The Bike Retailer Disconnect and You

Business has been keeping us busy at the Flying Pigeon LA bike shop, and that is a good thing (aside from the time away from our families and other interests). We’ve struck a chord with people, and what we sell (and how we operate our shop), has helped us get a fairly high profile (as far as bike shops go) considering we’ve only been in business for a little over a year.

Visiting Interbike this year (for the first time) it was interesting to see the bike industry in all its glory – carbon fiber stuff, super duper high-tech thingies, and and expanded footprint for “transportation” bicycles.

Fortunately for us (“transportation” bike dealers that we are), it seems that there is a pretty sizable disconnect between bicycle retailers (who focus on athletic or recreational cycling markets) and a growing interest in cycling from the general public. In short, industry research shows that normal people are interested in using bikes to get around.

Bicycle Retailer and Industry News published a story by Matt Weibe in July of 2009 entitled “Transportation Bikes Take Flight at Retail

Transportation bikes are beginning to gain the acceptance and sales success that mountain bikes enjoyed in recent years.

“The time is right now. So much has changed in the past few years—the price of gas, global warming and the environmental movement. Everyone is interested in bikes,” said Robin Sansom, Globe brand manager.

“This year sales of $7,000 bikes have completely stopped, with most of our road business in the $3,000 to $4,000 range. Foot traffic into that store is very small, but the commuter side of the business is swamped. Our profit is significantly less on each bike sale, but our volume has pushed our business close to last year,” [Jonathan] Pastir [manager of Bicycle Habitat] said.

However, most retailers are still committed to the enthusiast market and lack interest in the casual bike category.

It turns out that people in North America aren’t looking for a Tour de Something medal, nor are they hoping to bust rad tricks on a vert ramp, nor are they looking to throw out shakas to the bro’s while mountain biking off a ledge. People in North America want solid, comfortable, beautiful bicycles that will get them from A to B. Done, end of story, put the stretchy pants back on the mannequin thanks, I’ll ride this bike home in the clothes I walked in wearing.

I sometimes turn on my laptop and click a bookmarked link to this story to remind myself that, somewhere out there in L.A., someone grown up is looking for a bit of civil fun, a bit of wind in their hair, and the ability to do it all wearing what you like (boots, heels, dress shoes, a skirt, a long coat, tight jeans, you name it).

Along with our selection of stock, and modified, Flying Pigeon bicycles we now carry a line of Batavus Dutch bikes, Torker city bikes, Gazelle bicycles, with Biomega, nihola, Henry Workcycles, Pashley and more on tap or a few days away in storage. If you’re looking for a bike to elegantly get you from A to B, no extra gear needed, give us a call at 213-909-8986 or email us for more information at

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  1. Posted October 19, 2009 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    People in North America want solid, comfortable, beautiful bicycles that will get them from A to B. Done, end of story, put the stretchy pants back on the mannequin thanks, I’ll ride this bike home in the clothes I walked in wearing.

    Amen brother!

  2. Erik
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    +1 what doohickie said!

    Now, what is the smallest chain ring and the largest cog I can put on a pigeon? I live in a hilly town!

  3. Posted October 20, 2009 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Doohickie, thanks man.

    I actually laughed out loud at Erik’s comment. Sorry I haven’t gotten back to you earlier. If you’ve got a smaller cottered crank, then you’re in luck as it is likely to work just fine in your chain case – probably better than the 44 or 46 tooth chain ring the thing came with!

    Regarding rear freewheel sizes, go crazy, but I think you’ll max out at 20 or 22 teeth. That is just me picturing the available clearance in the rear of the chaincase.

    A 32/18 is a pretty solid combo on a Flying Pigeon (it’s what I run on the Deluxe Pigeons I turn out). The bottom bracket on the bikes I sell are english threaded and 68 mm. With a quick thread chasing, they accept bottom modern bottom bracket and crank arms.

    The only issue with new (modern alloy) cranks is that the arm attachment site is larger than the cottered crank attachment site. You’ll have to do some dremel/grinding work to make a clean cut out on the chain case in the appropriate spots to make these work – but it’s worth the time as the improved ride is quite remarkable.

  4. Erik
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Hey Josef thanks for responding so quickly. I found a store that sells 32t cotter crank arms so I would not have to use a modern 3 piece crank, thus no dremeling. The question is will a 32t ring work with the full chain case or will I have to take off the case. Will the smaller ring rub, on the inside of the chain case and necessitate using a larger chain ring?

    I have heard that the smallest chain ring that is useable with a full chain case is 42t, what is your experience?

  5. Posted October 20, 2009 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    I’ve gotten away with pretty small crank arms on the chain cases I have on the Flying Pigeons I sell. I think the smallest was 20-something teeth. 32 teeth has been no trouble for me at all.

    You shouldn’t have to remove the whole chain case – but you will need to slide the rear wheel forward to slacken the chain in order to remove the drive side crank, and possibly remove a few links of chain when you step down to the smaller chain ring size.

    Where are you getting smaller 32-tooth cottered cranks?!

  6. Erik
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    I have not ordered yet but here is the link

    it is part number 116-32c. And they have 42t and 36t sizes too.

  7. Erik
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    And best of all, they are like 12 or 13 dollars, for the right side crank. not sure how much the left side is but could not be more than 12-13 dollars

  8. Ben
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Hey Erik,
    I’ve been looking for a smaller cottered crankset myself. I did find a 40 tooth crankset but the arms are 5.5 inches.

    About 1 inch shorter than the ones on the Pigeon, which practically negates what I gained by going from 46 teeth to 40. Plus it feels kinda funny pedaling 5.5 in cranks. They also have a 32 tooth crankset but the arms are 4.5 inches!

    Do you know the length of the crank arms on the 32 tooth crankset you found?
    Anyway, if the crank arms are at least 6.5 inches let me know. I’d like to get a set.

  9. Ben
    Posted October 20, 2009 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Hey Josef,
    I just read above that you carry Pashleys now. Do you have them in your shop yet? Maybe a 20.5″ Roadster Sovereign? I’ve been drooling over that bike for a while now. Still debating everyday whether I should get one or not. I have been riding more and more lately. And if I can somehow justify getting a fourth bike I might just do it. BTW I love the workcycle bikes too. Haven’t seen one in person yet.

  10. roger (fixed Gear) D
    Posted November 6, 2009 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    hey josef.. i was wondering some prices for the Pashleys bikes that you can get.. ps i saw your posting around downtown la.. two Thumbs up!

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  1. By The Pedicab Experience | on November 2, 2009 at 8:44 am

    […] of folks who make use of the bicycle an inspired mode of transport.  See my friend Josef’s blog post (he’s a bicycle shop owner) on how this plays out at bike retailers.  Until this disconnect […]

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