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May 19, 2018

Episode Links:

Studio Velo Bike Shop

Studio Velo Instagram

Moots Gravel Bikes

Parlee Bicycles 


Automated Transcript (forgive any errors).

This week on the Pod we've got Chris Reed from studio Valla bike shop in mill valley, California. We're actually recording in the shop today, so I just walked across this beautiful showroom, looked at some moots, looked at some parleys, some independent fabrication's, a lot of great bike sitting around. So Chris, thanks for having us tonight. Thanks for. Thanks for coming over. Really excited. Can you tell us a little bit about the background of Studio Velo? Sure. Uh, it's actually, it's a pretty cool story compared, I think to what you see with a lot of bike shops. It actually started as mobile bike repair, uh, about 13 years ago from one of my partners who got into it as a, he was trying to figure out how to make money while he was trying to run a wine and olive oil importing business and uh, had done a stint in Europe at a bike shop while he was taking his mba in Spain and started bringing some of that back here where he was working on relationships with olive oil and wine companies and trying to build a little bit of a mobile bike repair business as well too.

So it was literally on the side of the bike path, lubing by chains handing out business cards, really building it from the ground up. So I mean this bike shop was started with a $10,000 credit card limit over the course of the last 13 years. We've really grown and evolved it from a service bike repair service business into what we are today, which is much more of a retail experience for clients as well too. So with a heavy service component, but a much different much different business model for sure. So, and this location downtown, Mill Valley is the second location that you had technically the third location. The first location was in Tam junction really behind the supermarket. So it's hard to see now. And then about a little over five years ago we moved into this location. Well this is a great spot to set the scene for everybody.

We're right downtown in mill valley. So a lot of group rides me just around the corner near the depot. A perfect location and lots of places to grab food after you come shopping for bikes. Yeah. And we are. We absolutely love this location and I think it's pretty interesting. We lead a lot of trips to Europe and some great places around the world and one of the things we always love to seek out are these great little towns at the base of these mountains where you can grab a great coffee. And the reality is that's essentially what we have here. And we come back from these trips and we do some of our local rides and finish the ride back here and look out the door and we're at the base of a mountain under the redwoods and a beautiful part of the world. It's, it's, it's a pretty great spot for cycling.

So yeah, I think that's actually a good pro tip for our listeners out of town to make sure to put mill valley on a, on their bucket list of places to ride out of. And I know you will get into some of the shop rides you guys do locally here, but there's plenty of trails, plenty of gravel riding right outside our door. Absolutely. So how about you Chris? What's your cycling background? My cycling background is, it's long in the sense that I've been doing as, as long as I can remember. I mean I started walking early and was on a bike pretty, pretty, pretty quick thereafter. Um, I lived in Holland for a couple of years when I was five, six years old and rode everywhere. There was well on my way before that. The town I grew up in, uh, in Massachusetts is pretty small farm town and anywhere, anytime you wanted to get anywhere you had to do it on a bike.

So I was on a bike for from an early age. I'm not necessarily drawn to racing, just riding. Um, so it's, it's always been something I've loved doing. I moved out to San Francisco after college and, uh, got more into road riding at that point. I'd only really been more into mountain biking before that. It's, it's been, it's funny. I think a lot of people who start off mountain biking think they'll never get into road riding. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it, really took to that. Still Rode my mountain bike a lot. And then this whole gravel phenomenon that's really emerged in the last few years, um, I did a lot of road riding and my road bike on the dirt leading up to that and didn't really have the right equipment for it and definitely beat up a lot of road bike equipment and just really got into cycling for a love of writing, not necessarily from a racing standpoint.

