Bike Shop Girl | The Bike Industry is Sick and Hiring More Women Won’t Fix It
A woman owned mobile bicycle workshop in Northeast Denver, Colorado with over 15+ years experience as a master mechanic.
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The Bike Industry is Sick and Hiring More Women Won’t Fix It

The Bike Industry is Sick (1)

The Bike Industry is Sick and Hiring More Women Won’t Fix It

Over the past few weeks there have been a few articles highlighting the need for better inclusivity for women in order to help grow the industry. First there was Amanda Batty who left PinkBike as a writer after being bullied and not supported by her employer. Then, the League of American Bicyclists released a Women Bike report, “Bike Shops for Everyone: Strategies for Making Bike Retail More Welcoming to Women.” Quickly behind the Bike League, People for Bikes released new research on Women’s participation. Finally, Molly with Bicycling Magazine wrote a piece on how bike shops can be more friendly to women.

Over the past 5-10 years the focus of getting more women riding has spurred a lot of new product, brands and a great amount of debate within the inner circles of the industry if women really need special product. As a woman that has essentially grown up in the bike industry I really hope that the industry will catch up with the times and start to understand the larger problems that are keeping the industry from growing. These same problems will also keep turning women away.

In no particular order, here is my personal take on why the industry is sick and only getting worse. These thoughts come from running bike shops, working on the vendor side, and being an outside rep for 370 dealers in the Southeast.

Why is the Industry Broken?

1. There is No Barrier for Entry or Standard of Training

Finding a job in a bike shop isn’t hard, if you like bikes and present yourself well you can find a job at one of the 5,000 bike shops in the US. As one works up in their shop career or decide to work for brands or distribution some experience comes into play but there isn’t a available degree, school or class regime that you can take to “learn bikes” outside of simply putting in time.

Due to this lack of infrastructure there is no standardization of training. Some folks will go to mechanics school such as UBI but if that is your only experience as a mechanic you probably won’t land a job in a shop right away as these schools do not teach real life situations. There isn’t a class you can take in high school unless you are lucky to have a community shop. There is also no training provided by a hierarchy of the trade commission. If you aren’t a shop that carries Trek, Specialized or Giant than you don’t have much chance to teach your employees (or yourself) valuable skills like bike fitting, sales techniques, or basic accounting functions. Some brands such as QBP, and Mann University, have identified this and are trying to help but it isn’t standard or a requirement.

We have bike shop employees learning under fire and representing that shop to the customers that walk in the door. If they are lucky enough to work at a shop that has their own training protocol they are lucky, but unfortunately the employees often looks at this training as “corporate” and not valuable. Most shop general managers or service managers are there due to Peter Principle and not due to having managerial experience or skills.

2. Lack of Training

This lack of training (and education) breeds lack of basic business understanding. Employees are doing their best with little guidance, and typically when a customer is unhappy you will only know from a negative Yelp review. Many, if not most, bike shops are being run on super tight budgets with low profit margins because the owners, buyers and managers don’t understand where they could be saving money, where they shouldn’t be spending it and how to maximize their bottom line.

3. Low Average Pay

Low profit margins mean low average pay. Low average pay within an industry that requires a lot of knowledge within tech and product. Shop and brand employees are often quizzed by customers who have been researching the heck out of product online. There are tech events hosted by brands like SRAM, Park and Shimano to keep industry employees knowledgable on the product. We have employees working off hours (10-7, including weekends) that must know as much as possible on the niches of bikes their shops carry, including competing brands, making between $11-16 an hour, typically without any benefits other than a discount.

4. Product First Mentality

The industry has shoved product education down these under paid  adults throats but we haven’t taught them about business, about building a brand, about selling or making a community. There are multiple events during the year like Interbike and Sea Otter where brands and shops ship their employees to drink the latest Kool-Aid, but we are serving them product that will be phased out in 6 months and not knowledge that will help any customer that walks in your door.

How Do We Fix The Bicycle Industry?

1. We teach bike shops how to run as a business. This includes marketing, sales and data.

2. Once bike shops are running as businesses (and not passion fueled shells simply sitting in the black every year) we can pay people, and give them benefits so they don’t leave for another industry.

3. Start training with the basics.
Any large retail company trains their employees first on customer service, standard processes like working the register, store layout, and then product. Why? Product revolves every 6 weeks, being a good human does not.

4. NBDA needs to standardize this basic training
. Provide it online at no costs to your members.

5. Shops require this training before an employee sets foot near a customer
. Stop hiring 16 year old high schoolers to help sell kids bikes their first day on the job. Parents will continue to look at bikes as toys if we don’t teach them otherwise.

6. Sponsors and advertisers hold your magazines, bloggers and athletes accountable. If an article is released that talks shit about women in the auto world, even in an off hand remark, do you not think there will be hell to pay?

7. Grow up. Don’t show up to work smelling like beer. Keep your bathrooms clean. Brands keep it classy at demos. If your employer pays for you to go to Interbike don’t be so drunk that you don’t remember anything.

8. Be human and respectful. When a customer’s bike is wrecked and they are heart broken don’t be a jerk about it. If someone is stoked about their first $750 mountain bike, give them a high five and recommend a couple of your favorite beginner trails. Stop talking down to each other. There is absolutely nothing to gain by proving others wrong or showing that you know more than them. You don’t earn a bonus, and you may have just turned someone off from biking.

We Aren’t a Hobby

In conclusion, I would also like to ask that we stop comparing ourselves to golf, or some other hobby. I would love to compare us to the auto industry. Not only because bikes are transportation but because cars aren’t so different. They requires sales, service and have a lot of variations in models. What is different is the training. To work in a car dealer you go through intensive training for both sales and service. My favorite part of comparing the bike industry to auto? You don’t see cars designed only for women.

Next Steps

Are you in the industry, or a consumer? Does any of the above ring true to you in your experiences? Tell us about them.

51 Comments
  • Katherine
    Posted at 12:52h, 04 June Reply

    This is a very good, valuable piece and I’m glad someone is saying it. It’s not really about gender; it’s about sound business practices, customer service and good public relations. Your list is spot on and should be nailed up to bike shop doors nationwide. Unfortunately, I think the problem also extends beyond bike shops into the entire industry (I have worked in the mountain bike industry for 5 years).

    Even in positions where formal education is available and would be valuable, many outdoor industry companies are hyper-focused on hiring ex-pros and big names, particularly in marketing, sales and branding departments. I have nothing against those people; I have a friend and neighbor who was a big-name pro MTB racer back in the day and works in global sales for a gear company. He’s a rad, intelligent dude who works hard, but I think some big industry players only care about your name and who you know, not your skill set or professional background. That eliminates a lot of women—and a lot of generally skilled people who are also super-passionate about bicycles … two things that threaten to stunt the bicycle industry as a whole.

    At the very least, the broader bike industry has gotten slightly better in that working in a bike shop is no longer an ironclad prerequisite for entry into the boys’ club. But it’s still a world that could stand to grow up. I’m all for having as much fun as possible, but fun and being super pro are NOT mutually exclusive.

