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Old 08-05-08, 06:48 PM   #1
nubcake
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How how working in a shop changed you

obviously this question is directed to those who work in a shop which im going to assume there are a few on here.

A topic from the commuter forum got me thinking about some things that have changed me and one big one has been working in a shop. Ive been a wrench/salesman at a shop for about 5 months now and there have been some big personality changes, most of them i really like

1. I am becoming less and less impressed with fancy carbon bikes and really would rather not own one now, i got me a lightspeed classic and even though im only 21 i see it as a bike i could keep for a lifetime. Theres something about handcrafted ti or steel, not only do they ride amazing and are almost as fast but they actually have character.

2. I am more patient and understanding with people....unless you bring me your huffy you say has been sitting the the garage for 10 years and you want me to make it work like something its not...you know a real bike...AND THEN have the nerve to whine when i cant have it for you tommorow...WTF people

3. I now could care less about being the fastest person on the road or trail...but i am ALOT faster than ive ever been.

4. I am getting pretty good about riding to work finally and would happily give up my car for a big dummy with a stokemonkey.

5. For some reason my paycheck never seems to make it into my bank account, getting stuff at cost is WAYYYY too tempting.

6. something about hideous colered clothes and bikes makes me all giddy and stuffs

7. I dont know why and ive tried to stop it but cant stop saying "man" not only when talking to customers, but friends family, dogs, small children, oompa loompas and the list goes on and it pisses me off

anyways theres a few of the bigger changes in my personality after only 5 months in a shop and i was currious if anyone else has had the same happen to them...

later man
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Old 08-05-08, 06:53 PM   #2
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I think you need to get yourself to "Man/Dude" Anonymous to squash that item 7 in the nubbins but the rest sounds oddly familiar and intoxicatingly desireable.....
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Old 08-05-08, 07:04 PM   #3
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The only thing that's happened is that i've now gotten mega-grumpy and I hate all bikes and I hate the riders through their bike.

For example, a repair job: diagonse creak. **** you! **** life
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Old 08-05-08, 07:29 PM   #4
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I worked in a shop in the early-to-mid 1970s. I had a great time... Got to do something (work on bikes) that I liked, got paid (sort-of) for it, and would have been doing it for free in my parents' garage otherwise... It was the best college kid after school job I could have imagined.

Christmas Eve 1972, regular customer came in and handed us a bottle of scotch. Merry Christmas, all that jazz. The shop owner and I got so plastered that we had to close the store at 2:30 pm. Ever ride home from work drunk? I found out why more people don't do that... Basically, you can't.

Anyway, slinging wrenches after school and on weekends continued until spring of 1975, when suddenly I was ready to graduate... and no longer needed the job. Somewhere toward my last couple of days, the shop owner said something to me that's stuck in my head over those many decades...

"You really like bikes, don't ya?"

I nodded, or agreed, whatever...

"Don't ever do this for a living," he said. "I gotta sell so many every month, gotta worry about paying the rent, the bills, paying for my inventory, paying you guys. I gotta deal with morons who waste my time and don't buy anything, other morons who do buy something but make me regret having sold it to them. The good customers almost make it worthwhile... on good days.

" The worst part is, I NEVER have time to ride. Most of the time, I come to work and go home in the van. I've gotten almost to the point where I really hate bicycles. "So anyways, go. Be an engineer, or whatever you are."

I took his rant to mean that one shouldn't turn his passion into a job. I haven't.

Funny thing though... This guy remained in business for the past thirty years. His son runs it now. Same shop, smelling of lube and new tires, same service desk, same lame-o homemade triple tandem in the side window.

Sometimes I wish I'd stayed on... Grown old working on bikes, maybe catching a ride to the TdF, changing tires for some team or other, just living my passion...

I have to say, though, that electrical engineering was a far more lucrative field.
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Old 08-05-08, 07:30 PM   #5
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P.S The the OP: I really enjoy your username
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Old 08-05-08, 08:26 PM   #6
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haha, thanks operator. You know, im strange in the sense that i would much rather deal with a unique challenging problem than doing the typical tune up crap. Ive always like fixing things, hell i was a mechanic at an acura dealer before this place and yes...that was a much more lucrative field but im loving life more now than i have in a while. i can hardly pay the bills but im riding more than ever mostly from commuting but also being in the loop for the big weekend epics. our shop is actually known as the "epic ride mafia" so we get into some amazing rides at times.

