Welcome to this month’s How’s Business column in which we call a selection of bicycle shop owners and managers around Australia and start by simply asking, ‘How’s business?’

Gary Jackson of Riviera Cycles in Bairnsdale Victoria said:

Business is ticking along OK, yeah, we're trading roughly the same as last year, not up or down on last year, or the year before that. I know others are up and down, so we're going OK. 

Here in the East Gippsland area we have much milder winters than Melbourne for example, and people tend to ride all year round, so that makes a big difference to us. Melbourne can be a lot wetter than here too, and that makes a big difference to people.

The cycling infrastructure is good down here, there's a 100km rail trail which is quite popular with recreational level riders.

Within half an hours' drive we of Bairnsdale we have got three MTB parks as well, so we're a bit spoilt that way. And that goes for all types of MTB, from downhill to your all-mountain flow type trail riding to cross country.

There are a few road groups and a strong triathlon club, but it's really MTB that keeps us going strong. 

We try to help out with trail maintenance and event organisation, whether it's club level events, or like in the past couple of years we have had a couple of bigger MTB races. I've been involved in that a bit, and I have also been on the local cycle tourism committee. 

We're an independent dealer, but 95% Giant.  I have to give big kudos to our Liv ambassador, Jacinta Preston. She is doing a fantastic job. Jacinta is organising those rides at our end and she is encouraging women to come out riding, and that's making a big difference. The Liv range is going well. We've just rearranged the store in the past couple of days to have a women's specific area with all the different Liv products there, as opposed to mixed in with the other like category products. The social rides they are doing is building brand loyalty, that's what I am seeing here.

What's your take on the rise of the eBike?

We have been selling eBikes for a long time, but more as a transport option, lower-end bikes around $2,000. 

They are making them more appealing for mainstream and for recreational type riding. Some of the eMTBs they are making now are very impressive, instead of having your mates drive you back to the top of the hill, you just drive yourself back up. We haven't really got into the $4,000 bikes yet for recreation yet.

We did sell one guy an electric road bike recently so he could keep up with his mates in the hills. He is getting a bit older and was getting dropped in the hills, so that has worked well for him.

The issue of current riders being against eMTBs hasn't really appeared here. I think there are not enough of them around. I guess it's like anything, if you ride it responsibly there won't be any issues. So long as it is a power assisted thing and not just a lightweight motorbike.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has been taking note of the eMTBs and looking at the type of soil, gravel and trail works they use, and may make changes in the future—they are responsible for trail maintenance— and the eMTBs may be tougher on the trails than regular MTBs.

The advent of Zwift has been really good for us too, for sales of smart trainers this winter, even though our winters are quite mild, people are finding Zwift is a lot of fun.

Ian Simpson of Gateshead Cycles, Warner's Bay (near Newcastle) NSW said:

Winter has actually been quite positive for us; it's been a lot better than last year. Last summer was a bit average with that massive heat wave and then all that rain, that kept people off their bikes. That last summer killed us we had day after day between 37 and 45 degrees, it went on forever there was no one on the streets, it was like a ghost town...there was no one on the trails.

Newcastle is a 'coal town', there are a lot of coal mines shutting down and a lot of people being made redundant and put out  of work, or they're worried about being put out of work. Our service department is growing nicely. It's been the most positive area—if they can't afford a new bike they need to fix their old one.

We sell every style of bike, but mainly mountain bikes; the official name of the shop is Gateshead Cycles Mountain Bike Specialists, but we're veering away from that a little bit. We mainly sell family bikes and mountain bikes. This is a massive area for mountain bikes. We've got a lot of MTB parks in the area. We sell Cannondale, Mongoose and GT. Also Felt, but they are getting more road and aero focussed, so we'll stop selling that brand soon.

BMX is another massive thing around here; there's a BMX track and club close by that has 400 members.

We're doing the face book thing, but we've been trying to be out there more doing more road riding with groups, doing a few mountain bike races and getting to know those guys, and being out there with them, so they can see we are competing and friendly, that seems to be a big driver of business.

This winter was meant to be spent developing the store and more marketing plans but we've been too busy. Not a bad issue to have.

What's your take on the rise of the eBike?

We've gone from  three years ago, having one inquiry a month to getting up to multiple enquiries a enquiry doesn't always translate to a sale. I custom build eBikes, so I can make any bike on the floor an eBike. But Cannondale and GT are finally bringing them into the country, so over the next few months I'll be getting some into the shop. It's growing massively, so you've got to be in it or you're going to lose out. A lot of people have got injuries and can't keep up with their mates...perfect thing for them, or for older people in hilly areas— eBikes can get them over the hills.


Richard Pickering of North Brisbane AvantiPlus said:

I've just taken over the shop in the last three or four months, so I don't have a big personal history here.  But the last five to six weeks have picked up, with interest in the 2018 Scott MTB range, we've sold a few of them already.

The road side of things is hopefully just about to wake up. Even through the winter we've still had a very strong 'shop ride'. Everyone is still out there cycling through the winter. We generally get somewhere between 60 and 80 people along for the ride.

Scott and Avanti are our main brands. People are asking about disc brakes on the road bikes. People are in looking for the new Genius MTB.

We're just about to start to get into some triathlon. My background is in that; some long course triathlon. This store hasn't had a lot of options in tri bikes previously so we're just starting to look into that, and get some interest from the local triathlon community.

We're certainly very customer focussed, trying to give the value and service that people are looking for. Some small examples; we've just set up a  repair station outside the shop, so 24/7 people can come and if they need they can pump their tyres up, and use the tools there to do minor adjustments with some basic tools. There are quite a few people who pass by our location on a morning.

We've got a cafe in the front of the shop Bean Cycling Cafe. We're set up there to accept repair jobs from 6:30 in the morning, so people can drop off the bike on the way to work and pick up a coffee. Same deal from the cafe being able to purchase minor supplies like tubes and CO2 and so on. So if someone's on an early morning ride they can call in and grab some spares if they forgot or used all their spares and still have some way to go.

What's your take on the rise of the eBike?

We have a few ebikes in the store, we've sold a few since I have been here, and have five left at the moment. We do plan to be a part of pushing eBikes in the future. We have plans of going into other businesses;  talking directly to large businesses and their employees to encourage them to use eBikes for commuting and so on. We're definitely going to be pushing the eBikes, rather than rejecting them.