After nearly three decades in the bike business, Barry Jeffries still enjoys cycling, and he tries to pass on his passion for two-wheeled transit to others throughout the Pittsburgh community.
“We encourage it, because we really believe and love it,” said Jeffries, owner of Dirty Harry’s, located on Allegheny River Boulevard in Verona.
Jeffries’ parents opened Dirty Harry’s in 1982 as a dirt bike store that sold motorcycles and ATVs. While attending college for computers, however, Jeffries realized many of his BMX cycling friends were purchasing equipment and supplies from out-of-state vendors because there was no local supply of cycling equipment.
Jeffries, who is a former BMX racer with two national championship wins, saw investing in cycling supplies as a business opportunity that could help offset his competitive biking expenses.
He received a $1,500 loan from his grandmother. With the loan and his ambition, he sought vendors and manufacturers to supply him with goods.
Then, while attending an international cycling convention in New York, Jeffries caught the attention of a vendor that offered to set him up with supplies.
Now, under Jeffries, Dirty Harry’s is full service cycling shop that sells a range of bicycles—road bikes, mountain bikes, and hybrid bikes included—costing up to $9,000 and carries about 100 vendors.
“I never would’ve envisioned having a 7,000-square-foot show room,” Jeffries said.
Dirty Harry’s also sells merchandise, makes repairs and fits people for their right bike type.
Cycling is becoming more popular, Jeffries said, as business in his shop has increased in the last five years. The bulk of his sales come from hybrid bikes.
“I think the health thing is one factor in it,” he said.
Customers with a wide range of cycling skill levels—from those who are advanced cyclist to adults interested in getting back the joy of riding a bike—visit the shop.
“Cycling is really addictive, and some people can get really into it,” Jeffries said.
When asked if he’s addicted, Jeffries said, “Oh, no doubt, yes.”
Jeffries said he tries to commute by cycling as much as possible because not only does he enjoy it, but it’s good for his health and the environment.
“My neighbors see me go up in the snow, and they just shake their head like ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” he said.
He does own a car, which he uses when he has to, but he only averages about 6,000 miles a year.
Jeffries also enjoys cycling the world. He’s cycled in Italy five times, as well as Spain. He’s also taken winter vacations to St. John’s, and he’s started making trips to National Parks, including Yellowstone. His trek tails include cycling next to bears and bison.
While the bicycle is seen more as a hobby in the United States, Jeffries says in Europe it’s commonly known as transportation.
“It’s how I go to the store to get bread for dinner,” he said.
The numerous Pittsburgh bridges and rivers pose challenges in making the city more bicycle-friendly, Jeffries said, especially compared to newer cities that already have the infrastructure for cycling in place.
Dirty Harry’s gives back to the community in various ways, Jeffries said.
For years, the store has volunteered during the to inspect children's bicycles for free. The shop also has been selling bikes to the Fox Chapel School District for its biking program.
Also, $1 for every helmet and $20 for every full-suspension mountain bike sold is donated to Bikes Belong, a nonprofit focusing on bicycle safety and children bicycle programs. The Bikes Belong Coalition focuses on cycling infrastructure and politics.
The shop also volunteers through the Pittsburgh Trail Advocacy Group, a nonprofit formed to protect and encourage access to shared-use trails in Western Pennsylvania.
“Even after 30 years of doing this, I love bicycles," Jeffries said. "I love to ride bicycles.”