Wrenched by the Boulder SC
Written by: Greg Kopecky
Date: Wed May 23 2012
We had a chat with the men behind the wrenches to see how they got started – and – find out what they think are the best (and worst) advancements in modern triathlon bikes.
Slowtwitch: Thanks for taking the time guys.
Nick Legan: Our pleasure!
ST: Tell me about your respective backgrounds. How did you get in to bikes?
Nick: I started road racing when I was 13 years old and I’ve never left cycling. It’s a huge part of my life, whether studying in France, working at bike shops, or traveling with pro teams. I started working as a mechanic at age 15 and worked my way through college while being a backroom grease monkey/bike racer. After graduating from university in 2004, I moved to Boulder and started working with some pro teams. In 2006, I moved to Europe to work with Team CSC. Then it was back to the States for a couple years with HealthNet, Toyota-United and the Beijing Olympic team. Then I headed back to Europe to work with Garmin, and finally Radioshack.
I still race some, but mostly long-distance gravel road races. The odd time trial here and there and a few mountain bike races a year.
Daimeon Shanks: I began as a casual cyclist on the Oregon coast, mainly a way to get around pre-car days. Fell in love with the sport, raced through University and eventually parlayed my shop experience into a position with USA Cycling. From there I worked with several pro road teams, most notably, 5 years with the Garmin-Barracuda, and many cyclocross squads, like Rapha-Focus and Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com.
Nick: The Service Course is a service-only bicycle shop. We don’t sell bikes, clothing, accessories, food, etc, like most shops. We only do repairs. It’s great for Daimo and me, because we don’t spend our time selling stuff. Clients typically come in and ask our opinion, we can order it in many cases or they can go purchase it elsewhere if they have a discount, and then we proceed. By focusing on service, we keep our turnaround time really low. Less than 24 hours in most cases. In Boulder, shops will be booked out 2 weeks in summer. They may see it as a good thing (guaranteed income) but as race mechanics we find that a bit strange. There’s always time to squeeze in another repair.
Daimeon: Yes, that and we’re the best mechanics around, if we don’t say so ourselves. No where else in Boulder are you guaranteed to have a pro-tour level mechanic working on your bike.
ST: How did you get started with the business?
Nick: We started small (we still are really). As mechanics, we both had friends coming to us for help with their bikes when we were in town. We could make a little extra cash and the work was done more quickly for our friends. It got us to thinking…And the rest is history.
ST: Has the growth been as-expected?
Nick: We’ve been happy with the speed of growth. After all, growth for the sake of growth isn’t what we’re after. We started the business in a friend’s garage.
We now have a dedicated shop space in a building we share with Panache Cyclewear, Colby Pearce Coaching (and bike fitting) as well as a couple cycling journalists, Steve Frothingham of Bicycle Retailer and Ben Delaney of Bikeradar. Informally we call it the Boulder Collective. It’s a great location and we all work together exceptionally well.
The amount of repairs we crank out in a week would bury most service departments, but because it’s all we do, it can be done. We’re happy with where we are, but we always welcome new clients.
Daimeon: The growth has been great – we haven’t spent a dime on advertising, but word of mouth has grown our business substantially. I like to think we earn all of our loyal clients one repair at a time.
Daimeon: Well, both Nick and I date professional triathletes so we have a great “in” with the triathlon market… which I think is greatly underserved in most bike shops. Tri bikes can be difficult to work with at times, but after working with guys like Ryder Hesjedal, even the most picky triathletes seem easy.
We work with a fair number of professionals in town, but let’s not get into name dropping here… although SRAM and Shimano (and now Campag!) often send their pro athletes to us get work done. They like to know their equipment is in good hands.
ST: From the mechanic’s perspective – what is the biggest advancement in cycling technology in the past five years… what actually makes the bike work better? Also, what is the worst new advancement?
Nick: Sealed cable systems are fantastic. We’re both big fans. They take a bit more time to install initially, but they last a really long time and keep a bike shifting and braking predictably the entire time. We also really like Di2. It’s also more work to setup at first, but with internal wiring it makes for a super sleek triathlon bike. The ability to shift from the base bar and the aero extensions can be a big advantage in racing, but it’s also really nice when you’re climbing or cruising on your tri bike.
