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What Makes a Really Good Bicycle Shop?

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I asked the question on Facebook and Twitter:

What makes a really good bicycle shop?

I’m opening up the comments and want a good sound off. I’m not giving you any ideas or going to steer the conversation, I want candid thoughts. If you work/own a shop please state so. If you are a consumer that doesn’t go to a shop anymore because of not being able to find what makes a good shop, please say so.

Ready, set, sound off.

Open Letter to Marketing & PR Agencies in the Bicycle Industry

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Marketing departments, CEO’s and public relations agencies this is for you

It is Sunday evening at 5pm eastern standard time. In 12 hours I will be at the airport on my way to Las Vegas for Interbike. Most of my collegues and friends are either in Las Vegas or on their way. They aren’t sitting by their phone or computer waiting…

We aren’t waiting to get your press release the Saturday night before a show that starts on Monday. We don’t want a meeting invitation hours before we travel. We want planning, we want to be prepared and we want to get your shit at least 5 days ago.

I do my best to walk into a trade show, conference or any meeting (with ANYONE) prepared. Product or person researched. Questions formed. Batteries charged. Clothes wrinkle free and brain ready to rock.

When you send me meeting request last minute, or photos of product being launched… or the best yet, a link to a website that doesn’t even have a page holder but a dead link. You have sacrificed your image and even more, you have put yourself into a class that I don’t believe you give a shit about your product or those you are asking to promote it.

Next time you aren’t prepared here’s a suggestion. Don’t message or email me unless you are telling me to stop by your booth for a free beer. No time commitments, no broken links. Just a text email, text message or phone call that shows you realize you are behind the times but want to connect when I can.

My job over the next 7 days is two fold:
#1 sell product for the brands I represent in the Southeast.
#2 to promote product I believe my readers will enjoy.

It is not to promote a product I believe will let them down, come to market late or backed by people that don’t have their goods straight. You aren’t paying me and every person that emailed over the past 5 days.. I don’t owe a favor to. The people that I owe favors to have been contacted and meetings (or beer) have been setup.

Who am I to say all this? I’ve brought many marketing campaigns and products to market bigger than your jersey or new bike wheel design. There is rhyme and reason to it. Being a class act and putting your best foot forward are PR 101.

Sincerely,

Arleigh Jenkins – Bike Shop Girl.

PS. I may stop by your booth to give you a hard time. I promise I’ll be smiling and I’m not there to piss you off. I want the bike industry to grow, be strong and have standards. Take this as my way of helping you get there.

Friday Shop Profile – Tennessee Valley Bikes

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As an independent rep for Quality Bicycle Products I travel to bike shops all over the Southeast of the USA. Visiting a great amount of killer shops, doing what they love and each one in their very unique way. Next time you’re close, check one of these out! Want to see more shops? Visit the tag.

Shop Name: Tennessee Valley Bikes (TN Valley Bikes)
Location: 214 W Magnolia AveKnoxvilleTN.
Number: 865.540.9979

The boys at TN Valley created a soft spot in my heart very early into my position. This is a shop that reached out to me right when I started to say “hi.” Normally, as a sales rep it is me doing the calling/emailing and introduction to say hi. Maybe it is due to the manager, Neal Knight, being a previous employee of Quality Bicycle Products. Either way, that “hi” went a long way.

TN Valley specializes in going super fast on dirt (mountain and CX) or setting up some pretty cool touring and urban/commuter rigs. They are the spot in Knoxville to test ride Salsa and Surly Bike, or try on some Lazer helmets when you are there. We currently are working out a overnight camping trip for this fall, so keep your eyes peeled and getting your gear ready!

Stop in and say hi to Scott and Neal if you are in the area!

Friday Shop Profile – Loose Nuts Cycles

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As an independent rep for Quality Bicycle Products I travel to bike shops all over the Southeast of the USA. I visit a great amount of killer shops, doing what they love and each one very unique. Next time you’re close, check one of these out! Want to see more? Visit the tag.

Shop name: Loose Nuts Cycles

Location:  452-A Cherokee Ave. Atlanta GA 30312
Number:  (404) 228-5555

Loose Nuts is my largest Surly dealer in most of the state of GA. Running out of a killer store front in the Grant Park area. It has the “urban” feel but you will find beautiful Sachs road bikes, high end wheels being built and a super down to earth guy behind it all – Chris Tavel. (I hear he’s a great mechanic too..)