  • industry veteran
    Posted at 14:30h, 04 June Reply

    I agree with everything you said, that hiring women will not solve the problem, that professionalism is the true culprit.
    Make sure your staff is trained, both sales and service. Larger brands should have training requirements in their retailer contracts and have their local reps sign off on the training.
    Labor rates need to go up and should match those in the auto industry. Both require specialty equipment and training. Why then do we charge so little? If we want bikes to be viewed as transportation options, let’s treat them that way. Realistic labor rates also translate to better wages and benefits. This means the retailer can retain their experienced staff who might look elsewhere for better support.
    The industry should also consider hiring more people from outside the bicycle world. Let’s stop perpetuating the same ideas and acquire some fresh ideas. And those retiring athletes, who do you think they will market to? Yep, the 1% who drive the next 5% in purchases as that is what they learned from their supporting brands. We need to rock the boat a bit.

  • Tim Jackson
    Posted at 14:42h, 04 June Reply

    Umm … all of the above.

    We, as an industry, need to grow up and mature- as well as drop the idea that we’re just selling expensive toys. We are, and we aren’t. We are an industry that thrives on technology and innovation. Many of the smartest people I’ve ever known are in this industry. But continuing to sell more product to existing consumers is less sustainable than actually growing the consumer base.

    Probs;
    1) & 2) We need to do a better job of bringing smart people into the business- who are still passionate about the industry/ product/ sport- and giving them the tools to make us all look gooder. New consumers who do wander into our shops are often underwhelmed by the experience. I hear it nearly every day from people I know or meet.
    3) The low pay and lack of benefits for nearly all of retail, and a bigger than expected chunk of suppliers, is one of the main things holding the industry back. And like a chicken versus egg argument, higher pay will help the industry grow … but so many companies are barely hanging on as is. Retailers almost always benefit by paying employees better- retaining better employees lowers expensive turnover, as well as improves profitability by having employees with a greater interest in the business. Same is true for the brands, but since moving out of the bike shops and into the brands is seen as a step up, it takes longer for employees to burn out. Usually. The industry- especially in North America- is hyper competitive, whether at retail or within the brand world. Profit margins are thin, to non-existent, so the system keeps feeding on itself. With such technical product- which is only becoming increasingly technical- better paid employees are going to become more and more important.
    4) Gravel grinders? Really? We have too much of a tendency to rename something that either wholly already exists, or tweak ever-so-slightly, just to have a new marketing angle to sell essentially the same stuff. THIS is coming from a Marketing Wanker who gets paid to create the spin! It’s not to say that genuine innovation doesn’t exist- because it certainly does- but many times the product exists long before the consumer. We don’t listen enough, and often design within the silos of our company environments. Too often, we’re not out in the consumer world simply listening and taking notes.

    As for the answer part … all of the above is a great step in the right direction. We need more cohesive attempts AS AN INDUSTRY to help each other survive. If we all work better to help educate retailers and their staff, we all benefit- whether selling Trek, Specialized, Giro, Lazer, Shimano, or SRAM, etc, etc. If the NBDA and other groups can work together and get the industry support they need, we all benefit. Simply making a given set of retailers better capable of selling a given product/ brand just continues to harm the overall health of the industry. Does anybody remember when Schwinn was the THE dominant brand in the US? They got SO good at selling Schwinn to Schwinn dealers that when the brand lost some of its appeal and fell behind, so did the vast majority of retailers because they only knew how to sell Schwinn. Today’s dominant brands really, really need to remind themselves of that. Retailers too. If you are too deeply allied with a given brand, what are you going to do when consumer tastes change, even a little?

    There are countless other issues at play, so no single set of answers or “best practices” is going to work for everybody. But one thing is clear; if we don’t begin to make some serious changes, the outlook will only continue to get worse- not better.

  • John F
    Posted at 15:48h, 04 June Reply

    Thank you for writing this, Arleigh. There is SO much work to be done that, if shops and staff were more professional then the buying, servicing, and riding experiences would be much improved. from my 24-ish years experience in the bike industry I have seen a tremendous amount of development in the product we wear and ride, resulting in higher prices. That is not a problem by itself, but when the average level of professionalism does not reflect the quality of design, engineering, and manufacturing of the stuff we’re selling there is clearly a disconnect- but also opportunity for the shops who do get it.
    I have been teaching bike mechanics for four years now at a big bike brand, and I’m fortunate to see the guys and gals who have a serious desire and drive to always improve and continue to grow. But they’re the minority in this industry- the culture in the average shop is in dire need of refreshing and updating and getting inline with the realities of modern business.

    One of the things we talk about in our classes is how business is a uniquely human endeavor. Valuation and exchange of service and product is something that only we do and requires a robust and cultured relationship with other humans to be sustainable. Ignoring customers, criticizing their ideas and beliefs, mocking their bikes on Instagram and Facebook (I LOATHE #yourbikehatesyou), and speaking with derision when they don’t know how to do something will not save this industry.

    Being professional, approaching challenges as opportunities to attain mastery, and remembering that the most amount of opportunity is with how we relate to ALL riders and how we maintain their stoke and passion is how we will progress.

  • Matthew (@matthewwanderer)
    Posted at 16:58h, 04 June Reply

    The more the merrier in regard to all sexes on bikes, but gender inclusion is not the root problem with the bicycle industry.

    Online and off, buying bicycles and accessories is more often than not, as BSG put it, a broken experience for all of us. Thing is, bike shops have lots of company in this regard.

    Crappy experiences in cycling retail is just example of a Customer Service Crisis that plagues many industries with direct customer contact. Luckily for cycling, there are remedies, such as those BSG outlined above. Luckier still, solutions can be delivered by men and women alike.

  • Carlos Matutes
    Posted at 17:02h, 04 June Reply

    As a 20+ year veteran of the bike industry, I’ve seen many of your pain points played out over and over again. Your solutions are valid, but one that seems to be really difficult for bike shop employees (especially those of us behind the service counter,) is your final one. I fell victim to the expected stereotype of the surly, foul-mouthed, curmudgeon bike mechanic for too long. Whatever masochistic tenancies led me to admire, then emulate, guys who treated their customers badly are part of what’s wrong with the industry.
    This patriarchal hierarchy won’t go away by hiring a few women, but it certainly might start to change the game.

    Los

    • Former Co-op employee
      Posted at 15:15h, 06 July

      I used to joke that when the big, Seattle-based co-op opened (that we won’t name explicitly) a new store, they automatically shipped out a grumpy tech as part of the startup package. Having been a tech at said company, I knew it was only a half joke.

      I was always a part timer with a day job, so discount was a big motivator for me, and the Shimano online technical training not only got me the discount I craved, but a heck of a lot solid product knowledge that was able to put to work at my shop, and at home since I left the Co-Op.

  • Laith Beveridge
    Posted at 17:15h, 04 June Reply

    I know this is an article in the USA but it could easily be written for the Australian market. Awesome article and very much how I am thinking. Thank you 🙂

  • Duncan
    Posted at 18:21h, 04 June Reply

    Wow…you just summed it up. One of the biggest challenges that lay ahead for me as I begin to move toward hiring my first employee (I own a tiny store) is just how I am going to train them with out it being trial by fire…It is also hugely frustrating to me that there is zero barrier to entry into the industry I have discussed this with some of the big brands while working for them over the years and my perception has been that they don’t see it as enough of a priority.