One thing that ive learned being at the shop is that you can sell your used stuff at the same as it will cost you for new and the person you sold it to still gets a good deal. Granted we try to keep this down to a point so were not stealing sales from the shop but say you ride a decent full squish bike at ep price ride it for a couple years and you can usually sell it pretty easy at what a new bike would be ep wise....dont think ill ever sell my roadie though and i would sell various organs on the black market to get my big dummy right now and once i do i doubt selling it as well
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Old 08-05-08, 09:13 PM   #7
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It caused me to become a beeraholic. I like a cold beer when working on a bike, and I like working on bikes.

Al
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Old 08-05-08, 09:20 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by nubcake View Post
One thing that ive learned being at the shop is that you can sell your used stuff at the same as it will cost you for new and the person you sold it to still gets a good deal.
I like that attitude. It helps the employee but it's also something that benefits the buyer. I think that the best place to buy a used bike is from a bike shop employee, but the caveat is that the employee better not try and make a margin on his/her cost.

I remember one summer I made something like $5000, worked my butt off. I had maybe $500 in the bank when I went back to school but I had a 23 lbs mtb (for some reason I spent all my money on the bike I didn't race) as well as my road bike and all its trappings.

Because of my time in a shop (15 years or so), I appreciate small businesses. I appreciate margins - I don't ask for a break unless I need it, and I'll ask to be charged full price unless it'll take more time to convince a shop to skip taking 10% off retail. Which, to me, doesn't make a difference, but to the shop it can add up. I appreciate the fact that bike shops usually attract hugely overqualified people and that they aren't typical "I don't care about my job" type folks. They're usually smart, well raised kids, doing the best they can. They're enthusiastic, happy to be important, eager to help, and full of raw idealistic ideas and opinions. That's awesome.

I love the social aspect of the shop. I like being able to help someone in a genuine way. I sold all my old bikes to folks on an "as needed" basis. My Schwinn and Dawes (steel, 27" wheels, etc) both went to guys who lived at a shelter and commuted on bikes because they couldn't drive.

I also ended up meeting pretty much every girlfriend I had over a 10 year period at the shop. There were others I probably would have asked out but I was too scared to do so or I wasn't able to (dating someone else).

I was so poor when I had my shop. Someone who bought a nice jacket brought it back when the sleeve thread broke or something. He was yelling at me, really upset because it would take time to get a new one (and it ended up that the company stopped making them for the year). "You ever buy something at a store and it just breaks????" I thought about it and realized (to my horror) that I had not been able to buy anything at a store since I had the shop. My girlfriend bought my me clothes and stuff, I begged my food from the bagel place or traded for it at the deli, and I drove a totally beat up car that I worked on at my friend's garage. I didn't say that to him though. I just said yes and tried to get him another jacket from the rep, from another store, anywhere. No luck. I still feel bad about that, and it took me about 11 years to buy another Pearl Izumi product (last week, actually).

I also never want to work in a shop again. I am totally and completely burnt on working in a shop. I've volunteered at shops, done as much free work as I can in the time I have (usually a day or maybe an early-to-late evening), refuse anything in return, but man, I just cannot do that as a job again. After I first closed my shop I didn't even want to change a flat so I just swapped wheels for a few years until I started puncturing really expensive and virtually new Vittoria tubulars. When I started training on a Seta (silk) tire I realized I'd hit rock bottom. It took maybe 10-15 rides on the Seta before I changed a few tubes (I had them, just didn't change them) and started back on the road to recovery. It took a bit longer for me to actually degrease my chain - by then it looked like something out of the bottom of an old rusty oil tank.

What's interesting is what I learned after I closed the shop.

I learned that people have a lot of money, that the way I spend money is not the way others do. So although I'm a relatively frugal person, I know that there are those out there who have tons and tons of money. And they want to spend it.

I made more money in the first 2 months after the shop closed than I did the previous year (granted I made 1/2 as much as I made the previous year, and 1/3 what I made the year before that). I couldn't believe that someone thought my time was worth so much. And they paid for social security, state income tax, medical, even something called a "401k". Unbelievable. In 2007 I made as much money as I did for about 5-6 years in the bike business. I bought a new car in 2003, something that, when I owned the shop, I swore I'd never do. Cars were $2000 max when I had the shop, and I never got comprehensive insurance because I could never afford it.

