For the first episode of the Sundin Sports Marketing podcast, Kristin sits down with our first client, her husband, Steve the Bike Guy. They look back at his career change, from environmental consultant to bicycle mechanic, and how his brand, and his business, have developed.
Kristin Brandt: 0:00
This is Kristin Brandt, and you are listening to the first episode of the Sundin Sports Marketing podcast. I am here in my home with appropriately, my first sports marketing client , my husband, Steve The Bike Guy. Hi, honey.
Steve the Bike Guy: 0:24
Kristin Brandt: 0:26
Oh, I love that you think there's an everyone – I appreciate that. So, Steve, you are, um, a bicycle mechanic and business owner. You own a bike shop in Sherborn, Massachusetts. But you didn't start as a bike mechanic when we met. You were an environmental consultant, right.
Steve the Bike Guy: 0:48
Kristin Brandt: 0:49
Good thing I got that right. Um so when did you make the switch to bike mechanic? And why did you decide to do it?
Steve the Bike Guy: 0:56
You know, it's becoming a little bit of a blur now. The transition
Kristin Brandt: 1:00
How many years ago was it?
Steve the Bike Guy: 1:01
Nine years ago. So it was a case where the last company. Well, so the last company I worked for as geologist – We're talking late 2000s during the recession, and that company basically tanked. Um, via the property of elements. I took it down. So after that, I started my own consulting business. Um not really sure if I wanted to look around for another corporate job. So I started doing that. And at the same time, when you start working for yourself like that, you start thinking of other things that you could possibly do.
Kristin Brandt: 1:44
You mean other things you could be doing for work since you get you're working for yourself. Correct. And you have always been a cyclist, and, DIYer you know of your own bikes, right?
Steve the Bike Guy: 1:59
Correct. Yes. Oh, um, right. I mean, I have never, um, not ridden bikes since I learned to ride. Um, you know, some people get in and out of the sport. Obviously, a lot. Most everybody starts learning to ride as a kid, and then they may ride, you know, up until maybe they they're into their teens, and then they go, they drop it for a long time and come back to it. But for me, it was nonstop. I was the kid in high school in spandex, you know, in lycra.
Kristin Brandt: 2:30
It's breaking away!
Steve the Bike Guy: 2:31
So you know I was buying kits in high school, I was drooling over Italian frames. Ah, and you know, Campagnolo c record components and that kind of thing. So I was unusual in that regard in high school just on that aspect of my hobbies.
Kristin Brandt: 2:56
And when we met, that was like the deal. Like you were like, I'm into bikes. And, hey, I like you, so you're gonna be into bikes. Here you go. Let's get you a bike. It's just I didn't even have a bike.
Steve the Bike Guy: 3:08
Yeah, and it was an ebb and flow of what I was into at the moment. So when I met you, it was definitely probably more mountain bikes.
Kristin Brandt: 3:15
Yeah, it was all mountain bikes. And you were working. As you said, you were working for yourself. So you came to me. You came to me. We went to lunch one day, and you said, you know, I'm thinking about ah, mobile bike service.
Steve the Bike Guy: 3:33
Yeah, right. I remember that lunch.
Kristin Brandt: 3:35
And then I think what we decided was, you know, you have a certain amount of hours that you need to work. And if we want to do them as a geologist or you want to do them as a bike mechanic like that was so you phased into it. Then at that time, we came up with the name of Steve the Bike Guy. Because that's how everyone described you, right? So I wanna be like, if you want a bike.
Steve the Bike Guy: 3:55
Kristin Brandt: 3:55
I remember thinking I was like, Well, everybody's like, Oh, you want to talk about a bike? You should talk to Steve, he's the bike guy.
Steve the Bike Guy: 4:03
Yeah, and it was more very direct. It's who I am and what I do. So, um and, of course what 2000? Well, I started in early 2011. We might have been talking about this late 2010. It was a case of where there were not really mobile services around. So I found a couple across the country that I was, you know, tiny, you know, just just one guy outfits and so forth that I kind of looked at to see what they were doing.
Kristin Brandt: 4:36
So you were part time doing that part time working with other clients, going to people's houses. And you did that for how long?
