“….and if I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and good night.” -The Truman Show
I have a customer who, for years, has referred to his visits to the shop as ‘episodes’. He comes in, picks up a few tubes and then throws out a bait. And this becomes the theme of the episode. The conversation bounces between those of us behind the counter and those in front. Anyone can make a cameo – you simply walk through the door at that moment and you’re part of the cast. You can be the guest star or simply an extra milling around in the background, it’s your choice. The conversation is obviously about cycling and whilst it can sometimes be serious it’s usually light hearted and funny. I like to think of our ‘show’ as a sitcom rather than a drama – somewhere between Seinfeld and Cheers (but set in a bike shop rather than a diner or a bar). When the conversation hits a crescendo the aforementioned customer would announce ‘well, that’s another episode’, pick up his tubes and promptly leave. I think it’s a pretty good show.
For thirteen and a bit years I’ve been the executive producer, director, co-scriptwriter and the longest serving cast member. I’ve now decided to use my executive powers and my artistic license to hand in my keys, fold up my director’s chair and write my character out of the script. The show will, of course, go on – I just won’t be in it.
Thirteen plus years ago my hair was much darker. It was almost black. I was still sporting a goatee, a hangover from the late nineties when everyone who was anyone on a bike was wearing a goatee. It was my tribute to Pantani amongst others, and like a lot of things I struggled to let it go. Anyway, by 2005 it was only just out of fashion, it was hardly like sideburns or MC Hammer pants.
In 2005 I was a father to a one year old and was soon to have another one on the way. I was 8kg lighter. I was faster. I raced, a lot. I was energetic, motivated and impassioned. In 2005, with the encouragement and support of my ever patient wife Lyndal, we scraped together every cent we could get our hands on and came up with something just shy of a shoestring budget. I then took that ‘almost’ shoestring budget and decided to put the whole lot on red, spin the wheel and see what happened. I’m speaking metaphorically of course. I didn’t drop the whole lot on a roulette table, but I did take the gamble of a lifetime. I dropped the lot on a lease, some tools and as much carbon as I could afford. And so began TRS Cycle Centre.
Thirteen plus years doesn’t sound that long, but in a small business, working six days a week, one maybe two weeks holiday a year, it’s a long time. That said I’m as proud as I am exhausted by my efforts. When I opened the doors I had my fair share of naysayers. Some were good people genuinely concerned that I was making a big mistake – they were trying to save me from myself. All these years later I can say thank you for your concern but it all worked out just fine, we did ok. But celebrating the end of this scene isn’t about sticking it to the naysayers. It’s about celebrating the good times, reflecting on the many challenges that nearly broke us but didn’t and, most of all, acknowledging the people who have made the last thirteen and bit years one of the most memorable chapters in my life.
If I were to play the credits in some vague order of appearance I would have to start with my wonderful wife Lyndal who was here well before my life in the shop began and will be here well after it ends (at least she has given no indication otherwise). The perception is that I have done this alone. That’s not even close. Lyndal often believed in me more than I believed in myself and for that I will be forever grateful. From day one she said “Don’t die wondering, just do it.” She wilfully stayed married to me even though for many years I was married to the business, and all the while she has built a successful career of her own. Thank you is barely enough.
To my competitors (ie. fellow bike shop owners) past and present I say well played. From day one you left me with no option but to run a good business, to hold my line and hold my nerve. We have swapped turns on the front many times, been dropped and fought to get back on. It has been a tough but fair race and one that is sure to continue with the new ‘cast’ at TRS. So ‘chapeau’ to you gents.
As mentioned the last thirteen and a bit years hasn’t been a solo effort off the front. We have had the support of some wonderful staff along the way. From our very first skinny bike rider kid who came in after school (I should add that Zac is now killing it in the banking world) to our last employee Warren who said to me “I’ll help you out for two months because you’re a mate and you’re in a bind but after that you have to get your s..t together.” That was two years ago, it’s now together and he will finish with the shop on Saturday.
Obviously no retail store is going to stick around for long without loyal customers, particularly in this day and age. To call that special group of regulars ‘loyal customers’ would be doing them a disservice. They are friends, some of whom have been with us from the beginning. (In fact I have little doubt that customer number ‘001’ is probably reading this – she knows who she is). These are the people who have made and will continue to make TRS Cycle Centre what it is. These are the people that took it from being a pilot program to its thirteenth season. Thank you friends.
Lastly, I’d like to mention and thank the new ‘cast and crew’ of TRS, Paul and Cameron. These guys are the future. They have experience, plans and enthusiasm. Paul has been in the bike shop game for a while now. I have no doubt he’ll do things differently to me, and that’s great. That’s what growth and evolution is all about. Cameron is young, with a couple of young kids. He’s energetic, motivated and impassioned. He reminds me of someone. I’ll be excited to see where they take TRS Cycle Centre next – maybe another thirteen seasons.
I’ve had a few people ask ‘what’s next for me?’ Well, I’m sure there’s lots but I can’t tell you exactly. I have two wonderful boys who have only ever known their dad to work six days a week and rarely take holidays. That’s going to change. I have a beautiful, patient wife who has, for so long shared the marriage with a business. That’s also going to change.
I have galleries to visit, paintings to do. I used to play the guitar very badly. For thirteen years I haven’t played it at all, so if I could get back to playing it badly I’ll consider that a win. And obviously I’m going to ride. I’m going to ride without thinking about balance sheets, profit and loss statements, forecasts and stock control. Instead I’ll think about the next road and CX season, or maybe just about being in the moment on the bike.
I’ve often said I do my best work on the bike. Maybe my best work yet is only a ride away.