Saturday, August 10, 2013

Not a real bike shop...

I have a confession and an apology.  I've learned recently that I'm not a real bike shop.  I feel the need to apologize to everyone who purchased something from me or had me work on a bike.  If you feel I've pulled the wool over your eyes with my pretending to be a bike shop, I sincerely apologize.  I didn't mean to do it.  To me, a bike shop is a shop that fixes and sells bikes and parts.  I do that.  However, that doesn't cut it for some people.

Within a couple day period about a week ago, two couples came into the shop with expectations that were dashed.  The first couple approached the front of the shop and I could hear him tell her "look, they're a Trek shop."  There was a newish Trek Domane in the rack at the front door that I had worked on earlier that day.  With expectations of seeing rows and rows of Treks brilliantly shone off with low-voltage spot lights, they set through the front door.  A quick cursory glance revealed a rack of old mountain bikes, a bunch of weird looking orange bikes with roadie bars and knobby tires, and all lit up with fluorescent strip lights.  They stopped about five feet in the shop after I gave them a "howdy, how are you guys doing" from my truing stand.  He turned to her and in a not so quiet whisper told her "this isn't a real bike shop."  I almost laughed out loud and probably did have a quiet cough to suppress any comment that was ready to spill out.  They turned and abruptly left as I called out "have a great day" to them.  Wow, that just about made my day.  Not a real bike shop.  I was a little crushed, but bounced back within seconds.  

A few days later, a dad, mom, and a kid walk in and look around.  He asks me what I sell.  I tell him I build custom bikes and sell my own brand of road and cross bikes.  He follows that with "oh, so you're not a real bike shop."  His reasoning for what makes a real bike shop was one that sells Trek, Specialized, or Giant.  Then they left.  My head was reeling after being told I wasn't a real bike shop for the second time in a week.  Could it be true?  Was I kidding myself?  Was I lying to every cyclist who came into my shop and proclaimed "now this is a real bike shop." 

Naw, those folks just didn't know what scores of other people know.  They don't know that I build bikes and wheels for people all over the country and in other countries too.  They didn't know that I've been doing this bike thing for 25 years.  They just didn't know and obviously didn't want to learn either.  That's okay.  They did give me fuel for a new t-shirt.  Black Mountain Cycles - Not A Real Bike Shop.  

 Not a real bike shop.  The sign and bikes out front are simply lures.

Once inside, you'll discover no hybrid bikes, no comfort bikes, no carbon bikes, no Pergo wood floors, no low-voltage lighting, no mannequin displays.  Not a real bike shop.

(What's playing:  Skeeter Davis Under Your Spell Again)

22 comments:

dave said...

That's awesome. Thanks for this story. Thanks for not being a real bike shop, too.

Guitar Ted said...

Mike: I see the sarcasm in your post, but I have to wonder if there wasn't a bit of a sting too.

Look, you are a specialty shop, not a place that caters to consumerism. You sell and fix machines that are meant to serve and function over a lifetime for committed, serious enthusiasts of the Wheel.

For that, I for one, say thank you! Keep on keepin' on, and just know many folks out there know what kind of shop you really are. A damn good one.

Jeroen said...

Ohhh noooo...Thats Terrible!

Reflecting to my position makes me a real bike shop...I sell Trek bikes, have commuters, have rows of glancing carbon, soft tone lights, the latest tricks and smooth and silked rubber bikes....How ever can a real bike shop like mine continue to build Turners, Moonlanders, Pugsleys and lugged on-oes and still be proud of building an audience for these kind of bikes, sharing our passion and the down-to-earth-dirt-loving status of the passionate bike mechanic???

Kudos to passion!

Jessica said...

Funny, when I came in I was pretty sure yours was one of the last real bike shops left.

Anonymous said...

Great story - during the Marin Century I dropped by your shop for the first time with two riding buddies, both of whom are addicted to carbon bikes. Seeing your shop was the highlight of that ride for me, but my friends didn't get it. On the last leg of that ride they asked me "what's so special about that shop?" I told them in no uncertain terms: "that's a real shop - a place where any bike can be repaired and you can get everything you truly need." Thanks for creating a great shop!

