Ken Martin's father spent 25 years with the U.S. Forest Service, working to acquire and preserve large tracts of land across the country. This career kept relocating the family from one National Forest to another, and it instilled in Ken a deep respect and appreciation for nature and the environment. Ken was born in Oregon in 1974, and after several moves, the family finally settled in central New Hampshire, where Ken spent his formative years, fell in love with cycling, and destined himself to a career with bicycles.
At age 13, Ken entered the bike business with an after-school job at Piche's Ski and Sport in Gilford, NH. Until he got his driver's license, he rode the school bus every afternoon to work at Piche's. Bob Bolduc, owner of Piche's, taught Ken the ins and outs of sporting goods retail and delivered lessons that Mike's Bikes uses to this day. Ken put in more hours than his parents ever approved of, but working with bikes and skis at Piche's became his passion.
At 14, Ken decided to give bicycle retail a try on his own. He and his high school friend, Matt Maher, founded M&M Bicycles (Martin & Maher) in Ken's parents' garage. Convincing his parents to give up garage space rent free was only the first of many hurdles for a teenage entrepreneur, but Ken met his goal of setting up a legitimate business, with vendor wholesale accounts, inventory on hand, ad space in the Gilford High School newspaper, and even a State of NH Business License, which hangs in the Mike's Bikes offices today.
At 16, Ken became the hard goods manager of Piche's new store in Wolfeboro, NH, then split his work time between the Wolfeboro and Gilford stores. He dedicated himself to bicycle retail all the way through high school. So when he moved to Philadelphia in 1991 to attend business school at the University of Pennsylvania, his first mission was naturally to find a job at the nearest bike shop. On his first weekend in Philly, he was hired by Bicycle Express on 40th Street and started a lifelong friendship with owner, Dave Kaplan. Ken became Dave's star employee and Dave became Ken's mentor. To this day, Ken claims to have learned more from Dave than from his 4 years at the Wharton business school.
In 1993, Dave Kaplan sold Bicycle Express and moved to California to buy a single store in San Rafael called Mike's Bikes. There was immense pressure for Ken to join Dave in California, but Ken's family convinced him to stay at Penn and complete his degree. As a compromise, Ken drove to California to work at Mike's Bikes for the summer before his senior year, also traveling to Mike's twice a year to work for Dave during SuperSale. As for the Philadelphia store, the new owner was a large chain called Bike Line, and from this experience, Ken learned important lessons on how not to run a chain of bike stores. Being fired from Bike Line no less than three times taught Ken that he was definitely not cut out for a life in "corporate" bike shops.
The day after Ken graduated from Penn at age 20, he was in his VW Jetta, bound for California to work for Dave at Mike's Bikes. The next three years brought new successes to Mike's Bikes with the growth of the San Rafael store, and the acquisition of Sausalito Cyclery, the legendary store founded by Sammy Hagar and home of the famous Red Rocker mountain bike. But in 1998, Ken learned that Dave was moving on to his next venture and would be selling Mike's Bikes. Ken also learned who the potential buyer was and, knowing that their styles would not mix well, knew immediately that the only way to keep his job at Mike's Bikes was to buy the store.
...the only way to keep his job at Mike's Bikes was to buy the store.
Upon hearing of Ken's situation, his roommate, Mike Gabrys, suggested they go into business together. A partnership was born, the only problem being that the partnership had absolutely no money. So, with nothing to lose, Ken and Mike put on their suits and ties and hit the pavement day after day, asking one bank after another to finance their purchase of Mike's Bikes, but to no surprise, they were turned down repeatedly. Finally, through a contact at Comerica Bank in Detroit, and with the support and cooperation of the Small Business Administration, Ken and Mike cobbled together the financing and bought the San Rafael and Sausalito stores from Dave.
After 6 years of steady growth and improvement, Ken and Mike invited Matt Adams to become an equity partner and he jumped at the chance, dividing the duties of running the company between Ken and Matt to reflect each partner's natural strengths. As the company grew and became more established, Ken and Matt sought to put to the test their long held belief that bikes can literally change the world. Out of this desire grew The Mike's Bikes Foundation and the Sister Shop projects in Africa, with the goal of putting as many people as possible in the developing world on bicycles, in a sustainable, local, entrepreneurial way. Over 28,000 bikes have been distributed throughout southern Africa by the Foundation.
Today, Ken serves as CEO with over 250 co-workers, overseeing all operations at the 12 Mike's Bikes stores, as well as the popular bike brand Public Bikes, various e-commerce websites, and a collection of bike and equipment brands under private label or exclusive distribution arrangements. Collectively, Ken and his team put more than 25,000 new bikes out on the roads and trails every year. More than 30 years after getting his first job in a bike shop, Ken still enjoys every day of delivering great customer experiences, putting more bikes on the road, growing the Mike's Bikes family, promoting cycling as efficient and sustainable transit, furthering the cause of social equity in places like Africa through access to bikes, and enjoying the open space his father spent his life protecting.
Ken lives in Novato with his wife, Bonnie, and his kids, Sam and Katie. His bike fleet currently includes a Specialized Vado 5.0, a Specialized Tarmac, and a Public D8i for just cruising around town.