Housed inside the bike shop is also a custom bag maker, Altrport, making bags of all types and sizes to your liking.

War with the Industry: Starting with the Bike Shops

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I have many bones to pick with the industry I love, I’m calling it a war - a war to get more butts on bikes, to get kids safer to adventure and for the industry to get their head out of the ground. The first battle in this war is with the small guy on the totem poll with so much power… bicycle shops.

Most bike shops forget at the end of the day they are the ones selling the bikes to the consumers. Marketing may have led the consumer to their door but they are the face of the bike industry. If they have horrible customer service or no foundation in the community there is a chance that the consumer won’t buy from them. The bike will be bought at REI, Dick’s, Target or even worse THE INTERNET. (Is that really worse than Target? Come on!)

Gripes with shops, I’m sorry if I offend

  • When you aren’t busy on a Saturday it is your fault. You can’t assume or hope that people will walk in your door.
  • Stop blaming the weather. Minneapolis has some crappy weather but they have embraced it and you see people riding in January.
  • Putting things on sale in the store is only rewarding people walking in the door. You must tell people OUTSIDE your store about a sale to get them IN your store.
  • Stop worrying about the haggling team racers. It is super cool to sell a $12k bike but not if you make $400 on it. If that is your business model I commend you and would probably want to visit. For everyone else, worry about growing that beginner cyclist. Empower them, teach them and they will respect you and spend tons of money with you over the years. The guy haggling you on the new Red brakes to get the best deal ever that he found on the internet…he isn’t making you money. Treat him well with great service and move on.
  • Find your place. Not too many shops can be everything to everyone. Do you love mountain bikes? Do you shred hard core and everyone is astounded by your riding? Embrace it. Behind everyones back you make fun of roadies, so why try to be a roadie shop? Have more mountain bike rides, help your local mountain bike group. OWN IT.
  • This goes with the above….Believe in yourself.
  • Get out in the community. Some shops are already doing this. Bike shop owners, are you on group rides? Do you get out to group meetings or advocacy events? Are you pounding the pavement for Safe Routes to School or anything of the such?
  • Build your community. Become friends with the other bike shops in town. Find what you all are good at and help each other.
  • Make the bicycle pie bigger. Stop hating on the shop across town. If bikes keeping coming to you with bad tune ups call the shop and tell them. Why? To keep people from getting injured and to keep people from hating on bicycles. Yes, you may be making money off of it – but is that really how you want to make your money?? Figure the missing pieces in your community. Help get more kids on bikes, find a way to market to guys that would be buying golf clubs, make your local advocacy group stronger so people are riding bikes instead of joining the gym.

I love bike shops, but I am biased. Alone in my southeast territory I have roughly 380 bike shops. Now that is a movement ready to happen. Could you imagine – 380 business owners and all their employees coming together for one like cause? BICYCLES

 

 

At War with the Industry I Love

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It is no secret my history with the bike industry. Without coming from parents in the industry I am as close to growing up in the industry as you can. At 15 I was a shop rat, living my life in some way or another around bicycles since then. In two years when I am 30 I will have spent half my life revolving around bicycles and all things that are the culture of bikes. This is where I mention that I wouldn’t change a thing.

I have spent half of my life preaching the word. Answering the call. The call that bicycles can solve everything. It can make you happy, make you skinny, allow you to drink more beer, require less gas, give you independence, teach you adventure, become a family affair and so on.

Quietly fighting the good fight. Never taking up the arms of advocate as the word advocacy is a dirty word to me. We don’t need advocates, we need lovers. Everyone hates the politician but loves the hero’s. We need bike lanes that connect schools and grocery stores. We need to empower our children to pick up their bikes and go forward safely.

Two things came to light today that have made me struggle with the industry and culture I love

The death of an innocent freshman, riding his bicycle to school in Charlotte.

The “elephant” of the bike industry that our sales our flat for the past twenty years.

Two different stabs, two different pains, and two different fears.

I have two children that have no way to ride their bikes to school. They are lacking the freedom and the adventure that 10 & 11 year old boys should be given by the gift of bicycling away from home.

I make a living in the bike industry. I have sold bikes to first consumers and now bike dealers. Margins are tighter, and instead of expanding the bike industry and taking market share from golf, or soccer, or football. We are flat and fighting each other. From bike brands, industry standards and bike shops at war with their local community.

The elephant in the room is the bike industry is full of selfish folks lacking business sense and caring more about their piece of the pie than the pie that they are cutting from.