Anthrkndablz said...

Hahahaha, that's funny, I'd take that as a complement. Please consider the source as well... You can't reach every rider, but if the ones you do reach are happy that you door is open, well, alright then.

Chris said...

it's funny I visited Mike not long after the first couple had came in... Mike had only met me once before so he didn't really recognize me at once... I asked "Do you sell Treks?" and the look on his face was priceless! :D

Mike- I love the shop and love that there ARE still shops like Black Mountain Cycles (not to be confused with Black Mountain Bikes in San Diego which is "real shop"... ) and I will have one of those shirts, hopefully you have then before my new frame gets there to mail to me... ;^)

Jason said...

I'm glad the American made bike I rode this morning came from a fake bike shop. It was sure an enjoyable ride!

Tim said...

As the owner of a shop that primarily sells folding bikes and recumbents, but services all kinds of bikes (and trikes!), I can really relate. Great post.

Albert said...

I wasn't confused ths morning when I came in and picked up my new musa orange frame. I thought to myself, man it's been a while since I've been in a real bike shop. My wife and I had fun pointing out all the great and unique things to our kids. Mike, thanks for the frame and thanks for keeping it real!

Unknown said...

I would wear the hell out of that shirt.

bwc said...

There's a place for those "real bike shops" but I'd much rather visit your kind of shop. I just hope there are enough customers like me to support stores like yours.

Anonymous said...

As an owner of a small shop, I have heard those same words myself. While that may sting a bit, the reality is that there is a need for shops like yourself...people who truly care about their customers, have pride in their work and quite often have more knowledge than most "real" shops.


Thanks for sharing !
Jackie/Chase Cyclery

Ari said...

Send them to Walmart to buy an 89 dollar Schwinn.

GrumpyOne said...

I wish I had a "Not a real bike shop" like your shop near me...

Keep up the good work.

jw

Anonymous said...

My kind of bike shop.

Anonymous said...

+1 to all the above. Those of us who "get it" have friends who "get it." Now any trip out to the coast feels a bit like a let-down if I can't swing by your shop. Keep it up Mike! Hope to be out there Labor Day wknd with my 59cm orange roadie.
~Jeff, Sacto, CA.

mark scotch said...

If it's all about bikes, I hope it wasn't your point to disparage any one or any group. As you stated, they "just didn't know" and it's entirely possible these people meant you no disrespect. I can understand you taking it personal, but to me it's like the roadies making fun of the mtn. bikers and visa versa. Makes no sense in the long run.
If the people come into your shop they are "one of us" or at least want to be or considering it.
To me it would seem education is in order. But maybe this is your attempt at educating? If so I would humbly say you're preaching to the choir and I doubt it will reach the audience you're trying to reach.
Maybe use the experiences you mentioned to figure out how to educate and approach these and other possible customers to your niche when they come it, not write them off?
I hope you're not one of the types that need a villain in there lives or business to justify their shortcomings and will use the experience to enhance your business and the bike world in general by reaching out to the "nubies" instead of snubbing them behind their backs.
You won't hurt my feelings if you choose not to post this, I just wanted to make a point. Not everyone is at the same level of awareness in life on every topic or subject. I could probably introduce you to a different world than yours and some pretty, shall we call them, ignorant statements could come out of your mouth as well.
Have a great day.

James said...

Jessica has it right: you're one of the few remaining real shops. Maybe "Unreal" is a better term for you :D

Cheers!

~James in NY

Anonymous said...

I ride my BMC and always have to answer questions about it (all good).
How many questions do Madone and Tarmac owners get other than "You paid HOW much for that thing?!?"

Rock on Gnarly Varley

LB

Jake Hess said...

They are right, it isn't a bike shop, its a freaking bike workshop! If you want to buy shit that works - then come on in...

Philip Williamson said...

A) That's like saying "That's not real music."
B) I have a mannequin you can have.