Serving as a summertime nucleus for the outdoor community, local bike shops and mechanics continue to fulfill their joint mission of sharing the joy of biking, and efficiently fixing all bikes that roll through their doors, all the while continuing to deal with pandemic-induced hardships on the global biking community.
Buck Smith, who has worked for Bootdoctors in 2013 before it was acquired by Christy Sports in 2017 and is the current area manager for Christy Sports, explained how last summer called for “very dynamic responses” to problem-solving, and this summer is not much different.
Bootdoctors was lucky enough to have a full inventory on hand last summer before the pandemic wreaked havoc upon the global bike world. This summer is a bit harder, however, since the manufacturing delays and issues of global shipping were still very much apparent in the fall and winter seasons, which prevented them from fulfilling their typical inventory orders.
“It's really hard for us to get bikes into the stores,” Smith said. “We're selling them faster than we can build them when we get them in, we're scrounging for parts, trying to find whatever we can from every vendor out there, trying to just get things on the wall, on the floor, in the shop to fix peoples’ bikes.”
He added that while thankful to be operating at full staffing capacity, compared to “a very minimal staff” due to COVID-19 health concerns, they are experiencing a staffing issue that “relates back to the housing boom that we have seen in the last year in Telluride.”
“There's just such a large need for employees everywhere, in every shop and restaurant and every other industry in town,” Smith said. “I think we're all kind of just getting squeezed right now.”
Bootdoctors, along with the other Telluride bike shops, continue plowing through and making it their mission to “make sure as many people feel welcome and invited into this sport as (they) possibly can,” Smith said.
And happily so. Walk into any bike shop in town, and you will be greeted by a staff member or a mechanic themselves, who time and time again drop everything they are doing to assist you and figure out how to get you back on the trail, once again wondering why you so enjoy suffering on the up-hills.
“Bike shops are funny –– people have allegiances to mechanics and the people in the shops more than anything it seems,” Smith said. “We definitely have a good following of people that come into our shops and we love to see local faces. We have the benefit of having long-standing ties in the community.”
Easy Rider is one of those shops that fits this description –– a locally owned and operated bike shop has curated the standard over the past 24 years of what a neighborhood bike shop looks like.
Not much changed for the small but mighty Easy Rider during the pandemic, either. Their core team masked up, turned on the in-shop air circulator, put their heads together to calculate how many parts they would need to bulk order, and provided mechanical and spiritual support to the neighborhood all summer long. Due to busy times, the shop also closed its doors Tuesdays and Wednesdays in order to focus on local bikes, according to Easy Rider employee Grayson Fertig.
The shop prides itself on “(doing) good work for good people” and is known community-wide for its cordial and highly experienced staff. Fertig explained how summertime at Easy Rider calls for “all hands on deck” as they continuously fulfill their mission to be “friendly and effective,” while fixing every single bike that is rolled in.
He added that “people come back year over year to see the dogs or get their bike fixed, or see Nate, or just stop in and say hello. Our community, in a Mister Rogers kinda way, has grown significantly over the years.”
“We've been around forever. We had more of a local cult following for a while when we worked in the other place, people would talk about us and we were only word of mouth, but now we have a little better visibility,” Easy Rider manager Nate Pleshek said. “People come back every year because we’re nice and do a good job.”
Bart Steck, who has lived in Telluride for nine years, been in the bike industry for 12 years, and created loyalties with locals through his time in various bike shops, has also garnered a handy repertoire in the community.
Last July, Steck started a mobile bike mechanic operation out of his Sprinter van called Barton’s Bicycles. Originally acquired to fulfill “van life” dreams with his wife, the van –– combined with Steck’s abundant tool supply and local community members who reached out to Bart to tune their bikes when the pandemic hit –– inspired and allowed Bart to “easily transition” into this mobile business model. Though Steck is still in the “building years” of his business, in terms of securing bike wholesale accounts, he is still scheduling four to five bike jobs per day.
“It's pretty crazy that everything around you is closing down due to COVID-19 and since I had my van and the bicycle industry was booming, I just turned it into a profitable business,” Steck said. “Twelve years in the industry, especially solely working on bicycles, allows you to know the tiny little nuances when you see a bike that’s 15 years old –– you're like ‘I know what's going on with that bike.’”
Telluride’s bike shops and mechanics serve as a nucleus for summertime community, for locals and visitors alike. All mechanics interviewed expressed their admiration for Telluride’s bike trail access, and the joy they feel riding long, post-work loops.
“Besides being a retailer, keeping peoples’ bikes working and making sure people are getting the equipment they want, the role of a bike shop is to be a community hub for that sport,” Smith said. “Whether it's here or Easy Rider, or Box Canyon, all the bike shops and mechanics, what we're really trying to do is keep people stoked on the sport and stoked on riding bikes.”