Podcast: A Conversation With Independent Bike Shop Owners

Oct 17, 2018
by HKT Products Ltd  

Shop Talk returns to the HKT Podcast and this time with a twist.

Bringing together Stif Cycles' Sammy Smithson, Scott Cordy of Pedal Addiction Cycles, one-half of D&D Cycles, Dan Locks and the imitable Sandy Plenty of The Trailhead Bike Co. During this episode we discuss the impact of direct to consumer brands (in the UK), how they each approach online discount mentality, marketing and much, much more...

Shop Talk Episode Two

You can simply click the link above to take a listen or, you can also find the podcast by searching 'The HKT Podcast' on iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud, Stitcher and Youtube. You can even shout at your smart home device and it'll do all the work for you!

Don't forget to follow us on social media too, it's @thehktpodcast on everything.


  • 31 3
 It is a bit backwards, this whole discussion. Back in the days people bought bikes where they were built. It was later that the big brands ate the small ones and bikeshops merely sold and serviced bikes. It has now come full circle, that you actually buy from the brands again. And now that even small brands can reach a wide audience by communicating over the internet and by selling through mail order, it is that we're seeing more and more different brands again. This simply wouldn't happen if sale would have only been through physical shops because most of these shops have chosen to deal with as few suppliers as possible. This is for instance what made PRO big. Not The Athertons, not Thomas Vanderham. It is just because they were developed to sell through the Shimano distribution channel which obviously nearly every dealer works with.

So, in my view this dealer-model killed the small brands, the direct sale model (as they call it now) is what gives these smaller brands a chance. So sorry dealers, it isn't about the money. My BTR frame wasn't the cheapest hardtail frame available. I like diversity, but your way of doing business was killing it. Now it is taking revenge.

As for service, I think most people can do most service on their mountainbikes. It is designed to be serviced easily and frequently, after all. This isn't quite the case for heavy commuter bikes, which is what most people are riding where I'm from (The Netherlands). These ride daily under all conditions with minimal maintenance. And many people aren't interested in learning how to remove a rear wheel with 8sp Nexus hub and roller brakes to change a tire. Or they just don't have the time to do it the same day and they need their bike the next day just to get to work and bring kids to school. It is here where I don't ever see the bikeshop disappear. My shop is always busy, but because I bought my bikes there they'll always try to have it finished the next day. And they'll lend me a bike in the mean time. And that might also be the reason why the big brands in that scene (or groups of brands, like Accell) remain big. These shops are actually useful and buying through them makes sense.
  • 5 3
 Agreed - Ive had immense problems with the whole - shop > distributer > manufacturer > distributor > shop - communication line on warranty issues. Buying direct actually isnt about cost for me. Its just become a more reliable experience. The whole distributer layer costs us customers money for zero benefit. Any problems I've had with direct has been better. The old model does get talked about as being perfect but it really wasn't and I think consumers are getting wise to it.

And vinay i think your right. The resuragnce in small direct sale brands like Cotic, Bird, BTR, Starling, Production Privee, Stanton would never have happened if they had to traverse the dealer, shop closed network. They could have been snuffed out.

In addition home mechanics are able to problem solve a lot more now. That just a fact. You tube videos etc have made us all more able to repair and sort out our own stuff. Indexing gears or bleeding brakes 10 years ago was a dark art. Now there are 100's of videos on you tube on it!

On the whole shop ride hub of the community thing. I've done a few when going to a new area and there is always a vibe that if you haven't bought from them you're not in their clique... which is weird. If I was a shop id be all over the people who haven't bought from me to get them stoked on your shop. I think I've just been unlucky on that front but its happened too many times for it to be a coincidence.

