When Aaron Spilker woke up after two emergency knee surgeries, he knew inside he could turn his life around by pursuing his former hobby – bicycles. And, he was right.
The longtime Stansbury Park resident is now the owner of a home-based bike repair shop. In the process, he also began riding his own Quintana Roo Tri bike to lose weight, manage stress and train for an Ironman Triathlon.
In late 2011, Spilker, 54, said he found himself overweight. He had allowed his hectic schedule to squeeze out his health priorities. On Nov. 17, he showed up to work with a red and swollen left knee. His boss suggested he go get it looked at.
He visited a local physician’s assistant, who stuck him with a needle. Spilker doesn’t recall what happened after that. He woke up in a hospital’s ICU with septic shock.
“I was lying in bed, and they told me I had two surgeries on my knee,” Spilker said, “but I couldn’t see my knee because my stomach was in the way. I had this awakening. I knew I could be dead just as easily as alive. It was time to take things seriously. It was a trigger to start training and exercise more.”
After he recovered, Spilker spent the next year training. He lost 70 pounds and trained five hours a day to prepare for an Ironman Triathlon in Couer d’Alene, Idaho.
An Ironman race consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and 26.2-mile run. He fulfilled his training goal on June 29, 2014, when he finished and received a medal for his hard work.
Spilker’s love for bicycles began in Idaho Falls, Idaho, when he was a young boy. He grew up both riding and fixing bikes. He can still remember his first bicycle, a Yellowstone Schwinn, with its tall handlebars and banana seat. He worked on his Schwinn using parts he would buy from the local Schwinn bike shop.
“I loved bikes before I loved my first girlfriend,” he said.
The owners of the shop in Idaho Falls, Gene and Paula Christiansen, noticed Spilker’s interest in bikes and offered him a job when he was 12 years old.
In high school, Spilker rode a regular 10-speed. On weekends he would bike 40 miles by himself to camp out overnight.
After finishing high school, Spilker served an LDS mission in Independence, Missouri. During his mission, he again rode a bike. To this bike he added upright handlebars, so he could pop wheelies better.
Residents would say to him, “Oh, you’re the Mormon man we saw riding wheelies,” Spilker said.
Spilker returned home, and while attending Brigham Young University, he worked at Utah Valley Bicycle. Later, as he was opening his own shop in Stansbury, he decided his new shop would be called Tooele Valley Bicycle — or TVB for short.
“I’ve had a little shop out of my garage since I’ve been married,” Spilker said.
As they moved around, Spilker has collected more tools for repairing bikes. He and his wife, Joey Spilker, have divided the business’ responsibilities: he fixes the bikes and she manages the finances.
“Joey is the brains, and I do the work. She does the bookkeeping, keeps track of inventory and manages the taxes,” Spilker said.
The experienced cyclist regularly enjoys his morning rides in Middle Canyon, Settlement Canyon and the Mormon Trail through Grantsville and Tooele. But he said the lack of hills in Tooele County poses a problem for serious cyclists.
Besides cycling, Spilker also enjoys hiking, running and camping.
The Spilker family has lived in Stansbury Park for almost 18 years and they have seven children and four grandchildren. Spilker’s day job is in the healthcare business.
Six years before his knee surgery in 2011, he briefly worked on his bike business out of his Stansbury home on Wheat Drive. Soon after he opened, however, he was called as bishop of his LDS congregation. With seven young children, he had to put the bike business aside until he had more time.
Once Spilker was healthy again and the Ironman was finished, he turned his attention back to his business, employing two of his sons, Nathan and Jarom, through their teenage years.
When Spilker’s sons were around to help, TVB would run an advertisement in the newspaper. But after his sons grew up and moved out, Spilker couldn’t keep up with the business. He now just uses Facebook and word of mouth to advertise.
Aside from bikes, Spilker said he has also repaired scooters, strollers and wheelchairs. He also said TVB offers affordable pricing and free advice.
His biggest piece of advice is that like a car, bicycles need regular maintenance. For example, he said preventative measures for bike tires is important. Goatheads, a thorn prevalent in Utah’s deserts, can ruin a fun ride, he said. He suggested a liner that goes between the tire and the tube to prevent punctures.
He also recommended that owners look at their bikes before each ride. Check for low tire pressure and do a visual check of all the parts.
Spilker said, “If you have nice stuff you need to take care of it.”
He advises a tune-up once a year. When looking for a serious bike, Simper suggested consumers look in the right stores.
“I’d try to get you into a real bike that has parts that can be repaired or replaced,” he said.
Spilker is up front with his customers. He lets them know if their bike isn’t worth the cost of repairs.
“I’ll tell them to go to DI [Deseret Industries] and buy a bike for $25. You’re going to spend more than that to fix it. …There’s just no sense unless you are sentimentally attached to it,” he said.
Currently, Spilker does not sell bikes, but he is willing to help others find a bike that works for them. One great resource, he said, is the online KSL Classifieds.
Since childhood, bikes have put a smile on Spilker’s face. They have also set him on a course for a healthier lifestyle and have given him the opportunity to work alongside his family in their home-based bike business.
His hobby has become a passion, has brought him joy, improved his physical and emotional well-being and it has allowed him to achieve his triathlon goal — something that was out of his reach just seven short years ago. Now he shares his passion with customers who can also better their lives by biking.
With his enthusiasm for bikes, Spilker is spreading the gift of a good ride on a good bike throughout Tooele Valley from a garage on Stansbury’s Wheat Drive.