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Re: Off topic: Another visit to a Philadelphia bike shop

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  • Michael Reid
    Al, I ve had a few similar experiences here in the Grand Valley. This valley is not incredibly populous - perhaps 100,000 all told, but Grand Junction has a
    Message 1 of 5 , Dec 7, 2012
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      I've had a few similar experiences here in the Grand Valley.  This valley is not incredibly populous - perhaps 100,000 all told, but Grand Junction has a university and is a very bike-able area.  There are very nice MUP sections along the Colorado River, as well.
      This area has a very active recreational bicycle culture, and I do see commuters, as well.  Nearby Fruita is known as a mountain bike mecca on par with Moab (which is a mere hour and a half drive away), and the red canyons of the Colorado Monument were host to the Red Zinger Classic / Coors Classic bicycle races of old, so road bikers enjoy the rides that this area has to offer.

      Given this, I know to expect the typical disposition towards dual suspension mountain bikes and carbon fiber road bikes, but have been exploring the shops in the area to see what IGH bikes might be available.
      Sadly, I am finding the same thing as you.
      One of the local shops seems to have a smattering of nice city/town/commuter bikes, but those are relegated to an area of the shop that is away from the primary display and inventory of racing inspired bicycles.  I had high hopes for this particular shop, as it has a low key, old-timey feel to it.  Once inside, however, it was your pretty typical smattering of carbon and carbon-looking aluminum.

      One shop I visited really turned me off.  Maybe the staff had the Winter duldrums stirring in their heads, but when I asked a simple question about IGH equipped bikes the look on the person's face said it all.  He looked disgusted and had a pissy attitude - he told me "those types of bikes are not what people want, and they are slow and heavy".  He then started to try to convince me why carbon is the only way to go.
      I didn't engage it (knowing it would go nowhere with him), but it struck me that the issue has many aspects.

      First is the very real pressure each shop has from whatever "brands" they carry to sell bikes, and they stock the bikes that are being advertised or otherwise encouraged.  I've noticed a proliferation of racy looking bikes that are being marketed as "endurance road", "comfort road", or something along those lines.  They have the swoopy lines of the race bikes, but have more laid back geometry and higher stack height to allow a more upright position.  I find this trend interesting.  It is sort of like the bike industry acknowledging that the full-on race bikes are not what the general public wants, but there is an apparent attachment to the racy looks.  Add to that the fact that many shop employees are racers  or aggressive riders, and are predisposed to those types of bikes.

      I do know that many of the larger manufacturers are offering bicycles with IGH drive trains, but I have yet to see a bike shop in the cities I've lived in or visited have more than a few of these bicycles on the floor.

      I think the other end of the formula, the demand side, is also driving this trend.  I think there's a gap in awareness of the options to the ubiquitous racy/sporty

      So, the customers come in wanting bikes, 

      On the positive side, there is a bicycle shop in Calgary that started up at the time I lived there (a few years ago) that is exclusively oriented towards transportation and utility cycling, and from what I've seen and heard, the shop is thriving.  Likewise, there is a shop in Salt Lake City with a similar approach, and last I saw, they were doing very well.

      If I had the capacity to do so, I'd start a shop in the area to fill the gap.  The shop in Calgary was certainly and inspiration.  Unless I win the lottery, I don't see myself doing that any time soon.
    • aarons_bicycle_repair
      I am sure you know that the acronym for bike shops on the consumer side is LBS, but did you know that on the industry side we call our selves IBDs?
      Message 2 of 5 , Dec 7, 2012
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        I am sure you know that the acronym for bike shops on the consumer side is LBS, but did you know that on the industry side we call our selves IBDs? Independent Bicycle Dealer. Note the first word.
        I am sure I speak for most bike shop owners when I say, "We sell what we like and want to." Sometimes that model works sometimes not. Luckily it is working for us. I am not getting rich, but I am having fun and I get to work on lots of IGH! Nearly one per day. Most shops may get one per year! That is the way I used to be. It has not been a fast process. 7 years ago I hired my late friend Val Kleitz and he was so into IGH and his enthusiasm infected us. We do like all types of bikes. We are less and less keen on the electronic carbon race bikes however, but we know how to work on them.

