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Thread: Newbie mechanic

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    Senior Member marvelous's Avatar
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    Newbie mechanic

    I have just begun to learn to work on bikes. I purchased the Bicycle Repair and Maintenance for Dummies. I have 9 bikes I bought for a total of $15 dollars. I have attempted nearly everything in the book on these bikes. I will be going off to Barnett's Bicycle Institute at the end of October; afterwhich I intend to open my own used bike shop. Does anyone have any advice?

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    Take a look at the online sites such as parktool.com.

    Volunteer (if necessary) to get some time in a local shop to see what really goes on in there (good and bad).

    Decide what your goal is for your shop and be able to express it in 5-10 seconds, then sell someone on why it's a great idea in 30-45 seconds.

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    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    Start collecting the specialized tools of the trade. Don't buy what's cheapest - you'll have to buy the same tool twice if you do. Buy the BEST. Get things like wrenches and screwdrivers at SEARS - Craftsman tools are guaranteed for life. And practice, practice, practice!

    Oh - hi there fellow Vermonter. Burlington area here.
    Last edited by Panthers007; 07-31-09 at 04:36 PM. Reason: Sp.
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

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    Senior Member Chop61's Avatar
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    +1 on the tool gathering. Hold on for the big ticket items, BBI will give you a one time wholesale discount at United Bicycle tools. If you make a big buy, you can save a bundle.
    When I was young I prayed to God for a new bike. Then I figured out God didn't work that way, so I stole one and prayed for forgiveness.

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    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    Barnett's offers the same deal as UBI in Ashland? That's very good to know. Cool! Thank you!
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

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    Elitist Troglodyte DMF's Avatar
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    Craftsman isn't the only brand that offers a lifetime warranty.

    The problem with specializing in used bikes is that you will need every tool every invented. Did you know that there are 8 freewheel removal tools, and some have to be dynamited anyway? Try to connect to someone that already has a vast inventory of tools (and hopefully parts) that you can go to in extremis.

    ---

    Now to the bad part. You need a business plan.

    Not just, "Why and how", but "WHERE'S THE MONEY?" Unless you're already independently wealthy, you will need loans. That means you will need to know exactly how much your business will cost, and be able to predict with some veracity how you will make a profit and make your creditors rich beyond t... uhh ... repay the loans.

    Hook up with someone in the business before you go it alone (as has been suggested above). For instance, did you know that (as reported to me) QBP requires a $20K annual guarantee before they will let you order wholesale? As a new shop you may need to plunk down that $20K in cash.

    DO NOT rush into this. Learn the business - not just the mechanicing - first.
    Stupidity got us into this mess - why can't it get us out?

    - Will Rogers

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    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    How do you make $1-million in the bike-business??? Start with $2-million!!!

    The success in ANY business comes from the planning, financial-control and management of it. The actual skills at the bottom are irrelevant to whether the business will be viable and profitable. You could be the absolute BEST chef on the planet, the BEST hairdresser, the BEST welder, the BEST bike-mechanic, and if you tried to start a business based upon those skills, bets are 100% that the business will fail.

    If you want to start your own business, learn business-management and bookkeeping. You must have networking skills, public-speaking skills, management-skills, accounting skills, you have to know how to be your own electrician, your own marketer/advertizer, you own carpenter, be a CPA/controller/bookkeeper/tax-attourney, your own slave-driver, heck, you have to even take out the trash and sweep the floors! But bike-mechanic skill are the least of your worries...
    Last edited by DannoXYZ; 07-31-09 at 05:18 PM.

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    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    Working in a shop can be a good introduction to the marketing end of things. A business-plan, regardless of what service you offer, is needed to succeed in all businesses. But learning bike-mechanics is a very good skill towards you working in a shop and learning what all is involved. You can also volunteer at a shop. Explain to the owner what you have as a long-term goal. And being willing to help for no money - well that's likely to get your foot in the door.

    Just promise the owner you won't open-up anywhere near his/hers emporium.
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

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    The unfortunate reality with used bikes is that the cost to repair them in both parts and labor often exceeds their value. The cheaper the bike, the more this is true. Some bikes are disposable items after a certain number of years.

    I've been wrenching on bikes for 25 years (not as a profession) and I retired from mechanical engineering 6 years ago at age 50. The last thing I want to do is spend my time trying to fix someone's dirty old bike that's been poorly maintained.

    A real shop would require incredibly low overhead to make a dime. The rent and utilities would be more than some would make.

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    Elitist Troglodyte DMF's Avatar
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    Consider this. (I'm not speaking from experience here, so take this as a half-baked idea only.)

    Rather than opening a for-profit bike shop you could go for something like a community "bike exchange" that is supported by grants or maybe even public money. The world of non-profits is way different from the real world, but you rarely see poverty in the management ranks. The "director" of such an establishment is paid a fairly decent salary.
    Last edited by DMF; 08-01-09 at 12:46 PM. Reason: Speling
    Stupidity got us into this mess - why can't it get us out?

