When I was 15 years old I was allowed to work in a bike shop. As a racer on their team, I had access to the work areas and shop tools whenever a stand wasn’t occupied by a regular customer’s bike. It was there, hanging out with the cranky but lovable mechanic, getting in the way, being yelled for failing to clean something properly, sorting through the bins of discarded 7-speed friction shifters, Ashtabula bottom bracket bearings, and derailleur pulleys that my love of bicycles was cemented. Not bicycling, necessarily, because that passion had already taken hold, but the love of the bikes themselves.
There is catharsis in wrenching. The slow reversal of entropy one turn at a time. The visible progression of healing a patient. The Mechanic sees not the dirty broken disaster with which he is presented. He sees the renewal. The rebirth.
Steve Shelp att Fusion Bicycle Service is one such bicycle caregiver. His is a one-man operation, much like many small shops. He isn’t a bicycle dealer, you won’t find rows of factory-new bikes, the latest eleventy-speed drivetrain in a glass case or a massive inventory of accessories here. In this world of Amazon Prime and Google Shopping, it is almost impossible for small shops to maintain inventories of parts they may be unable to sell. Some large bicycle companies have high minimum orders, sometimes in the tens of thousands of dollars making it economically impossible to carry more than one brand or brand’s accessories. With the advent of the online marketplace, it is ever more difficult for small local shops to remain competitive.
Fusion Bicycle Service is part of an evolving market. It has become easier for the consumer to research, buy and have delivered to their homes any product they can imagine. Bike shops will always offer to order a product for a customer, but why would anyone accept this option when the internet will deliver it to their front door? In the brave new bicycle world, a bike shop must focus on the one thing that the internet cannot provide. Service. Trade. Craft. Providence for the people that which they are unable to do for themselves.
As bikes become ever more complex and people have less time to spend making them ready to ride the bicycle service industry will become ever more relevant. Shops like Shelp’s provide this with hospitality. I had Steve build me up a wheelset recently. I am a fairly passable mechanic for most of my daily needs, but I have no talent for the dark art of wheel building. The afternoon I picked them up I hung out in his shop as I tend to do, the bothersome 15-year old kid in me still lingering longer than necessary to geek out and soak in the sweet smells of tri flow and suspension fluid. I watched several of his other customers come and go. A mother getting flat tires changed for her kids. A guy with a unicycle and a bearing issue. In one side of his stand sat a carbon fiber XC racer, and the other he pulled apart a fork for an oil change and new seals. His work was efficient and methodical. He juggled his tasks fluidly. In the habitual way of someone who loves their art subconsciously, he explained his actions as he worked. The reasons for regular fork service. The dangers of procrastinated maintenance. He charges customers fair prices, but the education comes free. The sign out front says Fusion Bicycle Service: blending work and passion. As I watched Steve work I understood what that meant.
The wheels Steve built me are perfectly round and true. He detailed for me with the intensity of someone who truly loves what they do the battle he waged against wobble and hop, the incremental order he created from my request.
We hear a lot about supporting small business. About buying locally. This sport is so expensive that the best deal out there typically wins the consumer and the economies of scale mean that the little guy cannot be competitive. It is easy to forget that we get what we pay for. Keeping your dollars local isn’t about charity to small business at one’s own expense. It’s about fair pay for expertise, skill, and convenience. It’s about building actual human relationships and having a professional at your disposal.
If you haven’t been for a while, stop in at your local shop. Say hi. Buy something. Give those wheels you’ve been neglecting a tune. Make that conversion to tubeless. Have your fricken brakes bled already. Make yourself the most powerful bicycle ally you can have.
If you find yourself on Colorado’s Front Range, stop in and check out Fusion Bicycle Service in Lafayette, CO. Tell Steve I sent you.
Fusion Bicycle Service
206 South Public Road
Lafayette, CO 80026