So, uh, I've been riding bikes for a long time, but uh, but not necessarily at the, at the highest level of competition. I think there's a lot of commonality in what you've been saying about mountain biking and road biking and appreciating both as unique disciplines in the sport and, you know, I think we share that, that gravel is its own unique discipline at that point. And the equipment that's emerged over the last couple of years is really enabling the type of adventurous writing that is. It's, it's great for the soul in my mind just to get out there in the woods and away from the traffic. Yeah, I couldn't agree with that more. I think that's, um, I think that's absolutely right. And I think as this area in particular starts to get packed with more people in cars, it's, you see more people gravitating towards riding their bikes in different areas that our main roads, we've got great infrastructure for roads as far as getting access to a phenomenal landscapes and scenery.

But the reality is there's more people than maybe the roads can support. And so, uh, it's great to take advantage of the vast network of trails that we have and I think what we have here isn't necessarily the traditional gravel riding terrain, but we've got an unbelievable mix of off road terrain and, and road that you can link together to put together world class rides. Uh, it's, it's super unique. That's so true. I'm excited to get into a little gravel bike, one one-on-one one tonight because I've got a lot of listeners who have kind of pinged me on social channels just saying, hey craig, how would you define gravel riding? So as a shop owner, curious to hear when you thought the gravel biking seem really started to emerge from your brand partners that you're working with. Yeah, no, know that that's a great question.

And I think it's, it's definitely the most challenging category that we work with because it's not clearly defined. I think road riding is probably the most easily defined. There's a few subcategories there. I think on the mountain bike side, a lot has changed in the last few years with geometry of bikes and and capability of bikes. But I think it's a little bit easier to classify and on the global side of things, um, I think it's really pretty interesting because there's so much that's changed so quickly. Uh, and I think that it's really benefited from a lot of the advancements in technology and materials. Um, I think manufacturers took a stab at it probably about five years ago and it was cross bikes that would maybe start to clear slightly wider tire. But I think there was a lot of people riding cross bikes, um, in, in non cross bike specific ways, meaning that it wasn't.

They were using it for non race riding. And I think um, as disparate became the go goto on mountain bikes, people realize pretty quickly how inferior breaking of cantilever bridge was. And I think started putting pressure on the industry to make some changes. And I think putting disc brakes on I'm cross bikes was, was one of the first things that I think got more people excited about riding cross bikes off road. And it's funny, one of the first manufacturers that we worked with, Cathy, we actually built cross bikes with disc brakes. There were cable actuated districts, but bamboo cross bikes, uh, 10 years ago. I'm actually almost 11 years ago now, so it's been around I think longer than people really tend to think, but I don't think it was at the forefront of the industry. And I think the industry can be slow to embrace some changes.

29er for example. It took the industry a really long time to get behind that. Um, I think it took two years maybe for Fox to start making suspension forks it to. Same thing for maverick to start making wheels. So there was a push from the consumer side, but it took the industry a little bit longer to adapt to it. Six 50 be 27, five wheels started to come. Uh, I think the industry accepted that change more quickly and it happened almost overnight. Gravel riding was a little bit slower, but we're now in the point where it's changing quickly and there's a lot of changes and a lot of different areas. Um, so it's, it's, it's pretty unique right now. So if I come through the door as a customer and I'm looking at a drop bar, road bike, and a drop bar, gravel bike to the layman, they look quite similar.

Maybe the, I noticed the knobby tires versus the slick tires. Sure. Well what's going on under the hood? What's the differences in the geometry or the positioning or some of the components that I really should be thinking about when looking at a gravel bike share? Yeah. No, it's a great question. I think for us, we always wanted to start with figuring out what are you going to use the bike most for because I think for a lot of people that you can use a gravel bike as a road bike and then a lot of people that really want to focus more on road riding, on gravel bikes, not going to be quite the right setup. You can get a lot of the performance that you get from a road bike, but maybe not that last 10 percent, um, which a lot of people are after as well too.

