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Old 11-13-09, 08:14 AM   #1
PlatyPius
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What Things MUST a Touring Bike Shop stock?

If any of y'all wander around in the general discussions, you'll have seen that I'm opening a bike shop in about a week.

My shop is going to cater to commuters, tourists, and randonneurs (while including everything else...).

What are some items that a shop MUST stock for tourists, aside from the obvious like tubes, TG/GatorSkin tires, racks. However, feel free to give me recommendations on racks. Which ones are the most durable, etc. What brand(s) of panniers? What small parts?

Oh, and I'll already be offering up the shower at my house and my yard for camping.
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Old 11-13-09, 09:15 AM   #2
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Where is it located?

Here are some things:
maps (state maps, cycling route maps, adventure cycling touring maps)
a really big map on the wall elevations and with your location circled or pinned
a town map with groceries, camping, etc pointed out
cliff bars
lights
all sorts of batteries
saddle bags, handlebar bags.
gps units
bike computers
spare bolts of assorted sizes
zip ties
maybe some specialty items like those portable lock ring removers that don't need a chain whip or wrench
also the fiber fix spokes
Topeak Road Morph
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Old 11-13-09, 09:21 AM   #3
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Free showers.
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Old 11-13-09, 09:34 AM   #4
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Are you catering to cyclists-on-tour or cyclists preparing to tour, or everyone?

I'm guessing you're on one of the main routes, so if you have the room, try to keep made-up spares of the things that fail most. Solidly-built wheels, proper fat tires, all manner of brake pads/blocks/shoes. Keep a list of local businesses like motels and B&B"s and restaurants that are friendly to tourers.

Maybe form a partnership with a local welder-brazer who'd be willing to quickly and competently repair broken frames and racks. Likewise, someone who can repair tents, sleeping bags or damaged clothing.

Probably too late, but being located near a laundromat would be cool.

Other than that, yes - maps. Particularly maps with the roads that are appropriate for cycling marked. There's a market there.

If you can't carry some touring-appropriate consumable camp gear like Insta-Pur tabs, stove fuel, snack food, be able to direct the tourers to a place that does.

Also, consider a graffiti wall where tourers can make their mark, or leave a note for people following behind. This will make you a 'destination', which has to be good for business.
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Old 11-13-09, 09:58 AM   #5
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Um, tour bikes? In a range of sizes and at least 2 brands?
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Old 11-13-09, 10:03 AM   #6
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With stuff like racks and bags and whatnot, a range of prices is probably the most important. I really like Topeak, but it doesn't seem to be big in the US. But you'd probably also want something high-end like Tubus or Old Man Mountain.

Panniers...well, you'll be laughed at if you don't stock Ortlieb. But again, you need cheaper stuff like Topeak, Deuter, Axiom...

Also, an extensive mail-order catalogue - people get particular, and it helps if you can order the exact bit they need.

Have you considered being one of the first shops to stock EpicDesigns/CarouselDesignWorks gear? Get in touch with them and see what you can work out. Framebags wouldn't work too well, but saddlepacks, handlebar bags and gas tanks don't need to be too customised.

I think what would making a touring shop stand out would also be putting spares on display as a "you need this". I'm not sure I've ever seen a bike shop with spokes on display - although they probably all sell them. Get people thinking about all kinds of spares and there are probably many sales to be made.

Books, maps, etc are good. I have a fantastic compact street directory of my (rather large) city, which I've never seen for sale in a bike shop - why not?

Consider freeze-dried food, jerky, museli bars...

And everything dan the man said.
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Old 11-13-09, 10:07 AM   #7
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Oh one other comment...while shopping for a bike once, I saw three customers' bikes made up. They were varying levels of Specialized Tricross (including the top one...Expert? S-works? I forget), totally customised. It was awesome. Seeing really top-notch gear like that makes a couple of hundred here or there seem quite trivial really...
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Old 11-13-09, 10:08 AM   #8
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You might also consider serving as a mail drop for people to forward or mail home to/from.
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Old 11-14-09, 06:26 AM   #9
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You might also consider serving as a mail drop for people to forward or mail home to/from.
You can see the post office from my shop....it's on the next block.