    • Jk
      Posted at 12:14h, 05 June

      Something to consider…you just started a shop. And you are suggesting that the barrier to entry should be higher?

      Why should the barrier be at a certain point for you and higher for others?

      Free market?

    • Jeff Koenig, 2nd VP NBDA, Big Poppi Bikes
      Posted at 09:51h, 06 June

      JK, your question presumes an answer, but you aren’t asking the right question. Should there be barriers to entry to gain college admission (minimum grades, code of conduct, tuition, investment of time, etc.)? Should there be barriers to entry for a skilled job (education & training, experience, willingness to relocate, etc.)? There are a natural and planned barriers to entry for almost anything of value and this is healthy and necessary.

      With that understanding, then, you need to understand that marketplace commoditization which, among other things, describes a condition of too few barriers actually leads to consumer harm that includes loss of quality, loss of choices, loss of distinct experiences, loss of value, and further causes industry contraction and loss of jobs.

      You cannot read anything that Duncan wrote to mean he intends to have a lower barrier for himself and higher for others. He may even be willing to acknowledge the barrier for him was too low as well. After experiencing life as a shop owner, he is recognizing that they are too low for everyone, that this probably needs some upward correction, and that we would need to live by them too.

      If you want to understand further, contact me.

  • Jed Kornbluh
    Posted at 19:26h, 04 June Reply

    Well done. You hit some very good points and I’m sure a lot of folks are taking a good look at their operations and wondering how they can achieve some (hopefully all – and more) of your suggested improvements. Thanks for this.

  • Mike Jacoubowsky
    Posted at 19:55h, 04 June Reply

    Excellent piece. What’s not addressed is the industry’s obsession with doing an end-run around the brick & mortar retailer by distributing product less-expensively on-line, but expecting the brick & mortar retailer to be around to add legitimacy to the product by offering advice & service. Basically unpaid compensation. We can’t provide the investment required if we’re seeing our expertise spent on show-roomers who not only buy on-line while inside out stores, but brag to our mechanics about the great deal they got and expect to get a high-5 from them. This shouldn’t be happening; I shouldn’t be able to buy product less-expensively from retailers in Ireland than I can from my wholesalers.

    Also not pointed out is the extent to which it demoralizes an employee when show-rooming happens. They learned about the product, they successfully figured out what’s best for the customer, and then are told thanks, I’m going to get it on Amazon and save 15%. What does that do for someone’s self-worth?

    The brick & mortar bicycle retailer is an essential part of the cycling infrastructure. This industry needs to figure out how to, well, fund it, for lack of a better phrase. No handouts; we never had handouts, we never asked, never will. Just a chance for us to earn something for what we provide.

    Mike Jacoubowsky, Partner
    Chain Reaction Bicycles
    NBDA Board Member
    http://www.ChainReaction.com (*not* the on-line place in the UK!!!)

    • Anthony Quintile
      Posted at 20:04h, 25 June

      This is a great editorial, but Mike Jacoubowsky is correct. Manufacturers are building increasingly technical product and then allowing it to be distributed pretty much anywhere. (Home Depot sells bike parts now…) Bike shops that function on the level described in this editorial are necessary to service these products because of the complexity of this product. This applies to things as diverse as rider fitting and electronic shifting. If bike shops are going to continue to exist, we need to not only step up our own game, but the manufacturers need to afford us the opportunity to make a profit selling their products.

      Additionally good bike shops are vital to maintaining, and hopefully growing, the market for bicycles. Whether it is the simple presence of a bicycle shop as a retail option that piques the curiosity of the average shopper, or a high level of involvement in local advocacy and event promotion, brick and mortar shops are vital to keeping cycling in the culture of the United States. Once again, we need to be profitable if our presence is to continue, and vendors need to work in partnership with us to maintain that profitability.

      Anthony Quintile
      General Manager
      Absolute Bikes, Flagstaff, AZ

  • Nicola Rutzou
    Posted at 19:57h, 04 June Reply

    Great article. I work in a bike shop in Australia and we have lots of the same issues. I spent 25 years in corporate comms/PR and decided to take a significant pay cut to follow my passion. Having worked in quite a few other industries I describe the Australian bike industry as a ‘cottage industry’ because it is completely unsophisticated for all the reasons you list in your article. However it is starting to change and this is partly because companies like Trek and Specialized are bringing a higher level of sophistication to the market but there’s certainly more that can be done.

  • Filibuster Cash
    Posted at 19:58h, 04 June Reply

    As far as the low or non-existent entry bar goes, I’m not sure why that’s an issue. A HUGE part of what drew me to the industry initially is the decidedly un-institutional feel of even the very corporate Performance Bicycle Shop I first joined. I learned by fire, and as I’ve figured out over my 34 years of life, that is the ONLY (not the best, the ONLY) way I learn. I don’t remember any calculus from when i was 16, despite the incredible teacher I was fortunate to have, but I can still play the upright bass in a dark room after months or years of atrophy. I started learning as I went at 13, sans any lesson, trying to keep up with the rest of band class. Most, if not all, of my classmates had access to regular training outside of class, and yet by the time I graduated, I was at a quasi-professional level while most of them were not even able to tell mixolydian mode from major scale. I would have never learned had the director said, “Come back when you know everything.”
    Customer service only goes so far. The worst buying decisions I’ve made in the gear world were when I trusted a sales kid who was great at making me feel welcome and comfortable, but who knew nothing about the product. Product that is wrong for the customer, however happy she was while purchasing it, is still product that is wrong for the customer. I agree we shouldn’t be dicks, but that’s simple societal norm. Dicks are dicks, educated or not. Trained correctly in customer service or not.
    Standards are a thought, but in whom should I trust? I know bike people. I personally know instructors at UBI. Some are every bit as curmudgeonly as me. Some may even follow the Charlie Brown principle–those who can’t, teach. (Granted, he was making a wry comment about himself, but you get the gist.) Wrong or right. The best mechanics I know either never went to a bike school, or went and figured out they already knew what the classes taught just through the punching of a clock. You hint that we should trust the Big Three, but I think we shouldn’t unless we want to learn how to sue everyone ever like Sinyard, how to talk shit in actual employee training materièl about every other brand like JB, or how to make mediocre-to-great products that are hamstrung by bad marketing and boring brand story.
    What you are suggesting is a ridiculously wholesale overhaul of the industry. It also sounds like you’d opt to devalue all of the curmudgeonly experience many of us have because we didn’t gather it in a classroom which received someone else’s approval. This is something that is wrong in most corners of American employment society these days, something I’m happy I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid for over the last 19 years thanks to that low barrier to entry in the two industries I’ve chosen.
    Lastly, the most worrying thing I’ve ever heard while in the bike industry was during a visit from the president of Performance when I was managing one of their shops: “It’s not a bike shop, it’s a business.” He didn’t mean that we should learn how to run a business efficiently (about which you are 100% correct), how to forecast demand versus payroll, how to present product better, he meant we should turn our little corner of the world into yet another Macy’s. No thanks. A bike shop is the unique product not only of the folks who work there, but the folks who frequently visit.