        Most shops are also staffed by young 20 something men. The staff usually changes every few years. Bike shop work is not considered a career. Wages are low. Our L&I Department classifies bicycle mechanics as a semi-skilled job. REALLY?! High school counselors won't encourage a students aspirations to work at the local bike shop. "Have you applied to a college yet?", they say. I know, it happened to me. I did not listen. I wanted to be a bicycle mechanic! This means that most shops stock and sell what is now and cool and easy. What you find in the magazines. Does Bicycling have ads for Sturmey-Archer hubs? They sure splash the new SRAM red-black-red-whatever.

        So we need higher prices on bike parts in bike shops to pay higher career wages to mechanics to stay put! So they have incentive to improve their job instead of working thru the bike shop on their way to a job in the computer field (for example since so many people seem to work in computers!). Lord knows that any IT guy (or gal) can afford to pay! Well at least here in Seattle with all the computer businesses. Some of my friends wages are off the hook!
        Yet everyone wants a good deal. Everyone looks online at the prices. Everyone wants to be an expert. Everyone does online research. No one wants to pay an expert. And it is working, often times folks come into my shop and they know more than me about a product! A bike shop can sell at online prices but they won't be able to hire long term knowledgeable staff!

        So Al, Don't show yourself to the door instead ask to speak to the owner. Take him out for a beer, or better yet, get one of your derailleur bikes (secretly, we all have one!) tuned-up there and when you pick it up bring a 6-pack of beer. Make it an IPA. Bike mechanics like strong beer. You have to get to know them first then you can tell them, "You know what you should do?" That is a phrase all small business owners hear everyday. Sometimes we listen sometimes not. It makes us Independent!
      • Rich W
        One way to help find the bike shops that may have the types of bikes that interest you is to check the various brands that interest you web sites for local
        Message 3 of 5 , Dec 7, 2012
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          One way to help find the bike shops that may have the types of bikes that interest you is to check the various brands that interest you web sites for local dealers.

          Swobo is strong on IGH bikes as is Civia. Also a dealer who is into cargo bikes such as Yuba or Xtracycle is likely to also be into practical IGH urban bikes.

          A littke up-front resaerch may decrease your level of disappointment with a bike shop. Also remember that if you have a specific model in mind that many IBDs can get makes and models that they are not listed dealers for. My LBS got me both my Swobo and Civia when requested even though they were not listed dealers for either. If possible TALK TO THE OWNER.

          Civia, Surly and Salsa are all brands from a major parts distributor and any LBS with an account can get their bikes I have been told unless there is a major dealer locally with an exclusive for one of those makes. Swobo and Xtracycle will wholesale to most licensed dealers too I understand and the same is true of oher distributors. Remember that the distributors purpose is to sell bikes.

          As Aaron has noted actual cash with a request for a particular bike talks. Product suggestions to employees rather than to a shop owner or manager without an order are probably not going to have much effect. As the saying goes "Money talks and BS walks"

          Rich Wood

          --- In Geared_hub_bikes@yahoogroups.com, Al <k3eax@...> wrote:
          >     Well yesterday saw me again visit a Philadelphia bike shop. This one located in Philadelphia's  downtown, an area where bikes are plentifully seen in use on the streets and locked along the sidewalks ---- yes, Philadelphia, or at least certainly its center, is becoming a city of bicyclists. Now one would imagine that a bike shop in such a location would offer utility bikes suitable for commuting, but the shop doesn't! When I asked if there were bikes available with internal gears, fenders, racks, and upright handlebars, I was given was one of those "are you kidding" looks. I then proceeded to give one of my mini-lectures on the need to cater to all segments of the cycling population. I was soon walked toward the door.
          >     Will their current narrow offering of road bikes enable the shop to stay in business? Will market forces cause them to offer a more complete range of bike types?  I'll visit this shop from time to time and keep the group posted.
          >      Mind you now this shop is or was involved with a local university in helping to create a campus more amenable to cyclists and their needs ---go figure!
          >             Al in Philadelphia
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