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Old 12-03-06, 08:36 AM   #1
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Article About Bike Store Trying to Keep it Simple

This article in today's Boston Globe West is about a bike store where the owner is trying to keep things simple for people who might not be into bikes. I agree with almost everything he said, especially about bike-buying now being so complicated that it turns off non-cyclists.
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Old 12-03-06, 09:12 AM   #2
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Article Summary:

Retro Grouch owns a bike shop. Business model questionable as he doesn't make any money.
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Old 12-03-06, 09:33 AM   #3
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He's a hobbiest who lowers prices to sell stuff to stroke his ego. So he can be looked upon as a small businessman. But he's not. He's failing. He's trying to justify his failure.

In the process he makes customers think a bike shop trying to make a living charges too much. It happens in lots of businesses.
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Old 12-03-06, 09:49 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newbojeff
This article in today's Boston Globe West is about a bike store where the owner is trying to keep things simple for people who might not be into bikes. I agree with almost everything he said, especially about bike-buying now being so complicated that it turns off non-cyclists.
Yes, I also agree with not only what he said but where he's going with his business model.

While several of the "elite" here will squeak at the mention of simple bikes given that the public
will ,in time, come to not only want simple bike but actually need them when fuel prices rise to crazy
amounts and stay there. All of the bike shops near my home are of this simple nature being
run by folk's who don't want or need the spandex crowd due to the expensive products they want to
buy.
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Old 12-03-06, 09:59 AM   #5
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I hope this guy can make it - and he just might if his business is in the black in it's second year as the article says. Even if he is making $2.00 per hour, he is ahead of the average for new businesses.

The fact remains that in terms of both volume and total dollars, more bicycles and more money is spent on the cheap department store bikes than all the specialty bicycle retails stores combined - hands down.

The people who are on a budget and just want a rideable bike at a reasonable price ALSO want an enjoyable purchasing experience. When they walk into a high end bike shop and buy the cheapest bike there (which is still more expensive than the most expensive department store bike), the feel like a low-end buyer and maybe even a little embarrassed. They don't get the same purchase-pleasure they would if they were buying a low cost bike somewhere else.

I remember bringing my young son into a high end bike store. Naturally, he immediately zoomed to the $600 bike. That might not seem like much money to some of you, but to me, $600 is a lot of bicycle money for a kid who hasn't even had a pimple yet.

So I had to steer him down, down, down toward the lower priced machines. We left the store with him still looking at the expensive bike and me feeling like a heel. Of course the bike store staff was no help either with their "Well, the higher end bikes will last a lot longer and are better built, blah blah blah" Heck, in 18 months, the bike will either be too small for my son or stolen or both. I don't need uber-quality for that.

That sure was NOT the kind of purchase experience I wanted and I regreted not going straight to the department store directly and avoiding the whole disappointing bike shop experience.

Even for adults, maybe you have an old Schwinn Varsity OR worse, an old Huffy three-speed that you want to take to the shop for repair or tune-up. The hight end bike shop kid-employee looks at you when you come in and says' "Whoa, Dude, I haven't seen one of those before. Is that like an antique or somthin'? I'm not sure if we can even get parts for that. OK, well, bring it around to the back then and Dave can look at it when he gets back because he knows more about those old bikes..." Sure, you will be paying modern day prices to get your old bike looked at, but you almost feel ashamed to do so.

So, the guy described in the article just might be able to make a go of it and I hope he does. I think there are plenty of people who want to feel good about buying a reasonable bike at a good price or have their old bike repaired by a guy who is passionate about keeping bikes on the road.

For the spandex crowd who ride bikes assembled with non-standard fasteners, there are shops for them too uptown.
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Old 12-03-06, 10:18 AM   #6
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I wonder what brand or type of simple bike he has to sell. It seems bikes similar to older English and American three speed "lightweights" or single speed, coaster brake "middleweights" are the ticket for the owner's vision. Where does he get the new product to sell? Who are his customers? I would think college students living away from home would offer a ripe target.

