My Checklist for Checking In A Bike

Recently, I had someone ask me what I look for when checking in a bicycle for repair. A list so nothing would be missed and the opportunity to up-sell would arise. So, here it is, the master list of information I like to look through when taking a bike in. 


Best way to contact? Phone? Email? Text? Tweet?
When do you need the bike back?
Which of our menu items would you feel suits you best?
Any odd sounds? Clinks? Clanks? Rubbing?
Anything feel weird or uncomfortable?
Any pain in your body when riding?
Where have you ridden it since your last service?
How many miles since your last service (estimate)?
Do you have an event coming up?
What is most important to you: speed or comfort?


F. Tire: tread wear, cracking
F. Rim: trueness, pad burn, cracking, swelling
F. Spokes: loose or snapped
F. Hub: lateral play, stickiness, QR loose
F. Rotor: wear, warped
F. Caliper: pad wear, cable fray
Fork: compression/rebound not responsive
HT: cracks at TT and DT junction
Headset: fore/aft play with fork
Stem: not straight, bolts loose/uneven
Handlebar: not center, odd rotation
Computer: Not working
F. Light: Not working
Bar tape/grips: wear
Shifters/brake levers: squishy, loose, difficult to move
DT: bottle cage loose, broken
BB: cracks at DT, CS, and ST junction
Crankset: lateral play, loose bolts
Chainring: loose/missing bolts, worn teeth
Chain: stretch, how many miles?
Pedals: sticky, rusted, bolts stripped
F. Derailleur: Not shifting properly, cable fray
ST: bottle cage loose, linkage sticky, cracks at TT/SS junction
Seatpost: over max height, scratched, not dropping
Saddle: sagging, rails loose, material wear
SS: Shock compression/rebound not responsive
R. Light: Not working
R. Caliper: pad wear, cable fray
R. Rotor: wear, warped
R. Hub: lateral play, stickiness, QR loose
R. Spokes: loose or snapped
R. Cassette: play, worn teeth
R. Derailleur: Not shifting properly, worn pulleys, cable fray
R. Rim: trueness, pad burn, cracking, swelling
R. Tire: tread wear, cracking

Want more? Take a look at Leading Out Retail. This book is a creative look at bicycle retail and teaches retailers simple strategies on how to increase profit through service, what the most important question to ask every customer is, and how to manage the dreaded Timmy Factor.

Best Bike Shop Business Cards

I'm always pleased when I see bike retailers rethinking the ordinary. For example, Broke Bike Alley in Fernie, BC, Canada has a couple of great new takes on the business card. Both of these cards achieve my two rules of great marketing:

1. Make a personal connection
2. Be very, very helpful. 

The first business card doubles as a multi-tool, the second is a tire patch. 

Want more? Take a look at Leading Out Retail. This book is a creative look at bicycle retail and teaches retailers simple strategies on how to increase profit through service, what the most important question to ask every customer is, and how to manage the dreaded Timmy Factor.

It's Crazy The Hours That Some Bike Retailers Keep

Should a retailer open their doors earlier or later? Open or closed on Sunday? Retailers are always testing their hours of operations but this may help end the trial and error. 

Choosing hours of operations is based on a number of factors including the shopping preferences of customers, potential sales, and fixed costs of staying open. Managers also have to consider the willingness of their staff to work certain hours. Since cost of labor can range up to 20% of an IBR’s total revenue it is crucial that every hour a store is open, it is open for a reason. Either to manage customer purchases or provide a customer service which creates profit later.  

To help bike retailers make a more informed decision, in May of 2012 I conducted a study that took a closer look at hours of operations for IBRs in the United States. I sampled hours from a hundred bike retailers from 17 cities in the continental United States and compared them to a hundred other sporting goods retailers in the same cities. 

Cities sampled in hours of operation study: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Tucson, Denver, Minneapolis, Des Moines, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Austin, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Asheville, Atlanta, and Miami

Median in grey.

Sporting goods retailers open earlier and close later than bike retailers in nearly all cases studied. The most common hours for a bike shop are 10-7 on weekdays, 10-6 on Saturday, and closed on Sunday. For sporting goods retailers the hours were longer in every instance: 10-9 on weekdays, 9-9 on Saturday, and 10-7 on Sunday. This begs the question, are sporting goods retailers providing a better service or taking potential customers from bike retailers? 

With these results we learn that bike retailers are open 53 hours per week on average while sporting goods retailers are open 76 hours each week. 

Opening earlier or closing later can prove fruitful though. Being the only bike retailer open in a city at 9pm might mean, over time, they will acquire new customers who would usually go to other stores but can’t. If an IBR has a ride that leaves from their store every Saturday at 7am, earlier hours on Saturday would allow them to provide pre-ride services and sell products needed for the ride. These small gestures of good will go a long way. Mellow Johnny’s in Austin, Texas opens their doors at 7am every day except Sunday when it opens at 8am. In a discussion with their manager I learned that business is generally slow in the morning. The customers that do stop by are generally dropping off their bike for repair before their workday begins and they are always grateful.  

