Bike Shops

Shop Ride Report: Graham Hills NY, September 27, 2015

September 26th, 2015

Fall temperatures of 60 degrees and an overcast skies met the 718 crew as we gathered up at Graham Hills in Mt. Pleasant, NY.  Riders were split on transport method, with half arriving by car and the other half by a 45 minute train ride on The Harlem Line of The Metro North Railroad.

We had a great mix of riders, from experienced Continental Divide veterans to Mid-Atlantic shredders to beginners.

The group took off from the parking lot, determined not to get lost "this time". Within 20 minutes, we were already debating where we thought we were on the map.

The group broke into 2 groups based on interest level in certain trails.  One interesting thing that was going on was a few riders testing our bike packing set-ups in preparation for our Vermont Trip this weekend

As with other courses in Westchester County, the going was rocky and rooty.  In addition, alot of tree cover has fallen, causing the trails to be semi-obscured by leaves.

The ride started at 10am, and some riders stayed on until 6pm. The goal of this group is to introduce new-comers to mountain biking, while providing experienced riders and escape from the city.

To Grow Your Business, Shut It Down

Last July, I found myself in a hotel banquet room in Utah, talking to Chris Kelly of Topanga Creek Bicycles. I was bemoaning how busy and exhausted I was in the shop. We just had too much work, and the shop was like a hurtling train.

Topanga Creek Bicycle Schedule
Chris proceeded to tell me about a magical place called Topanga Creek Bicycles...where they shut down and "UnPredict Their Wednesdays" every week.  Chris is the owner of this amazing shop that has the clarity to see that shutting down and stepping away might be the best thing for a busy shop.

Chris got into the details, but there weren't too many.  "If you shut on Wednesday and go riding, people will come back on Thursday...and if they're angry we just make them banana bread".  Basically, their Wednesday plan is to just go riding with employees, friend and families. By now, I had drank the Kool-Aid and washed down the banana bread.

When I returned back to Brooklyn, I explained the plan to my staff, and they loved it.  We have been "UnPredicting out Tuesdays" ever since (we couldn't do Wednesday because of my teaching schedule).

Closing the shop to go riding has had so many great advantages that the minor negatives have been washed away. Check out our collection of Shop Ride Films and Photos here

Creating a Narrative: Being able to talk to our customers abut rides, and them invite them along is a great way to connect. We look to connect with our customers in many more ways than retail transactions, and a shop adventure is a great way to do that.  Also, the stories told about riding this bike or that helmet upon return become more fleshed out and less sales-brochure-like.

Our customers respect that we close to go cements us as being committed to riding and our well-being.

Exercise: We could all use more exercise. Its sobering to discover that I had gotten in worse shape since diving head long into the health and fitness segment of retail. Devoting 1 day a week to exercise isn't a life-changer, but its a start.

Morale: Shop morale has always been good, but it gets downright giddy as Tuesday approaches.  Upon our return to the shop the day after, there are great laughs and stories to be had again and again. This connects us far more than a work relationship.

Taking a Break from the City: Taking a break, hitting the road with friends and seeing trees and ducks is a great thing.

Riding our products. We have great bikes and products from the best manufactures in the world. What better way to sell them than to take them out for a ride.  We get asked all the time, "what do you ride".  Building experience on many pieces of equipment in many locations makes what we do less like selling and more like giving a friend some advice.  At 718, we have no salespeople, so our ability to sell is directly derived from our experiences with these products.

Visiting other Shops. A key part of the trip is to visit other shops. This is great experience for all of us to see how other places are run.  I always ask the owner what advice they would have given themselves (essentially me) 20 years ago   Aside from most of them saying "Get out while you can!", there have been many great pieces of wisdom.  We joke that we either leave the shop feeling good about what we are doing, of leave the shop realizing how far we have to go.

Visiting Tasty Diners: Another mandatory piece of the trip is finding a diner.  Eating way to much BEFORE our ride has become another unfortunate tradition

Visiting Woodhaven, Queens:  Unless Tijon moves, we have to go to Woodhaven to pick him up

Access to key employees: The gang doesn't realize it (actually, I am sure they do), but having unfettered access to the employees who make 718 a reality is a great thing.  You cant get 2 bike shop people alone for 5 minutes without talking image 5 in a car for 90 minutes.

Sales are up: Sales are up 19% over the same point last last year since we started the rides

Creating a Market: Hidden down the list here...we are simply looking to "invent" a market for mountain-biking in NYC. Step 1 is to travel to these great venues and show our customers how easy it is to get there...step 2 involves the amazing bikes we have from Salsa, Surly, Kona and Yeti, to name a few

$$: We started these rides in early September, and are planning on going as long as we can into the winter. Everyone has put $20 in...last person riding gets it. So there's that. 

In conclusion, this approach seems so non-intuitive on paper.  Shutting down 1 day out of 7 surely wont grow a business. Surely, it does.

Somethings these endeavors become monsters, threatening to consume everything it its wake.  Shutting it down shows it who's boss.

Time away makes the heart grow fonder. Working in an ice cream store 7 days a week will cause you to hate ice cream, and no one wants that

Check out our collection of Shop Ride Films and Photos here

1974 Raleigh Super Course Mk. II

Our latest project in the shop is a 1974 Raleigh Super Course Mk. II.  Here is the "gents" version in the British catalog.

Here is the bike as it arrived in the shop.  It had been converted to fixed gear at some point, and the owner is looking to totally upgrade the wheels and and drive train.

Alot of times I will turn the bike over to take it apart.

Incredibly beautiful rear drop-outs

For 36 year old paint, its not in bad shape

The headset has loose bearings, which I will probably replace with a retainer.

The bike came apart great, which is a good indication as to how it was cared for over the years.  I am having a problem with the non-drive side crank arm, as my crank puller has stripped the threads and it wont come off the square tapered spindle (this bike has been upgraded at some point with a modern bottom bracket).  I ordered a tool from the J.A. Stein Tool company that should help with this problem; it arrives in a few days.

The client has choosen "Celeste" Velocity Deep V's, to be built up with white All-City track hubs and silver DT Swiss double-butted spokes

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