Note: Weight being a relative standard prior to a decades long LBS marketing scheme/infatuation with racer boy products.
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Old 12-03-06, 10:34 AM   #7
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David Watson , executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition , who has met Altman and checked out his shop, also said the $500 ceiling is unusual at a time when bike sales are down and the average sale price of bikes is going up.
Ummm... paging Adam Smith.
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Old 12-03-06, 10:41 AM   #8
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I'm not sure that I agree with his take on the manufacturers. I see a trend, however slight, over the last couple of years where some of the major bike makers are rolling out models that are closer to the simple 'utility' bikes you see in Europe - albiet still with an American 'sportiness'. Obviously they are still going after the high-end racing style bike market, but it looks like they are seeing that there is also a market for the more basic, low cost bikes too. If these bikes sell well, I see no reason why this trend won't continue.
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Old 12-03-06, 10:52 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
I wonder what brand or type of simple bike he has to sell. It seems bikes similar to older English and American three speed "lightweights" or single speed, coaster brake "middleweights" are the ticket for the owner's vision. Where does he get the new product to sell? Who are his customers? I would think college students living away from home would offer a ripe target.

Note: Weight being a relative standard prior to a decades long LBS marketing scheme/infatuation with racer boy products.
I can about guarantee they are going to be no name Chinese made...but that is apparently the only way to get anything "affordable" in today's world. Amen on the weight statement...I bought into that...once...

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Old 12-03-06, 11:15 AM   #10
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"New business owner defies market!" film at 11...

I applaud Phil Altman's KISS concept, but I think he's going about it the wrong way. His location isn't great. He's between Boston and Worcester, and 2-3 miles south of 4 bike shops and an REI. I'm sure there are a variety of reasons why he chose that particular location, but why not move closer to either Boston or Worcester? Why not get closer to Cambridge with its student population? Also, it appears that SLC is a bike repair shop that also happens to sell a few cheap bikes and accessories. That's not a bad thing by any stretch, but I seriously doubt he will be able to get the volume of repair work that he needs to stay afloat. If he focused on making his inventory 50/50 between used and new and bringing in new bikes with better margins, he would have a better chance of surviving.

Obviously, Phil didn't have a very good business plan, regardless of how good his ideas were. This is pretty strange for a former accountant.
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Old 12-03-06, 11:53 AM   #11
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I think this guy has the right idea. New riders must feel overwhelmed--even humiliated--when they go into the average LBS.

This forum is actually a prime example of that. Most times when a newbie asks for advice here, they get all this arcane data about gear inches and component groups. If I had heard that stuff when I first started riding, I never would have taken it up. Luckily, I "ignorantly" bought a $30 abused Walmart bike for my first bike and had fun with it. I graduated to a used Specialized Hardrock ($100), and I still ride similar bikes, and go about 100 miles a week on them--quite efficiently and happily.

The big manufacturers do make nice entry bikes in the $300 to $500 range. You can even buy a nice road bike for $600, if you don't mind a loss of status in the cycling community. Unfortunately, most bike shops (and most BF threads) fail to steer novices toward these practical and inexpensive bikes.
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Old 12-03-06, 12:01 PM   #12
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Rents are high. A sharp shop has to sell stuff that gets a customer shopping back in that store...say every month or so. If he has a website to suppliment business, it might work out. If he offered some sort of regular classes (that encourage buying at the store at the same time), it would help.
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Old 12-03-06, 12:26 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
I wonder what brand or type of simple bike he has to sell. It seems bikes similar to older English and American three speed "lightweights" or single speed, coaster brake "middleweights" are the ticket for the owner's vision. Where does he get the new product to sell? Who are his customers? I would think college students living away from home would offer a ripe target.

Note: Weight being a relative standard prior to a decades long LBS marketing scheme/infatuation with racer boy products.
ILTB, haven't you seen the new Electra Amsterdam? And here at the USC campus there are thousands, no exageration at all, of single speed cruisers, new and ancient alike so they must be making them someplace.

