Welcome to our monthly chat with a diverse selection of bicycle shop owners from throughout Australia and New Zealand. We could not have had a much larger geographic spread this month, including store owners from Cairns, Darwin, Perth and Havelock North, which is on the east coast of New Zealand.
As always, we start by asking, ‘How’s business?’ then ask a follow up question. This month it was, ‘Is there a local annual cycling event that gives a significant boost to your business?’
Brian Dallow of Deadly Treadlies, a small repair focused shop in the heart of Darwin’s CBD said:
Business is not too bad. I’ve been in this business since 2007. I mainly do repairs. Lots of people ride here but it’s a seasonal thing. In the wet season people tend to stay away both for reasons of humidity and because when it actually starts raining, we get pretty serious rain.
I used to sell Cell bikes, but they’ve gone bust, of course! Occasionally a get a few others in, Pro Gear and those sorts, but not a great deal.
I’m in my late 60’s. I’ve always ridden bikes. I used to race when I was a teenager. I went to university in Melbourne and used to race down there.
I raced the Katherine to Darwin Tour in 1979 which was my first year in the Northern Territory. I originally came up as a teacher but didn’t like that particularly. Then I ran a few golf clubs. I did a bit of extra study and then ran fish hatcheries for a while. I’ve done a few things…
The bike business is going ok. I get a few government contracts to run some bike building contracts out bush.
Local Cycling Event:
Not me. There is a thing called a Gran Fondo, but that’s more of the racing crowd. I’m more of the mums and the dads and the average Jo Blow who just wants an A to B machine.
Photo: Deadly Treadley’s. Google Street View.
Damien Lack of Flemington Cycles, in inner western Melbourne, just around the corner from the Melbourne Cup’s Flemington racecourse said:
Business is pretty solid. We’ve had pretty good growth throughout winter. Servicing has been a big part of this. Bike sales have been ok, not brilliant but not bad.
We’ve bucked the trend because a few shops in the area have closed down and some of that business has filtered towards us.
We had Trevor from Ted’s Cycles in Footscray close down. They’ve been going for years and years and have been an iconic bike store.
(Editor’s note: Ted’s cycles did not close down due to insolvency. The family owned their exceptionally large premises in the Footscray CBD, which is now zoned for high rise development and has seen other high rise apartment blocks already springing up around it. They chose to sell their premises. You can see a more detailed article about their closing here.)
Evan down the road at Cyclic finished up and we’ve had a 99 Bikes shop just up the road close down. I don’t think that location was the model they were chasing. It was a hard area to be in. They’ve now opened up in Airport West (further out from their previous location).
We’ve got a deep client base. We’ve been here for heading towards 25 years now, so it’s been pretty good.
Local cycling event:
Amy’s Ride. (Officially known as the Wiggle Amy’s Gran Fondo, held on the Great Ocean Road, Lorne, Vic each September) Mainly because a lot of people are using it as their ‘toe in the water’ ride. It’s not as difficult as Around the Bay in a Day. It’s got the hills and it’s a good challenge. Being on the Great Ocean Road and being able to ride on roads that are generally not open.
We benefit from pre-event servicing and P&A sales like lights, computers, tyres, tubes and so forth. A lot of people from this area own holiday accommodation in Aireys Inlet, Lorne, Torquay, Jan Juc and so forth. They go down there and make a weekend of it.
Jeff Appleton of Giant Perth, located on Hay St, the main shopping street in Perth’s CBD, said:
Business is very good. October is usually a strong month for us anyway. We have the Cape to Cape and the MACA Cancer Ride driving business as well as the weather improving. This brings everybody out. They want servicing and recreational bike sales increase as well. In the city we seem to be booked out three or four weeks ahead for servicing. It’s pretty intense at the moment. We don’t have a large team and I always allocate a fair bit of time to new bike sales. We need to be ready to support the stuff we’ve sold because I’ve been here six years now.
