Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Monday, December 29, 2008

In Portland this weekend, there was an unusual bout of pre-Yuletide snow, and it remained throughout most of my visit there. It kept me from bringing a bike to ride in ptown, and cancelled all but presumable the silliest of group rides. This was the closest to a Raleigh I came:

But, I did get a chance to check out Custom Bicycles of Portland on Northwest 23'rd, where I spoke to owner Adam about the nature of the bike business, and how the current recession was affecting the market. Raleigh sells towards the upper end of six figures in units per year, so it was interesting to compare and contrast. Adam is clearly knowledgeable about the workings of bike industry, though I did not interrogate his previous industry experience.

Adam is mostly into the Triathlon scene, something I'll probably never be personally interested in (why run when you've got a perfectly good bike?), but his business model is pretty cool. They are a dealer for Canadian semi-custom manufacturer Guru bicycles, and they are more akin to a tailor than a department store. Walk in, make a plan, get fitted, discuss options, and wait. You'll have a bike a few weeks later, built to spec just for you.

Yes, it's expensive.

Still, the shop is cool, and while your humble narrator is a long way off from affording such a bicycle, I appreciate the market for them, at least more than I can that for high end shoe and handbag boutiques! The interior is minimalist Apple-store chic, with a few glistening frames on the walls, a single counter in one corner, and a mirror and fitting station in another.

Where are the disorderly piles of tubes? Where is the clearance clothing? Where are the juvenile bikes?

None of that will you find here. All of the wrenching goes on behind closed doors.

I heard another browser examine the frames, ooh and ahh a bit, and then ask the owner "where are the prices for these?"

While I did not hear Adam's verbatim reply, the essence of it is, if you have to ask...


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