Shops do have a place but not in the old way and they will have to find out what the new ways is -. Between my mates, the internet, cheap shipping from Europe and free returns they are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Finding a way of ditching the distributers would instantly lower prices and give consumers more choice, but that would be a seismic shift for the industry and have to be led by bike companies.
  • 6 0
 I see many of your points, except the last part - most people will not be comfortable fixing their mountain bikes. I see people royally screw up simple adjustments every single day, and the vast majority of riders will never be swapping hydraulic brake levers and rebuilding dampers (which, if you ride your bike, you're gonna need to have done.) Plus, most riders aren't interested in investing thousands to get the proper tools to even do the simple things like switching volume spacers in their forks... sure, you can buy a few, but every new size or new speciality tool (because your new fork isn't the same as your old one, for instance) you need adds cost to the equation. Even with a minimalist set of tools (hooray for Knipex), the vast majority of people are not going to want to invest the time and take the risk of cracking into the complicated bits on their mtbs. There is a vocal minority of people who love doing that stuff (former mechanics, engineers, hobbyists and mechanics from other areas - like motorcycles or cars, etc), but 98% of mountain bike riders just don't. Heck, 75% of them have never even heard of Pinkbike haha. They buy a $6k bike, ride it three times a week (sometimes more, sometimes less), and drop it off at the shop so they can pick it up the next afternoon and ride after work.
  • 4 0
 @trialsracer: Thats one thing people never think of is how much money the shop puts into its tools and workers and then when you do something for them really quick cuz we have this $250 dollar tool and they ask why the charge was so much if it only took us 30 minutes or so. Because you would need to pay 250 for the tool just to do it and still learnt to use it properly.
  • 1 0
 @trialsracer: Alright, I can't give stats on how many people service their bikes and to what level. It may also depend on what bubble (of riding friends) we find ourselves in. Most people I ride mountainbikes with do assemble their own bikes so that inherently involves shortening brake hoses. Maybe not everyone laces their own wheels. For most at least it is not something they do within their first few years of riding. But yeah, I thought most of it was considered "user serviceable". At least hydraulic (disc) brakes are designed to be serviced by the end user, aren't they? At least many manufacturers have been trying to make the process even easier in recent years. So I thought of these as Ikea kind of stuff. Sure you can have their products assembled by them if you really want to and they'll definitely do it quicker with their experience powered screwdrivers than you as a teen with the supplied tiny allen key. But at the end of the day most people just assemble it themselves and also become quicker as they gain experience and expand their toolkit. Sure a bike might not be exactly the same and if you've invested in "stupid light" you'd be wise to also invest in a torque wrench, but at the end of the day you still have your manual and your riding buddies to help you with your first steps.

Sure there are some jobs that require special tools for facing IS brake mounts, head tube and bb shell. And to install the headset. Usually I have that done when I buy a frame. And yeah, maybe I need to put my statement back in perspective as I did mention that I definitely value the "regular" bike shops that focus on the heavy commuter bikes we have here. My point was mostly that the sport bike specialists (mtb and road racing) kind of dug their graves. I regularly roll by my "regular" bike shop for small stuff like tire patches, spokes and other small stuff that breaks. So when I got my new forks (not through them) they didn't have time to cut it but they just lent me the guide and saw and let me cut the steerer in their workshop. Not sure what other specialist tools would be needed really. Whoever can true a wheel would get his/her own stand anyway. There is nothing awkward in my forks though I can imagine it would be the case in Fox forks. Then again Suntour is specifically designed to be user serviceable too. So yeah, if the forks are particularly complex then that's a choice of the buyer. And a actually wonder how many of those people who can't perform service on their gear actually feel the difference between a good Suntour fork and a Fox fork. As for rear shocks, yeah I get that these aren't user serviceable (beyond the positive air/coil spring). Then again, do bike shops actually service them? In my experience they just send them off to a service center anyway.

So yeah, I do get that bike shops do have the tools and experience to do some jobs faster than us and if you insist this is the reason people leave the job to them I won't fight it. I just think it is odd. Just like Ikea products, much of it is specifically designed to be serviced by the end consumer. Sure you can have a carpenter assemble your Ikea table. And you can eat in a restaurant every day and never prepare your own meals (and not invest in the tools to do so either). And they'll be better equipped and do a better and quicker job than you would yourself. But I've never heard of anyone who has ever gone that route.

TL;DR: Yeah sorry for that.
  • 7 0
 Thanks a bunch for posting this Pinkbike! This was a little different to our usual podcasts but, a conversation that being a distribution company owner I felt had to happen. If people like it, the aim is to do something similar with different bike shops every quarter. Thanks for all the feedback good people of PB!
  • 7 3
 The bike shops that adapt to their surroundings survive and the ones that don't... Don't. My local shop doesn't sell road bikes, they sell mountain bikes (e-bikes included), bmx, and they heavily cater to the hybrid/comfort bike market as the local rail to trail shares a parking lot with them. Their other big market? Runners. Again the trail.

I've never bought a bike there, they only sell one brand, but I buy all my helmets, some tires, gloves, shoes, etc from them as they know if I'm in asking about something, and I like what I hear, I'm walking out the door with it. The owner has been mid-sales pitch with someone else, paused to ask me, by name, what do I need today? In return I chat up the customer a bit and actually sold someone on a bike last month while he was ringing me up. Hell, the lead mechanic won't even charge me miscellaneous small parts or to look at something in my trail bike because he know he service my RS suspension on the DH bike every winter, that I didn't buy from them.