Steve the Bike Guy: 4:43
That would have been. Was that three years or
Kristin Brandt: 4:46
maybe three years out of our Prius, by the way, just really not a vehicle that you think is great for uh, mobile bike mechanic.
Steve the Bike Guy: 4:57
We had a Prius because of the because of 2008 when when gas was $4.50 a gallon.
Kristin Brandt: 5:04
And then you came to me and you said, and the time we made your logo and everything. Ah, we used your face. And we came up with this bright palette. You were very clear sy the time that you orange and blue. You liked those colors. Um, I'm not sure that you loved your face on everything, but it works.
Steve the Bike Guy: 5:27
And yeah, that that illustration and that it was definitely not something that I was, uh,
Kristin Brandt: 5:35
It was not what you pictured. But it certainly, you know, I'm gonna give my team kudos to, say, grabbed attention and grabbed attention, and people saw the sign it was recognizable. And then you said, uh, honey, I would like to open a store. Physical location. Why did you think that was the right move, after a couple of years of going mobile?
Steve the Bike Guy: 5:58
So where I am now, I would drive by very frequently, um, on my way to customers houses. And there was an empty building there that just over and over I drove by. It is empty, empty, empty, empty right in the middle of downtown, which is a very tiny downtown. Um, and so that just sort of got my mind moving. And then it was a case of where the mobile was becoming, d ifficulty in its application. And it's and it's coordination. So the biggest problem with the mobile service and you know there's big franchise now who do mobile, right? But the one of the big issues at the time is that most of the large parts distributors would not work with mobile businesses at all. So and they do now, they change their mind. After I left it.
Kristin Brandt: 6:56
They didn't look at your Prius and go, sure, we'd love to have you open an account?
Steve the Bike Guy: 7:02
Um, yeah, and so that I mean well if we want to revisit the Prius, except for the ability to work inside a van, that vehicle actually worked really, really, really well. And I had a pop up tent. Um, and it carried all the tools and parts that I needed at the time. Um, and of course
Kristin Brandt: 7:23
audiences. That's the nicest thing he said about the Prius in its life. So I'm so glad we recorded it.
Steve the Bike Guy: 7:29
It was not on a great driver. But when you were burning fuel to get, you know, it was fantastic.
Kristin Brandt: 7:33
it's true, it really thought about it vs was the van you have now.
Steve the Bike Guy: 7:38
But so so getting into the so that so that was that's where I got the wheels turning on. Oh, and also, you can't as a mobile business, you can't carry every single part. You can carry service parts, but you know when somebody has a, uh, broken shifter or remember, a broken crank where the spindle was loose had come loose from the press fit application and and stuff like that. You can't carry all that stuff, so then you have to order it, get it and then go back. And at the same time, this mobile business was so sort of new and customers were really sort of expecting the getting the same prices that they would pay in a normal shop. They were there really wasn't any surcharge for the mobile service on top of that type of thing, um, so, yeah, it just became difficult. Logistically.
Kristin Brandt: 8:30
To your point about that. There are now franchises. They have efficiencies, right? Like they've got some systems. They've got some efficiencies that you couldn't have as a single mobile guy. So you come to me and you say I want to open a shop because the other thing you told me at the time was you thought that it would allow it you to sell bikes, which was not something that you could really do, mobile, right? Like it's hard to be like, and by the way, I sell bikes. Here's the catalog. Where versus having a store? Someone walk into and go, oh, yes, bicycles. You sell them. So you thought there was another income stream that you could add.
Steve the Bike Guy: 9:06
And, you know, mobile shops now can do more with partnering with direct to consumer brands in a way. But again, though, direct to consumer brands have probably tripled, quadrupled in that time in the last five years. So
Kristin Brandt: 9:20
So, um, at that point you went full time as a bike mechanic opening the shop stopped working as a Geologist. Canceled your license.
Steve the Bike Guy: 9:30
Let my my professional geologist PG license expire and move went on,
Kristin Brandt: 9:36
got knee surgery, signed lease.
Steve the Bike Guy: 9:42
Oh, yes, correct. So I was painting. I was painting the walls right with a gigantic brace on my knee. That's right. From ACL surgery.
