I have a very humbled and sad feeling inside when I type this. If it doesn’t come across well, if my grammar stinks and spelling is horrid I am sorry. This type of message is one I never want to relay, it is one that pains me before I even begin.
Last Thursday morning I woke to an email from Benjamin Wilson. Ben is not only a club member, but is a main sponsor of em:pwr with his company Delivery Path. The email went something along the lines that he was hit the evening before in downtown (Uptown) Charlotte. He was fine, just was released from the ER but very shaken up and freaked out. He then asked me to call him ASAP.
I called Ben as soon as I could to talk through his worries and fear. His bike was totaled. He had a police and witness report. He was okay. He was scared. He was freaked out. Everything he explained was exactly how I felt 6 months earlier. I did my best, explaining that it is all needed and what I did to get through it..
Over the past week I’ve been trying to keep tabs on Ben. Keeping his spirits high, or as best as I can. Hoping that talking to someone that has been there and is back on the road would help!
Fast forward to today… A little after lunch I get a call from George Berger. He has been added to the list of Charlotte based bike accidents. I haven’t gotten a full story but he’s fine. He somehow “dismounted” his bike during the accident and now the frame and rear wheel are the only thrashed parts, not him.
Somber. Sad. Feeling for my two friends as I know exactly how they are feeling. George sounded like he was in better spirits than Ben. We’ll get through this guys and hopefully em:pwr others to fix this!
It is frequent that questions arise towards me for recommendations on how things should be done, or changed within the bike industry, especially bike shop management or culture. Maybe it’s the name Bike Shop Girl that brings it out of the person? I like to think it’s my charm and large brain…
With an outsiders perspective, here are some recommendations I am giving to active or maybe new bike shop managers.
Visit many corporate retail stores near you and take notes
Most shops want to keep that “home grown” feeling. I’m not recommending to lose that, if anything harness it but don’t forget in the end you are fighting to win customers over. Retailers that I recommend to visit include The Gap, REI, Apple, Best Buy, and Starbucks. Did they give you breathing room for when you first walked in? Did they great you warmly? Was the store clean and organized? Did the staff present themselves well and provide help when needed? Were you ever lost in the store? Did you feel rushed? How was the checkout process if you purchased something?
Visit them often and compare notes. These companies pay good money to train their staff, merchandise their store and have great processes to make sure all these things are handled correctly. Save your money and learn from them. Pull from as many great ideas as you can, use the ones that you can relate to.
Clean your bathrooms as if your mom was visiting
I visit a lot of bike shops, and I always ask to use their bathroom. You can really get an idea of how a shop is run behind the scenes by their bathroom. Are there magazines of half naked women? If you have one bathroom for men and women, ask your male staff to put the seat down every time they use it. Better yet, make it mandatory. If your staff has to clean the bathroom daily, they will keep their pee in the toilet and not leave greasy chains soaking in the bathroom sink. I understand some staff’s need to use the bathroom sink for this use, but let the chain soak in a water bottle and wash it off in the sink. Don’t leave it in there. I also don’t think anyone will be offended if the kit you rode into work was in there, I will be offended if it is hanging chamois side out right next to the toilet (where my face has to be!)
Think before you buy
Never write a pre-season order when your rep is still sitting there. Ask feedback from staff, compare numbers from the last 2 years and purchase wisely. Pre-seasons, discounts, and bulk buying is great a great thing that many companies offer, remember that it is ONLY great if you can sell it before the bill is due. Too many shops get sucked into saving 5% on their order and at the end of the season they are left with SKU’s they were required to purchase to make minimums. It doesn’t matter if you save $800 on an order, if you have a pair of $3,000 cost wheels sitting on your shelf for 2 years after you have payed the bill. Those wheels have COST you money by sitting there after you have paid the bill. Depending on margin, there is a change you needed to sell 2x, or had 2 cycle turns on that wheel set to make money when you factor in paying the invoice, losing floor space, and how the cost of the wheels tied up money from being spent on better turning product.
Never buy something that you or your staff wouldn’t use
There is a reason special ordering is around, promote it. If there is something you think is great, bring in one to test out. Let someone try it out, purchase more based on that review. Your staff will sell more of something they believe in, help them do this. Teach your staff how to properly special order a product, require money down, require a time period to pick up and if it isn’t convenient ask the customer if you could drop it off or ship it to them (based on weight, shipping cost and the ability to ship!) If special ordering is treated properly most customers will be happy to wait. You can get me the EXACT bike I want, built and in my hands before the weekend? I’ll be the first person to test ride it? – Direct quote from a customer I had. One season I proved my shop owner wrong, that special ordering is possible and most customers won’t mind a bit! Special ordering over a 1/4 of the bikes sold in the store.
