Bike-studio concept thriving in Park City
July 17, 2009
Jon Kolon is a unique entrepreneur. Sometimes he’s Dr. Kolon at Silver Creek Dental. Sometimes he’s Jon, bicycle specialist at Dharma Wheels Cyclery at the same location. What ties the two careers together is that you need an appointment to see him either way.
Most people are accustomed to calling first to see their dentist. They’re not accustomed to setting an appointment to buy a bike. That’s because Kolon runs a different kind of bike shop. In fact, it isn’t a shop at all, it’s a studio.
Bike studios are a fairly new trend, maybe less than a decade old, Kolon explained. The concept is to provide a different kind of shopping environment.
He compared the difference to a car dealership. You can get really good service and a high-quality vehicle at a Ford dealership. But some drivers are looking for a different kind of car and driving experience. They want a Ferrari dealership.
Kolon also likes the analogy of a fast food meal. When you go to a regular bike shop you have many choices, but each type of bike is mass produced and exactly the same.
For elite cyclists, traditional bike shops are staffed with people no more experienced than they, sometimes less, so it’s hard to get the right kind of advice, he said.
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"There gets to be a point, and many people in Park City are like this, that they’re so knowledgeable that if they go into a traditional store their needs won’t be met. They don’t feel as fulfilled from the experience," he said.
Or, Kolon said, some well-known riders are actually pretty ignorant when it comes to the mechanics of their bike and they don’t want to ask questions in a public setting that make them look dumb.
People who spend a lot of time on a bicycle should have one custom fitted to their body. Elite cyclists shave their legs and it looks unprofessional to grow the hair out, so during fittings in the winter off season, clients don’t want people standing around scrutinizing their legs, Kolon explained.
So while it may sound weird to set an appointment to talk about bikes, Kolon said studios are a growing trend aimed at satisfying the needs of certain riders.
Like a dentist, Kolon looks at and listens to clients, then uses his vast expertise to assist them. He’ll help them order a customized frame and add the components that fit the rider’s style, size, needs and preferences.
"Pick any wheels, any thickness or color any saddle or handle bars in this world," he said.
Tim Botnowski runs Mountain Velo, a fitting business that operates out of several Park City locations including Kolon’s Dharma Wheels Cyclery. He said the one-on-one personal care and boutique shopping experience are what many riders crave.
"A person who spends $5,000 on a bike doesn’t want it to be sold to them by someone inexperienced," he said.
Chris Peters also runs a studio in Park City called Endurance Cycle Service. He said studios are getting attention simply through word of mouth.
As a professional mechanic in a regular store, he frequently got backed up. In a studio, he can accept only as much work as he knows he’ll turn around quickly. That allows him to give each client and their bike more attention.
"In the bike world, there’s so many good brands out there that it’s more about finding a bike that fits you properly and is something that you’ll be excited to ride," he said.
Chris Haerter is an avid cyclist who rides 100 to 150 miles a week during the summer. He said he isn’t a racer, but spends a lot of time on his wheels so needs to sit on them properly to get the most from the experience.
"What we think is the best position or posture might not actually be the healthiest thing," he said.
A racer will want to sacrifice everything for maximum speed and power. Haerter just wants to have fun and isn’t interested in crouching down for several hours to be aerodynamic.
He said working with Botnowski allowed him to get the best frame and parts to be comfortable and also achieve his riding goals.
"It’s a guy with high expertise devoting his time to you for a couple of hours," Haerter explained.