Cycles of Life: Why We Opened a Bike Shop

Editor’s Note: We’re quite proud to introduce a new series from Siren Cycles’ founder Brendan Collier. While it’ll touch on his bike brand, the focus is on the romantic notion most of us have of one day opening a little bike shop to call our own. He’s done it, and now he’s chronicling the experience for us. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together. And so we begin… -Tyler

Two years ago, we decided to open a bike shop in our little town. We might’ve been on to something…

For years, my wife Mary and I had shared that dream of “someday” opening a bike shop. We had favorite bike shops we liked to visit when we were road tripping, most for a certain vibe they’d possessed, and others for their technical savvy. We’d become connoisseurs of the LBS. We often talked about what we’d like to see for ourselves in that “someday” bike shop we’d open, and what sort of town we’d open it in. For me, the turns of events in my life led me to opening the Hub Cyclery in Idyllwild, California on March 1st, 2011.

Why’d I do it?

My affection for the LBS predates my first driver’s license. At 14 years old, I took the commuter train to visit a bike shop I’d heard about in a neighboring Chicagoland town. They were closed.

From the sidewalk, I admired a Campagnolo equipped road racing bike set up in the window, the first I’d seen with my own eyes. It was a Ciocc, glistening in the display lights with a meticulously detailed paint job on slender steel tubes, polished derailleurs, and shapely crankarms that appeared to be both lightweight and strong at the same time. I returned to that bike shop the next day, introduced myself, and asked for a job. I landed it and spent my teen years turning wrenches and riding bikes. The shop rat experience taught me skills, and bought my first car.

 

 

Through my time in the Air Force, and then college, I continued to work in bike shops. My future wife and I went on bike riding dates. I rode with old timers who’d imparted their philosophies on climbing steep grades, relationships, and beer drinking. I duked it out with other young guns and came to know my own spirit of competition. Mary, too, pushed her limits, getting into 24 solo racing, and then ultra-endurance racing. She was the first woman to race Tour Divide, and came back from 29 days in her own headspace a changed person. Perhaps more accurately, her journey to becoming an athlete -meeting challenges and pushing beyond doubt- made her a changed person.

Starting the Tour Divide in 2008. Photo credit Chris Plesko

I went full time into the frame building business with Siren in 2008 after working at Intense Cycles, where I learned my fundamentals of bicycle manufacturing. Mary was more or less securing the household that year with medical insurance and a steady income, important to us in that order. Things were pretty happy go lucky for us. Going to races, making & racing bikes, and having fun was a good way to spend our days, if not the end goal of our days.

Fast forward a few years to the present…

And now we’re parents. We’ve made a conscious decision to put down roots in Idyllwild, CA. It’s a mountain hamlet in Southern California, without so much as a stoplight. We have a dog for a mayor and an excellent mountain bike trail system. Bike racing has taken a back seat to the child seat for us. We want to shape our son’s childhood environment, and we believe the bike shop we’ve opened will be an important part of that goal. We want a little piece of the American Dream.

The shop gives us a certain amount of work time as a family, which in turn gives our son a sense of family pride by seeing what we’ve achieved together. “Go Team Collier!” he says. Being local business owners, we’re a part of a culture that enriches our son’s quality of life, and validates the possibility and value of being integrated into a small community. Not only will he grow up around bicycles, but he will understand the possibility of intentional life direction.

But deciding to open a bike shop was only the beginning of this journey.

Comments

Jason - 03/15/13 - 10:02am

Awesome! This is going to be a great segment. Look forward to it almost as much as riding my John Henry!

Brandon McGuire - 03/15/13 - 10:34am

Incredible, this article mirrors almost exactly why and what I am doing with my little Cyclery in the Niagara region of Canada as well. Inception Cyclery!

Will keep watching to read more!

Walt - 03/15/13 - 10:34am

I’m looking forward to reading more. Hey, an article that doesn’t mention carbon, grams, or kickstarter!

mountguitars - 03/15/13 - 10:53am

looking forward for the next one.

Benjamin - 03/15/13 - 10:59am

I visited this shop about two weeks ago for the first time. Brendan was helpful and as you can see in this picture the shop has heritage. Medals that they have won are hanging, bikes they have raced and traveled across the divide are hanging on the walls. I feel very fortunate to be able have the possibility to ride with them on a Saturday (going to happen soon!) and visit when ever I have spare cash. A real gem of Southern California.

Eric - 03/15/13 - 12:33pm

Brendan is such a quality guy. I bought a siren from a lbs a few years ago and got to meet him last fall. I was beyond impressed by his genuineness, humility and his attentiveness. Plus the guy just flat out knows bikes… Kudos to Brendan and bike rumor for this series. Plus you gotta get up there and check out the San jacinto 50. Good luck finding it…

Sardinian Rider - 03/15/13 - 4:54pm

Face it folks….only in America. If you try to do something like that here in Italy you would be overflowed by taxes and no bank would give you credit. It’s my dream to move to the USA,bust my ass at a bike shop for 3 years and then open my own bike shop.

