Interview: Top Shelf LBS-Velo Tech Cycles
One of the better bike shops in the Palo Alto area is Velo Tech Cycles. They are located in downtown Palo Alto just east of Stanford University. I’ve been frequenting the shop for many years, they are a small shop but they have quality equipment, clothes, bikes, and superb customer service. The shop is co-owned by Mark Richard and Tom Jelmeyer. Combined, they have been in the cycling industry for over 30 years. I stopped in after a recent ride to interview both Mark and Tom about the shop for Dub-Wise.
The shop has a really nice warm feel to it, it has a very high ceiling so even though it is a small shop, the space seems much bigger. There are vintage posters along the wall that tell you that these guys respect the traditions of cycling. Both Tom and Mark are avid cyclists and racers, they ride regularly so you can see them out on the road most of the time. Mark is very helpful and knowledgeable about all of the products they carry in the shop. If you are in the area, you’ll be glad if you stop by VeloTech Cycles and have a look in the shop. Here is my interview with Mark:
Dub-Wise: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us about the shop. When did the shop open?
Mark:Velo Tech open 7 years ago in December of ’06. We opened as a full service and sales shop. We service all kinds of bikes from repairing your typical kids bike to Professional level bikes.
Dub-Wise: What kind of service do you provide?
Mark: We offer full maintenance service from preparing a drive train adjustment all the way up to a Pro build.
Dub-Wise: What bike brands do you carry?
Mark: We primarily carry 5 brands of bikes; Pinarello, Parlee, Colnago, Bianchi, and Pegoretti. For Pegoretti and Parlee, they are available for custom builds.
Dub-Wise: Can you explain what a custom build is?
Mark: We can design a frame and have it built which is full custom. In the design process, we work with the customer to determine geometry and tube choice. For custom builds, we use an Aragon 18 AFS-Bike Tool fit kit jig which allows us to get the perfect frame fit for our customers. We can also start with a stock frameset, grouppo and wheels which we do a lot of, and build it up as a semi-custom build where you get to pick every piece of the componentry to your liking. So the difference between the two is that with the custom build, we are designing a frame for you and the semi-custom build, the frame is a stock frame with stock geometry.
Dub-Wise: Do you have custom wheelbuilding service?
Mark: Yes, we do custom wheel builds. My partner Tom is a Master Wheelbuilder. So we can start with any rim, hub, or spoke of your choice to get the right kind of wheel for the type of riding you do. We can even match the wheel to the style of bike that you have.
Dub-Wise: A lot of shops offer bike fit service, is that something you offer here in the shop?
Mark: Yes, we do offer bike fitting service. One area of the service covers designing a custom frame specific to our customers body. We do this by taking full measurements and using positioning analysis on our Aragon 18 AFS-Bike Tool fit kit jig. We also do simple fits; we take your existing bike and put you in our trainer and fine tune your fit. That includes everything from addressing all the contact points on the bike; where the hands go, the saddle positioning, and cleat positioning then basically dialing everything else in that is important to getting the fit right.
Dub-Wise: You have a nice selection of weather specific clothing and shoes in the store, what brands do you carry?
Mark: From a clothes stand point, we carry two main lines; Assos which are our primary line, and Giordana. We sell 3 brands of shoes; Fizik , the OnlineR3 and the WomenR3 (The Donna). We also sell DMT and Northwave shoes.
Dub-Wise: Every time I come into the shop, there seems to be a lot of different kinds of riders who come in. Who would you say is your typical customer?
Mark: Our typical customer I would say is a cycling enthusiast. Someone who clearly has an interest in cycling and enjoys being out on their bike. Some race, many don’t. We do get a lot of first time buyers who just want good advice; find a bike that really suits their needs that they find appealing to them as an individual. There is a lot of aesthetic that sometimes comes up in the decision making. So I’d say we get everything from the first time buyers right through to the cycling enthusiast. I would say the majority of our customers are definitely cycling enthusiasts.
Dub-Wise: With the economy being the way it is, do you find that it is a real challenge to continue the success you have achieved?
Mark: It is a matter of keeping true to what we do and what we know and trying to provide the best service. We are definitely centered around customer service more than anything else. We want to provide customers who come in to buy something with friendly, helpful service where we really help increase their knowledge and understanding of what they are looking for, what they are trying to buy. Of course with our in service itself, we are always helping customers get the simple adjustments done, finding out the problems they’re having with their bikes so that they can get back on the road as quickly as possible.
Dub-Wise: Speaking with Tom some time ago, he mentioned that he has done some mechanical support for a few charity rides, can you speak a little about that?
Mark: Yeah,Tom regularly works with Team In Training on the service side to provide mechanical help along the routes for their different events. We have also volunteered for other rides over the years but primarily we offer mechanical support for Team In Training.
Dub-Wise: Thanks for speaking with me, I think our readers will really enjoy learning about the shop and what VeloTech can offer them.
Mark: Anytime, thanks for coming into the shop.
I’ve been knowing Tom for awhile now. I don’t remember how we met but I do remember someone telling me that if I wanted my custom frame built up correctly, to take it to Tom. At the time, he had his own shop in the Downtown area of Palo Alto. I had my frame, Campy parts and cables. Tom was easy to talk to, knowledgeable, and to top it off, he was a Campy fan like me. The man knows his way around a bike. I sat down with him to ask him a few questions about his experiences:
Dub-Wise: When did you get started in the bike business?
Tom: I’ve been in the bike business for close to 20 years. I started off being a poor bike racer and having to fix my own stuff, and eventually a shop gave me a job and I’ve been doing it ever since.
Dub-Wise: What are some of the repair and maintenance services you provide?
Tom: We provide full service for all kinds of bikes, road bikes for the most part. We’ll do some mountain bikes once in awhile but I’m not a fan of doing a lot of hydraulic repairs, disc brakes stuff like that. Anything on a road bike is perfectly fine.
Dub-Wise: What is the best part of your job?
Tom: I think it is trying to figure out stuff that other people can’t really figure out, I like to experiment to try to find answers to the toughest problems. I like the problematic repair and trying to fix them; wether it is something that is small and has been overlooked to making a part to solve the problem.
Dub-Wise: What is your most memorable repair or maintenance?
Tom: There has been a lot of good ones over the years. But I would say working mechanical support at bike rides would give you the craziest field repair jobs. My most memorable was a derailluer that got caught in the spokes when a rider was climbing a hill. It was pouring rain, I had to replace 8 or 9 spokes outside the car in the downpour, that was the most memorable. Another was working on some old Campy shifters, I had to machine and file down some spare parts to make it work because the parts it needed were no longer available.
Dub-Wise: What are the most common repairs?
Tom: Without a doubt it is derailluer adjustments. They are always going out of whack, usually there are friction issues and occasionally they’ll needing to be straightened out.
Dub-Wise: Thanks for taking the time from your busy schedule to answer these questions for our readers.
Tom: No problem at all, glad to help.