So if you're looking at differences between them in terms of geometries, you'll see stuff like the head tube angle on a gravel bike will be a little bit more relaxed than, than um, a road bike. You'll, that'll give you a little bit more stability on the downhill is a little bit more clearance for running a bigger tire. So you're gonna have less pto overlap. Um, you're going to see, uh, the change stays being a little bit longer and that'll help clear the, the bigger tires in the back as well too. And I think we're seeing as the gravel market really changes and emerges changes, uh, a few different gravel offerings from different companies. One of the things that we've really seen a lot of is the, the interest in going wider and wider with tires. When we first started looking at it four or five years ago, 30 2:30 3:34 more traditional size tires were, were more acceptable.

And now what we're seeing is a lot of people are wanting 36, 38, 40, even 45 mile tires in the roster, seeing a lot more offerings from tire manufacturers. So you can get a tire that really handles a lot better in the dirt and so rose role is pretty good on the road without much sacrifice. So we're seeing a little bit more interested in, in wider tires for mixed terrain use, where before we didn't have quite that same ability to explore that. Do you think those wider tires are a local phenomenon? You mentioned earlier and obviously I ride out of this area as well, that the stuff we take our gravel bikes on is they're effectively mountain bike trails to a large degree versus someone in the Midwest that might be looking at just long flattish fire roads. Yeah. Yeah. I think that's a good question.

Um, and I, I think tire selection, I think anyone who's into mountain bike and I'll tell you, tire selection is, is very unique for, for each area. I mean hadn't written my mountain bike and a lot of different areas. It's funny, you'll show up with your traditional mountain bike setup in the locals and just lucky and shake their heads and it's the stuff not the right tire for here. And I think that's true in the gravel market, I think you see stuff like with dirty cancer where you have to worry about the super sharp rocks. I mean everyone's gonna flat once or twice probably on that course. And so they're specific stuff for that. Um, and I think yeah, it really depends on the rider. So here, like you said, we have more mountain bike terrain that you're writing a, a gravel bike on and I think that tends to push a lot of our clients towards exploring a slightly wider tire.

It probably is a little bit of a local phenomenon, but I also think it depends on the writer and how much you want to push it as well because, you know, I know that you'll ride your gravel bike on stuff that a lot of people wouldn't want to take the gravel bike on as well too. So I think that's what makes this whole category of vice a little harder to find, to define because the bikes are getting more capable. But it really depends on what you're most in intended uses for it, for the bike. So when you look across the brands that you guys carry, so moots, IAF, parley, just to name a few. Yup. Do you see different approaches from those different manufacturers with respect to the amount of tire clearance that they're building into their bikes? Yeah, I think so.

I think definitely and, and um, so moods, for example, does three different gravel bikes. They do the route they do the route rsl and the route 45, the route will clear up to about a 38 mil tire. And that was the first bike they launched the route 45 will clear up to a 45 mile tire and then the route Rsl, they just reconfigured. It clears depending on the tire rim combination, somewhere between a 40 and 42 mil tire. And I think that's, that changes happen more from pushback from people wanting to run wider tires. So that's a great example. So you've got a beautiful titanium frame manufacturer and moots. How do you decide the difference? Are there things you're giving up if you're going to the larger tire configuration? Not really. Um, I think the initial thought was that, that you were in. It's funny if you look at what happened say in the, in the road cycling world, five, six, seven years ago, everyone was running 23 mil tires at 120 psi.

Then we started to see people running slightly wider rims and 25 mil tires and decreasing the tire pressure a little bit and no one really runs 20 three's anymore and everyone is probably running 25 or 20 eights and you're giving up very little. And I think we're seeing the same thing on the gravel side of stuff now as well. As the rims get wider, the tires get wider. The rubber compound improves, the tread patterns improve. You're giving up very little and you might have a slightly longer chain stays. So the bike might not handle a switchback quite as well. But it's a very minor compromised. And I think what you get in terms of comfort and capability of the bike and it's capability in terms of traction, which applies to both a climbing up steep terrain, which we have a lot of around here. Breaking on steep terrain in which we have a lot of around here and then cornering on loose stuff, which we have as well too.

