Ride In on the Wave of Bike Mechanics
- by Christopher Jones
- Published: 19 March 2012
It looks just like a normal bike shop, there are a few shiny bikes parked in front of the shop. Located on Sydney Road, which is the main route for much of Sydney to get to Manly Beach by car, the Ride In Workshop is a service station for your bike. A gentleman with an English accent walks in, the atmosphere is casual and he says that in the last two years he has left tire changes to his mate, but wants to be able to do it himself… and more.
The price list for bike service is directly in front of the customers as they walk-in and as the gentleman spots it, owner and bike mechanic Jordan Wilson explains that he also offers one-on-one workshops for customers so that they can learn to completely rebuild their bike and repair, replace and tune the parts. Perfect! exclaims the gentleman as he promises to bring in his bike for an appointment.
Jordan Wilson had ten years under his belt working with Stan at Bike Addiction on Pittwater Road in Manly (this is the bike store that would receive tough bike repair tasks from other shops in Sydney and maintains an excellent reputation for Carbon Fibre repairs). After Jordan co-wrote “Save my Bike”, an instructional book on bicycle maintenance followed by time in Whistler, Canada and working with Cannondale Australia, he then started to look into options that would allow him to have time for writing the next edition and concentrate on his core skill as a bicycle mechanic.
Six months ago, he opened the Ride In Workshop. Rather than trying to be a local bicycle shop, he just stocks essential parts and has a fully outfitted workshop to satisfy the bike service and repair needs of his customers. The ties to Bike addiction and other local bike shops remain strong and when he opened, the locals in Balgowlah took immediate interest, the set prices are fair and every household has a bike or four… this was an opportunity to get the bikes back into working order and talk directly to the mechanic.
Jordan Wilson comments, “The biggest problem [with service and repairs] at a bike shops is that you walk into a bike shop and speak to the kid at the front counter, he writes down the details and then takes it to the workshop where they then hand it to another mechanic to do the job, then three or four weeks later you get it back from someone else at the counter. It is three or four people for one job and there is no accountability where as here, you speak to me, I do the job and give it back. If there are any issues, you come back to me”.
Considering that there has been no advertising, in just six months there is so much business that Jordan employs additional staff to meet demand. More and more customers are coming from further afield and Jordan is conscious that he wants to keep the turn-around time short to save his customers week long waits. Open communication and direct contact between the mechanic and customer does wonders for customer satisfaction.
Jordan discusses is strategy of set prices, “Most bike shops will charge you hourly, they will say that a general service is $80 an hour. I don’t do that, I say it’s $80 per service, if it takes three hours then it takes three hours. At the end of the day when the bikes go out of the store there has to be a good quality. People are happy if they know its a set price and your not going to go above this [price]. Obviously parts you have to charge for and I always explain that”
Although he was able to set up the business without needing to stock new bikes, Jordan still had the learning curve in getting accounts with parts suppliers, particularly Shimano whom he praises as have such a smooth operation with parts being delivered within a day so the customer is not kept waiting. The quick turn-around also means that he can keep down the number of bikes for repair that he has on location, though admits that with the amount of work he has, he is running at capacity.
Can the success of independent mechanics be attributed to the growth in online shopping? “Online sales are still relatively small, people love the idea but when it comes to buy a bike but if you are the type of person who likes to test ride before you buy, most people by from a bike shop.” says Jordan.
While some Local Bike Shops (LBS) may see an affect in sales on their accessories such as tires and tubes, the average consumer still purchases from a bike shop (unless they are misguided and buy their bike from a supermarket). The bike servicing side for the LBS however isn’t the most lucrative part of their business, and tied in with lacklustre customer service, there is a gap that Jordan is filling with the Ride In Workshop.
Jordan is not the only cycling business in Australia who entirely skips the bicycle sales side and concentrates on bike service and repair. Sensing the changing retail landscape, bicycle workshops and mobile mechanics can be found in all major cities.
While Jordan comments that most cyclists who order online are able to fit and assemble the parts themself, he still has customers who need their gear professionally assembled, even the occasional complete new bike build. Most workshops and mobile bicycle repair services see themself filling the new gap that is slowly opening as a result of online shopping – it doesn’t matter where you brought it, we can fit it.
Jordan is approachable and friendly, his eyes light up when discussing the options and possibilities for rejuvenating a bike. My Francesco Moser steel road bike needs some expert care, there is more to the poor gear shifting than just adjusting cable tension and the derailleur limiting screws. Jordan explained the problem of worn out springs was common for Campagnolo and he would be able to sort this out. Alternatively, I could trash the Campag and upgrade to a new Shimano 105 groupset, should the budget allow. As nice as this would be, I opted for the simpler and more affordable solution. No problems.
A few days later the phone call arrived, the shifter spring was actually snapped though if the new one is delivered on time, I can pick up my bike tomorrow.
The salty sea breeze reaches up to Balgowlah, and so does the beach atmosphere as customers and friends drop in casually to say hi, to bring in their bike, to discuss a rebuild. You get a real sense that Jordan wants to make his customers happy, and picks up where many bike shops struggle. If you have been procrastinating with your MTB, Hybrid or Racing Bike, there is now no excuse not to get your bike in tip top condition, tell Jordan that Christopher from BNA sent you.