It's all about the relationships. Sure I buy online, and the hassles on returns or issues with broken parts (I'm looking at you Jenson and e13) really doesn't make it worth it, sometimes. That 6 month old Reign SX I scored for under half price, totally worth it.
  • 6 0
 Looking forward to listening to this in the car on the way to work in the morning. Should be a great insight.
  • 7 0
 I hope your commute isn't actually 2.5 hrs.
  • 4 0
 @rideitall-bmx-dh-road-unicycle: it’s about an hour on a good day.
  • 1 0
 I'm about an hour round trip for mine. :cheers:
  • 2 1
 Someone doesn't drive from ct to NYC ever lol. It can be that one way on a bad day! @rideitall-bmx-dh-road-unicycle:
  • 1 0
 Thanks mate!
  • 1 0
 @freeridejerk888: For me train is the way to go if your commuting into NYC.
  • 1 0
 @freeridejerk888: f*ck no, why would I want to be in New York City? No trails...
  • 1 0
 If you like making lots of money it's a great place to be @rideitall-bmx-dh-road-unicycle:
  • 1 0
 I take the train but some times I need more tools and or items that are too large for the train @hardtailsshred:
  • 1 0
 @rideitall-bmx-dh-road-unicycle: at least there aren't 900 people, their kids and their dogs on them like Denver.... (sorry, couldn't resist)
  • 3 0
 Good talk, nice blokes.
I liked the statement that YT, Canyon etc. is like a gateway and its owners should be treated nicely anyway.
I rode a YT Capra (no problems, loved it), I moved to a new area, liked the local shop, and now I'm buying my second Yeti from that store (for double the price of a Capra and no reason :-).

Also, I find that the online prices are not that much lower than what the local shop can provide.
  • 6 0
 when ya start off hearing ballpark sack...
  • 1 0
 hahaha, thanks for getting past SAXX the ad!
  • 3 1
 Too lengthy at 2.36.38, any chance of a transcript ?

Online bikes are now more expensive mainly because of the exchange rate.
My Top of the range 2014 Capra cost £3K at 1.42E to the £
Now it's 1.1E to the £ and £3.8K.
  • 4 2
 A top of the range Capra, with delivery... is now £4900.

For me, a big reason for that is the cost of after sales with direct to consumer brands. I've had issues with both of my YT's and have had to send them back.

Add the cost of the ticket (support staff time), cost of shipping either way, mechanic time... it's probably €100-€200 per return. Then add on the cost of Aaron Gwin, and you've got your price hike.

Exchange rates definitely play a role though, June 24th 2016 causing a good chunk of that... Wonder what happened that day? lolz.

Ultimately though, they're still so much cheaper for a product which should be very similar, because bikes are so focussed on components.
  • 1 0
You think they've factored that in following their recent success ?
I was basing my price on the similar spec one, they brought out the pro race version later on.
I also had major headaches with YT, who were pretty good to deal with, BOS on the other hand were a f*cking joke, who wants no forks for 3 months during the summer ?
I was in Morzine that day in 2016, the headline in the paper was the picture of Johnson attached to the crane with "Good Luck" as the caption ..
And we haven't left yet so who knows, maybe Santa Cruz will be cheaper than YT soon !
  • 1 0
 They do make ways for shops to make better margins on all bikes. Giant gives us lower prices the more bikes we sell and cannondale has deals of the week all the time for us to get different bikes at lower costs to us which passes to you. Also our shop manager buys year old bikes in bulk and we sell them for way below retail still making our margins as well. Now those expensive bikes are crazy buttttt they do sell. i didnt think they would either when i started working in a bike shop but heck we are buidling up a full custom BMC timemachine with e-tap and zipp firecrest wheels coming to about $12,500 total and after we told him that, he wrote us a check for $3000 and said to let him know when its ready. its on backorder for 2 months but still people see these and will pay for them. Just the frame of that bike is $6000. Is he some crazy good tri guy? not really but thats what he wants. One thing also is any bike you buy from us we are helping you with any issues you ever encounter and it was put together from the start by an actual mechanic. There's a lot of things on most bikes from shipping bike shops do that the consumers never does with their new bike that can really affect ride quality and just overall performance. Such as taking wheels apart and making sure the bearing are spaced properly and spin well. I cant tell you how many brand new bikes have almost seized bearings from the manufacturer. And these are cannondale, giant, gt etc. Bent wheels out of the box or missing parts. Those kind of things we handle and you dont need to worry. Now i do get a lot you like to do all that yourself and thats great, but most are not mechanically inclined enough to even put together a diamondback out of a box which basically need just the handlebars put on.

