"Do you remember how it felt, riding your bike around the neighborhood as a kid? For most of us, this was our first taste of freedom - a sense of possibility and adventure beyond the known world of home and school."
- Introduction from the Joy Of Cycling
The best adults are those that never lose their child-like sense of wonder. John Dimon, owner of the retro bike shop Human Power Planet Earth, is one of those people, and he is such a wonderful asset to the community of Saranac Lake. Whenever I'm walking along Main Street, I always make a point to pop my head into his shop. Sometimes our exchanges are a quick hello, other times we talk for hours. No matter what, Dimon's upbeat energy always reinvigorates me and he usually inspires my next human powered adventure just by saying his famous tagline, "Have you used your human power today?" This is a man you want to get to know. That's why I jumped at the opportunity to interview and catch up with him over a cup of hot chocolate.
Can you tell me about your life before Saranac Lake?
I grew up in Cortland, New York. It's a rural area in central New York, which is surrounded by dairy farms. As a kid, I would ride my 10-speed road bike as far as I could and would try to beat my distance every time. Eventually, I rode far enough to reach the next county (Onondaga). Cycling always gave me that sense of freedom, even from a young age.
What brought you to the Adirondacks?
I used to visit the Adirondacks for cross-country ski races at Mt. Van Hoevenberg and I always loved coming here. I noticed people in Lake Placid were a different breed; they were always active in the outdoors and I liked that energy. Eventually, I had the opportunity to work in Lake Placid at High Peaks Cyclery. My friend Mark Doorman had been working there, but he went to Canada to train for speed skating, so I knew there was a vacancy. I ended up getting the job and worked there on and off for 8 years (1987-1996). Job cuts at High Peaks Cyclery forced me to look for work elsewhere, but fortunately, I didn't have to go too far away. I started working for Placid Planet Bicycles across town, which was supposed to be just seasonal employment. But that turned into a year-round gig when I asked the owners if I could rent/sell speed skates. They knew I already had contacts in the speed skating world and this would bring in more customers in the winter time, so they gave me their support. It was so successful, I opened up my own shop, Dimon Sports, the following year in 1997.
Tell me more about Dimon Sports and why you transitioned to Human Power Planet Earth Bike Shop.
At the time, Dimon Sports was the only full-service speed skating shop in North America. For 11 years, I sold/rented skates, offered skate maintenance, and even had my own clothing brand. Then, the 2008 recession hit and I had to close down. I sold my house in Lake Placid and moved to Saranac Lake, where I started to work at Nori's Village Market.
What inspired you to open Human Power Planet Earth Bike Shop?
In 2008, I was working at Nori's Village Market, which is where I really learned about the Saranac Lake community. People started to request me for bicycle maintenance, so I rented a 10 x 25 sq. ft. space to fix bikes with my dad's old tool box. Everything started with repairs, then a shop became the logical next step. In 2013, I opened Human Powered Planet Earth Bike Shop right on Main Street.
How would you describe your shop? What makes your shop different?
My shop heavily focuses on repairs/service. I like to give bikes a second and third life. This in turn, makes reconditioned bikes more affordable and sustainable for the community. Our mission is to help save you money, be healthy, and live a sustainable lifestyle for this planet through cycling and other human powered activities. In the winter, I offer rentals for fat bikes, kick sleds, and nordic skates.
How did you come up with the name?
For most of my life, I didn't have a car, so my bike was my main form of transportation. I have always had a passion for human powered movement, whether it be cycling, cross-country skiing, speed skating, etc. Ultimately, I wanted to create and maintain a sustainable culture. Being a human power advocate directly effects planet earth, so it made sense to put everything together in a name.
Do you have any hopes or dreams for cycling within the Saranac Lake community?
The mountain bike scene has really improved over the years and I would like to see the same growth happen for gravel riding. Saranac Lake already has the 16-mile Bloomingdale Bog Trail from Lake Colby to Lake Kushaqua. When the Adirondack Rail Trail is completed, another 34 miles of trail will be accessible right in the heart of downtown. In the future, I'd like to get as many people out as possible to ride at least a portion of the trail. I'd also like to see the culture of riding expand as a whole. For example, I have dreamt of hosting an event at Dewey Mountain, where people can come together to ride bikes and watch a movie afterwards. Events like this would reinvigorate the community and would be something for everyone to get excited about.
During your next visit to Saranac Lake, make sure you stop in to Human Power Planet Earth to say hi to Dimon. Rent a bike and explore all the outdoor recreation opportunities Saranac Lake has to offer! Grab your mountain bike and head to Mt. Pisgah Recreation Center or take a hike at Dewey Mountain. Don't forget to take a stroll downtown and refuel at one of Saranac Lake's delicious restaurants.