The study showed that Sunday was the most popular day for bike retailers to be closed with 32% locking the doors, compared to 11% of sporting goods retailers. If an IBR is choosing to close for moral or religious reasons, then by all means, I encourage them to do so. For other, smaller retailers closing down for one day a week may be helpful when attempting to save money. However, closing one day a week means being closed for 52 days a year, almost two months. Any retailer choosing to close one day each week will want to be absolutely sure they are making a smart financial decision. 

According to the study the most effective, and possibly lucrative, hours of operation for bike retailers would be 11-8 on weekdays and 8-6 on the weekends. Of course this can vary from one location to another and whatever the hours of operation are retailers would be wise to prove the effectiveness by measuring traffic flow and sales.

Thank you for reading this far. If you found this content valuable, please share. Thanks - Donny

You can find more studies like this in my book! Leading Out Retail is a creative look at bicycle retail and teaches retailers simple strategies on how to increase profit through service, what the most important question to ask every customer is, and how to manage the dreaded Timmy Factor.

Why Does Your Bike Shop Exist? And Why Should Anyone Care?

As of December, 2013 Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, was ranked number three of most watched Ted Talks with over fourteen million views. And deservingly so, many businesses have used Sinek’s talk to guide their strategies. The talk is referenced in dozens of books and Specialized, Trek, and Cannondale have all used the talk in presentations to their retailers. One of the reasons the video is so popular is because Sinek explains how inspired leaders and organizations think differently than everyone else. They do this by first defining why they do what they do. Then they say how they do it and finally, what they do. I will break that down a bit further.

The Golden Circle. Smart leaders and organizations work from the inside out. Starting with why. 

The Golden Circle. Smart leaders and organizations work from the inside out. Starting with why. 

What. Every bike retailer in the world knows what they do. These are the clearest definitions of their business and for many reading this book, the most common list of what bike retailers do:

  • Sell bicycles, equipment, and apparel
  • Repair bicycles
  • Fit bicycles
  • Coaching and/or consulting

How. Many bike retailers can even define how they do it. This is what many people in business refer to as their unique selling proposition, or USP. This is what makes doing business with one IBR better than shopping from their competition. Here are the most common answers I hear to how people do what they do.

  • Perfect location
  • Great selection
  • Experienced and highly trained staff
  • Family owned
  • Detail oriented
  • Fastest turn around
  • Competitive prices
  • Awesome shopping experience
  • No intimidation or pushy salespeople

Looking at this list, many retailers will agree that those are all things their business offers to their customers. That’s the catch, every IBR believes they offer these things and no owner or manager will say otherwise. No bike retailer in the country will tell their customers, “We have a crappy selection of bikes, moron employees, and we do really shitty work.” If everyone is offering the same thing, what makes anyone truly special, different, or unique?

Why. Where companies struggle is defining why they do what they do, and to quote Sinek “It is not to make a profit, that is a result and it is always a result. By why I mean, what is your purpose, your cause, or your belief?  Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed every morning? And why should anyone care?” When retailers effectively define why they do what they do, they are speaking to the emotional center of their customers. Here are some of the best I have heard.

  • We live and breathe triathlon.
  • We believe you deserve the best cycling experience.
  • We believe the bike should never be an excuse.
  • We believe cycling will change your life.
  • We want to grow the Portland commuting scene.
  • We provide a service with a performance benefit.
  • We want more cyclists riding more often.
  • We are mountain bikers to the bone.

When retailers define why they do what you do, many of the day-to-day business choices become a lot easier. For example, let’s pretend a retailer has defined their why as, “We live and breathe triathlon.” What brands do they carry? They carry brands that have a dedicated focus to triathlon. What type of people do they hire? Triathletes, preferably people who live and breathe triathlon. What publications do they advertise in? They advertise in publications that triathletes read. What events do they sponsor? That’s easy, they sponsor triathlons. What would be the best way to grow their business? Possibly with swim and run gear. People do not buy from businesses that have what they need; people buy from businesses that believe what they believe. 

If you found this post valuable, it would be great if you shared it. Thanks - Donny

The True Definition of Bike Shop Marketing

Merriam-Webster defines marketing as “The activities that are involved in making people aware of a company’s products, making sure that the products are available to be bought, etc.” I would confidently say that this is the most boring definition of marketing I have ever read. Instead I believe that effective marketing- unlike advertising or branding -means only doing two things.

1. Maintain a positive connection with customers.

2. Be extremely helpful.

How do you maintain a positive connection? How are you being extremely helpful?

Thanks for reading. If you found this valuable, it would be great if you shared it. Thanks- Donny

Can You Stop Using the D-Word?

In the bicycle industry many retailers refer to themselves as an IBD or Independent Bicycle Dealer. IBDs have often classified their work as selling bicycles, bike repair, cycling apparel, tools, and accessories. However the IBD is an aging dinosaur in need of a new moniker.

