Thursday, March 14, 2013

Winter At The Shop

Indoor trainer sessions are popular at ZuZu Pedals in Port Washington.
How do the bike shops in our area survive long, cold winters?  Many, I think, simply operate at a big loss until spring returns.  Others, like Mountain Outfitters, turn into winter sports shops, filling their sales floors with skis, snowboards and snowshoes.

Between the extremes of doing nothing and completely overhauling the business with each change of the seasons, some shops offer indoor cycling opportunities and maintenance clinics.  I think the list below is an accurate picture of what the shops offer in winter.  Please post a comment to correct me if I’m wrong.

Shop                  CompuTrainers   Indoor Group   Maintenance
Name                                  Training  Clinics

Belgianwerkx1 No              No No
Ben’s No No Yes
Crank Daddy’s Yes No No
Emery’s Yes Yes Yes
Expedition Supply No No No
Extreme               No              Yes No
Grafton               No No No
Local Motion Yes No No
Mountain Outfitters No No No
Pedal Moraine No No No
Rainbow Jersey No No Yes
Wheel & Sprocket2 Yes No Yes
ZuZu Pedals No Yes No

1—“No,” but since opening in January, Belgianwerkx has hosted meetings of the Ozaukee Bicycle Club and the Ozaukee County Mountain Bikers, has formed its own road and cyclocross teams, and has announced its sponsorship of the Giro d’Grafton criterium (June 22) and PumpkinCross (October 12).  That’s an impressive commitment from a new shop with a small amount of floor space and a small staff.
2—CompuTrainers are available at some, but not all, of Wheel & Sprocket’s locations.

If I owned a bike shop, I don’t know if I would offer CompuTrainers.  I have used them and I think they’re great, but it would take a lot of paying customers to offset my costs.  However, I am sure I could set aside a corner of my sales floor a couple of nights each week for people who want to train together on their own equipment.  (This is the Extreme Ski & Bike model.)  If nobody shows up, I haven’t lost anything.  If the idea finds an audience, I have increased traffic in my store to create more sales opportunities.

Similarly, I would offer bicycle maintenance clinics like Park Tool School.  With a much lower volume of builds and repairs to handle during the winter, my mechanic can stay busy by teaching others.  Even if we’re just showing Cub Scouts how to fix their own flat tires, we’re bringing people into the store at a time when they wouldn’t be thinking about us otherwise.

Winter at the shop could be an enthusiast’s dream, a time to repair and prepare, a time to keep your spirits high and your head in the game.  The shop should be the place where the local cycling community congregates no matter what the calendar says.

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