  • fleur de clé
    Posted at 21:54h, 04 June Reply

    21 years in this flakey industry and I’ve learned to not take myself to seriously, but listen carefully to customers, learn to say, ” I don’t know “, fix my mistakes and those of others without much ado, and fight for a living wage. I certainly considered joining a union, demanding benefits, and giving goliath distributors a piece of my mind. But what is important to me is our customers, period. Play the games that distributors want to play? Sometimes, yet beware they still want to get paid for all the product they try to shove down our throats. Being lean, don’t give your rubber away, be flexible, use credit wisely and don’t pay interest or late fees, get free freight often and late, and get organized so you know what you have and what is moving and when. The biggest enemy of the brick and mortar shop is the internet. If you don’t have service, hang it up. Learn who and what is being dumped onto the discount websites and either get competitive or throw those products and manufacturers under the bus. Don’t be afraid of change, reinvent yourself and attract the clients walking in your store to return by listening to what they want and placing it in front of them. Make smaller mistakes and learn from them. Take care of the hands that take care of you. Make friends with other shops and talk about ways to boost ridership in the area. Anything that’s good for bicycling will bring a return to every shop. Sell quality products and don’t be afraid to take money. Read the instructions and understand constancy. Bicycle mechanics invented the airplane, surely we can operate a small business.

    • Robb Rasmussen
      Posted at 20:46h, 08 June

      love these discussions,. Fleur de ‘Cle. you are amazingly right on.

    • Kelly McRad
      Posted at 22:19h, 18 May

      This discussion as a whole is excellent, but this line takes the cake: “Bicycle mechanics invented the airplane, surely we can operate a small business.”

  • R. White
    Posted at 22:09h, 04 June Reply

    As harsh as this may sound, it’s “A Reality”: “Most”of the male employees at your LBS have never held a girls hand, and probably didn’t go to Prom. Had they had these experiences, they might have a glimmer of insight into how cool it is to share an experience with a female. And how they relate to women might be a little less like alienation. Hence the “gulf”. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon for over twenty years. The LBS can be a downright hostile work environment for a girl, or a woman, let alone a female customer.
    Asking your typical LBS to “man-up” is a tall order. Money won’t do it. Women need to start kicking ass, on the bike(which quite a few I know do) and off the bike as well; teach yourself about everything bike: geometry, components, maintenance, on-road repairs and jury-rigs, racing strategy and tactics(ala the weekend “ride” is code for “race”). Find a knowledgable Rider who will take the time to pass on his/her depth of knowledge to you, question everything, watch your bike mechanic, learn how to adjust your rear derailleur and lube your cables and expand from there.. The only way woman are going to get respect in the bike industry is if they stand up and take it. So GO Get It!

    P.s. They will never give it to you if you ask. Nothing in this world worth having was every gifted.

  • Dominic Ward
    Posted at 01:45h, 05 June Reply

    Point 8 is something that resonates with me very well. I have been riding road bikes for 10 years now and have changed bike shops numerous times due to the poor service from staff. I may not ride a $15K bike but that shouldn’t result in being treated like a third rate customer. Have the staff drop their egos and you may actually build up your client base. If you cannot offer good customer service then you have no right to complain about online bike shops

    • Mike Jacoubowsky
      Posted at 17:39h, 05 June

      “Good customer service.” Can you elaborate on your expectations, and what went on? There can sometimes be a complete disconnect between the shop and the customer, where the shop believes they’re doing an extraordinary job, going the extra mile to get something done, and the customer feels completely differently. I’m pretty good at reading this, but younger staff can sometimes just not quite get it (and equally, there are times when a customer goes out of their way to not get it too!).

      It’s tough being all things to all people; some shops will be a better fit for someone than others. But do agree completely about egos, if by that you mean staff that wants to brag about their latest 120 mile deathride or kamikaze downhill instead of understanding the customer’s dream. –Mike Jacoubowsky, Partner, Chain Reaction Bicycles

  • Mike
    Posted at 06:06h, 05 June Reply

    Very nice article Arleigh!

  • Michael
    Posted at 06:23h, 05 June Reply

    As a 25 year veteran of the retail side as an owner, things that keeps coming up over and over are lack of training and low wages, coupled with with razor thin profit margins. In order to PAY for the training and higher wages, profit margins need to increase. They are currently decreasing at an alarming rate as the big three brands attempt to compete with online sales by lowering margins for dealers in order to compete on the retail price. Margins need to increase – period. there is no money for the other things mentioned until the profits are there. Yes to more training of employees AND owner/managers. I would venture that when push comes to shove a large number of shop owners couldn’t produce or decipher basic financial tools like p&l’s and balance sheets.

    Secondly, the barriers to entry are too low for new shops as well. There will always be a brand or three willing to sell the next guy to call whatever they want on credit card terms to move product…don’t know how to fix this, but there are waaay to many bro shops, garage shops etc out there.

  • DS
    Posted at 06:31h, 05 June Reply

    Having worked in the industry for over ten years, both on the retail front and as a rep, I completely and whole heartedly agree with your list. I cannot tell you how many unprofessional, unequipped, and dead broke bike shops I have dealt with. I can now say, that after ten years of fighting the good fight, I have switched industries….and sadly, could not be happier about it. That being said, cycling is still part of my life, only now it is much more enjoyable…..and I don’t *need* a discount to be able to afford it.

  • Jeff Koenig, 2nd VP NBDA, Big Poppi Bikes
    Posted at 10:34h, 05 June Reply

    Arleigh, I appreciate your courage to not follow the herd and lead on the issue of biking and gender. What you are calling for in bike shops is appropriate and well-understood by those who *want* to understand. What can be done about those bike shops who don’t want to or don’t believe they are capable of becoming what you are calling for?

    This site appears to be independent of any bike shop, but in defense of the NBDA’s existing and long track record of dealer improvement education, the NBDA welcomes criticism from any member willing to work to help improve the organization. Hopefully any bike shop which you are now affiliated with or was in the past is a member and actively involved in helping, not merely criticizing.

    Yet, you titled this article “THE BICYCLE *INDUSTRY* IS SICK”. You’re right, but you tackle only one portion of the last layer of the industry — the LBS. A blog can’t be a white paper, so this can be reasonable. Is this part of a series to look at the other players in the industry or will you stop here?

    What about the ability of suppliers to change the quality of retailing by choosing who their retailers are? What about the rapid commoditization of our specialty goods by permitting discounted online and big box sales, stripping the industry of the ability to make a specialty market, pay employees well, or make the bike shop experience about more than just a price?

    BTW, I note the ads to commoditized sales channels that appear with this blog, and wonder how you can promote retailers like JensonUSA, who are structurally unable to do as you call upon bike shops to do in the best interests of customers?

    • Bike Shop Girl
      Posted at 13:06h, 09 June

      Jeff,

      Thank you for the great addition to the conversation!

