Bike Shops - What would you do to create the perfect shop

by Ciaran Patrick   December 7, 2010  

Hello All

I have been thinking about adding a bike shop to my business. We are registered as a Community Interest Company. I have done my financials, reviewed stock and done our market research on many shops, found a premises.

However all this is great but one question keeps popping up in my head.

WHAT WOULD MAKE A GREAT BIKE SHOP I MEAN A REALLY REALLY GREAT PLACE RELATED TO BIKES.

I don't mean how can we improve existing shops but what would you do, or create, or add on or, include to make a bike shop something special and unique. You must admit that all bike shops are somewhat generic. There are a few, very few that break the mould of just selling you bikes. I can see thoughts welling in the direction 'well that is what a shop is for - selling bike related stuff'.

True but the bike is so different from other retail products that are sold. It is a mature business and has a number of cultural and sub cultural attachments to it that make it much more that just a product to be sold. It is probabaly one of the most fit purpose designs that we have in our world.

The bike can me seen on many levels as primarily as a mode of transport but also as form of art, recreation, the centre various social entities.

What I am looking for is how would you make the bike shop somewhere that can encourage greater use of the bike, tap into a range of bike based cultures. maybe the shop is part of something else and it shouldn't be called a shop at all.

I have the idea of a bike related sort of version of the Irish Pub where instead of coming in for pint, a lb of spuds and packet of nylons, you come in for a cup of tea, a spiced sausage sandwich, have you bike repaired or attend other functions and in an amiable friendly atmosphere.

Any ideas on what would your perfect bike shop. Please keep it semi decent. Go way way off on a tangent please nothing too mundane or boring. Lets stretch the boundaries of what may be possible.

16 user comments

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Have you seen Micycle? They've tried hard to ask those sorts of questions about what makes an awesome bike shop.

http://www.micycle.org.uk/

How about moving in some sofas and getting a big screen to watch the tour?

posted by lippy [4 posts]
7th December 2010 - 21:54

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damn lippy, you have suggested what I am about to do! A place with a coffee table, screens, a place to make comfortable rather than a bike shop so crammed with bikes that it feels like a warehouse.

Mine will have wetsuits and trainers and an indoor pool as well though (dont hit me, I am a roadie at heart!)

Good luck Ciaran, the more good bike shops the better. Where is yours going to be?

not all carbon is the same.

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posted by Jon Burrage [1076 posts]
8th December 2010 - 15:31

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Jon Burrage wrote:
A place with a coffee table, screens, a place to make comfortable rather than a bike shop so crammed with bikes that it feels like a warehouse.

i'm all for that, will you be open in time for paris-roubaix! (maybe have a chips and beer special whilst its on for those of us that have gone out and got sweaty in the morning. nice.)

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posted by Fringe [1081 posts]
8th December 2010 - 15:51

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Fringe wrote:
Jon Burrage wrote:
A place with a coffee table, screens, a place to make comfortable rather than a bike shop so crammed with bikes that it feels like a warehouse.

i'm all for that, will you be open in time for paris-roubaix! (maybe have a chips and beer special whilst its on for those of us that have gone out and got sweaty in the morning. nice.)

Yup if all goes to plan, I want to have days like that - to watch roubaix, huge stages in the giro, vuelta and tour + of course the Kona IM overnighter.

I will stick the beer in the fridge ready for the masses!

not all carbon is the same.

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posted by Jon Burrage [1076 posts]
8th December 2010 - 16:08

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sounds good, going back to the thread, a few of the shops round here, 'organise' evening rides mainly in the spring/summer months. always seems like a good idea to me.

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posted by Fringe [1081 posts]
8th December 2010 - 16:50

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Yes I would say a good social scene really does help a bike shop.

not all carbon is the same.

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posted by Jon Burrage [1076 posts]
8th December 2010 - 17:16

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Café + bike shop is a great combination.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1300 posts]
8th December 2010 - 17:28

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Sorry, this will be boring, as I want the usual things - showroom with genuinely helpful staff, mechanics that don't bodge your bike.

If the shop has a connection with riders, trails or clubs then have an area with posters, info about their exploits, blog printouts or small flyers with web addresses. Maybe get kids to bring in a photo of their tricks or a bit of BMX action to pin on a board.

Covered parking (for bicycles) and cyclepath/dropped kerb access. Separate workshop entrance so you don't weave your bike through showroom.

Coffee. The one thing I'd really wish for is decent coffee; and somewhere suitable to drink it (armchairs, bar stools), perhaps with a few catalogues and a dog-eared pile of mags - the comic and a few mags that staff or customers have dropped off - back issues of C+, ProCycling, Singletrack, Dirt etc.

If you wanted to go the whole hog and have Eurosport running (which for cycling fans surely means opening on Sundays) then why not organise something like a BYO buffet for the big one-day races, make it a bit of an occasion?

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posted by Simon E [1767 posts]
8th December 2010 - 17:42

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My comments, as I don't feel happy in a lot of bike shops.

1. Welcoming. This can range from what products you put near the door to the attitude of the staff. I find staff either completely ignore me or patronise me; I can only guess it's because I'm female and my gear shows that I'm not rolling in money. In fact I'd go further and ask for a female-friendly bike shop!