We turn away a bit of work actually, because we can’t book it in (soon enough) and obviously people don’t want to wait. I’d rather be in that boat than be looking for work.
I only have the one location. It’s quite a lot of work and pretty long days sometimes.
My wife just recently resigned from her job. She’s going to come and help me from next week onwards. That will help me get back a bit of a life because I’m doing less riding than I would like!
I’m looking forward to her help. She has been working for a redundancy fund in the building sector. I had another chap recently leave who was working four days a week, mainly doing bike building. I’ll move to doing a little more of that until we can find a replacement. But it’s quite difficult at the moment in WA to find good bike mechanics. It’s probably like that everywhere, but particularly so here. There are a lot of shops chasing mechanics.
I don’t mind too much because I can do that work myself, as long as I’ve got the showroom being managed well because we’ve got a lot of gear coming in to be put on the shelves.
I run about four to five staff usually. A few full-time and one or two casual. We only have a small space here in the city, but it keeps us pretty busy. I’m running out of 140 square metres. We put about 80 bikes on display and then we have another 40-odd out the back in boxes.
There’s a good allocation of space to gear because we need to display a lot of helmets, clothing and accessories as well.
It’s a constant effort to keep everyone efficient. I only have a front accessway (no back door), so if you get a load of bikes or other deliveries you have to get that out the back quickly and get it sorted, otherwise you clutter up the shop.
It’s constant work. I do stay back occasionally just to make sure everything’s looking good.
Local Cycling Event:
There’s three that come to mind. The conquer cancer ride – the MACA Ride they call it this year, is pretty strong for us. Because I do some offers of cycle fits, that was making us busier this year in particular. The Cape to Cape and the Dams. When you get people coming in talking about what they’re going to be doing, you probably hear the 3 Dams Challenge more than anything else.
The Dams is a road ride and Cape to Cape is mountain bike. But there’s so many events now! It’s good that there’s a lot, but there’s less numbers in each event.
New South Wales
James Sear, co founder of the newly established Local Cycle Co in Wollongong, NSW said:
Business has been fantastic for us. We’re just getting into our fourth month of trading. We’re pretty much a mountain bike specialist. We specialise in the high end part of the mountain bike scene. The best part for us has been the growth of the electric bike market.
For us the Specialized Levo’s have been the hot ticket item. We’ve been really stoked on how well they’ve sold through and how we’ve gone, even in our opening few months.
We planned for a hard six months. We opened in the winter period just so that we could get a handle on how our systems were going to run. But the community here has got right behind us.
Myself, my other business partners and our staff members are all really keen mountain bikers. I think that shows through and the community have definitely supported us for that.
We have bought in everything from kids bikes. We can get access to the full range of Specialized bikes but we haven’t actually chosen to stock any of the road side yet, although we will probably push into that in the new year as well.
But we’ve got some nice mountain bikes. We stock Specialized, Transition and Yeti. We’ve been really happy to the response to those brands so far. Specialized have obviously got the biggest name out there, but a lot of people come in and see the Yeti’s.
Local cycling event:
For us, the MTB scene is a bit restricted because we haven’t got legitimate trails. So it’s off the grid a little bit, but there a few rides that are organised under the radar and any time that happens there’s a big boost for the store.
With the mountain biking here being a little be underground here (due to the trails that are commonly ridden not being ‘legal’ according to the managing government agencies), we’re not feeling that benefit. But if the plans for the escarpment end up going ahead (for a major MTB park overlooking Wollongong) then that will be huge thing for tourism and the bike shops in town, I think.
Hilton Taylor from Revolution Bikes, in Havelock North which is in the Hawke’s Bay region on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand said:
Business now is looking good as we’re heading into spring. We’re getting more foot traffic and more phone and internet enquiries. People are looking forward to the summer.
Winter was shorter than usual but just as bad as ever. My winter started a little bit later this year, which was nice. So we had a little bit more carry over of that autumn, especially ebike trade.