Thanks for all of the good ideas so far...keep them coming!
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Old 11-14-09, 06:46 AM   #10
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mmm... make the entrance "loaded touring bike friendly" so a tourer can roll their bike in, lean it against the wall, be offered a hot coffee... and start shopping
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Old 11-14-09, 06:49 AM   #11
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If you have determined that the touring segment warrants special attention in your market then to compete against the internet you'll need to provide what it doesn't: a hands-on experience. Of course it would be great to stock a wide variety of gear, but the carrying costs will eat you alive.

However, I'd keep stock of specialized consumables like Schwalbe touring tires and then a couple of demo touring bikes in a few sizes all ready loaded up as if for touring. You can showcase different rack and pannier combinations in different price ranges so people can see what they're getting for their money. I wouldn't hold stock of anything, instead I'd order what people needed and then build the kit for them. What I wouldn't have paid for my racks problems to have been solved by a bike shop! As you learn what's popular you might want to bring in a few things, however.

If you think you're going to get a lot of tourers who are in the actual middle of their tour, it would be great for you to stock parts for the most common racks and panniers. Within a brand, parts are shared so your investment wouldn't be too high. Besides, your labor charges will be a better source of revenue than the parts.
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Old 11-14-09, 07:10 AM   #12
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mmm... make the entrance "loaded touring bike friendly" so a tourer can roll their bike in, lean it against the wall, be offered a hot coffee... and start shopping
Once you enter the main door, there's a long hallway. Lots of bike-leaning space. That was one of the things the DePAuw cycling team commented on....lots of bike space available.

Hot coffee is always on.
Guinness is always cold.
There are usually bagels sitting by the toaster oven, too.
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Old 11-14-09, 07:39 AM   #13
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Sir/Madam! You seem most decidedly on the right track to starting the best touring bike shop in the world!

If feasible, a drinking fountain with a long spout for filling water bottles, and compressed air for tires, outside the shop would be neat...

I believe 44 degrees fahrenheit is the serving temperature recommended for Guiness... personally I prefer ICE COLD Corona!

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Old 11-14-09, 07:41 AM   #14
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Give people who are on tour priority for repairs and service. My town is on the Pacific Coast Route and my LBS does this. As a local, I heartily agree.
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Old 11-14-09, 07:52 AM   #15
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Give people who are on tour priority for repairs and service....
Yes, on tour I'd definitely pay an "acute service charge" rather than "can you come in next tuesday?"...
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Old 11-14-09, 07:59 AM   #16
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things that 80% of your customers need. Most tourers don't need much and if they're going to be enticed out of enough money to make the transaction worthwhile for both of you I'd look at selling your labor and selling some touristy memorabilia items with pre-paid shipping boxes and ship it for them.
"I'll send it out with UPS/Post office today". Cultivate a welcoming atmosphere and state of mind. I had a shop on the north coast of Ca. on Hwy 1 where bike tourers streamed through regularly but 95% of my business was local and rentals. People riding through really didn't buy much. They made their big purchases before they left.
Tourists will be folks who have the day budgeted down to the dollar as well as a few folks who can pull out the credit card for a $1500 frame to be shipped home. Make it EASY for them to ship stuff home. If it's a value they'll know it and would like to have something to look forward to. To sell values you gotta buy values.
I did that when I was 24 and rode to Boulder to see the Coors race, there was a Poghliagi for a decent price so I had it shipped home. Same with the LHT I got from a small shop in San Juan Island. It was a good price, $1000, and his shipping costs were very low.
So don't think of your shop as a place that sells stuff to people traveling through but a place that people can send stuff home after seeing it.
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Old 11-14-09, 08:05 AM   #17
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Anything Carradice - especially their rain cape.
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Old 11-14-09, 08:22 AM   #18
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If any of y'all wander around in the general discussions, you'll have seen that I'm opening a bike shop in about a week.

My shop is going to cater to commuters, tourists, and randonneurs (while including everything else...).