I believe that there is a difference between an Independent Bicycle Dealer and an Independent Bicycle Retailer (IBR or simply bike retailer). An IBD is a dealer and, just like a drug dealer standing on the corner, they schlep a product. Moving product as fast as possible with little or no concern to who buys it or what they do with it. An IBD doesn’t care about the community, an IBD doesn’t care about their reputation, and an IBD will do anything to make a sale. The IBD discounts, cuts deals, screws over their vendors and their customers. They look for the easiest way out of everything while trying to snatch every dollar from the people silly enough to buy from them.

An IBR on the other hand is constantly focused on creating a positive shopping experience. They care about the look of their store.  They never stop striving to improve the services they offer. They work to cultivate a positive community, and the IBR creates a lasting engagement with their customers. The IBR never needs to cut corners or slice prices, their customers recognize their work and see value in everything they do. The IBR may not be cheaper, but they are different, they are better, and customers see themselves as partners.

Are you an IBD or an IBR?

Thanks for reading this far. If you found this valuable it would be awesome if you could share it. Thanks - Donny

Only One Customer A Bike Shop Should Care About. Seriously.

When trying to understand who the customer is, I believe there are only three people who could walk into a independent bike retailer. These three customers are not determined by their locality, age, gender, or any other demographic. They are:

Customer 1: Cyclists in your market who have purchased from you before.

Customer 2: Cyclists in your market who have not purchased from you.

Customer 3: People in your market who are not cyclists.

So when building a marketing plan, choosing product selection, or designing the customer experience- who should a retailer focus on? Customers 2 and 3 will take a lot of time, a lot of money, and have a very little return. Instead, I believe they should focus on the people who have already made a purchase, they are the biggest potential growth opportunity.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you found value in this piece would you please consider sharing it on social? Thanks again. Donny

One Law Bike Shops Don't Have To Obey

In 1931 William J. Reilly wrote the Law of Retail Gravitation. He determined that larger cities will have larger spheres of influence than smaller ones. Meaning that the larger the city, the father people would travel to reach it in order to buy their goods. In an era when retail was at its infancy the law made perfect sense. It even led to one of the most popular phrases in retail which you can still hear uttered today, “Retail is all about location, location, location.”

In today's retail world there are no city limits. We can purchase a bike from the UK just as easily as we could purchase it from Australia or China or wherever.  Which means it is time to update the Law of Retail Gravitation. Instead of saying the larger the city the greater the pull, I will instead say the better the retailer can connect with the customer the greater the pull.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you found value in this piece would you please consider sharing it on social? Thanks again. Donny

How Many Bike Shops Serve Beer? You Might Be Surprised.

Many bike shops are expanding beyond the sale and repair of a bicycles. Doing this brings customers in the door when they may not need anything cycling specific. 

For a bike retailer, selling a bike is a macro-conversion. But in the US 12% of bike shops have coffee bars, 11% offer spinning classes and almost 5% serve beer. About 1% offer massages, yoga or full-service restaurants. When these shops sell these things they are micro-conversions.

A business can no longer live on macro-conversions alone. Selling items that have a lower price point and are purchased more often are the micro-conversions that bike retailers need to thrive.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. If you found value in this piece would you please consider sharing it on social? Thanks again. Donny

200 Bike Shops Will Close & Other Predictions for 2014

I thought I'd take a crack at making some predictions for the year. 5 predictions for bike retail, and 5 predictions for the world of retail. In no particular order, here you go.


More bike retailers will move to click-&-collect.
Truly competing with online sales means competing online. Retailers will thoroughly build out their click-&-collect sites.

More bike retailers will become manufacturers.
Apparel and small hardgoods will be the first to be made by the local retailer. Once the retailer becomes the manufacturer, they will no longer be limited by MSRPs or territories.

Bike retailers will experiment with pop-ups.
Instead of waiting inside the brick and mortar, more retailers will open 1-2 day stores where cyclists congregate. Coffee shops, gyms, and trailheads will be the starting points.

200 bike retailers will close.
As some retailers grow, they are not growing the number of cyclists at the same rate. Only way they grow then is through market share.

A major cycling brand will go direct.
One of the top 10 cycling brands in the country will cut out the retailer network entirely. Instead selling direct to the rider.


Stores will be open on Thanksgiving Day.
This is a no-brainer. For good or bad, the holiday of Black Friday is becoming more relevant than Thanksgiving. Bike retailers will still be closed though, still struggling to capitalize on the holiday.

Apple will update their in-store CX.
The customer experience at Apple is becoming antiquated. They will, again, revolutionize the way people shop. We will all say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” when they do.

FedEx and UPS will announce Sunday delivery.
With Amazon and USPS to launch delivering on Sunday, they will redefine the rules of making a delivery. UPS and FedEx will have to play catch up.

Showrooming will be encouraged.
Retailers are understanding that showrooming is not the death of a sale. They will promote it in store knowing that what the customer finds will match what they have.

Ship-to-store will grow.
Too many UPS packages were late or stolen this year. Customers will opt to ship to the store (or a UPS/FedEx location) giving retailers another chance to convert.


Thanks for taking the time to read this far. If you found value in this piece would you please consider sharing it on social? Thanks again. Donny