Pick and train your employees as if you could do the same of your children
Teach them manners (customer service), morals (trustworthy and dependable), cleanliness (pick up after themselves and their customers) and a healthy attitude (give them a chance to ride their bike.) You aren’t their parents, and it isn’t your job but to have a stronger company you need to make your employees stronger. They are more valuable than your low margin inventory.
If you have experience running a bike store, or any other retail establishment please add your advice and tips in the comments below!
Warm, inviting, and cozy are not words you associate with booths at the Sea Otter Classic. To be able to make people feel welcome, even kids and women, it is a great compliment! A quick peek in photos of the Cyclelogical Gear booth.
Hangers made out of rims, spokes and shrader valves.
Sara Stearns is a reader of Bike Shop Girl and is an inspirational woman through and through. While at the Sea Otter Classic I was able to meet Sara face to face. She’s a pilot for an air ambulance that services the Sea Otter Classic every year. One of the days she was working she landed her helicopter and walked in to the Ladies Lounge in her pilot uniform! When I asked her to be one of my motivational Monday features she bulked, why would anyone find her motivational? She is your normal middle age (don’t take that personal Sara) woman, she has a job, she enjoys riding with her friends and rocks an awesome bike stable. Sara shows you what it is to live life everyday. Follow her on Facebook and you’ll see!
What’s your name and location?
Sara Stearns, Seaside, California.
What type of cycling do you enjoy?
I’m a rabid roadie, but as of late, a interest in off road has taken seed. I am not a competitive rider, although I might try a criterium one day to see what it’s like. Believe me, if I do, I’ll stay towards the back and stay out of everyone’s way!
What is your first cycling memory?
Ha! My dad taking the training wheels off of my first bicycle and sending me down the sidewalk for my first solo flight! I could only go straight. I was afraid to make turns – but, it was such fun, and I could do it!
Who in the current cycling industry inspires you, and better yet WHY?
Georgena Terry for her advocacy, her courage, and determination. She builds bikes, apparel, and she offers advice and inspiration. I also admire Evie Stevens for her come out of no where talent, and she’s such a sweetheart! She’s also a voice for safety and reason, and that’s so cool. I admire Fabian Cancellara, because he’s a huge talent, a nice person, and well – he’s pretty easy on the eyes, too. LOL! I also like Jim Felt, because his company built my first road bike and my tri bike. He also sponsors Sarah Hammer, and well – wow!! Above all, I am indebted to the local women riders whom I have come to know as I learn my way into and around the sport. Each and every one of them has offered advice, encouragement and has been a huge part of my enjoyment and bliss on my bicycle. I owe them HUGE…
What was your best moment on a bike in 2010?
My first triathlon! It was me against the clock, and all of the training I had done, plus the courage I mustered to do it, all came to fruition on that 12 mile course. It was a blast!
In the next year, what are your goals with cycling and pushing yourself forward in 2011?
More triathlons, century rides, solo rides, more fitness, more enjoyment, more socializing, more empowerment. I love to see other women getting involved in the sport, and it is a delight when they take a loving to it. I also so enjoy watching gifted athletes, female and male, as they struggle and then excel in this beautiful endeavor. More inspiration, that!
A 2009 Look 566, a 2004 Felt B2, and a 1996 Cannondale M500 (about to see the dirt for the first time!)
Motivational Monday, a Monday tradition at Bike Shop Girl, my goal to keep you motivated and to be striving on the bike even during a hard week or long hours at work. Are you a woman that bicycles? Fill out this easy form and be part of our motivational movement!
Often I come back from industry events like the 2011 Sea Otter Classic and people ask me what the coolest thing I saw was. I try to highlight all of those things on Bike Shop Girl and keep the fluff to the rest of the internet. One of these things were hardwood bicycles from Renovo Hardwood Bicycles.
Why Wood? We chose wood not because it’s different, not because it’s sustainable, but simply because we believe its engineering properties suit the requirements of most bicycle applications better than any other material. The performance of wood in applications more structurally demanding than bicycles has been well proven over many years. The most successful fighter bomber of WWII was the all-wood 400 mph British Mosquito, of which some 7500 were built.
Details in Photos
The frames were beautiful and it would be very cool to have one as a cafe cruiser. Clean, sleek and thought out. The drop outs worry me, as they are simply bolted into the wood.
A Frame Cut in Half
As I started my Thursday off dragging through the Sea Otter venue trying to find a bathroom and coffee, yes in that order, I was stopped by Tall Tyler of Nuun. A little hand slap and a what’s up “bro”. Tyler then whispered in my ear that he had some new goods to show me at their booth when I had time. Soon the California sun was beating down on me and the coffee was wearing off. I needed hydrated and I knew where to find it.