So I think there's very little downside going with the, the wider tire. And it's interesting because for us the trend is definitely been switching more from selling route, the traditional route to the route 45 in the RSL because the demand is for the, the wider tire. So right now I've, I've had the pleasure of writing with a number of your customers out on the trail and I've seen them on steel by accessing them on antibiotics or non carbon bikes when I'm coming in asking the question and just looking for your advice, how are you kind of helping them guide them through that selection process on the frame materials? Yeah, sure. Um, so we build everything from the frame up so there's no need for us to sell one brand over another. It's, it's, we want to start with the conversation and figure out what's, what's right for you as, as the client.

Um, and I think figuring out some guys are coming in from a racing background and only one to ride carbon bikes. Some guys are coming in from the more old school background. We're all, everyone is a steel bike and some guys are intrigued by titanium bikes. So it's kind of walking you through that and it's also finding a brand that you align with. What brand are you excited about? Because I think for me, and I think you can relate to this as well to you love your bike and you're excited to ride it and that's what gets you out the door and makes you want to ride it more. And I think let's figure out what's, what, what drives you to a particular bike. It can be both in terms of capabilities in the aesthetic as well too. And I think choosing between the materials, we kind of walk you through all the differences between them.

Some guys want something that's super light and you're never going to build a metal bike that's quite as light as a, as a higher end carbon bike. Some guys know that they're really rough on equipment and a metal bike then is a better choice for them. Uh, I think that the durability aspect of a titanium bike is phenomenal. Uh, I think now that the industry is kind of settling on 12 mil through axles and flat mount disc brakes, it's a little easier to find something that is going to stay more current. It's, I would never say it's future proof, but it's going to be a bike that you buy it with the intent of having for a long time and you'll be able to keep it current for, for a lot longer, uh, which is, which is a little bit more comforting because I was definitely not the case just a few years ago.

So yeah, I think if you look at the evolution of the gravel bikes from four, five years ago, it's dramatically different today. I absolutely think you're right. Like you buy a bike today or within the last year, you're in the right sweet spot. You've got a high performance bike that's going to really handle anything you can throw at it. Yeah, I agree. And you know, we're seeing some, one of the challenges with the bike industry is that there are not too many things that are standardized, but seeing the industry embrace flat mount a and 12 mil through axles makes it a lot easier to really have confidence that you're getting something that's gonna stay current for a little bit longer. So yeah, I tell you, I was a little bit nervous on the coast ride this year at the notion of getting a flat or having some serious issue with my wheels because I had no chance of getting a deer axle wheel on that road ride.

Yeah. Thankfully, thankfully that, that starting sort out a little bit. So um, and it's, you know, the more and more I think what people are gravitating towards her disc brakes and that's on the road and obviously on the gravel side as well too. So I think that's pushed the industry to really focus on standardizing that. The, the, the, the next coast ready go on. I think you see a lot more people that you can swap wheels with if you need to write on. So do you have any favorite bikes in the shop right now? And I got a lot of beauty sitting over there. Yeah, it's funny. Everyone knows. Asked w what's, what's your favorite bike? And my joking response is that it's, it's whatever one I'm on at the moment. For me, the most recent bike built up is the part of the zero xd.

I mean, you and I have written gravel bikes at several times now and I've been on a beautiful independent fabrication, a titanium bike for, for a bit now. And um, it's, it's really nice jumping on on the part the as well too, to kind of all the stuff we were talking about earlier. It has a lot of the more modern touches that, uh, that my previous bike didn't have. And so for me that I would say that's, that that's my favorite. Uh, it's just, it's what I built that up probably two and a half weeks ago and it's what have been on just about every day. So, um, but I suspect it will make an appearance on the shops instagram feed sooner or later. So that's sort of follow that channel yet, did you notice any visceral differences between the titanium frame and the carbon frame right off the bat?