What are some items that a shop MUST stock for tourists, aside from the obvious like tubes, TG/GatorSkin tires, racks. However, feel free to give me recommendations on racks. Which ones are the most durable, etc. What brand(s) of panniers? What small parts?

Oh, and I'll already be offering up the shower at my house and my yard for camping.
You might want to add a few tour related items, for example a small collection of camping parts, like tent pegs, stove repair kits, bug dope, etc.

The problem becomes there are roughly 4,294,967,296 items you can stock, however keeping stock is very expensive. These days though, it's easy to get stuff delivered by overnight air, so having an Internet connection so you can troll the supplier websites, can really cut down on your stock requirements, for items you might sell once in a while. For example you may keep a few racks in stock (one inexpensive model, one medium level, one high end) that are good sellers, but you can order a bunch of others in.

Speaking of Internet, for those on tour, a hotspot would be good, and maybe an extra old computer that is connected that can be rented by the half-hour. A hotspot could be through one of the hotspot providers where you get a small commission for hosting it. Maps, lots of maps, not only local, but national and international maps as well.
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Old 11-14-09, 08:33 AM   #19
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For those that already have a bike (which is not rack friendly) and don't want a new bike but yet want to try touring, I would keep one or two trailers for sale and rent. I know they would take up some floor space but you could keep stock costs down and just continually turn over the floor models if you can get them fast enough from the distributor. Knowing where you're located and the area, I don't see a lot tourers just passing thru until they complete the B & O trail to Indy and/or hook the Filmore trail to something more substantial, of course I could be wrong here.
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Old 11-14-09, 08:57 AM   #20
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Replying to everything posted so far (too many to quote)

1. I have cold water in the fridge.
2. Tourists always get preferential treatment. They likely won't be repeat customers, but a) they know other tourists and b) no one wants a tour ruined because of a mechanical or poor service.
3. I'll only be keeping a few things in stock, as far as larger items (racks, panniers, etc). Nuts and bolts/small parts is what I really need suggestions for. What parts tend to be needed the most? M5 bolts/nuts? derailleur pulleys/bolts?
4. There will be an air hose outside the shop.
5. The shop has free WiFi. Tourists are welcome to use my laptop to catch up/get others caught up.

For jackets, I was thinking about carrying Showers Pass, as well as Mt.Borah.

The post office is a block away, so sending items back home for people wouldn't be a problem. I already have a stock of USPS Priority Mail boxes at the shop.

As for touring bikes....
I think touring bikes are going to be the next "IT". I'll have the Raleigh Sojourn in stock. As for others....I haven't finalized with any other bike company yet. QBP doesn't seem to like new shops, so I won't have Salsa/Surly for a year. The Rawland 650B bikes seem to be touring-worthy, and I WILL be carrying those. (I love mine!)

Jamis is a possibility, as is Kona.
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Old 11-14-09, 09:02 AM   #21
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I wish you success, but this is not going to be easy to make a living at. There is a reason there are so few touring oriented bike shops.

To get much business from passing tourists you would need to be on a very busy touring route and even then most don't spend all that much money in bike shops when on tour. Even on the Pacific Coast Highway or the Trans America you would probably starve to death if catering mostly to tourists. They do tend to buy consumable stuff like tubes, patch kits, bar tape, brake pads, and so on, but that amounts to a few small purchases.

Selling stuff to local touring oriented customers is usually equally bleak. There just are not typically that many touring riders in most towns and most of their gear lasts them a long time and is replaced very infrequently.

So what to do? Well one thing would be to cater to the whole cycling public which it sounds like you plan to do. Another would be to include an on line store to cater to a more geographically dispersed customer base.

Perhaps if you offered some services that would promote touring in your area, that would help increase the local customer base. I am thinking of either guided, semi-guided, or just routes for nearby tours and maybe have seminars or demonstrations that teach the fundamentals of touring.
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Old 11-14-09, 09:11 AM   #22
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Knowledgeable staff, good quality gear and a friendly atttitude. Did I mention knowledgeable staff.
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Old 11-14-09, 09:42 AM   #23
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I wish you success, but this is not going to be easy to make a living at. There is a reason there are so few touring oriented bike shops.