      In reply to your last question, about promoting ads, JensonUSA does have brick and mortar stores. They are a great partner for the industry as they respect pricing, not selling specific brands online and they have amazing customer service. If my customers or readers aren’t able to find a product at their local bike shop, or honestly don’t want to visit their local bike shop, I hope they shop with Jenson over ChainReaction or Wiggles.

      Thank you again,
      Arleigh

  • my29rules
    Posted at 02:17h, 06 June Reply

    Very valid points made and you could actually copy-paste the story for any small retail store which sells stuff and supplies services to their customers.

    What I do miss is what is currently most broken in the whole industry, it is not just the b2c part you are talking about, it is the b2b part and the free-internet market part which is disturbing the industry most.

    Over 20 years i have seen it all evolve, from the LBS as the only place you could buy your parts and service from (and being ripped off mostly at that time with them selling stuff at suggested retail price+20%), to the whole open market (i buy on internet where-ever that store is) situation.

    Me, as a consumer, i am left in the middle between LBS and internet retailers.

    My LBS can’t get the parts i need for my bike at normal prices, people already posted examples on how broken that b2b part is. I am in the Netherlands and me as a consumer can buy cheaper in Germany then my Dutch LBS from their wholesaler… And not just a tiny bit..

    If i would start a LBS (i am running a 25 man ICT company for over 13 years now), i would first get some deals with the internet retailers where my customers are ordering their stuff, so i am not trying to compete with their prices, me as a shop owner would then just offer whatever stuff my customer need for that planned service there and quote my customer for those parts on their bill transparently 100% of what the prices is there. So my customer doesn’t need to order it themselves (possibly miss-ordering the parts), and i can negotiate some discount with the internet retailers to even get some money of it.

    It brings it back to the situation that the customer will come to the LBS and knows it is the most cheap/efficient way to get stuff done. The one-stop-shop concept; quality service with internet pricing for parts. Win-win.

    LBS should focus on selling their quality (if all steps mentioned in post are followed 🙂 ) of service instead of goods. People will return if service was excellent, not if you were cheapest at that time for a specific part, because tomorrow somebody else will be cheaper.

    Goods are becoming commodity, let the internet retailers compete against each other, but service isn’t. If LBS would only grasp that.

    Last point: Independent LBS? Can we please have that? LBS are being bullied into having to choose/focus on A-brand stuff, being a front for the bike brand, requiring them to put X amount of bikes of that brand in their store. Ditch that please, brand concepts stores are for that.

    Me as a customer I would love to see Independent LBS, where i can walk in and see different brands in same store. Then I can get independent advice on the pro/cons on brands and models.

    • Jeff Koenig, 2nd VP NBDA, Big Poppi Bikes
      Posted at 10:04h, 06 June

      MY29RULES, It would be difficult for anyone who hasn’t lived in your country to speak to your local conditions. MSRP+20% was never normal here. Nonetheless, as at least a business executive if not an owner, I would like to ask you to challenge your own assumptions.

      What is a “normal” price? You are writing from the consumer point-of-view, and so “normal” to you is the lowest price you can find something for. If out of desperation, I sell you a car that I still owe $10,000 on a bank loan to you for $8,000, does that now make the going price for that car “normal” at the $8,000 bargain rate? What about the fact that Amazon sells eBooks for less than its cost, as a loss-leader. Is that cheap eBook price “normal”?

      Make a phone call or two. Pick a couple of internet retailers that you think would do as you suggest, contact them, and tell them you are considering opening a new model of LBS. Tell them that going forward depends on striking a deal like you suggest and ask them what they woudl be willing to do — will they sell to you at a discount beneath their discounted retail price? Come back here and tell us which ones you talked to and what they said. Even if you find just one willing to give you a “discount wholesale rate”, then also run a basic, high-level projection of how much you can sell at your relative profit margin and the volume of other services that you will charge higher rates for, and show us a profitable business projection that is realistic.

      Have a look at history, particularly other complex durable goods like audio equipment and computers. Notice that although they still require an investment, people are now willing to throw away and replace very serviceable equipment when it breaks, because the necessary prices of repair, when a shopkeeper doesn’t get to sell the equipment for a decent profit, become so high that the consumer is incentivized just to throw-away-and-replace .. leading even to not having a repair marketplace.

      The problem with the consumer mentality is that it makes many of these kinds of assumptions, presuming it understands retail economics and there are easy solutions at hand. If you were right, MY29RULES, someone else would have already thought of it before you and done it successfully. When you don’t see one of your easy solutions very prevalently in the marketplace, it’s time to challenge your own assumptions before telling everyone else how they should be doing it.

  • ZogZog
    Posted at 04:14h, 06 June Reply

    As a bike shop owner in Los Angeles, where we have high overhead, its difficult to do business in a middle to lower income area, because people come in all day long wanting things free or almost free, just because they can go the the bike repair Kitchen, which is a free place to repair your own bike. They constantly want free air for their tires and want $3.00 tubes. There’s just no money in it.

    • Kurt
      Posted at 16:31h, 17 August

      Free air for tires is too big a hurdle? As a consumer I would think that is the minimum you could do to help build a relationship with future customers.

  • Bernie
    Posted at 09:50h, 06 June Reply

    So MY29RULES, you are saying that we can survive on a zero % profit margin on hardgoods and 1.7% ROI on service?

  • Erik J Long
    Posted at 11:07h, 06 June Reply

    I’ve worked a Specialized dealers. Women-specific tires. TIRES. How would you like to sit through THAT product meeting? Looking back, I think that was the first time it had occurred to me that the bike industry as it is might be full of shit. I don’t care how legit “women’s specific” product lines can be – no part of your anatomy should be in contact with your tires at any point during your ride.

    Problems in the bike industry amount to a very long list.

    I was in the middle of it for almost 20 years as a mechanic, salesman, and even a manager at 2 of the many shops I worked for. Sadly, bike shops are often their own worst enemy.

    They pay nothing, for starters. Shop owners ultimately trust your bike’s function and your safety to cheap and very inexperienced staff. I used to spend my days double and triple-checking the work of newbies who may or may not have completed UBI’s 2-week course. Real mechanics – those with 5+ years behind them – being too expensive and too likely to take an extra five minutes to make a repair perfect, shop owners tend to opt for the cheapest help. Owners often can’t tell the difference because they frequently have not worked in a bike shop until the day they owned one.

    Customers notice. Whether they know what it is they’re experiencing or not, they know when something is off. I had a customer tell me one day that he was really confused – and a little concerned – that I was the only wrench out of the 4 on staff that could solve his very simple problem. The fact is that there is a lot to know and a lot to pay attention to. It IS a technical job. It IS skilled labor. It also pays less – on average – than Baskin Robbins.

    If you rely on someone else for any of your mechanical work, you eventually find yourself loyal to a mechanic, rather than the shop that mechanic works for. Some career mechanics find themselves with a small customer base that follows them from one shop to the next. Some of mine still show up in my shed, Di2 in one hand, taco-shaped wheel in the other, offering cash for services yet to be rendered. But I’m not a bike shop. The manufacturer won’t offer warranty service through me, but I’ll do the work with a smile on my face. I’ll never own a bike shop simply because nobody who does the job can ever put away enough savings to start a shop of their own. That doesn’t mean I’m not really fwking good at the work and it sure doesn’t mean I’ll say no to someone asking for my help and offering reasonable compensation.

