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Bicycle technology might have transformed over the years but the desirability of a bike essentially still comes down to three criteria: how fast it goes, how comfortable it feels to ride and how good it looks.
Few people have mastered the latter quite like Gary McDonald.
Gary and his team at Carbon Steed are Australia’s largest and most experienced carbon bike repair and bicycle painting service.
A mountain of customer reviews and escalating demand for their services are also testimony to the Brisbane-based business’s skill and professionalism.
I just thought I would pass on how much I love my new bike and its spectacular paint job. Nearly every week someone rides up beside me to say how much they like the paintwork. Thank you all so much for making my bike so beautiful – Helen
The bike looks awesome, so much better than the factory paint – Haris
The frame has turned up and it looks like brand new. I had to check which side had been repaired – Drew
“We’re the best equipped bike repair shop in Australia, with our own in-house signwriter, designer, specialist painter and carbon repairer,” Gary said.
All that expertise can be a valuable ally for Australian bike retailers in a number of ways:
Got a customer with a damaged bike?
Carbon Steed does repairs for bike stores through Australia, from superficial damage to completely snapped frames and, in a matter of only a few weeks, can send back a bike that looks and rides like new.
“We offer a turnaround of two to three weeks for resprays and a similar length of time for repairs,” Gary said.
One of the team’s strengths in its ability to do precision painting touch-ups over small areas.
“We can work around decals and precisely blend paints to match the bike’s existing colours. So while other painting services might want to respray the whole frame, because they don’t have the same ability to blend, we can often do repairs without the need to strip down the frame,” he said.
“That can substantially save time and cost.
“That’s one of the reasons a lot of distributors around the country use us.”
Having trouble finding a customer exactly what their looking for with a bike?
Gary regularly does work for retailers and their customers who know what type of bike they want but can’t find the exact colour or overall finish they’re after.
“We get a lot of riders from stores like Tandem Co. who buy a new bike and, before they’ve even received the bike, are planning their custom respray,” he said.
“That ability for a customised paint job that looks like a factory finish is particularly helpful at the moment when bikes continue to be hard to source.”
Having trouble sourcing plenty of bike stock you know will appeal to your customers?
Gary has a number of canny shop clients who buy bikes that are the right make and model but probably aren’t the most in-vogue colours for their clientele. A quick detour to Carbon Steed and the stores have the right bikes in their most popular colours.
“We get a few stores who buy end-of-line bikes, usually in less desirable colours, then get them painted up in colours that are more saleable.
Looking for bikes that will set your shop apart from the crowd?
Add a little personalised flair to those new colours and styles and suddenly a store can offer something not available elsewhere.
“Then the final discussion with a customer is no longer an argument on price because they can’t just wander over to the shop down the road and get the same thing,” Gary said.
Paint My Bike
For these reasons and more, Gary built a strong following in the industry when he owned and operated Paint My Bike.
He established the business in Brisbane in 2010, backed by a quarter of a century of experience in the paint industry.
He initially ran a prestige smash repair paint shop in Brisbane, then worked for several paint companies over a few years.
In 2002, he started a business doing Smart paint repairs for automotive dealerships and that inadvertently led to Paint My Bike.
“If I damaged my bike on a ride, the scratch was gone on the next ride,” Gary explained.
“People then started asking me to do repairs on their bikes.
“Things really gained momentum when I did a full touch-up and reclear on my S-WORKS Tarmac.
“When people saw me on a bike that looked brand new, they started lining up to get their bikes repainted.”
That inspired Gary to start Paint My Bike and he enjoyed great success with the business. However, after six years he decided he needed a change and sold the business.
After a brief stint as Australia’s distributor for DIY paint chip repair product Dr ColorChip, Gary went on an industry tour to Germany that included prestige car manufacturers Mercedes, Porsche and BMW.
“Seeing the amount of carbon used in manufacturing really restirred my passion,” he said.
“I made me appreciate that I have considerable skill in both carbon repairs and bicycle painting and I was inspired to start another bicycle repair and paint business.”
Carbon Steed was launched three years ago and business has doubled each year since then.
The enterprise received a further boost recently, when Gary’s right-hand man at Paint My Bike, Matt Chamberlain, joined Carbon Steed.
“While I’ve been repairing pushbikes and doing carbon repairs for 12 to 13 years, Matt has been doing it for 30 odd years.
Before he started working on bicycles, he was doing motorcycles, which is the same sort of intricate work.
“Matt had a load of experience doing plastic and fibreglass repairs before switching over to working with carbon.
“There’s no one in the country with more experience than us.”
Carbon Steed is consistently thrilling customers with the finished product.
“Carbon fibre is the most repairable material used for making bikes. Done properly, it looks and rides like a new bike, provided it’s done with pre-preg carbon fibre,” Gary says.
“We try to direct as much work as possible back through retailers. We don’t strip bikes down or do rebuilds here, so we try to direct people back to shops for that work.
“When we start working with new traders, the first question they ask is often ‘what margin do we get?’.
“Our response is, ‘mate, you can mark your price up as much as you want. We are not like Shimano by saying this is the wholesale price and retail is 20% more.
“If a bike shop sends us a job and we charge them $400, there’s nothing wrong with charging $500 or $600 to the customer.”