150 Boise Icons: George's Cycles and Fitness

awebb@idahostatesman.comMay 4, 2013 

Did you know? The riders sponsored by George’s, like this one training on North Cartwright Road in 2007, were among the first in the Valley to realize that the road to Bogus Basin was a great, and daunting, training road for cyclists.

CHRIS BUTLER — Idaho Statesman file

Joyce and Bob Sulanke arrived in Boise from Kansas some 40 years ago. Joyce was a national women's cycling champion. Bob was a math professor at Boise State.

The Sulankes opened the first incarnation of George's in 1971 in a shed behind their house near Warm Springs, said Mike Cooley, co-owner today with Tom Platt.

Joyce Sulanke named the shop after George Latham, owner of a celebrated bike shop in Lawrence, Kan., and creator of the motto "Outfitters to the self-propelled."

The Sulankes' timing was good. They opened their shop just as the American bike boom was beginning, said Cooley. Ten-speeds were in big demand, arriving 400 at a time by train. The Sulankes kept lists in spiral notebooks of Boiseans waiting to buy bikes.

"They brought in brands that Boise had never seen, Peugeots, Gitanes. They created this niche market," said Cooley.

He remembers being a seventh-grader at North Junior High in 1971 and riding his Sears 10-speed out to the shed to see a bike that sold for $300.

"No one could believe there was a bike that cost that much," he said.

He bought his first set of toe clips at George's. He didn't know until later that Tom Platt was a young George's patron, too, saving his money for a European bike.

George's outgrew the shed in the mid '70s, spending time in two different buildings on Broadway.

Cycling was booming, with a reputation for being somewhat esoteric, a European pastime associated with the Tour de France and Italian black-and-white cinema. Mountain biking hadn't been invented yet.

Around 1979, cyclist Greg LeMond became the first American to race successfully in Europe. The seminal movie "Breaking Away" helped plant bike racing firmly in American popular culture.

George's thrived. The shop founded a home team that began competing throughout the Northwest.

This reporter's memory, circa 1980: Walking home from a party late at night, hearing that distinctive click/hiss of bike wheels, turning to see a pack of young Boise men, clad in George's jerseys, calling out "Buongiorno!" as they sped past under the streetlights.

Cycling wasn't just European anymore. Or if it was, it was European in a way that Boise liked.

In 1981, Cooley and Platt, both members of the George's racing team, bought the shop from the Sulankes. It has since grown into three shops and a bike-fitting studio.

George's is responsible for events that have become iconic in their own right. Bob Sulanke organized the first Bogus Basin Hill Climb in 1972.

"We kept the tradition going," said Cooley.

In 1987, George's organized the first Twilight Criterium, which draws racers from across the country.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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