As for the bad, the increasing number of bottom bracket and steerer tube standards makes life interesting as mechanics. The madness of it is that we’ve taken functional steps backwards in some cases. I understand that bigger, wider bottom bracket shells make for stiffer bikes but many bikes are total overkill for the riders that end up buying them.
In particular, I’m not personally a fan of BB30. We replace a lot of BB30 bearings and while that’s great for business, I’d rather have bottom brackets that lasted more than a year of serious riding.
Daimeon: I hate, hate, hate working on the old Specialized Shiv’s nose cone. But the new Shiv, two thumbs up!
Nick: 1. Take care of your equipment! Many triathletes are short on time and deprioritize their machines. Keeping your bike clean and tuned will save you money, and in the long-term, time as well. The amount of sports drink that we wash off of bikes and out of derailleurs is just amazing. 2. Get a bike fit. It’s worth every cent if you have a trusted fitter in your area. 3. Establish a relationship with your bike mechanic. At The Service Course we feel like an important member of each of our triathlete client’s team. We want to help them succeed. Take the time to get to know your mechanic and your level of care will improve.
Daimeon: 1. When in Kona, wear a shirt. No one wants to see that. 2. Visors are not mandatory at the dinner table. 3. Compression socks…. Meh.
ST: I see that you offer carbon repair for damaged frames – tell us about that. Is it available for wheels as well?
Nick: Daimo and I don’t do the repairs. We assess damage and refer clients to Brady Kappius of Broken Carbon. Brady is a whiz with carbon, making his own parts and modifications. He picks up at our shop and gets work done very efficiently. We’re proud to have him as part of the extended Service Course family. Most of the repairs he performs are on frames. Wheels are tricky and not usually worth the risk to repair. But it’s all determined on a case-by-case basis.
ST: What is your craziest bike repair story?
Nick: My craziest story is from the 2005 Tour de Georgia. I had to replace a shifter cable while the bike was on top of our moving team car. I was hanging out the window, standing on the seat inside, while the director sped behind the race at up to 50mph. Got the cable installed and it actually shifted pretty well, even if we did get a big fine from the race organization.
Daimeon: I once motorpaced a rider in reverse, on the front bumper. Although it was at a charity ride, so no one got it on film. Does that count?
I also did what Phil Liggett claimed was the fastest wheel change he’d ever seen at the 2008 Tour of California. Christian VandeVelde was in the break, got a rear wheel flat and had him back in the break in less than a minute. We watched Spaceballs in the team bus that night to celebrate.
Nick: Both Daimo and I have gone to Kona as SRAM techs, prepping the sponsored pros’ bikes before the big day. It’s a blast. The energy on the island is incredible and the professionalism of the athletes we got to meet and work with was extraordinary. We both come from the road racing world where the work that pro mechanics perform is expected. Triathletes aren’t as accustomed to that level of care and they showed their appreciation with beer and thank you’s. We love Kona!
We would love to go back. It’s a matter of finding enough Boulder-based, Kona-bound athletes to make it financially viable for both the clients and The Service Course.
Daimeon: It was wicked fun! Love the SRAM guys and their athletes are some of the best around. I would definitely do it again, but make more time for snorkeling.
ST: Lastly, please give me “The Pitch” on The Service Course – what makes it better and different?
Nick: Daimo and I started The Service Course for two reasons, to earn a living and to become a bigger part of Boulder’s amazing community. We had both spent many years on the road and wanted to settle down and give back to the cycling and triathlon communities in Boulder.
We’re both pro mechanics, so it’s natural that we emphasize our speed in repairs. Because we specialize in service only, it works out really well for sponsored athletes, who often get grief from other shops when they bring in sponsor-provided product. The same goes for online sales. Many shops look down their noses at product bought elsewhere. At The Service Course, we welcome it.
It’s also been amazing to become more involved in the racing and advocacy communities. The time had come for us to give back and we couldn’t be happier about it.
Daimeon: Plus, we’ve got a kick-ass espresso machine.
You can find more information at their website:
We had the opportunity to sit down with Uli Schoberer, the entrepreneur and engineer who created SRM. He tells us about how they started, where they’re going, and some very interesting pieces of history. 5.01.12
Matt and wife Kelly Reed opened their BOOM Yogurt Bar last September and it’s become a magnet for Boulder triathletes, with a welcome mat out for kids of all ages. Photo gallery by Timothy Carlson. 1.29.12