    One of everyone’s biggest problems is the ever present split-personality shop owner who whines about making no money and then gives a random, unsolicited discount to a customer who a) makes more annually than everyone in the shop combined, and b) couldn’t care less about the $200 he just saved. The same owner, of course, will flip out when a savvy employee gives a lesser discount to get a dead product out the door . . .

    The industry at large is worse. If your only image of driving was a formula one racer in a flame-retardant suit and crash helmet barreling down the road at 600mph, would you rush to the dealership to drop $400,000 on a Ferrari? Would you think for even a second that the relatively affordable Honda Accord elsewhere on the same lot would meet your needs effectively? What if you DID decide on the Accord? Would you think it made sense that the pedals required special shoes and the seat was so uncomfortable that you would need driving shorts that were plastered with industry logos? Would you pay extra to have a cup-holder installed?

    Marketing. Thank you, bike industry. Thanks to your marketing department, I now know that to be a “cyclist” I should own a road bike, a cx bike, gravel bike, TT bike, Aero road bike, Hardtail MTB, DH bike, Enduro Bike, Full-Suspension XC-bike, Single-speed MTB, and something called a “fixie” all in addition to my daily driver – a ridgid mountainbike with slicks, fenders, rack, and lights.

    Too many products nobody can use. $15,000 “Halo Bikes”? Fuck off. As long as the bike industry spends the majority of its resources pushing products that only a small minority can 1) afford and 2) find the least bit useful, it deserves to fail.

    • Jeff Koenig, 2nd VP NBDA, Big Poppi Bikes
      Posted at 14:44h, 06 June

      How do you really feel, Erik? LOL.

      One can read between the colorful lines and see some good things you’re saying about over-gender-ization, marketing, product positioning, etc. Although I would say we should be careful about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Is your experience, though across multiple shops, not anecdotal considering there are about 4000 of them? I have found LBS retail culture and customer culture to feed each other. Some cities have jaded shops and customers, others very friendly and laid back.

  • Steve Fenton
    Posted at 00:56h, 09 June Reply

    I started to reply to this last week and after a huge amount of typing managed to delete everything I wrote. I have worked in the bike industry since 1973. No I didn’t sell Jesus his first MTB before you start. One of the main problems with the bike industry is that there are far too many enthusiasts and not enough business people. I have watched the industry change so much over the last twenty years it would take a month for me to write it all down. Timothy Vance Jackson will verify that I have worked from retail level all the way now being a factory owner in Taiwan producing wheels, frames, cnc components and carbon fibre products. I also organise a very important trade show that brings the pinnacle of the industry together in Taichung every year just before thanks giving. I do this free of charge with a team of volunteers because I want to contribute to the industry and city in which I live.

    Now let’s get back to basics. Most brands have a clear defined route to market as I have to say the bike industry is like a flock of sheep, they all follow each other, well almost all of them do.

    Not only I own my manufacturing business but we also have a brand called Pro-Lite. As I said I watched so many changes take place over the years and one of them was the route to market. Ten years ago there was good quality bike shops everywhere in the USA but today according to my good friend at Bicycle Retailer magazine there are less than 3000 now and declining rapidly.

    At the recent Sea Otter we sat down together and recalled conversation him and I had several years ago when I went to USA to meet a number of our distributors to tell them we wanted to stop selling through them and shops because we were doing all the work, paying huge sums to market the brand and getting the least reward, the distributors were also working hard to offer the best service but there was a brick wall to reaching the consumers, it’s called the bike shop.

    These guys didn’t want to hold stock they want people to walk in and ask for a product and hand over cash and then the dealer demanded next day delivery free of charge of course and then 90 days to pay.

    The likes of Chain Reaction and Wiggle saw this and started to capitalise on it.

    We started to supply the USA though Chain Reaction and boy did it grow fast. The key was not just the product; we offer service that blows away our competitors. Even a few weeks ago at Sea Otter a guy came to see us and said he had ordered a spare part on Tuesday and it was delivered to his house on Friday. It’s all about the service.

    So three years ago I decided to look again at the USA market. I jumped on a plane and with a good friend of mine who has a superb track record of developing business we set out to see what state the industry is in. It didn’t take us long to figure out that no matter what people told us, the dealers we visited were basically re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. We visited a whole string of the so called top end bike shops between LA and San Diego. We pretended to want to upgrade our bikes. To make a long short short we were made as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit and came to the conclusion these shops don’t deserve to be in business. I recall one shop trying to even make contact with the staff was virtually impossible, but when local Joe walk in with his false sun tan and 250 $ Oakley’s on the wrong way round they were all over him like flies to ****.

    Now for me the classic was when we took my friends wife with us and asked to get her fitted out with a road bike and clothing to start riding with us. You would expect high end shops who want in the range of 3000 USD for a good bike to ask some basic questions to help the customer understand what’s in the market and what would be recommended. After all the art of sales is making the customer feel good about making the decision to buy. Well the total opposite happened. We were told that not many women ride bikes, so there is not much to choose from and she would be better off with an MTB as there is more choice. Truly amazing.

    The main problem I see is ignorance as this is an industry dominated by men and secondly run by enthusiasts. Yet I go to San Diego, Encinitas, Irvine or Newport Beach and I see so many women riding bikes. So I decided to camp out on the bike path along the coast and I stopped women riders. Where did you get your bike from I asked. I was amazed how many had bought the frames online and had friends or partners order the kit and build the bikes up for them as the product is not available unless you want a Trek or Specialized.

    Then we noticed a pattern, out of the 2 days of asking people these questions a number kept coming up with the words “Two Hubs”.

    Not knowing this outlet we decided to check them out.

    They are located just outside Irvine in an industrial park and as soon as we walked in we were made very welcome. They got us to open up and we felt really good about saying what budget we had and what type of riding we wanted to do. While they made us a coffee they called one of their local female clients who came in and explained to us how they had helped and how she now rode regularly with about twenty other women who had all been fitted out by Two Hubs.

    After two hours in Two Hubs we left knowing we would be back in seven days to pick up a 3400 $ bike built exactly to my friend’s wife’s size.

    Now what is the conclusion here? It’s called investment. Two Hubs invested into staff who are fully experienced in riding and dealing with customers. They then build on the relationship to grow the business by word of mouth and it doesn’t come any better than that.

    Women riders are a sector of the market as are children and men. But by ignoring the smaller elements is at your own peril. It won’t happen overnight but if you don’t see the wood for the trees you will never enjoy the success of business in the long term.

    As we start to expand our USA operations we are actually studying carefully how to develop working with women and how we can employ more women to be able to work directly with this sector of the market. In fact as I write our USA sales manager is winging his way to my office in Taiwan for a week of meetings and one of the hot topics is just this.

