Rick Canton clips into his pedals and pushes off down the trail just as the sun rises over the trees on a Sunday morning. As he swoops around curves and bounds over rocks, Canton has complete confidence in the machine he assembled himself.
Canton owns North Texas Bikes in Pilot Point and is an avid mountain biker.
“I just like being out in nature. I like the fact that it’s challenging,” Canton said. “When you clear stuff that you don’t think you can clear, you can climb a steep grade that you don’t think you can climb and you clean it, just the feeling of that — I don’t know, it just inspires me. It just makes me happy. Being on a bike just makes me happy.”
While Canton’s main passion is mountain biking, he services and builds all types of bikes, including the road bikes that are frequently seen cruising the country roads in the area.
“You have the rolling hills, you have the horse farms, you have the beauty, you have the scenic aspect of riding a road bike through the hills up here,” Canton said. “I think a segment that’s probably going to take off a little bit more is definitely the gravel grinding segment. It’s going to be the dirt road riding of road bikes.”
At first glance, a gravel grinder looks like a road bike with its rigid frame and drop bars, but it has large, treaded tires able to handle paved, gravel and dirt roads all in the same ride.
The diverse terrain these bikes are capable of handling makes them an ideal choice for North Texas riders and are a growing portion of the industry.
Canton’s insight into the industry began with his experience at a shop in Tracy, Calif.
“I started racing BMX back in the ’80s, and then I transitioned over to mountain biking in ’88-’89. Just really trail riding, that kind of thing,” Canton said. “I like to do whatever epic rides I can do.”
In addition to his regular job as an audiovisual technician, Canton worked at the California shop part time for the discount and an excuse to keep his hands covered in chain grease. It’s also where he met his wife, Jennifer Bedford, who took the job out of necessity after graduating from high school but soon developed a passion for the sport.
“Every other weekend we’d go to Oregon,” Canton said. “We’d go to Tahoe, Southern California, all through the Bay Area.”
Canton and Bedford found themselves in North Texas, where they first opened their shop off U.S. 380 near Savannah in April 2009. North Texas Bikes moved to its Pilot Point location on FM 455 just west of U.S. 377S last year in April. The couple hopes to move with their 2-year-old son to Pilot Point as soon as possible.
“The funny thing about Pilot Point is it’s a small town feel but with educated people,” Canton said. “It’s from all over the place, from politically diverse to farmers to entrepreneurs; people who come in here are from all walks of life. It’s pretty cool.
“I don’t think we’ve run into anyone from Pilot Point that has been rude in any way, shape or form while we’re here.”
Canton learned his skills by riding with seasoned riders, which he said was critical to improving his abilities. He takes newcomers to the sport out on group rides of up to 26 miles to encourage more participation.
“That’s the cool thing about the sport, and that’s why I love it so much is because I like getting those people that are the tortoise and having them ride with us — watch them slowly become the hare,” Canton said.
“I always say ride with someone better than you; you’ll elevate your game. You get pushed by others. You get inspired by others, and that’s kind of the cool thing about cycling.”
The Dallas Off Road Bike Association maintains several area mountain bike trails, including those at the Isle du Bois and Johnson Branch units of Ray Roberts Lake State Park. Canton said the trails here require more maintenance than those in California and that mountain biking would not be possible without DORBA.
“Out here [the trails] are fairly seasonal. When we do get rained on, when we do get weather, it really destroys the trails; you get a lot of damage,” Canton said. “So you’ve got to get people back out to clear out areas that washed away, build up areas that have been washed away, make them functional so you can ride, do reroutes.
“It takes a lot for people to be able to mountain bike out here, and it’s a hard job.”