Also, despite their hipster association (so what in my opinion) there are tons of old road bikes being given a new lease on life as single speeds or fixed gears. You can't get much more durable than a simple chromoly frame, a single speed, and a couple of sidepull brakes. Just because some large company isn't making the bike you want doesn't mean there isn't someone out there who can't make it for you or show you how to do it.
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Old 12-03-06, 12:51 PM   #14
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I think we should have more of these types of low end stores. I have seen people at the LSB (3 of them) walk in look around and then leave because the prices are way to high. It happens all the time. And yes the LBS are geting to be more like a car dealership, with high pressure sales.
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Old 12-03-06, 01:11 PM   #15
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The middle class in this country is perfectly willing to spend thousands of dollars on its primary mode of transportation. I mean, watch cars driving down the street and notice that 90% of them cost over $20,000. We don't need more $150 bikes, we need people to look at bicycles as a viable method of transportation.

People aren't going to buy a bike at any price if they aren't going to use it, and they'll pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for one if they think they need to to be able to get around.
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Old 12-03-06, 01:22 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by vrkelley
Rents are high. A sharp shop has to sell stuff that gets a customer shopping back in that store...say every month or so.
This doesn't seem like a guy looking to perpetuate habitual consumerism. Good for him.

Of course, his philosophy is heard by noone if he goes out of business.
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Old 12-03-06, 01:25 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Roody
I think this guy has the right idea. New riders must feel overwhelmed--even humiliated--when they go into the average LBS.

This forum is actually a prime example of that. Most times when a newbie asks for advice here, they get all this arcane data about gear inches and component groups. If I had heard that stuff when I first started riding, I never would have taken it up. Luckily, I "ignorantly" bought a $30 abused Walmart bike for my first bike and had fun with it. I graduated to a used Specialized Hardrock ($100), and I still ride similar bikes, and go about 100 miles a week on them--quite efficiently and happily.

The big manufacturers do make nice entry bikes in the $300 to $500 range. You can even buy a nice road bike for $600, if you don't mind a loss of status in the cycling community. Unfortunately, most bike shops (and most BF threads) fail to steer novices toward these practical and inexpensive bikes.
+1000

And it's also true that people should look more as a bike as a viable means of transportation. While in some cases you get what you pay for the flip side is that someone just wanting to commute 5 miles each way doesn't need a top end racing bike as an entry bike. They need something that they'll want to ride and feel comfortable riding so they'll ride more.
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Old 12-03-06, 01:25 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by CigTech
I think we should have more of these types of low end stores. I have seen people at the LSB (3 of them) walk in look around and then leave because the prices are way to high. It happens all the time. And yes the LBS are geting to be more like a car dealership, with high pressure sales.
Yes, high prices are certainly one deterant from the LBS. Another turn-off is the whole bicycle industry's focus on either racing on road bikes or jumping off cliffs with a mountain bike. It's like there isn't any other use for a bicycle. If you can't relate to Lance Armstrong or "face-of-the-month" rock jumper, then you don't count in today's bicycle marketing scheme of things. When you go into the high-end bicycle shop, that is the impression you get. Everything is so extreme.

The vast majority of bicyclists aren't racers nor are they jumping off cliffs with their bikes. I think that a guy with a passion for bicycle RIDING has the chance of capturing a large audience.
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Old 12-03-06, 01:26 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
I wonder what brand or type of simple bike he has to sell. It seems bikes similar to older English and American three speed "lightweights" or single speed, coaster brake "middleweights" are the ticket for the owner's vision
Did you see this bike yet ?
http://www.bikemania.biz/PAKE_Mens_U..._urban_man.htm


