Welcome to our monthly chat with bike shop owners and managers spread throughout Australia and New Zealand.
With Christmas just around the corner after what has been a super stressful year for most members of the bike trade, we also asked, ‘How many days do you close the shop for over Christmas and how much time will you personally have off?’
Tom Benes from For the Riders in the inner Brisbane suburb of Annerley, Qld said:
Business is good. We’ve been pretty busy. Lots of customers, lots of bikes. We’re still a mountain bike specific store that specialises in high end and boutique brands.
Some of our key brands are Scott, Santa Cruz, Yeti and Norco. We’re trying to get a lot more of the e-mountain bikes in. The biggest thing stopping us is the availability of them. We definitely support e-bikes. We think they’re great for the industry and great for riders. We definitely try to get a lot of people out on them.
We’ve got just over 50 (non e-bike) dual suspension mountain bikes on the floor, ready to go for Christmas. Scott’s been a really great brand for us. They make really good bikes at good price points and they’ve been really good with supply as well. So Scott’s definitely been our number one for the past six months.
We’re looking at about two to three weeks out (for bookings) in our workshop at the moment. The boys are flat out.
Re Christmas holidays:
We’re closed for 10 days until the 4th of January. I’ll be here on the 23rd and I’ll be back here on the 4th.
Ian Lee from Geard Cycles in Launceston, Tasmania said:
Look, it’s a challenge. We had a fantastic period during covid, but I think the honeymoon period has definitely subsided. The winter we’ve just come out of was indicative of a normal winter that we’d experience in Tasmania.
Now we’re leading from spring into summer, our biggest challenge is stock. Trying to give people what they want. And what they want here in Tassie… We’re pretty fortunate. We’ve got abundant mountain bike trails. The councils in Tasmania have all embraced the sport and the tourism and people that follow. So that’s awesome.
Now we’ve got a lot of adults, young families, mature aged adults, everyone embracing mountain biking as a sport. The demand for mid to long travel dual suspension bikes is huge. The supply is not so huge! (laughs)
That’s going to prove a challenge for us, particularly this summer. From what my managers have told me, from who they’ve talked to amongst our wholesale partners, it’s not looking likely to improve for the next 18-24 months. It’s a tough one but we’ve just got to roll with the punches as see how we go.
Giant is a key partner for us. We also deal with Norco and Lapierre. Mountain bike is a strong suit for us, but we haven’t forgotten our road and BMX roots. We still dabble in those, but a large percentage of sales is mountain bike related these days – everything that goes with it: your protection, your full face helmets, elbow pads, all that sort of stuff and all the consumables.
Our workshop is cracking, busy. We’ve started to get even busier. The biggest challenge for us now in our workshop is trying to find qualified staff. With our borders being closed we haven’t been able to access mainlanders who might have been looking for a change of scenery. Hopefully, come 15th December when our border closure is eased, we can find someone on the mainland.
We’re looking for qualified mechanics. They’re hard to find at the moment down here. We’re all in the same boat, all screaming out for qualified staff. It comes down to the education providers offering that cycling related stream of education which then creates this funnel effect.
It’s not just bicycle retailers. Places like Derby and St Helens have pop-up stores everywhere and mechanics are required.
We’re trying to expand our horizon a bit and not just, ‘We’ve got to get a bike mechanic!’
We’re looking for people who have at least got some mechanical / engineering aptitude. Usually we can train them as long as they’ve got the right mindset. Auto mechanics, fitters and turners – we’re trying to look outside the square. If you know anyone looking for a mountain change, send them our way! (laughs)
Re Christmas holidays:
Great question! We normally do not close over Christmas aside from the gazetted public holidays, because we know that we’re a service-oriented industry. So while everyone else is on holidays, out playing and breaking stuff, we need to be open to service their needs.
In saying that, our team have worked tirelessly through the unprecedented time that we’ve encountered, so in a first for us, our sister store, (Cycology in the Launceston CBD) is going to close over the Christmas period.
For us, Geards, we’re going to take the gazetted holidays on Monday (27th) and Tuesday, then we’ll open the Wednesday and Thursday then close for Friday 31st. Give our staff a break where they can relax and re-energise because it’s not going to be a quiet summer, I think.
Jon Stevens of Woodend Cycles in the Victorian town of Woodend, 71 km north-west of Melbourne said:
It’s only eight or nine weeks since we took over the shop. We’ve been busy. Flat out with repairs. I’m still trying to get to get my head around it.
I knew Russ (the long time previous owner) from the shop and from riding. We were talking one day and he was thinking it might be time for a change and I thought I might have a look at something different as well, so we ended up doing a deal and that was it.
I’m feeling good. I knew it would be a tough 12-18 months with supply, so that’s going as expected. For us, it’s riding out the next 12 months and then going forward with some plans we’ve got.
In terms of bikes, we’ve got very little stock on the floor. What comes in goes straight out via a wish list system we’ve got. We’ve carried over stocking Giant from Russ. That’s the main bike brand.