To get much business from passing tourists you would need to be on a very busy touring route and even then most don't spend all that much money in bike shops when on tour. Even on the Pacific Coast Highway or the Trans America you would probably starve to death if catering mostly to tourists. They do tend to buy consumable stuff like tubes, patch kits, bar tape, brake pads, and so on, but that amounts to a few small purchases.

Selling stuff to local touring oriented customers is usually equally bleak. There just are not typically that many touring riders in most towns and most of their gear lasts them a long time and is replaced very infrequently.

So what to do? Well one thing would be to cater to the whole cycling public which it sounds like you plan to do. Another would be to include an on line store to cater to a more geographically dispersed customer base.

Perhaps if you offered some services that would promote touring in your area, that would help increase the local customer base. I am thinking of either guided, semi-guided, or just routes for nearby tours and maybe have seminars or demonstrations that teach the fundamentals of touring.
+1. I think most comments above are predicated on the assumption that there is an adequate market. In 21k miles of touring I have bought one pair of gloves and a length of derailleur cable housing from bike shops. I think I bought a compass/bell at REI in Missoula in 2006.

I buy everything at home before I leave, mostly via the internet because the help at the LBS's around where I live are opinionated - yet clueless - about touring. Yet, I am intrigued about the idea of a serious touring shop. It might fly. But if I were you I figure out how to do it without risking too much money on touring-specific inventory. Give them a taste by setting up some demo rigs.

Also, don't forget the higher end too. A person who already owns a high end road or mountain bike would be easier to interest in touring than a couch potato and the latter already understand the value of a primo rig. Plus, if they've already dropped a couple of grand on their bikes, they have demonstrated that they have the disposable income that you want more of.

I'd study the inventory and pricing at REI. They have the low end covered with their bikes and they even carry Ortleib panniers. Of course, they also carry a wide assortment of cheap and middling camping gear. But I never go into REI unless I'm picking up something that I ordered from their website. If your have informed staff, higher end bikes, and reasonable prices you can beat REI.

Good luck, my friend.

P.S. Pete's suggestion of an online store is golden. That will give you the chance of inventory turns that will make your venture viable.

Last edited by Cyclesafe; 11-14-09 at 09:45 AM.
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Old 11-14-09, 10:45 AM   #24
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Replying to everything posted so far (too many to quote)

1. I have cold water in the fridge.
2. Tourists always get preferential treatment. They likely won't be repeat customers, but a) they know other tourists and b) no one wants a tour ruined because of a mechanical or poor service.
3. I'll only be keeping a few things in stock, as far as larger items (racks, panniers, etc). Nuts and bolts/small parts is what I really need suggestions for. What parts tend to be needed the most? M5 bolts/nuts? derailleur pulleys/bolts?
4. There will be an air hose outside the shop.
5. The shop has free WiFi. Tourists are welcome to use my laptop to catch up/get others caught up.
There is one thing you really need and it's probably more important then anything else. Enough cash that you can operate the shop and still survive comfortably, yourself, for 3 years without the shop making so much as a nickel in profit.

If you count on not making any money in the first 3 years, you will be ahead of the game when you do start making money, probably during the second year. Most businesses start without enough money, and the average one closes within 2 years, leaving the business owner with a truck load of debt. PM me if you want to know how I know this

Remember you need to be able to draw from the reserves a salary for yourself, and it needs to be an amount you can live on. It helps if your spouse makes 90K or more per year.....

You also need a formal business plan, with sane numbers in it, this is for if you need investors or borrowing capacity. Always count on expenses being higher then you think they should be and revenue being lower then you think it should be.
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Old 11-14-09, 11:07 AM   #25
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Maps have been mentioned but if you can get international maps on the cheap and be able to sell them cheaper than Amazon, you can offer them at an online store or via word of mouth.
Sell some candies and powdered electolyte drink mixes that many cyclists like to drink. During the warm days of the year, offer ice for those passing through.
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