Kristin Brandt: 9:51
What could go wrong?
Kristin Brandt: 9:52
On the topic of your brand – At the time that we started to talk about opening the shop your first instinct was to rebrand. To come away from the bright orange, the bright blue and the face. And you wanted something you know you described is like cleaner, classier. I would say your brand is bright and shiny and it's not classy. There's nothing classy, right? Right. Fun, right? Yay Bikes. And how frustrated were you with me when I just said no?
Steve the Bike Guy: 10:26
Yeah, you were just flat up out nope. To Late. Not happening.
Kristin Brandt: 10:31
I mean in in retrospect, do you see what my point at that time was?
Steve the Bike Guy: 10:38
Well, I do, because at the time I mean
Kristin Brandt: 10:42
... I'm so glad I'm recording...
Steve the Bike Guy: 10:43
You had worked very hard to get the branding that I had out there. So when people search for certain things, I would come up quickly and often and a lot. And so to lose that and start fresh was one of the main concerns.
Kristin Brandt: 11:00
And to try to have to communicate "by the way, Steve the Bike Guy, that card you have from the last time you saw him is now Steve's studio of bikes, right?" Right. Um but we did.The compromise is that you introduced the Velo Studio, so we changed it. You begin, right? Which kind of made sense because you were going from mobile to something physical. So we could say this is Steve the Bike Guy Velo Studio. What was the thought process on Velo Studio as words?
Steve the Bike Guy: 11:30
So the velo obviously comes from the term French term for bikes. And the fact that the largest road magazine in the country, is Velo News. A lot of the shops around the country that I was sort of looking at to, maybe emulate, they also had velo in their name or their tagline or something like that. It is definitely more of a road terminology is not used in mountain bikes, really, not in the U S.
Steve the Bike Guy: 11:59
And and then the studio, when we first started, we actually used the back room to have, we did we were a licensed Sufferfest video studio. So we did sufferfest classes and that it was, um also the Studio part was also the fact of this just it's a small one man shop where I was going to be building bikes and trying to do a lot of custom builds.
Kristin Brandt: 12:23
We should probably tell people how big is this space you're in?
Steve the Bike Guy: 12:27
800 square feet
Kristin Brandt: 12:28
800 square feet. It is not an open 800 square feet. It's like three rooms, right? Bathroom in the middle, like it is chopped.
Steve the Bike Guy: 12:33
It is chopped.
Kristin Brandt: 12:34
And I do I will say, even now we're gonna we're talking about the fact that you're now reaching a point where you're thinking of getting rid of Velo Studio keeping it Steve The Bike Guy. I'm not sad about Velo. I'm a little sad about studio because I think it implies a smallness and intimacy and and also the fact that you don't have because your 800 square feet, you actually don't have a lot of stock. So a lot of people come in and then you look at a bike. but that may not be the bike they end up going home with right because they order that bike in their size with their parts custom to them.
Steve the Bike Guy: 13:10
I have maybe 20 to 25 new bikes in stock it once. And then those, however, usually kick off the conversation. People can test ride things, and then it's either "well, let's see, I want I actually I like this bike, but I liked the one model up with this parts or one model down with these parts" or we needed in one difference one size up, um, different color, that kind of thing. So, yeah, most of the stuff I do is ordered, whereas the bikes on the floor allowed, ah, allow you to ride, touch, feel and so forth.
Kristin Brandt: 13:49
But one of the reasons we with Velo Studio, as you said, it's very much a roadie term. I think that was where you thought you were going, and then, when we started around the time you were, you were you were still mobile, but you were going into the shop. Um, you started getting into cyclocross, um, which is kind of a mix terrain race for those who aren't familiar, I'll have a link in the show notes. Um, and that's where I feel like the Velo Studio started to get dirty.
Steve the Bike Guy: 14:18
Kristin Brandt: 14:19
Like you started to and which to me, I know you said you've been into bikes all the time, but as you said, we met when you were a mountain biker. So I feel like I've been watching you float back to what I think of you as your roots.