I think a few things. I think it's just, it's the nature of the material, it's just going to be a little bit more responsive so there's no shortage of climbing year to test it. It does clear with some wider tires and I built this bike up to be a little bit more dirt focused where the previous bike, um, I do a lot of mixed terrain writing and that was definitely um, I wouldn't say skewed more road or more dirt. It was right down the middle and this one is a little bit more dirt focused, some, some knobby rear tires and a one by drive train. So it is a little bit more competence inspiring in the dirt. And I think also the geometry of the bike it, I'm running some wider tires and it has a more relaxed head, ankles. So going down some of these deeper, more technical stuff, it's a little bit more forgiving.

So. Nice. Yeah, it's going to be fun to ride with you on that now. Absolutely. So you mentioned the one by setup. I think that's one of the big questions when someone's really seriously considering one of these bikes. Yep. Particularly if they're considering what I like to call a quiver consolidation or they're going to use it as a, as their road bike as well as their gravel bike. Yep. One bias is a commitment. Yup. So talk about that process and obviously as you're advising customers between a one by in a to buy setup, how do you go about explaining what they should be thinking about? Yeah, absolutely. I think it's, I think it's easier to digest now than it was say two or three years ago with the mountain bike industry really pushing the one by drive trains from both Shimano, instagram, uh, I think consumers are used to seeing that a little bit more and, and most likely having written it as well too.

So you understand that the jumps between each gear or a little bit bigger when you're running a one by drive train. But I think for the person who's, who's using the bike for a lot of road miles and also some dirt miles, you can't get that same fine tuning of cadence that you can get with a two by that you can, uh, you can achieve that with a one by the same way you can with the two buys. So if you are going to do, we have a lot of clients, for example, who spent a lot of time commuting and doing their weekend rides, um, on, on the gravel bikes. And I'm putting on putting on some good road miles. And I think a two bicep is great for that. The two buys setups are phenomenal. If you're doing more direct focus, riding on some bumpier terrain, the advantage of a one by Dr Training and having a derailer with a clutch in it is really pretty nice on the bumpier terrain.

So, um, if you came in saying, Hey Chris, you know, my goal is to build up a gravel road. I live at the base of Mount Tam. I'm doing a lot of rides on, on some bumpier training. It's 80 percent or 20 percent road than I think it's worth exploring. One by drive train. If you're doing 60 slash 40 road to dirt or 50 slash 50. I think we talked through the, the, the two by drive train as well too because like you said, if you're just throwing a different set of wheels on there and using it for a road ride and going out with your buddies and putting some good road miles on it too. Um, it's, it's, you're a lot more comfortable having a to buy setup setup. So. Gotcha. So if I'm investing in a two by drive train and a nice high end gravel Fram Yup.

Am I selling my road bike on Ebay or am I keeping. What's your thought? Don't sell it until you've written, written the gravel bike on the road. I think I'm a gravel bike and fill a certain people's needs on the road bike. But if you, um, it, it's just not, it doesn't have that same razor sharp feel. And that same ultra responsiveness that a modern robot does as well too. So they're different enough that if you have room in your garage, it's not a bad thing to have two or room in the budget, but if you're, if you're trying to make room in your budget or your garage, the, the modern gravel bike and can fill both pretty good. I, I give the um, the, the futon analogy to a lot of people were a gravel bike is not the best road bike and it's not the best mountain bike, but it fills a need really well.

So if you know what you're going in and looking for then then um, then I think they're phenomenal and I think it's, I like to get people out on the true gravel ride and let them feel the bike underneath them and have them come back with questions and thoughts and then help them digest that a little bit more because I think they're great. But if you go into it expecting it to fill the need of a mountain bike and a road bike, they're just so different. Um, but if your expectations on the road side of things are that you can give up a little. Just a little bit of performance then. Yeah, you can. You can easily do a lot. A lot of road riding on, on a, on a modern gravel bike, that's for sure. So a lot of people I talk to are intrigued by gravel riding by.