  • It’s not a ‘lady’s bike’, it’s a women’s bike |
    Posted at 02:45h, 09 June Reply

    […] also enjoyed reading a great blog post from ‘Bike Shop Girl’ aka Arleigh Jenkins who wrote about how to fix the bike industry. She’s […]

  • Emily
    Posted at 09:50h, 09 June Reply

    I’m with you until the last paragraph, where you tie in the auto industry. Is your conclusion that we shouldn’t have bikes designed specifically for women?

    • Bike Shop Girl
      Posted at 13:00h, 09 June

      Emily,

      My point is that focusing on the products and not the process is killing the industry. Not every woman needs a bike with a short top tube, but that is what bike shops believe due to the lack of training and knowledge share.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation!
      -BSG

    • Erik
      Posted at 14:27h, 09 June

      I agree with Arleigh, in that there need to be bikes with short top tubes, as well as options such as narrow handlebars, adjustable reach brake levers, and saddle choice, but that these don’t need a gender designation. If the consensus is that we DO need women-specific models, then do they all need to be some variation of white, pink, purple, and teal? This phenomenon isn’t limited to the bike industry, but it drives my wife crazy. This is an instance in which the auto analogy is perfect–women buy black, grey, and green cars, and if they do buy a white one, they don’t expect cute, pink, cursive font in the car’s brand detailing.

    • Jeff Koenig, 2nd VP NBDA, Big Poppi Bikes
      Posted at 08:56h, 10 June

      Bringing this back around to women & bicycle retail, Erik’s post prompts something I’ve been trying to get men and some women to understand for a while: women don’t like being pre-defined, yet they also don’t like not being specifically catered to. Sound like a contradiction? Here is what it means:

      Some women do want pink, some decidedly do not. Some women love the stenciling, some detest it. There is not *one* woman that can act as the example for the industry to make product around. In fact, a woman can quite easily desire a more feminine style in one category of retail product, and not desire it in another product, or even change from time-to-time with the same product.

      What women really want are lots of choices to choose from, just for them, and to be able to still choose from the men’s product too. They don’t want to feel like the available choice(s) was/were intended to appeal only to a man, but they also don’t want just one choice for themselves even if it was made for a woman.

      When a technical and expensive product struggles at designing for women, the easiest criticism to level (and hardest to prove) is that this is sexism or, at best, mere thoughtlessness. This is actually not often the case. The problem is that the more choices you must make as a manufacturer the more it costs on both the front end (designs, materials, production runs) AND on the back-end (the colors or styles that didn’t sell well now become a weight of unsold inventory on the balance sheet and leads to problematic discounting, dumping, etc. that we retailers all hate.)

      Long before the internet, when department stores and clothing stores ruled main street, I remember my mother constantly complaining of manufacturer discrimination because it seemed to her that women’s clothes always cost more than a comparable men’s piece. Being a smart-ass teenager, I would retort that 3/4 of the floor space in the store were women’s clothes, shoes & accessories and she would cover all that ground and still look at what was in the back corner (the men’s dept.) of the store before making up her mind. Why are men minorities in a lot of (at least yesterday’s) department stores and why did women’s goods seem to cost more? Because of the cost and space of providing all the choices it took to get the sale once you got the woman into the store.

      As a bicycle industry, what do we do? For every men’s bike model with two color options, do we need to offer an equivalent women’s in 2×2 colors and styles? We aren’t talking about doubling the cost and space of catering to women, but tripling it to provide the choices that fairly hopes to cater to all women. How will that be paid for? Will women accept “their” model of the same bike costing more to make up for the discounts it will take to get rid of the stuff they didn’t end up liking as much, let alone the expansion in design & manufacturing, or will that then be price discrimination? Do men’s models need to share the price increase to avoid that can of worms, and as such, be a hidden discrimination against men by raising the price on their goods for which they get no direct benefit?

      People rush to judge the motivations of others when they look at the marketplace and describe what is happening. What they should be doing first is the math. An old saying: if you want to solve the mystery, “follow the money”.

  • Willis Montgomery III
    Posted at 10:18h, 09 June Reply

    My first day at UBikes in Boulder as a mechanic in 1995, Doug pulled me aside and said “Listen, I don’t know what they teach you in the East Coast shops, but it doesn’t fly here. You will always be polite and respectful to the customer and if I hear you even being remotely condescending in any way, I’ll fire you.” After he said that, I knew exactly what to do. Be really, really considerate, kind and helpful to every customer. Working at Ubikes was the best because I knew what was expected. Professional place with great people. Back here on the East Coast, most shops here have nothing but attitude.

    • Katherine
      Posted at 09:22h, 11 June

      +1 for UBikes in Boulder. If I were to write a tome on an excellent customer experience, it would be UBikes, and they manage to provide it despite having a lot of seasonal young people turning over. It comes down to three things: availability (there’s always someone to help), friendliness and knowledge. The place also has a great vibe with vintage bikes hanging from the ceiling, a clean and colorful layout and friendly staff milling about, ready to help at any moment.

      My latest experience there was needing a 1980’s road frame faced, chased and the headset installed. UBikes didn’t have the tools, but gave me directions and a phone number to another shop that they knew could help me, while also praising that shop for it’s work keeping vintage bikes going. They also chatted me up about the old steel frame, seemingly genuinely interested in its story and what I plan to do with it (no clue; found it in a dumpster…). In all, it was simply a pleasant experience, and all from a guy covered in tattoos with a gauge in his ear and a smile that never left his face. I drive across town to get service from UBikes, and I’m always happy when tattoo-gauge guy is there. (I know, I know; I really need to learn his name!)

      As a woman working in the bike industry, I admittedly have used my job as a shield in some high-end bike shops, dropping the name of where I work as soon as possible so that I get taken seriously as a “real” rider, gain some acceptance and can get some service. I hate that I have to do that, but it’s sometimes the most efficient way.

  • Ryan
    Posted at 12:05h, 10 June Reply

    Great article, it really hits a lot of the points we discuss at the shop. My biggest issue with 99% of the shops is the amount of untrained “mechanics”. While I understand all of the hurdles in hiring and keeping true mechanics, I disagree with any non-qualified person building or servicing a bicycle. Again, great article!

    • Glittertroll
      Posted at 11:34h, 18 June

      I agree that there should be only truly knowledgable mechanics, as you as a cyclist are placing your investment, life and face it your baby in their hands. However I feel like there should be more options available to would-be mechanics other then expensive certifications and technical college courses. Perhaps the key will be more local neighborhood shops fostering community engagement, events and education. I feel like it might even bolster sales! I know before I worked In a shop I would have paid for bicycling education topics classes. Maybe where people can actually work with tools on real problems for trades or gear discounts?

      All I can really say is that owner of my shop has never had formal training in wrenching, it’s all been done via training and on the job experience. But I’d be remiss if I left out that his love of cycling started truly because his blue collar parents fostered a love of manual engagement, independent play and mechanical skills in him at a young age. I wish my parents had done so instead of admonishing me for not playing Barbies. There are so many factors.

  • Katherine
    Posted at 09:52h, 11 June Reply

    I am loving this discussion, but am a little disappointed that it’s descended so much into a BRAIN-style argument about pricing and competition with online retailers. That stuff is certainly an issue, but I get the feeling that BSG’s point here is about people and professionalism, not pricing (though, yes, I do realize it affects salaries). But I’d like to throw my hat in the ring for one of the softer things that I believe, anecdotaly, makes a big difference.