I learned that there is a bigger world than Campy vs Shimano, mtb vs road, hardtail vs full suspsension, Ritchey tires vs Panaracer. I learned how much someone sacrifices to pick up a bike at 5 pm, and if it's not ready, why they are soooo upset. Ditto weekend rides. I realized that upholding your word, no matter what the cost, is critical for a business, and that over-promising is the worst thing you can do. So if the bike "might" be done on Tuesday night, say it'll be done Wednesday. Either that or make sure it's done Tuesday morning, before the shop opens and before things get so crazy that you can't finish it by 5 PM Tuesday.

I also learned to appreciate how much time and effort my friends spent helping at my shop. My teammates would show up on Saturday after the morning ride to talk to customers, talk to them about what they knew about bikes and stuff ("Oh, if you want to carry your bike on the car, this is my car and this is the rack I have. The shop has them over here."). One friend spent a couple months doing my books, a day a week. Others would show up, out of the blue, on a day off, and put in an hour or 8 of hard work, grin, do the whole gangster knucks/slap/whatever thing to say they're taking off, and drive away. I didn't realize what they gave until I got into the position where I wanted to offer the same help.

I think that LBSs are critical for cycling and it's important to have them around. Ultimately everyone starts at an LBS. Very few people start cycling "online" or remotely.

cdr
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Old 08-05-08, 09:44 PM   #9
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I like that attitude. It helps the employee but it's also something that benefits the buyer. I think that the best place to buy a used bike is from a bike shop employee, but the caveat is that the employee better not try and make a margin on his/her cost.

I remember one summer I made something like $5000, worked my butt off. I had maybe $500 in the bank when I went back to school but I had a 23 lbs mtb (for some reason I spent all my money on the bike I didn't race) as well as my road bike and all its trappings.

Because of my time in a shop (15 years or so), I appreciate small businesses. I appreciate margins - I don't ask for a break unless I need it, and I'll ask to be charged full price unless it'll take more time to convince a shop to skip taking 10% off retail. Which, to me, doesn't make a difference, but to the shop it can add up. I appreciate the fact that bike shops usually attract hugely overqualified people and that they aren't typical "I don't care about my job" type folks. They're usually smart, well raised kids, doing the best they can. They're enthusiastic, happy to be important, eager to help, and full of raw idealistic ideas and opinions. That's awesome.

I love the social aspect of the shop. I like being able to help someone in a genuine way. I sold all my old bikes to folks on an "as needed" basis. My Schwinn and Dawes (steel, 27" wheels, etc) both went to guys who lived at a shelter and commuted on bikes because they couldn't drive.

I also ended up meeting pretty much every girlfriend I had over a 10 year period at the shop. There were others I probably would have asked out but I was too scared to do so or I wasn't able to (dating someone else).

I was so poor when I had my shop. Someone who bought a nice jacket brought it back when the sleeve thread broke or something. He was yelling at me, really upset because it would take time to get a new one (and it ended up that the company stopped making them for the year). "You ever buy something at a store and it just breaks????" I thought about it and realized (to my horror) that I had not been able to buy anything at a store since I had the shop. My girlfriend bought my me clothes and stuff, I begged my food from the bagel place or traded for it at the deli, and I drove a totally beat up car that I worked on at my friend's garage. I didn't say that to him though. I just said yes and tried to get him another jacket from the rep, from another store, anywhere. No luck. I still feel bad about that, and it took me about 11 years to buy another Pearl Izumi product (last week, actually).

I also never want to work in a shop again. I am totally and completely burnt on working in a shop. I've volunteered at shops, done as much free work as I can in the time I have (usually a day or maybe an early-to-late evening), refuse anything in return, but man, I just cannot do that as a job again. After I first closed my shop I didn't even want to change a flat so I just swapped wheels for a few years until I started puncturing really expensive and virtually new Vittoria tubulars. When I started training on a Seta (silk) tire I realized I'd hit rock bottom. It took maybe 10-15 rides on the Seta before I changed a few tubes (I had them, just didn't change them) and started back on the road to recovery. It took a bit longer for me to actually degrease my chain - by then it looked like something out of the bottom of an old rusty oil tank.

What's interesting is what I learned after I closed the shop.

I learned that people have a lot of money, that the way I spend money is not the way others do. So although I'm a relatively frugal person, I know that there are those out there who have tons and tons of money. And they want to spend it.

I made more money in the first 2 months after the shop closed than I did the previous year (granted I made 1/2 as much as I made the previous year, and 1/3 what I made the year before that). I couldn't believe that someone thought my time was worth so much. And they paid for social security, state income tax, medical, even something called a "401k". Unbelievable. In 2007 I made as much money as I did for about 5-6 years in the bike business. I bought a new car in 2003, something that, when I owned the shop, I swore I'd never do. Cars were $2000 max when I had the shop, and I never got comprehensive insurance because I could never afford it.

