Pedal power drives business
Don’t tell Rob Smith there is a recession going on.
The owner of The Bike Smith in downtown Carson City said business hasn’t dropped off at all.
“We feel pretty blessed, pretty fortunate that we’re busy,” Smith said. “We are actually buried right now, struggling to keep up.”
Economics, as well as ecology have had a positive effect on the biking industry, Smith said.
“More people are commuting around town and saving on gas,” Smith said. “When times are tough, people still want to recreate, and biking is fairly inexpensive, so they can keep their sanity by riding their bikes.”
Smith started the business in 1996, and bought out Capitol Bikes a year later, merging the two businesses into the North Carson Street location.
“There is a huge base of cyclists here,” Smith said. “It supports three bike stores, which tells you something. And there is getting to be more awareness around town, getting bike paths put in, stuff like that.”
One of the changes Smith has seen over the years is an increased interest in commuter bikes, set up with baskets and other accessories to make it suitable for commuting to work, or taking short trips to the store. Improvements to these bikes include adding shock absorbers to the front wheel and the seat post for a smoother ride, and a frame that allows for a more upright pedaling position.
But the biggest segment continues to be mountain biking.
“We live in a great area for mountain biking,” Smith said. “There are a ton of trails all around, even some right in town.”
There have been huge advancements in suspension for mountain bikes, according to Smith. Hydraulic disc brakes are common on bikes now, as are hydraulic suspension systems that absorb bumps going downhill and lock up to make it easier to pedal uphill.
“They use the same technology as in race cars and motorcycles,” Smith said. “They are now machines, not just bikes, and the prices reflect that. A lot of the people you see mountain biking are on $2,000 or $3,000 bikes.”
Bicycling was once more associated as a men’s sport, but Smith said that women make up nearly half the buyers now. As a result, there are now woman-specific models of road and mountain bikes with frames that are scaled down to better fit riders of smaller stature, with narrower handlebars and shorter top tube. That helps Smith find the bike that best fits his customer, no matter who they are.
“We pride ourselves on honest business practices and setting people up with what they need,” Smith said. “We don’t need to sell everybody a $1,000 bike. We like the fact that we are a well-rounded family bike store, with all different kinds and levels of bikes. We have little kid bikes all the way up to the $10,000 road bike.”
Besides bikes, the store carries a wide variety of parts, accessories and clothing.
“Most important is the helmet,” Smith said. “We stress safety, and helmets are so light weight and inexpensive that you can get a good one for $35. There is no reason not to wear one.”
And if there is any item someone wants that they do not have in stock, Smith said they will order it for them.
The Bike Smith has a full repair shop, with four full-time mechanics, doing everything from tire changes to complete overhauls.
For Smith, biking is not just a business. When he’s not working on bikes or selling them, you can likely find him riding one on a trail, possibly headed for a backcountry fly fishing spot.
“I’ve been riding since I was a little kid, and it has always been my passion,” Smith said.
The Bike Smith
Rob Smith, owner
900 N. Carson Street