    And that is: Be a member of the community. If you don’t want people to use your knowledge then buy online, give people a reason to value your LBS beyond just being a “store.” Riding a bike is largely about the *experience.* When I just need parts and don’t have time to chit-chat, I’ll run into Performance for the best deal on rim tape. When I happen to have an extra 6-pack on me and can’t for the life of me get the shifting working smoothly on my old, 8-speed commuter, I’m headed to my favorite LBS where they’ll let me sit back in the shop and teach me what they’re doing.

    What I’m saying is, give people a reason to want to support you as an important local business because they want and need you there. Consider vocally supporting local advocacy organizations; hosting rides/clinics/events/trail workdays for a wide range of people (think beyond the wannabe pro crusher ride up the mountain); and being present at existing, in-town events. Tonight, I’m attending a talk being given by a local framebuilder at a bike shop I normally wouldn’t visit, but will now be exposed to. A few weeks ago, I went to a women’s night at a different LBS. Only one staffer was needed to let us in and lock up later; they allowed the women’s MTB group to use the space, but it also gave us a chance to explore the shop and I now have it in my mind as “women-friendly.”

    $0.02

  • Dan (@chickenfried234)
    Posted at 17:11h, 11 June Reply

    From my perspective as a consumer, things are great. I have plenty of options to spend my dough. My last truly bad retail bike experience was twenty years ago at a curmudgeonly old school roadie hole in the wall. Just never went back.

    It’s funny seeing mike at chain reaction posting. ~decade ago when I wanted a road bike I went to his shop. I didn’t end up buying from him. They didn’t have anything in my size and price range, just higher or lower. But i still remember how nicely he treated me.

  • Ella Picks: Women’s cycling content we loved this week | Ella
    Posted at 17:38h, 14 June Reply

    […] Read the whole piece here. […]

  • Glittertroll
    Posted at 11:24h, 18 June Reply

    I am a 23 year old female identifying person who works in a BMX shop. I came from a customer service and managing background prior to working at this bike shop. Cycling was an avid hobbie before and now is literally my life. I definitely thinks he general air of unprofessionalism in this industry extends from small shops all the way to distributors suppliers etc. I would have been fired on the spot at previous jobs for the types of actions my coworkers and owner get away with. Yes that’s prt of the reason I love his industry, but at the same time becoming more well rounded and inclusive can only strengthen the cycling industry in my (and few other boys cluber’s) opinion.

    I put in more hours at the shop then any of the other employee (all male ages 18-35) and have more years of customer service experience as well yet suggestions to make the shop better from marketing to ending the inappropriate sexist attitudes towards women customers and riders when it’s appropriate to share them get me comments like “stop being so stuck up” and “ok mom.”

    I feel like one thing you didn’t touch on in your (awesome) article is the day to day strain that female bike shop employees have to endure that has me looking for other employment despite loving the perks of my job. Working as a female identifying (or any person who routinely experiences societal policing) person in this very sexist cisgendered culturally homogenous industry is seriously taking years off my life. I feel like other people in the industry and in my shop want to resist any kind of organization or betterment of the same old practices and then turn around and complain about all of the problems that result like low shop retention. Change requires EDUCATION and EFFORT.

    And final rant, a personal experience that drives me crazy.

    The majority of customers and everyone else I interact with in the industry does this thing (Even the female customers) where they automatically look at the man In the store (even if it’s not an employee) to ask a technical question or ask for advice. Like hello My vagina doesn’t get caught up in the drivetrain,
    I also cycling and mechanical experience! I know that’s a mouthful(:/) but it’s my biggest complaint. I’m the second longest employee present in the store after the owner and it still happens despite working in the shop for years!

    There are so few other females in this industry for me to connect with. Holler at #glittertroll on Instagram if anyone wants to start a forum for lady cyclist /bike industry employees lol ..
    #endtheboysclub

    • Mike Jacoubowsky
      Posted at 16:50h, 18 June

      You need pro-active help from others in the store to get past that thing where guys assume a woman isn’t going to be as capable helping them. We get that all the time in my store (Chain Reaction Bicycles in Redwood City) and I will specifically tell the nimrod that so-and-so (one of our female employees) knows more about that particular subject than I do. When you see it (guys and sometimes women who think only a guy will know what they’re talking about), you can’t ignore it, you can’t just give in and say, yeah, whatever. You have to go after it, you have to almost make examples of that type of thinking, because doing so will increase the confidence of your employees and they’ll be better able to deftly handle such idiots (typically unintentional) themselves.

      If you’re all alone, no support from management/owners, it’s going to be a very tough road and an easy way to become bitter. You might be thinking you don’t want anyone to stand up for you. Well, at some point or other, we’ve all had somebody stand up for us. Nothing wrong with that. But if nobody will, and you want to be known as an excellent employee who just happens to be female, you might need to be moving on.

  • Wils
    Posted at 15:19h, 23 October Reply

    The cycling industry is a total joke. Shops only hire people whom are friends or are family. The service you get is based on the money your going to be spending. Australia cycle industry is a place of poor instore service and ever poorer after service.

  • MRMacrum
    Posted at 12:48h, 24 November Reply

    I own a small support bike shop in southern Maine. It is not my first shop. I decided to punish myself again when the first one (a partnership) died from our constant bickering. My second effort, now 17 seasons old, has somehow beat the small retail odds and stayed open. Success measured by longevity, not by the cash I have added to my pockets.

    My story is typical I think. Tired of the role of working for someone else, I became a bike shop owner. With no business or retail experience or training, I went at it happy as if I had a brain. My education has been ugly and tough to say the least. Your critique of the industry rings so many bells, I cannot think of which mistake you point out I did not make with the exception of one or two.

    I always and still do aspire to sell my services and products as I would like to be sold to myself. I try my best to allow the customer to feel comfortable coming to my shop for their cycling needs, even if it is just advice or opinion. I have learned that women in particular want to be educated while guys generally don’t. I learned early on that bad mouthing and denigrating another product or shop does nothing but make me seem petty and mean. I also learned that there is no “best” anything or “fastest” anything when it comes to bicycle products. There are some better than others, but the differences are in the end usually slight and the quality of the product or services is based on the shop that markets and sells it.

    I could have used some serious training when I first began to wrench for my future partner. Some companies did offer help in the way of excellent sales reps, but for the most part the sales rep culture in this business is pitiful and erratic. My experience with Univega reps before Ben closed the company being the perfect example. The first Univega rep taught me how to sell. Not just his products, but products throughout our store. His notion of helping the shop to become a better retailer would translate into more sales for him and his company. He was right. The second Univega rep was useless. He was only interested in bumping up his sales to us and disallowing as many warranties as he could. He told us what we wanted. He did not ask us what we wanted. I learned quite a bit from him also.

    Anyway, did not mean to write a book. These were just some of my thoughts on your fine article.

    MRMacrm, AKA “CRUM”, owner – Crum Cycles, Springvale, Maine

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