I learned that there is a bigger world than Campy vs Shimano, mtb vs road, hardtail vs full suspsension, Ritchey tires vs Panaracer. I learned how much someone sacrifices to pick up a bike at 5 pm, and if it's not ready, why they are soooo upset. Ditto weekend rides. I realized that upholding your word, no matter what the cost, is critical for a business, and that over-promising is the worst thing you can do. So if the bike "might" be done on Tuesday night, say it'll be done Wednesday. Either that or make sure it's done Tuesday morning, before the shop opens and before things get so crazy that you can't finish it by 5 PM Tuesday.

I also learned to appreciate how much time and effort my friends spent helping at my shop. My teammates would show up on Saturday after the morning ride to talk to customers, talk to them about what they knew about bikes and stuff ("Oh, if you want to carry your bike on the car, this is my car and this is the rack I have. The shop has them over here."). One friend spent a couple months doing my books, a day a week. Others would show up, out of the blue, on a day off, and put in an hour or 8 of hard work, grin, do the whole gangster knucks/slap/whatever thing to say they're taking off, and drive away. I didn't realize what they gave until I got into the position where I wanted to offer the same help.

I think that LBSs are critical for cycling and it's important to have them around. Ultimately everyone starts at an LBS. Very few people start cycling "online" or remotely.

cdr
Great post. Very interesting and a LOT of truth. Thanks for that ;-)
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Old 08-05-08, 10:06 PM   #10
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cdr - your are right on. I still dream about the shop and I stopped in 1995. I get my fix at the local bike "kitchen".
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Old 08-06-08, 05:52 AM   #11
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agreed, awesome post. I think some of the most rewarding experiences are the ones when you spend a while talking with someone about getting a new bike. not that guy who rides all the time or has 10 high end bikes already but that person thats kinda nervous, doesnt think they can do it but wants to loose weight/get outside etc. You get them to test ride a bike and they scare the hell out of you cause they about fall over when they start but they come back grinning ear to ear. then you see them come back a few times a week for various accesories and each time you notice they are getting thinner and thinner and are noticably happier. Those customers, although not as fun as talking about high end bikes make my job that much more awesome.

Our shop has those same guys who will stop by and help out with customers etc...oh and they usually bring free beer and food. We also had one of those moments that the whole shop was drunk, one of our regulars brought by half a gal of tequila and margarita mix...that was not a pretty sight
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Old 08-06-08, 06:12 AM   #12
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+1 on the workers never getting to ride. If it wasn't for commuiting via bike, they'd never be on 2 wheels.
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Old 08-06-08, 08:45 PM   #13
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lol...

ive deff noticed the diff stereotypes of people that ride bikes, some are funny and some not so much

and ive actually found myself wanting to ride all types of bikes now rather than just what i was riding before i worked at a shop(bmx). id say thats my main change
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Old 08-06-08, 10:22 PM   #14
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Ending a sentence with the word "man" is becomming more common. I enjoy starting people out on their bicycling adventures. I still enjoy fixing bikes, especially the challenging ones. I hate working on dirty bikes and resent that people bring filthy bikes in for repair. I see poor build/assembly quality and it bothers me quite a bit. "There's always enough time to do it over but never enough time to do it right."
It's so much easier and satisfying to work on quality bikes and parts due to their precision build.

Lastly, an amazing camraderie among shop employees. We're all dirt-poor, struggling to make ends meet, but most of us love our jobs. Sadly but predictably, most leave the profession to finally earn a decent living. I'm sure I will also fall into that category sooner rather than later.
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Old 08-06-08, 10:34 PM   #15
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I love bikes and bike shops, but the stereotype of the disgruntled, overweight, graying store manager is emerging. The dudes wrenching in the back will always be cool though.
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Old 08-07-08, 07:52 AM   #16
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I love bikes and bike shops, but the stereotype of the disgruntled, overweight, graying store manager is emerging. The dudes wrenching in the back will always be cool though.
I hate when i go into other shops and most the employees dont ride or even worse...sales reps that dont ride and are just well...sales reps.

Im lucky enough to be in a shop where the 2 managers are actually some of the strongest riders in the city and all of us at the shop do everything with 2 wheels. xc, road, bmx, trials, downhill, commute...its awesome, now if only i could afford my rent
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