Red Lantern Cycles is the newest bike shop in Menlo Park. Owner Matt Barkley raced his bike full time for a number of years before turning his hand to opening and running bike shops on the East and West Coasts. In his latest endeavor, Red Lantern Cycles opened its doors for business a couple of years ago and has been received well by the cycling and racing community in the area.
One look around the shop and you’ll know why: This place is the real deal. RLC specializes in high-end road builds, coaching, and professional bike fitting. The shop has quickly become a local hub for riders looking for bikes, gear, and a place to hang out and talk story before and after local group rides. Matt can also pull a perfect shot of Italian espresso right in the shop. I had the opportunity recently to interview Matt about RLC, his racing days, and insights about group rides.
Matt Bond: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into cycling.
Matt Barkley: I always have ridden a bike (or tricycle). I would say I really loved running fast (50 yard dash and the mile) and watched the ’84 Olympics on this old black and white TV up in Maine. I was 9 or 10 and Carl Lewis was a star. But I saw some of the track cycling (velodrome) coverage and was blown away, having no idea what it really was.
Matt Bond: How did you get into the bike industry and owning bike shops?
Matt Barkley: I was racing full time and living up in San Francisco back in ’97/’98 and got the chance to train and race with a bunch of big-time pros. I always paid attention to what they rode and used in training and racing. I had worked at shops in Boston, Washington D.C., Maryland, and San Francisco. I found I could make more money for less time and sell what I wanted by having my own business. So that’s what I did. I got the opportunity to meet Dario Pegoretti back in 1999 and had one of his bikes, which was amazing, but no one knew what it was. I got the chance to buy, sell, and use Etxe Ondo clothing and also meet the owners of this small Basque Spanish cycle clothing company. Really cool stuff that the pros used.
I started Lanterne Rouge back in ’98/’99 in Maryland while I also owned and ran an aquarium service business, Aquarium Design. The funny thing about Lanterne Rouge or Pegoretti for that matter was no one knew what they were or what they meant. I finally changed Lanterne Rouge to Red Lantern Cycles because I was tired of all the Cycling Distributors not knowing what Lanterne Rouge was (The “Lanterne Rouge” is the the name given to the last placed rider in the Tour de France.) Pegorettis also didn’t sell for years. But then I started Velo Tech Cycles with Tom Jelmyer in 2006. He had a good service business out of his house in Palo Alto at the time. That went great but I sold the business and went back to D.C. as I had unfinished business back there and kept Red Lantern going.
Matt Bond: Tell us about Red Lantern Cycles. What are some of your goals for the shop?
Matt Barkley: Red Lantern Cycles is all about you guys, the riders. By riders, I mean anyone riding a bike. The guys and gals over at the skate park, commuters on the Caltrain, even though it’s obvious that we specialize in road bikes. This area with its history is so great and friendly for cycling. The community is great. I really want to see what energy and what ideas come from the cyclists and what they need. I envision the brand growing and being an example for the industry of professional service and top-quality product and ideas.
Matt Bond: You mentioned that you moved here from the East Coast. What are some differences in terms of riding and the cycling communities?
Matt Barkley: I gotta say I am amazed how there is cycling and cycling communities everywhere with all kinds of weather/climate and topography, etc. City versus country. This area simply has so many cyclists as the active lifestyle lends to more people being involved in multiple outdoor activities. The weather here allows easier year-round riding. Riding has changed so much since 1999. Group rides and races have more numbers. Just look at how many rides, organized and informal, occur in the Bay Area every week! This is a pretty big pond here. A great area for great riders.
Matt Bond: Do you have any Group Ride insights or tips for those interested in getting out there in a group?
Matt Barkley: Don’t be intimidated. There seem to be a high number of agro dudes (and a few agro chicks) on some of these group rides, but don’t let them intimidate you because they are the ones that probably know the least. The best riders have the least attitude. Go get out there and try to learn from the smarter riders.
It is not about flicking off cars and screaming at guys and riding out of control and negatively. It is about riding positively and going faster and faster. It seems there are more feeder rides for beginners especially in the past 10 years. Before that is was pretty cut-throat. I mean I remember getting dropped on my first group ride. That was a great lesson! If you want to get out there and do it, you will. Just keep going back and you will win that sprint or hill climb. Let your legs do the talking and pull-through smoothly or I’ll get dropped. That’s the art of the group ride baby!
Matt Bond writes about cycling at the Art of the Group Ride.
Photos by Linda Hubbard Gulker