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Friday, May 9th, 2014
Business Profiles

Embrace Your Pedaling Passion with Robin Wilkes

Local entrepreneur Robin Wilkes, proud owner of Robin’s Bikes and Fitness, understands what it takes to live the biking lifestyle.

The necessary persistence, determination and a can-do attitude not only define Wilkes the man, but also make him a unique force in business. Everything— from his personal conditioning practices to the merchandise he sells—measures up to the highest standards in quality.

Wilkes’ philosophy is simple. He asks, “Would I wear it, would I ride it, would I use it?” If the answer to any of those questions is no, then he won’t sell it. “For me, it all comes down to the personal. I am not made to live any other way.”

It is his respectful, trustworthy character and leadership skills that inspire and attract a loyal circle of customers and a flex-group of dedicated riders to his Miramar Beach store.

The shop’s knowledgeable staff answers questions and assists and accommodates the needs of any category of cyclist. Whether a leisurely trail rider, commuter cyclist or race enthusiast, a Wilkes employee will match them with the right bike, helmet or accessory. “From frame to valve cap,” Wilkes wants to offer the best equipment so folks keep coming back.

“I did not catch the fever or get serious about cycling until my early 20s,” says Wilkes. “I was a sport and fitness trainer-manager at several gyms before I was asked by a junior Olympian cyclist to go for a bike ride. It took me a while to consider going. Taking time away from a serious workout for an easy walk in the park was not a priority.

“Whoa! Was I ever wrong. After the humiliation of being left winded and in the dust, I was hooked.” From then on, Wilkes couldn’t get enough. He read everything he could about bikes and cycling.

He saved his money by painting houses and bought his first ten-speed Schwinn. In his tennis shoes, a pair of short-shorts and a soft brimmed cap, he began riding long distances. After six months, he rode for two and a half days from his hometown of Callaway, Florida, to Orlando—a distance of 376 miles.

It was on that visit that he walked into a small bike shop, saw a flyer for the Eatonville Open, entered his first race and won. There was no turning back. Biking had become his life.

At the time, Wilkes met fellow enthusiast—and soon-to-be mentor— Robert McDonald. “He was a gentleman in his 50s and a living example of discipline. We began long distance training, twice a day, several times a week. Forget the weather. We met in rainstorms, heavy humidity and blustery cold. He never complained about aches or pain. This guy showed me how to maintain each part of my bike, encouraged me to enter races and take on greater challenges. To this day, I can hear his voice.”

Wilkes has worked in and managed other bike shops in Fort Walton and Panama City. Lucky us that in 2000, he took the plunge and opened his own shop here in Beachcomberland. Robin’s Bikes and Fitness began in a small rented space without display cases or much inventory. Wilkes was committed to dealing only with companies that stand behind their products.

Building trust with customers and dealers has been essential since the beginning.

It did not take long before Wilkes needed more space. In 2006, he moved to the current Highway 98 location. Robin’s hums with activity. The shop provides on site repairs and professional bike fitting.

Amy Yanora, 11-year employee extraordinaire and Wilkes’ right arm, offers a friendly “Hey!” as customers walk in the door. Her assessment skills make sure the behind the scene minutiae runs smoothly. Yanora manages, along with hard working cohorts Tommy Sager and Brandon Crye, while Wilkes is away.

To date, the store carries the best of the best in cycles with names like Pinarello, Specialized, Cannondale and Giant along with superior clothing lines from Pactimo, Pearl Izumi, Castelli and Giordana. In addition, there are shoes, helmets, pedals, nutrition jolts and other biking essentials.

Throughout the years, Wilkes has ridden in hundreds of races around the country. Adding to those accolades, since 1986, Wilkes has tossed in a oneday challenge of a 170-mile ride from the east to the west coast of Florida.

The ride begins in Cocoa Beach and ends along the rural beaches of Pine Island. Never one to rest on his laurels, each August for four years running, Wilkes has ridden the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike Race. Cyclists begin and end in Leadville, Colorado, a town in the Rockies at 10,200 feet. The race includes a series of steep climbs and descents with an approximate 14,000-foot elevation

To top that, Wilkes has recently been hired for a second year to assist ride leaders and clients for Destination Cycles in the “1,000 miles in 10 days” tour through France. The ride precedes and follows the route of Le Tour de France.

True to his motto of putting the fit back into fitness, there is no stopping this guy. Wilkes has helped folks recover from disease and surgery and collectively lose hundreds of pounds. Local restaurateur Mimmo Linnausa says, “Robin helped get me back into shape. Whenever I go to his shop, I feel like it is my shop too.”

Cardiologist Dr. Stephen Phlaum adds, “If I wasn’t working, I’d ride and train with Robin everyday and continue for the rest of my life.”

Whether you are looking for that special Beach Cruiser, wanting a high end custom fit or anything in between, ride on over to Robin’s Bikes and Fitness, where a phrase like It Can’t Be Done is never at home.

Robin’s Bikes and Fitness is located at 11166 Emerald Coast Parkway in Miramar Beach. Call (850) 269-2453 or email for more info.