I love this guys philosophy. Except for an occasional spoke, tube or blinkie
a LBS has nothing for me, a humble utilitarian bicycler.
Its internet or flea market only for bikes and other bigger stuff.
It will be a small victory for society in general if he succeeds
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Old 12-03-06, 01:34 PM   #20
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New riders must feel overwhelmed--even humiliated--when they go into the average LBS.
It's not just the new riders, and it's not just at the LBS. Although I probably still qualify as a newbie to many, at least in terms of "serious" cycling (I got re-interested in cycling in 2002), I still feel out of place when I go into a bike shop. Even at the one I frequent, where the owners and several of the employees know me by name, I feel like a fish out of water. I don't have the money to buy a new bike, much less one that costs more than $1,000 (nor would I pay that much even if I did have the money); I'm too big for most of the cycling clothes they sell; I'm perfectly happy with the original 8-speed Sora components on my 2003 entry-level Allez; I don't need a pair of $200 shoes; etc. Even the charity rides (and other pay-to-ride events), I feel like I'm an interloper in the world of "real" cyclists: the T-shirts they hand out as an entry perk rarely go above size XL; even when I'm not the last finisher, often the post-ride food/displays/etc. are long gone by the time the slowpoke crowd rolls back in.

With the exception of in some of the forums here on BF and bikelist.org, it seems there's little room in the world of "serious cycling" for the "average American" -- overweight (hoping cycling can help with that), not willing/able to spend two months' pay for a bike and who knows how much more for fancy new components every few weeks, not racer-fast, not interested in jumping a mountain bike off rocks, etc.
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Old 12-03-06, 01:46 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by notfred
The middle class in this country is perfectly willing to spend thousands of dollars on its primary mode of transportation. I mean, watch cars driving down the street and notice that 90% of them cost over $20,000. We don't need more $150 bikes, we need people to look at bicycles as a viable method of transportation.

People aren't going to buy a bike at any price if they aren't going to use it, and they'll pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for one if they think they need to to be able to get around.
But until we can get enough of them on decent $150 (or so) bikes and get them comfortable riding on the roads as part of traffic, they won't think they need one to get around. Until then, IMHO, they'll see couple-thousand-dollar bikes as just more expensive versions of the $100 bike at Kmart which works just fine for their one-time ride on the local bike path. But if they could get a good entry level bike for $150, then maybe they'd follow the path most of us used to take with our internal combustion transportation (before it seemed like every teenager got a brand new car): start with the low end and upgrade to newer/more expensive models over time.
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Old 12-03-06, 01:57 PM   #22
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But if they could get a good entry level bike for $150, then maybe they'd follow the path most of us used to take with our internal combustion transportation (before it seemed like every teenager got a brand new car): start with the low end and upgrade to newer/more expensive models over time.
Not to pick on you, but this is a perfect example of our common contradiction.

Teenagers get USED cars. We're not standing around asking for more $7000 Daewoo/Yugo/etc cars so teenagers can drive.

I have been surprised, especially in this forum, that more new riders aren't directed towards used bikes more. Yes, they don't want to spend a lot of money, and yes, they don't know what they want/need, but that's the whole point. Most of the time, a $150 used bike will be a vastly superior product to the $150 new bike.

If we really wanted bicycles to be considered a viable form of transportation we would treat them as commodities instead of disposable toys. This cannot be done by the majority of bike retailers who make their money off of new bike sales. It's like expecting the makers of the "ab blaster" to care whether you use it or not.
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Old 12-03-06, 02:07 PM   #23
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I hope the guy succeeds. I've seen bike stores that only sell up scale (2k+) bikes, so why not a shop on the low end. No way am I going to commute with a $2,000 bike. Okay maybe if I had S Cal weather and a personal bike locker everywhere I stopped.

I agree with that guy's philosphy. I sometimes feel that I'm being pushed out by the LBS's. And I got a Cross Check and that's not so cheap. There is just too much expensive stuff which I don't see much use fore. The bike market has become too complex. It's like MP3 players. Manufacturers kept adding more and more gadget features and then Apple came out with a simple product and took over the whole market. So will a manufacturer come out with a simple bike model? That's the weak part in the guy's business plan because I doubt they will. Maybe he can team up with a small compny in India or China.
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Old 12-03-06, 02:10 PM   #24
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Another turn-off is the whole bicycle industry's focus on either racing on road bikes or jumping off cliffs with a mountain bike.
Amen brother.
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Old 12-03-06, 02:29 PM   #25
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"Bikes are too complicated, too expensive, and the middle, average American isn't riding any more.
Yup, yup and most certainly yup. Bike riding has become extreme, specialized, and absurdly expensive.
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