was bicycles,” said Charlie. “We went riding, but not around the neighborhood. He was into racing and we went out into the country, covered a lot of road, climbing mountains and descending.” He and his father build Charlie’s first racing bike by hand.


Pierre opened his first bike shop in 1970, called The Velo Club. Velo means “bicycle” in French and many of the best bike shops in Europe have their own bike club or team. “The name reminded him of his days growing up in Paris.” 


Charlie worked there and helped run the store for many years and eventually branched off with his own shop in 1984 in Menlo Park, called Menlo Velo. In 1994, he sold that business and moved to Nevada County to open another shop.


Although it’s been 25 years in the Nevada County bike business, Charlie notes that his own passion for bikes has kept him immersed in the bike world since he was about 10. 


“That’s 50-plus years and not many people can say that about any career. But a lot of people feel the same way – you start working on bikes, the mechanics of it, and you enjoy what makes them work and how to fix them the right way and riding them. It all comes together – you kind of feel linked to it.”


Cuisinot has seen bikes and the business evolve tremendously over the years. His shop now has a selection of the latest electrical power-assisted bikes, as well as standard all muscle powered bikes. Bike technicians now must know how to service wiring, motors and batteries, as well as standard and suspension equipment.


“You look at that Ritchie on the wall,” he said. “There’s nothing on there but mechanics. Everything works off of cables, from the brakes to the derailleurs. It’s a beautiful piece of art. The frame was made by hand. Then we got into hydraulics, front shocks, rear shocks, learning about suspension, and now we have electric bikes. I remember one day, my dad said maybe I could come down to the shop and help, and I said, dad, you have no idea,” he said with a smile. “Today’s bikes have changed a lot.”


Cory Cuisinot, who also grew up with bikes and bike racing, works at the shop with his father and brings extensive knowledge of building and servicing bikes. Most recently he spent three and a half years with Santa Cruz bikes, working his way through building to customer relations. But he prefers living in the Nevada County area as opposed to the Bay Area and working and learning from his father. “It’s a lot more interesting here. You do a little bit of everything, from working the cash register to fixing a bike. And we’re only stocking mountain bikes now, so I’m riding my mountain bike two or three times a week.”


The younger Cuisinot also sees a connection with the past in the shop. “It’s definitely there, and it’s on our website too. We’re a third-generation family in biking. I’ve been doing it since I was 10, just like my father and grandfather. It’s all we’ve really done.”


Charlie added, “I think that’s why we make a good team. I still have a passion for bicycling, but also for the old stuff. And Cory complements that by having a passion for the new stuff. ‘Dad, look at this new technology, isn’t it cool?’ And I say, yeah, but back in the day, we’d do this, and we’d both learn. We still have customers come in that still identify with the older bikes quite a bit.”


Servicing both old and new equipment is one of the strengths of Xtreme, and a major portion of the shop is taken up with a large open service area. 


“Service is very important, and many shops have service areas out of sight. I like having it open so customers can see everything,” said Charlie. “And we service it all, we don’t specialize in any one brand. I think we’ve built our business off of quality service.” 


On this day there was a child’s 12-inch bike in the area, sitting next to a mountain bike worth several thousand dollars. He also pointed out a 1968 Stingray tandem bike that he had restored.


Although he can draw a direct line from a young man in Paris, racing through the streets, to a young man in Nevada County, jumping his MTB bike at the Western Gateway Park, Charlie isn’t a person that readily talks of past accomplishments. But he is very proud of his family’s history, of his two sons Cory and Taylor, and of the man who started the journey. 


“I showed my Dad, whose memory isn’t so good, an old picture of him on a bike in France, and he had a big smile on his face. I said, ‘Those were good days, weren’t they?’ And he said, ‘They were the best.’”


About the photos: Previous page

Cory Cuisinot and his father Charlie at a recent MTB street fair in Nevada City.

Photo by Andrew Wedgbury


This Page

Pierre Cuisinot began riding in Paris in the 1930s.

SUBMITTED PHOTO


About the Photos

About the photos: Previous page

Cory Cuisinot and his father Charlie at a recent MTB street fair in Nevada City.

Photo by Andrew Wedgbury


This Page

Pierre Cuisinot began riding in Paris in the 1930s.

SUBMITTED PHOTO