What began as a hobby enjoyed by a teenager, continued and grew into a lifelong business for Riverside’s Ned Figgins. Ned grew up in the Kalona area and attended high school in Kalona in the …
What began as a hobby enjoyed by a teenager, continued and grew into a lifelong business for Riverside’s Ned Figgins. Ned grew up in the Kalona area and attended high school in Kalona in the building which is now the Kalona Rec Center.
Always being “interested in how motors run”, Ned left high school in 1947 after his junior year and worked as mechanic doing repairs and tune-ups on old cars and motorcycles.
In 1957 he opened a car garage in the town of Hills but continued his love of working on cycles on the side. In 1961 he acquired a franchise to be a dealer for Bridgestone motorcycles and fazed out the work on cars. He explained that “trying to work on cars and motorcycles in the same shop just didn’t mix.”
In 1962 the Figgins family, Ned, his wife Jane and two sons Jim and Ron, moved to Riverside and built the shop where the business is still located today. The shop is an interesting place with all kinds of motorcycle memorabilia collected from a lifelong love of the iron horse. Over the years the Figgins’ have added on to the modest building to make more room for parts and service and showroom area.
Ned has sold cycles for several different makers over the years. In 1964 he took on Triumph and BSA bikes. After selling Bridgestones for several years, that ended when the company stopped making them in 1971. He was a successful BMW dealer for twenty-four years but gave up that franchise because, according to Ned, “They wanted too much control of how we ran our business.”
Ned’s has always been a family business. Jane has kept the books for many years and still does, when her health permits.
Sons Ron and Jim did a lot of competitive racing while in high school. The showroom has on display hundreds of trophies they earned. They were offered opportunities to ride professionally for various companies but chose to stay in school instead.
Ron raced on the circuit from Indiana to South Dakota and in 1969-70 won the number one in the nation Sportsman Short Track award.
The elder Figgins was also quite a rider, claiming to have been the first man to take a cycle up the hill climb on the Floyd Prymek farm.
Over the years Ned’s Cycles won opportunities to tour factories in Europe. While it was tempting to go, Ned explained that they never went because he just didn’t want to fly, even though he had considerable training as a pilot and almost finished the requirements to receive his pilot’s license.
After ending the dealership with BMW in 1993, Ned’s was without a franchise until 1995. At that time they began selling bikes for the Italian company Moto Guzzi, pronounced “goot-si”. The company importer is based in Angier, North Carolina. Ned says Moto Guzzi has been a great company to work with, “a real down-to-earth company that lets us run things the way we need to.”
Business has been good for the Figgins’ and last year Ned’s was awarded a plaque for being the most advanced dealer in sales for Moto Guzzi in the United States.
In addition to running the cycle shop, Ned has been involved in farming in the Riverside and Kalona area for most of his life. He also has operated a trucking business for twenty-five years, hauling lime, rock and dirt.
Ned and son Jim, who co-manages the business, believe in keeping overhead low and making sure their customers are happy.
While I was in the shop several customers came by and they all had good things to say about doing business with Ned’s. A couple from Bloomington, Wisconsin said Ned’s has a good reputation for service and “go out of their way to help the customer. It’s worth the extra drive to do business here. They have a good reputation all over.”
It must be true because while there are no big neon signs and it’s located “off the beaten path,” Ned’s has been and continues to be a successful and unique small town enterprise.
What does Ned see as changes in the cycle business? He thinks it’s become more of a family sport, and more women are riding and buying cycles. The new cruiser bikes are more popular than sport bikes, which were a fad for several years. The insurance and high cost of the sport bikes made it a very expensive sport. The newer cruising bikes are more for the true cyclist and are used for recreation, touring and transportation to work.
What started as a hobby has continued over the years as a successful business, and the Figgins’ take pride in doing things their way and staying located here in rural Iowa.
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