Disclaimer: not all shops are created equal.
  • 1 1
 Sound like a great bunch of enthusiastic rider's but not sure their advice on how to be successful businesses is all that appropriate.
Stif is a part of Jungle Products the importer/distributor for Santa Cruz, Juliana, KS, Bos and Sweet protection so a very different business model to a regular IBD. Imagine the margin on all those Santa Cruz they sell at full retail?
Hookit Products has posted a loss every year of trading with a total £59k after 3 years trading yet tell shops they need to build a brilliant social media presence to be successful.
D&D cycles tell us he operates on the basis of all his in-store stock being paid for but his accounts show he has more short term creditors than he does in-store stock so if it isn't creditors it's overdrafts or loans from Directors? Either way not a sign of success. If it is profitable then the owner is taking dividends whilst racking up debt which is not a long-term strategy as it has only posted a £2.4k profit in first years trading, that's right only a couple of years trading yet talking about whether they have seen direct to consumer brands having an effect on their sales and that you have to play the long game with customers.
If i was running a shop/business that was losing money or making next to no profit I wouldn't be proffering advice just my experiences with the caveat that I don't have the success formula to share
  • 4 5
 Canyon Aeroad VS Trek Madone.... a $3,800 difference fot the DI2 spec bike.... id say that's a significant difference in price.. That's enough for another bike. You would be mad to not at least question why the hell you would pay that much more for a shop bike.
  • 14 3
 The Madone frame has some significant design and engineering that went into it including the isospeed decoupler, integrated brakes, and internal routing. Is all this worth $3800? Probably not, but the two frames are definitely not equivalent. Premium models need to be looked at deeper than just their spec.
  • 5 1
 @MantisToboggan: Totally agree. But the enthusiast who is racing his local crit probably doesn't care about spending $3,800 for .001 seconds off his total time. I get why they are more but then who are they marketing to? Most people are not able to afford a $5,000 bike let alone $8,800 and Ultegra is not even the premium build kit. I can tell you for certain you will never see one of those $8,800 Madones sitting in our local bike shop waiting to be test ridden. Just another online order where the bike shop is doing the clicking of the mouse instead of you. If anything the big bike companies are the ones making it hard on the shops... not the comsumers.
  • 3 2
 @MantisToboggan: Premium frames are not equivalent, the canyon is lighter, cheaper and on the podium. The madone is heavier. It's also contradictory when you talk about the engineering and than turn and say it's not worth it. Any big company thinking they're bike is worth more because it's sold in shops will lose in the long run. The days of shop loyalty are gone, especially when a consumer can buy a great bike for cheap online. Wagz is right, any consumer looking for a high end bike will not be able to test ride one because shops are less likely to carry high end demos.
  • 2 0
 @TimRidesBikes: All I am saying is comparing models (aero-road in this case) between two brands is not as simple as looking at spec, particularly when they are a top tier model. Regarding the cost difference and the benefits- what I meant was the development costs of those features and if they are actually worth the $3800. I say probably not because I am sure Trek has built in a significant margin for themselves for each frame but it certainly has a greater value that the Canyon, even disregarding shop margin. Of course, that consumer perceives that value for themselves and the 3800 in their eyes is worth it. I completely agree with you that shop loyalty is a thing of the past.
  • 2 0
 @MantisToboggan: My point is that even if these shop bikes have more engineering and design input, what shop is going to be able to stock a bike with this price tag... all our local shops are 95% low end bikes with a couple mid to high end models. The least expensive Madone is still $6000 and I know that my local shop would laugh if I asked them to order in that bike for me to test ride. If the big bike company's were at all concerned about the shops that are selling their bikes they would look for ways to innovate to save costs instead of creating a frame that saves the average guy 3 seconds in a 50 mile race over the canyon for $3800 more. I'm just not so sure the blame for failing shops is in the hands of the consumer as much as it is in the hands of the big bike companies.
  • 3 0
 @dougwagz: some people will always pay for premium stuff. Shops should cater for that. If you allow yourself to only stock mid and low end that's fine - you are a mid low end shop. You can also be a high end shop, it's a different model.
  • 2 0
 When you start the podcast and the first minute is all about sticky, sweaty sacks...
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