Kevin Hinton - 03/15/13 - 5:05pm

Team Collier is living the dream. I am lucky to have become friends with them and the Hub is half cozy living room and half Bicycle candy store .

dsatwork - 03/15/13 - 7:03pm

I to met Brendan at his shop the week after Thankgiving 2012 while my wife and I were spending some time in Idyllwild. We just fell in love with the town and can’t wait to get back up there for some mountain biking this Spring and Summer. While I was at his shop I saw all of his wierd bike packs and asked lots of questions about Bike Packing, something he’s a fair amount of expertise on. During the conversation he challenged me to try out a single speed bike for mountain biking. He’s just as inspirational and whitty person as he sounds in his articles. As you might imagine I own two single speed mount bikes now one 26″ and a 29′r as well and I’m hoping to jump into his bike packing 101 class coming up soon.

Guy Sutton - 03/16/13 - 1:22am

Do yourself a favor and patronize “the hub” and idyllwild’s amazing year around singletrack. As a newbie to bikepacking, Brendan was wealth of information and has the right gear.

Chuck Weisbart - 03/16/13 - 8:27am

Brendan …you haven’t mentioned what you, Mary & Zander brought to “Ridyll-wilde”- a community Hub of cycle culture with open arms to all you can peddle to, with, and for. The Collier Clan is one of our most prized components to our mountan hamlet!

Lance - 03/17/13 - 8:41am

Too bad that you are gonna lose a ton of money ever the next two years. Bike shops have a 95% failure rate.

Bob Loblaw - 03/17/13 - 6:16pm

@Lance,
Really? Way to be a douche. I hope that your day has improved since 8:41.

Alan - 03/18/13 - 12:37am

@Bob Loblaw,
+1, because anything else is just nonsense

Guy - 03/18/13 - 6:09pm

@Lance. Sounds like someone either ran his own shop into the ground. Or researched how hard it really is to do well in the bike industry and luckily decided to stick with whatever job is currently paying the bills. Poissibly checking out the deals on some online retailer right now instead of helping the remaining 5% keep the doors open. Heaven forbid someone follows their passion, that would make them…..happy. Enough of that; follow your journey Hub. Don’t let frowny cloud Lance get you down,

BrendanCollier - 03/18/13 - 7:02pm

Thanks for the kind words y’all, and thanks for reading.
We’re having fun and will keep it real no matter what.

Julian Franco - 03/20/13 - 4:18pm

Loved this! This is a great segment.

Mitch Wacksman - 03/21/13 - 10:44am

This is great!!! Congrats to Brendan and Mary, some of the best bike people I’ve ever met!

Liz DeAngelis - 03/21/13 - 11:23am

2011 was my year to live in Idyllwild . Not really more than a city street biker , i just enjoyed coming into the shop and visiting with Mary and little Alex .., puttering around looking at all the gear and also the women’s movie nights …. and ,i must admit , only one ride with Mary on a small trail where i still managed to fall and turn purple for the next 2 weeks !! Ah well we are not all made for riding BUT …. i am so proud of you both for persuing your dream…. and Brandon you are a wonderful dad … keep up the great work .. hope you found a bookkeeper !

Paul Phillips - 04/02/13 - 6:13pm

My wife and I had the pleasure of visiting Idllywild last May after our daughter Sarah and fiancee Sylvain had spend some time there the previous February. We flew into Palm Springs from Calgary with our bikes packed, headed to Idyllwild and made the Hub our first stop. Brendan hooked me up with local legend, Scott Finnell and I was riding the fabulous Idyllwild trails by that afternoon. My wife and I were in and out of the Hub many times over the course of our visit and thanks to Brendan, Mary, Zander, and Simon we immediately felt like Idyllwild locals. Great job Brendan and Mary – you guys have definitely captured the vibe!

Happy Trails – See you soon

Lance Ebeling - 04/11/13 - 1:43pm

congrats Brendan and Mary for staying true to your dreams.
Myra and I had such a great time this past Thanksgiving in Idyllwild.
the warmth and welcoming spirit you impart to complete strangers is a gift you can’t teach!
can’t wait for Enzo (born a month after we came up) to meet Zander.
took a page out your parenting book and got him a Chariot on craigslist- greatest thing ever!
bummed I won’t be able to join you and the DCS crew coming up to ride this Sat.

looking forward to our next trip up- The Good Lance :)

Greg - 04/12/13 - 1:02pm

Its a tough business and I seriously looked into buying the shop that I was working at part-time. Decided to back away for various reasons, mainly the low ROI versus other opportunities. I like to enjoy the sport as a participant and location of the shop plus the local vibe wasn’t good enough to make it compelling.

Sometimes I pine for the experience of owning a shop and wish I had bought it. During those times I just grab my bike and ride and then that dream melts away with every pedal stroke.

Post a comment:

Comment sections can be a beautiful source of knowledge, conversation and comedy. They can also get pretty ugly, which is why we've updated our Comments Policy. If your comment isn't showing up or suddenly disappears, you might want to check it out.