What do you believe in? When did you last fight for something you believe in?

I believe in bikes and if you know me – you know they are my life. I know a few other things and hopefully these all will be able to come together to make the pie bigger for the cycling industry, and for people to be able to ride their bikes safely to and from wherever they want to go.

Here I am, standing to fight a war against the industry I love. This war is why I work for the company that I love, Quality Bicycle Products. A sleeping giant, the backbone of the bike industry. This is why I love my co-workers, quietly pushing things along in Minnesota. I believe in bicycles and here I stand to fight the good fight of putting more butts on bikes. Carbon fiber doesn’t do that, fancy new bottom bracket standards or fighting over wheel sizes..sure some good marketing can help, but empowering the industry will. Empowering your local cycling community, finding a new word for advocate and allowing other people to drink from your passion.

The Starbucks Effect

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I’m a big fan of Starbucks and Apple. If you were to ask me two brands that I relate to in the most upwards of ways, it would be these two. I’m sure someone will hop on the comments and blast me about child labor or over priced coffee, but I like what I like.

Why does all this matter to bikes? Service matters.

I visit and pay full retail to the above places for the experience, customer service and reliability. I can walk into any Starbucks across the country and receive the same tasting green tea. I can walk into any Apple store and receive the same great shopping experience. I have used Apple products pretty strictly since 2002, they work, they last and they come loaded with many things I need. They are more expensive but the experience and product is worth it for me.

As I travel through my territory of the Southeast the question of online price wars comes up and I always bring up the examples of Apple and Starbucks. These two hold true to their core mission, and have well trained staff. When was the last time you went into look at Apple products and you saw a huge SALE sign? They actually go out of their way on their website to put discounted or refurbished product out of the main view of the consumer. (It is all the way on the bottom of the navigation bar on the left.)

When was the last time you asked the person making your coffee if you can give them less than their asking price?

Discounting product does not win customers for life.

Experienced staff, a pleasant shopping experience, reliability and amazing service is what wins customers for life. There is a reason that the Gap owns Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic. Different shopping experiences, different quality of product and different prices. All of them have well trained staff, thoughtfully laid out merchandise and HAPPY staff.

I shop at all three depending what I need, and each location I walk away with a good experience.

Consumers, I encourage you to give feedback to your local shops.

Did you stop shopping there because they kept messing up your bike when you brought it in for a tuneup? Did they sell you the wrong tube size 3 times? Did someone rub you wrong because they were grouchy and lacked customer service? Was your experience one that left you shaking your head and heading straight to google to find what you needed online?

I still try local coffee shops when I’m traveling, I buy clothes from other places as well, but when in a pinch I know who I can rely on and in todays times when we are all running around like crazy, this matters more to me than saving 5%.

The Bicycle Industry is Regressing

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As technology expands and new bike products, or forms of bike products,  hit the market the market grows – or so one thinks. If you look at the basic roll of the wheel in the past 10 years we’ve had full suspension to the masses, lighter carbon road and mountain bikes, 29″ and 27.5″ wheel sizes,  carbon wheels, stainless steel tubing and more tech driven clothing than I could ever talk about in a lifetime.  Lights run for days and nutrition is truly a science.

The technology that is pushing the market forward is also allowing us to regress.  One example of this is the push on 29ers in the industry. Most of the bikes offered are hard tail and there are a good number that are fully rigid single speeds. Why? To me I ride one for simplistic sake and to enjoy the ride. As a mechanic I want my bikes to work right. No squeaks, no skips and everything set up perfect. With a fully rigid single speed you put air in the tires every once in a while and lube the chain when it gets too dry or dirty.

In the coming weeks I want to touch on regressing in the industry.   Marketing, product and education. Wool and steel are a big hit.   Retro “tweed” rides seem to be monthly across the country and the lure to fixed gear riding is still on a high.   Companies such as Rapha, Vassago and all those custom small builders across the world are building momentum based on our own regression.   How do you feel?  Do you like riding your steel Serotta or the feel of merino wool?  If so, tell us why!

What are your preferences to the below?

* Clipless or platform?
* CO2 or hand pump?
* What material do you prefer? (Carbon, Aluminum, etc..)
* Gears, single speed or some type of 1×9 setup?
* Outboard bearing or axle/cup type?
* Camelbak or water bottle?
* Oversized handlebars? Drop bars, wide bars, bent bars?
* Wicking material or cotton? Better yet, wool?
* GPS or cyclometer?