Steve the Bike Guy: 14:30
That's true, because I guess when I started, I definitely was riding a lot more road. And I was thinking about the shop more in a a road attitude, given the area that I was in and so forth. Um, yeah, and some of the other shops around the country that was looking at too,
Kristin Brandt: 14:50
So we had what we call it was called Holy Week of cyclocross. Right? Were several big national races locally. Um, so you started specializing in cyclocross we even referred to you as the Cyclocross headquarters. Um, and I think that gave you a nice bump. Um And then fat bikes came along, which were completely unexpected. And what has that done to the shop and kind of where business is coming from?
Steve the Bike Guy: 15:18
Well, when so fat bike's came along, and the great thing about fat bikes is that nobody had one.
Kristin Brandt: 15:24
Let's start with you explaining what is a fat bike.
Steve the Bike Guy: 15:27
A fat bike is basically a mountain bike, but it's designed to take wider tires. So really 3.8 inches wide and up is considered a fat bike, and they go up to about five inches wide.
Kristin Brandt: 15:38
And why would want one want a bike with a five inches wide tire?
Steve the Bike Guy: 15:44
It started really in Alaska to to ride on the snow. So and then there are also great for the beach, but that that's where it really got its foothold. And, um, and then it just sort of became a great bike for the wintertime in the snow.
Kristin Brandt: 16:00
Which here in New England. Fantastic.
Steve the Bike Guy: 16:03
Which we usually have.
Kristin Brandt: 16:05
Right? So about was it the first winter of the second winter of your shop? That fat bikes.
Steve the Bike Guy: 16:14
It was the second
Kristin Brandt: 16:15
Second winter, kind of in that time where we should probably talk about the fact that when you opened the shop, um, do you think you had realistic expectations for how many bikes you would sell right off the bat?
Steve the Bike Guy: 16:34
Um, no. I probably did not.
Kristin Brandt: 16:38
I'm mining "No", no, you had really I think you and I had very different expectations. Your expectation was, like, right of the bat you were going to start selling. I think you said something like two bikes a week or something like that.
Steve the Bike Guy: 16:55
I don't remember that.
Kristin Brandt: 16:55
You had a number, and I was like, yeah, that's that's not gonna happen. And I feel like by the second winter, um, and keep in mind when you open the shop, one of the advantages that you said was that in the winter you'd be slow and you get stuff down around the house. But then the second winter comes, fat bikes are introduced. And you partnered with a group called Framed, Right?
Steve the Bike Guy: 17:18
Right. Which in a way, is controversial because they were an online company. So they sold a lot of their bikes online.
Kristin Brandt: 17:28
But they had some that were dealer only.
Steve the Bike Guy: 17:30
Well, that was actually introduced the year after their dealer only models.
Kristin Brandt: 17:34
All right, but you said you liked them because they were, you know, for an extra bike they were a good price point.
Steve the Bike Guy: 17:41
They were a great price point, and they offered ala cart options.
Kristin Brandt: 17:45
How many bikes do you remember? How many fat bikes you sold that first season?
Steve the Bike Guy: 17:51
Kristin Brandt: 17:54
Yeah. I mean, I I look at that winter as the winter that the Velo Studio got to survive.
Steve the Bike Guy: 18:00
Kristin Brandt: 18:29
But I also think it's where you started really getting dirty, right? I come in and I see what's on the floor. I hear what you're selling. It appears that mountain bikes have really kind of taken over your inventory.
Steve the Bike Guy: 18:29
Yeah, for the most part, they're definitely the majority of the inventory. It seems like that is now the most popular discipline of cycling. Um, again, it does come and go, but I'd say that's definitely and the road guys are getting into mountain bikes. So there's It's been a case of people wanting to get into the woods because they're getting a little they're getting a little fearful. The road with everybody texting so that has pushed mountain bikes. Um, and a lot of people who never have really mountain bike in the past, but have been huge cyclists are getting into it because once they get out into the woods, they understand and see how nice it is.
Kristin Brandt: 19:10
And with fat bikes, you're then year- right? You know, you can ride in the snow.
Steve the Bike Guy: 19:15
And then yes. Oh, it's so yeah. So and I I do have a few people actually a ride their fat bike year round, and they enjoy it. They enjoy their fat bike more in the summer than they do their other, even full suspension mountain bike. Now, there's only a few of them like that. Um, but the right fat bike sometimes just be such a blast to ride that I can understand why some people like it all year round.