They haven't quite made that leap of faith yet as a shop. Have you guys created events or other opportunities for people to get out on the trails and sort of have that light bulb go off? Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's, it's one of my favorite things to do. One of the things that we really put a lot of effort into over 10 years ago now, it was just really committing to building community. It's one of most challenging things you can do, but for us it's also been one of the most rewarding things. Um, it's just the relationships that we've built with clients outside of our four walls here, uh, has been, has been really pretty incredible. And I think a lot of the experiences that you can get with someone on a bike are just, there's nothing else like it and taking people out on a gravel ride, uh, is, is really pretty special.

I, I took a couple of guys at this past weekend and I think for people that are looking at bikes, I was not to keep giving me analogies, but I give the, it's, it's like going to look at a puppy, a you can't go look at a puppy and that long one and you're not going to go out and ride a gravel bike and not think that you don't want one in this area. It's pretty special. And I think, um, a lot of the stuff that we've done is incorporated a lot of gravel rides into our Sunday shoprite's. We've brought in some great demo bikes as well too. And um, we do some great. Um, we do some great trips as well too. So let's see, next month in May we're going to do a trip out to steamboat and ride with the guys at moves for four days.

Um, we're going to do some, some other stuff a little bit later in the summer and then we, we have, we work with a lot of our brand partners who come through with, with demo bikes as well too. So we love getting people out on bikes. That's awesome. On that moods trip, is there an opportunity to demo all those different bikes you were referencing earlier? Yeah, absolutely. I actually just got a list today from, from my rep about what we're going to have a available and then we're having some more demo bikes, have our own fruit for that trip built up as well too. So, um, yeah, it's uh, there's there, there's definitely opportunity to demo some bikes on that. So that's really awesome. Well you guys have been very generous with your time and the community and I appreciate the weekend shop rides and that's really the fundamental building block of any cycling community and uh, it takes a lot of effort and energy for you guys to always be there on a Sunday morning and putting out those blog posts.

So. So props to you and all the other great bike shops out there that are doing weekend shop rides. Yeah. No thanks Greg. We, we, we love doing it. It's um, it's uh, you know, you had the occasional Sunday morning when your alarm goes off early and you wonder if it's what you really want to do, but as soon as you get out there and start chatting with people and get on your bike, it's uh, you, you never regretted it. It's unbelievably rewarding. So, um, and then in the summertime too, when, when the days are a little longer, we do some fun evening rides as well and um, you know, we're, we're constantly getting out in the mornings with our clients or in the evenings after work as well too. So it's kind of the shoot us an email or give us a call if you want to ride a bike and uh, you know, we're always there for Jonah in his hand.

Right on. What's the best way to follow the shop and support you guys? Yeah, so I'm probably our instagram feed. That's something that we've been working on building. I'm building out a bit more this year with more regular posts. Um, we have a great email distribution list to, for our shop ride so people can contact me and I'm happy to add them to the list and um, and uh, come into the shop to, there's nothing better than, uh, than uh, seeing someone in person shaking their hand and, uh, and, and meeting new clients. Yeah, absolutely. And if or if someone's out of town and they wanted to join one of your, the Colorado trip with moods or wondering or European trips, is that something that's. Yeah, just jump on our website. All the imposed their contact info. Um, we also have some, if you're coming in from out of town, coming into the area and wanted to do some writing, um, we're happy to help you out and steering in the right direction for roadmap or gravel. But we also on our website have some, uh, gravel rights that you can download the route and, uh, and get started that way. Okay. Well I'll make sure to reference all those sites and links in the show notes. Um, I really appreciate the time tonight, Chris was a lot of fun. Yeah, my pleasure. I'm looking forward to looking at some bikes on the way out the door. Absolutely. Um, and yeah, thanks again. Yeah, absolutely. My pleasure. And, uh, let's ride some bikes right on.