Tall Tyler whipped out some fresh colored nuun canisters. Gone was the all white with only a small colored trim to differentiate and now there was a new, cleaner logo, with fun colored labels! With that, thank god, there were new flavors.
nuun Strawberry Lemonade
Let me introduce you to one of my new loves in life. Strawberry lemonade flavored nuun. In a 16oz glass of water or bottle it is the perfect hint of tart and sweet, amazing for the long ride or when you are quenching your thirst
The rest of the Sea Otter Classic I literally LIVED on nuun Strawberry Vanilla. They kept a few water coolers full of their new flavors for people to test, I kept testing over and over anytime my water bottle was low.
There are other new flavors as well : Lemon Tea, Fruit Punch, Grape, and Tropical I haven’t gotten to those as I am in love with the above.
A full review will be posted of all the new flavors, including how my kids and non-cycling friends like the flavors/concept.
This product was given to me at no charge for reviewing. I was not paid or bribed to give this review and it will have my honest opinion or thoughts through out.
The guys behind Burn 24 Hour race in Wilkesboro, NC are trying to get more ladies to enter their race. If you haven’t heard about this race it is THE 24 hour race in the southeast. Anyone that is anyone has raced this event during its lifespan. Now it is your chance to do it for 20% off.
The BMCC and the B24 want to see you on the trail. The women’s classes have suffered the last couple of years at the B24. We’ve set attendance records both of those years so there’s no excuse for you not to come race. After a brief hiatus, we’ve added the Women’s Duo category back to the fold. Currently, the solo female class is a no show but The Betty Project is back and so are the Dirt Divas to contest for the Women’s team podium. In efforts to entice you to to join the field, we’re going to reduce the registration fees for all lady’s categories. Enter coupon code BIKE SHOP GIRL to receive 20% off the current fees. After you register, check out bikeshopgirl.com for Motivational Mondays, product reviews, news, race recaps and all things relevant to women’s cycling.
During my stay at Sea Otter something happened to my mentally and emotionally that I can’t explain. It’s a bit more deep than I want to get into on this post but one of the after affects was wanting, no yearning, to take more bike racing photos. Saturday afternoon before we packed up for the day, Neal and I hiked up the dual slalom hill to watch the final heats of the races. While I had no experience of this type of racing, besides what I have seen in the magazines, it was thrilling. It took a BMX track and pulled it downhill. In fact it looked SUPER fun. Everything I love, downhill, speed, berms and a short sprint!
Here are some of my favorite photos I took during the 20 minutes on the course. Feedback and criticism are encouraged!
When I was first notified that I had made the cut for the Airborne Flight Crew my selfish first thought was “when do I get to try out the bikes?”
No longer do either the dreaming of bikes, or critically going through the specifications or grams of a bicycle do it for me. Every bike is built different, and other than the geometry of a bike your early can’t know how all the ingredients of the end recipe will turn out. Every piece of the puzzle matters and even in sales I often would tell a “upgrade crazed” consumer to simply give their new ride a few weeks as stock.
Some great examples :
I cycle through 4 different saddles. Depending on the bikes reach, drop, handlebar width, seat tube angle and “cush” I may fit on one saddle better than the next. There are 3 tires I prefer on my mountain bike. If it’s a suspension bike, full suspension bike, 29″ or 26″, and finally how aggressive the fit is. All of these things change the handling of your bike, which will change how you ride your tires. Do you have more weight on your front tire through the turns, are you able to run lower air pressure, will you ride rockier trails (all mountain style) and the list goes on.
The First Taste of a New Bike
Where was I? Oh yes! I know the generic spec off paper of how the bike will be built. I don’t know how all of those spec’s in this “bike recipe” will taste, and I can’t wait to get my butt on the bike to taste my new bike!
Today’s the Day
As I walk into the 2011 Sea Otter Classic I have a few things on my mind, and a few things to take care of but I am ultimately excited to be testing out what I’ll be riding the rest of 2011. Between the Airborne Goblin 29″ and the Airborne Delta CX my butt will mostly be rotating between some variation of these two bikes.
Look for an initial preview of my first test ride
The main purpose of my recent trip to the 2011 Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, CA was a homecoming of sorts for the 2011 Airborne Flight Crew members. It is the one time a year that we are brought together from across the country. Some of us race, some of us banter and we all work the Airborne Bicycles booth for a couple hours a day during the festival.
The team has already been introduced over on the Airborne Bikes Blog, they do it better than I so click on over there to read!
Round Up of Events
Day 1 (Wednesday) :
Some members were flown in a couple days early to get become Airborne models for the website and print use. From my understanding the photos were taken by Ian Hyland of PinkBike fame. There was a ton of hiking, re-doing shots and back and forth shuttling. (This is also the day I was flying all over the country getting to Monterey.)