We can’t keep up in the workshop. We’re a month in advance at the moment. I’ve got the same mechanic (that worked there before the sale). I could be two months in advance if I wanted to be.
Re Christmas holidays:
We’re just going to shut for four or five days between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Michael Milsom from The Bike Shoppe in Dubbo, a regional city just under 400 km inland from Sydney said:
Business is quite steady. Repairs are definitely up. Bike sales are hard with lack of stock. But stock is coming in dribs and drabs, which is keeping us going.
We’re with Malvern Star, Scott and Avanti. I’m on repairs all day and new bike assembly of a nighttime. We’re a husband and wife team here, which is really nice. I like that.
We’re working very long hours. But for a small business to be successful, we’ve just got to keep costs down. Labour rates are too high, so I’m just running it myself.
We do repairs same day. We’ve got our servicing down pat. We’ve been doing same day repairs for 36 years. I’m second generation. Phil Milsom was my father. I took over from him 11 years ago.
Demand is high but supply is low.
Re Christmas holidays:
The last two years we’ve taken two weeks off after Christmas and come back on the following Monday.
We’ve been doing that just because the covid months have been so demanding on us, especially on the body. So we’ve just taken that two weeks, which is a real shame because there’s a lot of money after Christmas, but we’re just buggered! It’s just to refresh the body.
I think everyone’s getting into cycling, but we should have done it years ago, not just because of covid. Everyone’s getting into bikes and it’s causing an overload of the system.
Once things settle down again we’ll just have till Boxing Day off, come back for two days and then New Year’s Day off. We don’t have a break in winter. I don’t know what’s happening to the weather, but now we don’t get a break. Out here in the Central West we’ve had dry, warmish winters. It hasn’t felt like winter for three years and people are still riding.
We don’t like taking time off. Owning your own business, you take a day off it’s a day’s trade you don’t get. That’s the attitude I’ve inherited from Phil.
Courtney Dedman from Bike Dr. which is a social enterprise that trains people in new skills, based in the CBD of Perth, WA said:
Business is alright. We’re primarily service based, so our largest struggle is just getting parts for people’s bikes that they bring in for servicing.
We’re not struggling too badly. Some parts have been pushed back to late next year so that does suck. But we’ve actually been doing some sneaky shopping on Wiggle. Somehow Wiggle actually still has all these items in stock. We go through the wholesalers like Shimano or for SRAM PSI and Echelon and they just can’t get it. That’s our big struggle at the moment.
For example 12 speed components are in short supply. We have no 12 speed chains at all. There’s also some disc brake rotors that we can’t get a hold of. We’ve been ordering from all over the place just because our wholesalers don’t have quite a bit of stuff. We’ve even been on e-Bay.
But otherwise, we have definitely picked up.
We haven’t had covid too bad over in Perth so people have still been able to get out and about. We’re starting to get some warm weather now as well so everyone’s bringing their bikes in for a service.
We have four mechanics, so we can pump the bikes through. We do sell some bikes and we do custom builds as well, but we rely on servicing. If we were to rely on bike sales we’d probably die. Our workshop takes up most of our shop.
We used to do more mobile mechanical work when we were in Subiaco, but now we’re located in the CBD we don’t need to ride out as much because people can come to us.
We used to ride to a lot of the big corporate businesses in the city and do the staff bikes and we’d service all of those. We also do a lot of pop ups where we’d set up a marquee at an event run by a local council or a business. We’d send two mechanics out and they’d stay for a couple of hours and do safety checks for people that pop by.
Bike Month was in October and that was really busy for us.
Re Christmas holidays:
We are closed on 24th December and we re-open 3rd January so just over a week.
Alex Heaney from Spoken Cycles in Cambridge a town of 21,400 population 20 km south east of Hamilton, and 145 km south east of Auckland, New Zealand said:
It’s a little bit up in the air at the moment, to be fair. Definitely hot and cold. We’re still going in and out of lockdowns over here. We’ve literally just come out of one today actually. We can finally have people back in the store which is good. Up until then, it’s been pretty quiet, just serving people from the door, which is not ideal. It’s good to have people back in.
Supply is the main issue. Struggling to get stuff to sell. You could say that we’re a road orientated store. All the staff here ride road and we’re quite passionate about that. That would be where the majority of our market is, but we’re also quite strong in the e-bike market as well.
Specialized would be our main brand but we also do BMC and Cervélo, plus other bits and bobs. We’ve currently got a few high end road bikes on the floor. We’ve got the new Cervélo R5 and some new Specialized Tarmac Pros in stock and a couple of BMC’s. We’d probably be running at 40% to 50% of what stock we’d normally hope to have.
Re Christmas holidays:
This year we’ll knock off at lunchtime on Christmas eve and be back to work on 5th January.
Join the Conversation:
Is your business taking the same respite as in previous years, or are you adjusting and having time for an extended break after a busy and difficult season?