Kristin Brandt: 19:38
So now that you're really dirty, um, you're looking to get rid of the name Velo Studio, right?
Steve the Bike Guy: 19:44
Kristin Brandt: 19:44
To really reflect where you are.
Kristin Brandt: 19:46
Let's dig a little bit into your branding. That was really why we're speaking today. So we have a pretty defined look for you. Um It's kind of I'm not going to say that it all sprung fully formed from day one. I think it's been a process of, you know, we started logos and then we did kits and we liked certain things. And that has developed into the Steve the Bike look, um, but I know that sometimes I will be, his is gonna be part confessional, you and I butt heads at times. We butted heads when you opened the shop, you know, and wanted to just scrap everything. And every now and then we butt heads on like, colors and stuff like that. So why don't you share with me, your wife, what are some of your frustrations sometimes when it comes to branding?
Steve the Bike Guy: 20:40
I had originally picked the blue and orange, but our first kits actually went through some iterations of different blues. Really, we had what we initially we had ah, a white jersey with a close blue that we have now. And although the face logo was still, um, sort of coming into being, I think that that time.
Kristin Brandt: 21:02
Now that you're now that you're reminding me of this – So the first logo, the first jersey that we made, it was through Pactimo. You could do a really short run. So your first jersey was semi custom. So we just stuck the logo. That's right. And that was fine. And then we went with Pactimo. And that's where the blue and the orange started to really come out. Dark Blue was in there, which we call Royal Blue and it had tools in the back because you were mobile at the time, remember? So we had tools in the back pocket, which I thought was hilarious.
Kristin Brandt: 21:38
We then went to Jakroo, right?
Steve the Bike Guy: 21:42
With a very dark blue.
Kristin Brandt: 21:42
That was them, that was their dark. They introduced this dark blue into your palate. But when it came back when we decided we were going to do a whole set of kits through Hincape, my agency started to design them, we created the color palette, and we brought it back, really to the original right royal blue.
Steve the Bike Guy: 22:09
And I remember that decision of like are we going with this, this is a very bright kit very, very bright kit, right? And do we know Is this what we're going with? And it was. And I remember that that difficult decision of of trying to decide dark blue or bright blue.
Kristin Brandt: 22:32
Why did we go with Bright Blue? Did we think it was gonna pop?
Steve the Bike Guy: 22:35
I just think we were well, so the kits were originally created for cyclocross use. So that was a case where we thought it would just pop more on cyclocross. The dark blue ones. I wanted to maybe keep more of the dark blue, because again, it was a sophisticated right. There was this sophisticated type of thought with it. And the bright blue was just more of, like, bang. Yeah, yeah, here we are, type of thing. And so that was a I just remembered being Hey, let's go for it, You know, kind of kind of cringing at the same time.
Kristin Brandt: 23:20
Kind of like when I put your face on the side of the road when you open the shop. Oh, my gosh. I should say that picture where you're like holding this sign going. Oh, my gosh. I can't believe she's gonna put my face my face on the side of the road. And so then every time I feel like every time we have to order something new you are pushing against in particular that bright blue with a could we do a dark blue? Could we do a black? And I'm always pushing back going No, we can't. And I think that's where our moments we get really kind of feisty with each other, right?
Steve the Bike Guy: 23:53
It's just because you kind of to me, I see other things and you and you, you look at other ideas and you start to just really kind of mix and match. And and that's where it's where you get into trouble.
Kristin Brandt: 24:06
Yeah, and I will tell you I mean, I will confess. I think I get snippier with you then if any other client said it to me, right, like a real client. And this is like also, when I'm asking you about bike stuff, you just go "huh" and I go I hope you don't actually talk to people that way. You don't you don't. But is your wife right? And I'm the same way, right? Like you will be like, Well, I don't like that. And I'm like, Ah, And then I realized it's It's definitely because we're so close and partially I'm like, this is what I do, you should be listening to me.