Day 2 (Thursday) :
Every day started off with unpacking the trailer we had packed with bikes the night before. This is the official first day of the Sea Otter Classic. We were all given our Airborne Flight Crew gear. Dickies work shirts, hoodie, beanie, long sleeve jersey, a couple XC jerseys, shorts, and a downhill jersey.
It is “industry day” so it is the day most vendors are getting their booth’s properly setup, running through demo bikes again and it is also a good time to split up booth duties to walk the festival. Airborne Flight Crew members test rode all the models, for most of us it was the first time to test ride the new Goblin 29er, Wingman DJ and Delta CX. From 2-4pm I was found over at the Ladies Lounge. Then it was time to start shutting down and putting all the bikes and goodies back in the trailer.
Thursday night we went out as a group for authentic mexican food and really started to get to know each other. Several folks stayed out in the hotel room, I went back to my room to recover from the past 48 hours of travel and going.
Day 3 (Friday) :
Woke early to go over the Delta CX I had brought back from the festival to ride in. Grabbed breakfast with a few Flight Crew members and started riding. 9 miles = 1.5 hours = a crap load of climbing! It was a beautiful ride, but very humbling thanks to the long sustained climbs on the cyclocross knobby tires. I look forward to having a geared cyclocross or 29er bike to take it to Pisgah for the fire road climbs that I miss being able to ride. My legs were miserable the rest of the day, but it was a good feeling even though I regretted it during the long walk back to the car at 6pm.
The day consumers really start mingling. It was a really good fit with most Flight Crew Members. It is a very even split between the gravity style riders and XC. I think I’m one of the most “dedicated” cyclocross racers, so I tried to pinch hit as much as possible on that one. It was also very helpful to have so many knowledge folks of the Taka and Wingman bikes. A good amount of bikes were test rode and talked about. Several magazines and websites came to take photos or chat about the bikes. This included someone from 650b.com to check out Tony’s custom Zeppelin that he converted to 650b.
I can’t forget the Ladies Lounge with Rebecca Rosch and other pro-super star ladies. There were tons of tech questions, I ended up greasy after it (always a great sign.) One of the readers of our site (link/name?) who’s a pilot for a heli-ambulance landed her helicopter to come to the show and join Ladies Lounge! That was such a great treat to meet someone with an amazing story and a friend of Bike Shop Girl.
Tuesday through Thursday was the BLC (link) which many vendors and “who’s who” in the industy were at. Friday those folks finally made it to the Sea Otter Festival, including my dear Pam Sayler from Kurt Kinetic (link.) After the festival ended for the day I spent a couple hours catching up with her and then we all went to sushi down at the Wharf. If I have a chance to make it back to Sea Otter next year, I will go a day early to fully experience Monterey. The wharf alone was amazing with the seals on the coast, the boats in the harbor and the mountains in the background!
Day 4 (Saturday) :
The busiest day of the festival, my last day of the festival and the day I became inspired to get to more races to photograph. All our downhillers were racing and running around frantic in the morning, parking was crazy and included another long walk up hills but it was a great day. I walked every inch of the show it seemed!
Our downhillers had great success in their racing.
Tony learned that 650b.com was the brainchild of the one and only, Bike Shop Girl. There wasn’t any “scoping” of his bike and Airborne Bicycles wasn’t going to change their mind this season on NOT having a 650b Zeppelin.
Unfortunately I wimped out and didn’t go out after we closed down shop. With a long day of traveling the next day, I stayed behind at the hotel to eat in and pack. From what I hear our team husband, Jim Davis, stayed behind at the festival and has some wild stories to tell. (Including hitch hiking home!) Wendy and I talked racing a bit before bed, and I had to say my final goodbye to many of my teammates until the next time I see them (probably 360 days!)
Other Notes :
While I wasn’t present for the last day of the festival, there was still tons going on. Wendy placed 10th in her race! First race on the Goblin and gears (from my understanding), she rocked it! Other Flight Crew members also had snafu’s with their flights and spent way too much time with airlines..
Hopefully all my teammates can understand this when I say it… When I learned the roster for the 2011 Airborne Flight Crew the one thing that I was jumping up and down inside about was the name Jerry Hazard. Jerry is an amazing photographer that I followed almost 10 years ago on Deviantart.com. His photo’s have been featured in many magazines and his personality around photography and riding is a treat to be around. To be able to pull from that type of fountain was alone something to fly to California for! During my trip he allowed me to borrow his fish eye lense, evidence is above and on many photo’s through out the Sea Otter post you’ll see. Walking me patiently through the settings and recommendations. It was humbling and inspirational to see his photography coming from the event!