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    Senior Member Proofide's Avatar
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    As a good example of that, check out the Common Wheel Project in Glasgow. In British terms, the bicycles they sell are quite expensive for second hand machines.

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    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    The 'Old Spokes Home' here in Vermont sells used-bikes as a major source of revenue. How do they do this? They charge a good price for such things as Motobecane Super Mirage or Raleigh Records. This works because when they restore an old bike, they don't just throw on some cables and housing and oil it. They go to task and make it run like a new machine. Attention paid to the last detail. A visit to the OSH is like stepping into a bike-shop in 1980 or so.

    I'm a devout bicycle-voyeur. I look at the bicycles around town - moving or still. When I see an oldie looking new, 9 out of 10 it has an OSH-sticker on her. And their numbers are growing.

    http://www.oldspokeshome.com/
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

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    Elitist Troglodyte DMF's Avatar
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    Hmm. Almost makes me want visit the People's Republic of Green.

    Stupidity got us into this mess - why can't it get us out?

    - Will Rogers

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    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    Better smile when you say that, Comrade.
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

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    Elitist Troglodyte DMF's Avatar
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    NOW I know who that cat .. er .. you remind me of --- Joe Stalin!
    Stupidity got us into this mess - why can't it get us out?

    - Will Rogers

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    panther, do u work at a shop?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Panthers007 View Post
    The 'Old Spokes Home' here in Vermont sells used-bikes as a major source of revenue. How do they do this? They charge a good price for such things as Motobecane Super Mirage or Raleigh Records.
    I always liked their bikes and the store, but they would have actually gotten my business if they did have some lower-price, not-so-slick bikes for sale. Ended up buying a junker from Recycle North instead, because I couldn't afford their prices.

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    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    I ran an underground shop for about 12 years. A fancy shoppe opened in my old town. The guy who ran it jacked the prices through the rafters. He was arrogant. And a lousy mechanic. I couldn't stand him - so I had word passed to friends of friends of friends that I would be glad to work on people's bikes. And for a lot less than Mark H. down at his high-rent emporium. I was swamped and had to train others. In 10 years - Mark H. folded up his silk-tent and left town.
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  19. #19
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    ^ cool story!

  20. #20
    bumpersoar bumperm's Avatar
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    There's been some good advice in the previous posts (re-read DaveSSS's). I'll apologize in advance for this somewhat negative post:

    There a basic rule in business that the easier a business is to get into, the more likely it is to fail. In other words, if there are few entry barriers (think small retail as an example), then there will be lots of competition to most any successful business. The converse is true (think doctors etc), the more entry barriers, the more likely the business is to succeed.

    I have no professional experience in the bike industry, but founded a successful business in the service industry 30 years ago (it's still going strong with 25 employees and without me! I've been retired for 6 years now), so I have a clue about how hard it is to get a business off the ground.

    Besides rent, getting the word out is expensive and frustrating. Word of mouth from amazed customers it best. To have a chance as success, you've got to figure out a way to keep costs low and service quality high . . . maybe a mobile bike repair service to start? Free pick up and delivery if you can't fix it on site, that sort of thing. That way no brick and mortar costs.

    Still, I think I'd go with some of the other suggestions and go to work for some other outfit before lauching out on your own. (I worked full time as a cop while getting my business off the ground - - worked those two jobs for two years until the start-up could stand on it's feet and support me). Also kept it going out of my house for 5 years, no vacations either. God it was a lot of work!

    good luck
    bumper

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    don't start a for-profit company. start a hobby, cover your costs (buy your tools as you need to) until all your friends and your ride club buddies come to you and recommend you. Print business cards (around here they're about $10 per hundred) and give out lots, lots and lots. eventually (3-5 years) you might be able to turn a profit. 5 years later, you can do it full time. Ask any locksmith (myself included) how hard it is to fix things that people don't maintain. Most people don't pay attention to their mechanical things until they stop working. The previous post about tools is correct, buy the best out there (I'm a snap-on guy, they're guaranteed but theydon't need to be, cuz they don't break). Make sure you factor storage into your budget: tools are only good if you can find them and know what they're for.

    that being said, good luck.

  22. #22
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Implicit in bumperm and pointatopoinb's posts is that you need enough capital to survive without a profit for 5-years. When I started up my consulting biz in '95, I had worked my full-time job long enough and saved enough money to make sure that I could live and eat for 2-years without ANY income. Even then it was darn close as my business sucked up all that money and it finally broke into the black on the 3rd year. If I didn't have enough funds to live for 2-years without income, my business definitely would've gone belly-up and I'd be back to working full-time for someone else. For me, working part-time wasn't possible, my start-up required 60-80 hrs a week minimum.. for 2-years straight.

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