Kristin Brandt: 24:36
And then I will say you always push me to do better, right? Like I am pushing you to stay true to the color palette. But you do push me to say, but is that the best we can do with that piece with that jersey with that bottle? And my philosophy has always been just so everybody knows I'm just not completely crazy. Um, is that you just don't have that much money, but you just don't have that many resources and that we don't have the luxury of recreating - there are bike shops in our area who do a new kit every year. And the kit looks radically different, year to year. But they've got brand recognition. They've got a budget that you don't right, and I know that. And so and you know that obviously, um, so do you - Are there times where you do step back and you look a kind of the big picture and recognize what we're doing.
Steve the Bike Guy: 25:34
Absolutely. I mean, keeping consistency, I think has has to be one of the best things that I've done now. I mean, obviously, we had ah different versions as we created the brand. But now that we've really sort of set it into, um uh, a fixed fixed zone for the past few years, I think keeping that consistency just
Kristin Brandt: 26:05
On the consistency thing we've actually switched over the years. So we had our original kits, from one manufacturer we switched, we went to Garneau are friends that we've we've met over the years. Um, and I would challenge you when you go into our closet to grab the Garneau over the Hincape based on color, they are almost identical.
Steve the Bike Guy: 26:33
identical. And I that really comes from then
Kristin Brandt: 26:36
And what I like is it means that someone who ordered your kit with the first round does not have to order kit with the second round, right? Like so it means every there is no wilder moment - I will never forget being at a coffee shop that we frequent on occasion with other riders and looking over, we had just released the first round of kits and I looked over and I saw someone wearing the blue and orange, and I realized it wasn't you. And I was like, that's our kit. Like, that was the coolest moment, right? Like a somebody wanted to wear it right. And then we also, when we look at that pallet that blue and orange um, they're pretty common colors. They're like a royal blue and strong orange. And I think you've found an added benefit, which is you can just buy anything this blue and orange and it becomes STBG.
Steve the Bike Guy: 27:34
Exactly. So And it has helped the past few years that blue and orange has sort of come up in popularity, and it'll go down again for normal consumer goods.
Kristin Brandt: 27:46
There are a couple of kits now that are blue and orange and I'm a little cranky about it.
Steve the Bike Guy: 27:51
Pretty popular. You know, bikes were actually coming out in blue and orange for many years. Uh, yes. So is we had, um, landed on those colors. It had also become much more popular. for other consumer goods.
Kristin Brandt: 28:07
So you have someone who comes to you and says, I'm you know, I'm starting a venture, a bike shop. Whatever. I'm thinking about my branding. Um, do you think that consistency would be the first thing you say to them like pick your path and stick and stick to it, too? And be protective of it right?
Kristin Brandt: 28:29
And in fact, we've even taken the next step. Which, as I said, this has been an evolution for you of actually getting those brand guidelines into a doc so that we have a do's and don'ts just because we've had moments where your logowwent to someone to be handled and it was handled badly, right?
Kristin Brandt: 28:49
It's not a perfect logo. It's got some being a face. It has some challenges in particular, it doesn't reverse well, you look like an Oompa Loompa, right? So right. But having that documented I'm realizing ah is is fundamental to protecting that. That brand.
Kristin Brandt: 29:08
Thank you, my love for allowing me to torture you. And, um, thank you again for having faith in me when you launched your brand to help you launch it. It's been so much fun, and I guess that's it.
Steve the Bike Guy: 29:23
Kristin Brandt: 29:24
Thank you again to my dear husband for letting me put him through that I cannot even tell you how uncomfortable that makes him.
Kristin Brandt: 29:30
The Sundin Sports Marketing Podcast is produced by Sundin Sports Marketing, a full service marketing and advertising agency, putting your ideas into action. For show notes, links or to learn more you can visit us at SundinSports.com. You can also make a connection on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook at SundinSports.
Kristin Brandt: 29:51
Thank you again for listening. Now get outside and play.
Steve the Bike Guy: 29:54
Outtakes - Fat bike is essentially a mountain bike, but it's designed to take well, fat start over .
Kristin Brandt: 30:06
That was a really good question.
Steve the Bike Guy: 0:00
That was a really good question.
Kristin Brandt: 0:00
Okay thank you.