2. Not too techie - some people have technical skills and some don't - don't put off the ones that don't.

3. Communication. I took my bike in for a service once, and got it back looking exactly the same - they hadn't even cleaned it (which I had thought would be a basic part of a service). Explain what's involved and what isn't and you won't have unhappy (or in my case non-repeat) customers. I service my own bike now, to the best of my ability. Clean it too.

4. How about a bike gym as an add-on? I can't afford a turbo trainer which would, in any event, only get used for a few hours at most each week, but if a shop wanted to hire one out or let folk use it in the shop for a small fee they'd probably get their money back on it very quickly.

5. Coffee. Obviously.

Please open it near me!

posted by RuthF28 [87 posts]
8th December 2010 - 21:36

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We've just opened a shop much like this, we have good espresso, a bit of a gallery feel, all white with oak floor and recessed down lighters. Big screen on the wall running cycling films and various helmet cam footage of us in Whistler, the Alps etc.

Planning on getting homemade cakes in each week to go with the coffee; we have a nice space with bar stools and communal counter space to enjoy it on. We organise and run trips abroad etc, just did one down to Newport velodrome too, plus 3 rides a week from the shop for various types and abilities.

The main issue with running live Eurosport etc is the PRS issue of broadcasting, people really do get fined for it, and at £2000 you can do without that coming off your bottom line.

Complicating matters since 1965

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posted by DaSy [644 posts]
8th December 2010 - 23:21

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For those that work in shops that commented - are they allowed to say where the shop is? / which shop?

I know for eg. Sigma Sport have launched a new store but have not been there since the opening to comment on what the 'vibe' is like there.

posted by Super Domestique [1496 posts]
9th December 2010 - 10:51

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RuthF28 wrote:

4. How about a bike gym as an add-on? I can't afford a turbo trainer which would, in any event, only get used for a few hours at most each week, but if a shop wanted to hire one out or let folk use it in the shop for a small fee they'd probably get their money back on it very quickly.

Interesting idea. I'm probably doing about 2 turbo sessions a week at the moment. I find it difficult to make it much past the hour due to boredom. Wander if it would be more fun turning up and spinning with some others at local bike shop...

Definitely like the local ride hub thing too. My current LBS does proclaim to do this, but they are pretty snobby about who they invite to come along. Would be great to put the ride timetable front and centre, like a chalk board in a pub showing what on that week.

posted by lippy [4 posts]
9th December 2010 - 21:40

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At the moment it will be in Hextable Kent. The reason I asked this question is that we have a range of skills we can throw at the shop, from qualified coaches, guides, mechanics, unicycle experts, pilates and exercise instructors, chefs who will help you cook right etc. I suppose if you wanted to a link I would say it would be something like Patch Adams concept for a free Hospital in the USA he calls his Gesundheit. I want a cafe, indoor cycle classes, out door guiding, mechanic, even maybe our own resident frame builder. We will also run bike and active sessions in schools and local communities. Organise active fetes. Our revenue streams are quite varied. the reason being I don't want to completely be linked to selling products as making or breaking the shop. I want the shop to be something really different that our market research can supply a service that is varied and top quality

posted by Ciaran Patrick [116 posts]
13th December 2010 - 20:12

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Just a bit about myself. I am a degree qualified fitness coach, plus cycle guide and was once an art director for a national cycle magazine I also have a master degree for what its worth. The idea for a multifunctional shop type thing with spin classes in the shop is top of my list as spin class instructor as well i can run sessions indoors and outdoors. However one thing that I see as paramount is service, whether it is serving tea or cake or servicing a bike or selling products. In fact I got some friends that teach classes around uni cycling and circus skills which would be a great thing to learn. the shop aims to open March in a small building in my local village. Lets see how things go

posted by Ciaran Patrick [116 posts]
13th December 2010 - 20:20

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lippy wrote:
Have you seen Micycle? They've tried hard to ask those sorts of questions about what makes an awesome bike shop.

http://www.micycle.org.uk/

How about moving in some sofas and getting a big screen to watch the tour?


I might have a look in there when next in London.

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posted by jimmythecuckoo [1184 posts]
14th December 2010 - 21:52

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I know this is bit of a boring 'corporate' answer, but narrowing down your likely customers a bit is really necessary, however unusual your venue is. There are going to be some cyclists who won't want to socialise with other types of cyclist and so keeping any stock for them is pointless, the older tea drinkers might not like kids running around etc. etc.

Love the idea of a local ride hub.
(a) new cyclists must find approaching clubs pretty daunting, especially if they're under the impression that they are full of Tour riders. Plus they keep getting up at 6am.
(b) finding out about British Cycling rides is not that easy, even if you know where to look (main website issue I think) and to reach locally for them is not that easy.
(c) there must be a huge number of cyclists who would turn up to rides just to socialise and mix. I think catering for the increasing numbers of semi-competitive riders could be interesting. ie. the ones who want a good ride, but not at some unearthly hour and not at 20mph etc. That includes a growing number of over (cough-cough) year olds with lots of leisure time...
(d) with luck you'll get the local community talking and that's probably the most powerful thing

posted by potholist [4 posts]
14th January 2011 - 14:48

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