Cycling has a long history in Peoria, and Illinois Cycle & Fitness is part of the reason, said Illinois Central College engineering professor Marty Potts, who has researched the sport's history in the city. Illinois Cycle made bicycles for the Duryeas before they placed their bet on a different form of transportation, and they were Peoria's go-to suppliers in the early 1900s, when membership in the Peoria Bicycle Club was a status symbol, Potts said.
It's still a small business, with about 10 employees, but it's also seen many changes in its over 130-year history. For starters, most of the company's customers are buying bicycles for recreation or sport, not their primary form of transportation. But Bousky said they've attracted a loyal following over the years.
"We get a lot of people who first come in to buy their kids their first bike, and we send those same kids off to college on bikes they buy here," said Bousky, who's been helping out at the shop since he was 8 years old.
The shop has $12,000 racing bikes, $150 kids bikes and everything in between, Bousky said, and serve customers ages 2 to 92.
That's one of the reasons knowing their history comes in handy, Bousky said. Few other businesses offer the same degree of experience and for decades the core business is the same.
"We help people find the best bike for what they need, whether that's riding with their family, racing or fitness," he said.
The company that's now Illinois Cycle & Fitness has had several names over the years, but got its start with H.G. Rouse and S.B. Hazard, who designed and manufactured bicycles for the Duryea brothers as Rouse, Hazard & Co. Its two main bicycle lines - the Sylph and Overlander - won top honors at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, and they were soon selling bicycles in every city, state and territory in the country, as well as Canada.
When the Duryeas decided to focus on a form of transportation they thought would be more lucrative, the automobile, Rouse and Hazard sold the bicycle business to two former employees: William and Edwin Voss, who'd moved to Peoria from New York as children. The Voss brothers manufactured their own bicycles, as Rouse, Hazard & Co. had done, but the pair struggled to keep up with booming demand on their own. Shortly after they bought the company in 1900, they began selling Schwinn bicycles as one of the first authorized dealers in the country.
When the Voss brothers decided to retire in the 1950s, the Schwinn connection came in handy. Joe Bousky, son-in-law of Schwinn's vice president, had just returned from the Korean War, was looking for a new career, and decided to buy the Voss' business. Voss Bros. Bicycle Co. became Illinois Cycle & Fitness, and has stayed in the Bousky family ever since.