The caprices of fashion, the realities of global warming, and the undeniable fun and practicality of cycling have conspired to make bicycles more popular than ever before. But while manufacturers are doing their damnedest to appeal to this new crop of cyclists, the retail end still has some catching up to do. Most traditional bike shops have little to offer the fixed-gear freestylers, Beautiful Godzillas, and Wall Street triathletes that increasingly make up the body cycliste. Like the Whole Foods shopper who walks into an A&P and is bewildered by the absence of a cheesemonger and an olive bar, these riders are often at a total loss upon entering a typical LBS. Consequently, track bike boutiques and ultra-high end road and multisport shops are starting to spring up in our cities, and together with the systematic un-grittification of cities like New York, the trend seems to be specialization and luxury. For those looking to enter bicycle retail, or for shops looking to adapt, here are some free ideas to keep you ahead of the curve:
Urban Bicycle Parking Lounges
One of the main reasons people cite for not riding a bicycle in New York is theft. There's simply no lock strong enough to keep a thief from appropriating your bicycle if he decides he wants it. Of course, one solution would be to ride a bicycle so crappy that even if someone wanted to take it you wouldn’t care. However, this precludes our inalienable right to conspicuous consumption. Do you want to live in a world where it's impossible to own an NJS bar bike? I sure don't. That's why I see bicycle parking lounges opening in our city's trendier neighborhoods in the near future. Simply roll up to Bedford Avenue, or Valencia Street, or Damen Avenue, enter a storefront that probably used to house one of those old-fashioned bike shops, take a ticket from some kid who probably used to be an old-fashioned shop rat, maybe buy a free-trade coffee or a lifestyle magazine, and then meet your friends at the bar. While it's one less excuse to use a top-tube pad, you'll no longer have to wait for that second Tecate to kick in before you stop worrying about your bike. Plus, you could even have a bowling alley-like shoe exchange so you could wear cycling shoes. I mean, you can ride a Ferrari to a restaurant in South Beach, but you can’t ride a Colnago to a lounge in the East Village. And that needs to change.
Cycling Lifestyle Consultancies
A traditional bike shop can only offer so many bicycle models and so much personal attention. Even the most service-oriented shop only has a limited number of models and accessories to choose from, and their overhead is so high and their margins so thin that sooner or later they have to move on to the next customer. Enter the Cycling Lifestyle Consultant. Part coach, part therapist, part interior decorator, your personal CLC will commute with you, train with you, and recreate with you until he or she has determined the exact bicycle that your lifestyle demands. You’ve heard of the bicycle that “dissapears beneath you;” well, this bike will integrate itself so seamlessly into your life you’ll forget it’s even there. Your CLC can even accompany you to group rides, races, and alleycats and show you the ropes so you can avoid those pesky learning curves. What's more antiquated than paying your dues? Pay a CLC instead!
Whatever your feelings on top tube pads, it would seem they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. And it’s already difficult to get a good fit. Some are long, some are short. Some are designed for fat aluminum tubing, others for slender steel. This is only going to get more difficult as carbon fiber enables manufacturers to shape their frames any way they choose. It’s only a matter of time before hemming them and altering them becomes an essential part of the process. Guaranteed, in a few years everybody who visits a bicycle boutique is going to need to swing by the tailor afterwards. Be ahead of the curve and open one today.
So you bought yourself an 80s road frame conversion, but now you can’t stand that everyone else has one too. And being different is more important than having fun. So you want to convert it back to a geared bike. Or, maybe you’re someone who just bought a nice track bike that someone turned into a fixed-gear freestyler and then got tired of, and you want to turn it back into a real bike. Well, just take it to your neighborhood de-fixification clinic, where if it’s fixed, they’ll fix it. I see a demand for places like this well into the future—we’re not going to be able to undo the last five years of bicycle butchery overnight.
My favorite new bike boutique name is No Brakes. (Hi guys.) Trendy, sure. But don’t make the mistake of trying to jump on the bandwagon by naming your shop after some other kind of mechanical deficiency, like “One Crank Arm,” “No Saddle,” or “Flat Tire.” Instead, fill the gap! That’s what specialization is all about. At The Brakery, they’ll focus on one thing and one thing only—stopping your bike. Calipers, cantis, linear pulls. Center-pulls, side-pulls, dual-pivots. Brake shoes, cartridges, straddle cables. Levers, cables, housing, travel agents. Mechanical discs, hydraulic discs, rotors. Retrofits, coaster brakes, even those stupid old-fashioned rod brakes. Whatever your stopping needs, at The Brakery, they’ll brake your bike. Just take a number.
Bike Photography Studios
As bikes get more popular, showing them off becomes more important. Your bike is an extension of yourself, and you want to meet people and have them like you because of the bike you ride. Velospace, Fixedgeargallery, Myspace, Facebook—wherever you look people are showing off their rides and begging fervently for approval. So don’t make the mistake of snapping a crappy photo with your camera phone and immortalizing your dorkiness. Instead, get your bike photographed at a professional bike photography studio. Not only will you get a great shot, but a team of stylists will also make sure you get the best out of your bike. They’ll have an array of colored chains, clinchers, and top tube pads available. Turn that conversion into a sensation. People will be friending your bike faster than an unfixed dog friends a leg.
Williams-Sonoma-type Store for Bike Tools
As Felt are well aware, bike tools are more than just a way to fix your bike. They also express your lifestyle. While high-quality bike tools were previously the domain of the pro wrench or the dedicated bike geek, the new breed of cyclist knows that tools are an important part of accessorizing. After all, plenty of people have kitchens full of high-end cookware yet call for take-out every night. The same urge that sends the throngs to stores on Sunday afternoon to shop for expensive copper pots, cutlery sets, and wine-pourers will also compel them to buy combination bottle opener/axle nut wrenches, tire lever/letter openers, and Louis Vuitton allen key pouches. Open one today and be a sensation tomorrow.
Honey, wanna go to Park-Pedro?