Barr Bike & Fitness has been in Des Moines for 123 years and has ties back to 1891 when the business not only worked on bicycles, but restrung tennis racquets too!

Barr Bike's First 123 Years in Des Moines...

The origins of this business can be traced back to Ernest D. Kenyon, born 1865, who in 1891, started his own bicycle shop at 205 6th avenue, in Des Moines, Iowa, called "Kenyon Bicycle Manufacturing Company". He sold this business to Redhead, Norton, Lathrop & Rhoads in 1894, and they subsequently renamed the business "Pacemaker Bicycle Manufacturing Company". This venture was one of the several businesses that included the present day Hopkins Sporting Goods store.

Later on in 1894, Mr. Kenyon (see photo) in partnership with Fenimore I. Cooper, launched "Kenyon-Cooper Bicycle Company" at 805 Locust, in Des Moines. Kenyon served as president, and Cooper was the secretary and treasurer of the company. By 1896, Cooper had left the partnership, and the company had a "works" location (assembly) at 818/820 Grand Avenue and a retail shop at 805 Locust. This situation continued until 1899.

Al Moore was a fairly well known newspaper reporter for some of Des Moines' leading newspapers of the late 1800s. He apparently became the temporary owner of the works location at 823 Grand, for his son, Byrd E. Moore. Ernest Kenyon in that year moved his shop to 726 Grand, and this is where the split occurs between Barr's history and Ernest Kenyon. Kenyon continues his bicycle shop to about 1902, partnering up with Joseph H. Becker, and in 1903, both of them and the business are gone. Ernest D. Kenyon would eventually head back to Osh Kosh, Wisconsin until his death. It is unknown what became of Joseph H. Becker.

Meanwhile, in 1900, Byrd E. Moore now was officially listed as the proprietor of his own shop at 823 Grand Avenue, called "Byrd E. Moore Bicycles". Moore was well known in central Iowa as a bicycle racer from Des Moines, racing in most major competitions locally in the 1890's. He briefly had a bicycle store up at Rolfe, Iowa with a partner named Glen Tidrick, and it was in the rear of Rich's Hardware Store. It was called Moore & Tidrick, and existed briefly in 1896. Moore was once an employee of World Bicycles as a manager in it's brief existence, then he was employed by Kenyon, eventually taking over the assembly branch of his business.

Moore continued his operation at this address until 1906, when it became located at 814 Grand Avenue. This continues until 1920, when he sells his entire business to Merton E. Barr. Merton Barr early on advertised that he repaired bicycles, and restrung tennis rackets. He continued operating his shop at 814 Grand, relocating in 1932 to 713-715 Grand. In 1943 or 1944 he bought out the bicycle concerns of Don Miller Cycle Company (Which continued on as Miller Products Company) , thus acquiring a brief 2nd location at 915 Grand about 1944-1945. In 1946 the concern is now known as Barr Bicycle shop, and goes back to it's original one location.

Byrd Moore even briefly returns to the Des Moines Bicycle scene in 1936 & 1937 at 817 Grand Avenue., after an absence from Des Moines of 16 years. After 1937 he leaves and eventually ends up in Downey, California until his passing in 1941.

In 1950 the shop relocates to a location west of the downtown area, at 1500 Linden. When Merton Barr died in 1956, the shop had been closed for several months. There had been talk of his family continuing to run the shop, but eventually it was sold to an employee and his brother-in-law.

On May 31, 1956 Barr Bike was sold to this pair of brother-in-laws for $3,000.00, that included the 1940 canopy express Chevrolet truck. Paul Valentine and his brother-in-law, Herbert C. Hoss now were partners in the business, Hoss being the silent partner, and Valentine ran the shop. They kept the Barr Bicycle moniker for name recognition reasons. In 1958 they moved the shop to a location further west, at 1815 Keosauqua Way. The shop's store front was deceptively small, as when you went inside you found that most of the business was located in the back rooms of the retail building they were in. They were mainly known to sell Schwinn Bicycles as their main bicycle line.

Eventually Herbert Hoss bought out Paul Valentine's interest, and subsequently he was bought out eventually by his son, James Hoss, in 1968. He worked as an employee of the shop, eventually owning it, and moving it in 1971.

In the spring of 1971 A brand new building built especially for Barr Bicycle was constructed at 1710 86th Street (also known as Clive Road) in Clive, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines. Then in 1987, a large 2 story addition was built, replacing a small house in the back of the original building that was being used for storage. Barr Bicycle then rented out the front 1/3 to Printing Plus, a local printing company.

With a large increase in the fitness division, Barr Bicycle decided to change its name. In 1990, Barr Bicycle re-incorporated as Barr Bicycle and Fitness, Inc.

In 1992 Barr Bicycle took over the entire location for bikes and increased the fitness showroom and the service department size.

In 2003 Mr. Hoss retired and sold the store to his three adult children, who combined, had over 40 years of bike shop experience. When new generation took over they soon learned that the store needed a new updated look and needed to increase efficiency. In the summer of 2004 they moved part of the service dept and non essential departments to the lower level and were able to remodel the entire showroom into the single story front part of the store. The back part of the store was later rented to Professional Music Center (Last Chance Guitars).

Currently, Barr Bike & Fitness mostly sells cannondale, Raleigh, and Terra Trikes. The show room also recieved a new updated look in 2013 aswell.

Today Barr Bike & Fitness has become a destination shop of enthusiasts and generations of Iowa cyclist who have trusted Barr Bike and its predecessors for over 110 years. Keep checking this web site, we will try to keep you up dated for the next 100 years.



It is pretty cool to think that there is a bicycle shop in Des Moines open today that has roots from over 100 years ago and has the history to prove it.

Barr Bike & Fitness was one of the BIKEIOWA's firsrt sponsors. They have been a sponsor since May 2005 and we have enjoyed their partnership ever since.

Check out our posts over the year as you search for Barr Bicycle and Barr Bike on the site.

Kudos to Dave and the crew and here is to another 100 years!


Barr Bike & Fitness
1710 NW 86th St
(515) 223-6111

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Very cool! Way to go BARR!!

#1 - GeorgieLibbie posted Dec 1, 2014

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