Across the board ebikes have been strong and getting a bit stronger. The main change that we’re seeing now is a lot more e-mountain bikes, on top of what we call pathway trail bikes that we’ve been doing lots of.
A lot of younger… it’s a relative term; a lot of ebike customers are over 60 years old. But e-mountain bike customers are more like in their 40’s or 50’s. Still not getting 20 year olds buying them. But we are getting sub 40 year olds buying e-mountain bikes.
So we’ve changed the shop layout a little bit to suit that and get more ebikes on the floor and a little bit less of road bikes – especially road bikes, which have been dead for ages.
So yeah, we survived winter and we’re looking forward to spring and summer. We’re still growing. We’ve done more turnover so far this year than last year.
I’ve this shop for 10 years. The shop itself has been going for about 25 years under this name. Before that it was an amalgamation of two of the local shops, after one bought the other one out. So it’s the remnants of the original bike shops in the village back when bike shops were quite small.
Now we’re 200 square metres. We’re not a small bike shop. Havelock North has about 18,000 people and is relatively affluent, but with more families now and less retirees. It has good schools and is a nice safe community. It is semi attached to a bigger city of about 70,000 (Hastings). So we get a fair bit of overflow from the bigger town which has another couple of bike shops in it. But we’re in a better location with the trails and the mountain being right behind us. If you can choose to live right next to a trail, then you do!
Local cycling event:
We do a lot of support for the Triple Peaks. It’s really an off-road marathon running race, but they let bikes do it too and they have done for 20 years. We get a lot of riders doing that and we really support it because it gets a lot of our town to do what’s quite an iconic event. It’s an open farmland course, which you don’t get a lot of. It’s not inside a forest. You get heatstroke instead…
For us it’s just brand awareness. If you give to your community, sometimes they give back. It’s trying to main that loyalty of buy local. They want there to be a local bike shop so that they can get their stuff fixed quickly. They don’t (necessarily) want to buy online, but they do want to save money.
Oliver Wacek, long-time owner of Trinity Cycle Works which has traditionally been a triathlon and high end road specialist shop in Cairns, far north Queensland said:
Business has improved again. The rise of ebikes has been phenomenal. We sell more and more ebikes and see more and more interest. But we still need to do a lot of education because most of the people think that an ebike is for 80 plus year olds and that you don’t have to pedal.
Once it’s explained that you have to pedal then all of a sudden they change their mind. We have test bikes here that they can jump on or even take it out for the day. I can say that 70% come back and buy one after that.
We’re mainly selling e-mountain bikes. Predominantly dual suspension mountain bikes with around 150 mm travel front and rear. But more so now, since we started a promotional campaign, we’re starting to sell city e-bikes with hybrid style tyres. They can either go touring on them or ride them to work.
We’re mainly selling Focus and Kalkhoff. I also have a second shop, Edge Cycle Works where we sell other brands, but I’m just talking about Trinity Cycle Works here.
Also with Team Jumbo Visma just winning the Vuelta Espania (Tour of Spain) we’ve seen increased demand on our Bianchi road bikes. I’ve always been strong in the road and triathlon market but I have to say that ebikes are now 50/50 compared to my road and tri bike sales figures. That’s only been the case in the last year.
Local cycling event:
Our Ironman. (Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns held 1st weekend of June). Also our RRR Mountain Bike Race (Rural, Rainforest, Reef) for the mountain bike market.
Right now we have the Crocodile Trophy but that doesn’t affect us as much, even though it’s international.
Also, we just displayed at the council’s Ride to Work Day. That helps as well because people see us. You know how it is. If you hide in the corner like a mouse, no-one knows you and no-one comes to you. You’ve got to be out there to show your face and then people will come. It breaks the barrier when people can talk to you outside of the shop.
How’s Business is a record of recorded phone interviews with a wide range of bike shop owners and managers. All opinions expressed within How’s Business are solely those of the interviewees and not the opinions of The Latz Report. Any data shared by interviewees including, but not restricted to, dates, prices, volumes etc is taken at face value and in most cases not independently verified.