Tour de Lab September 1st

Can a big, successful bike shop still have a soul?

Posted by on February 14th, 2007 at 8:42 am

bike gallery - downtown

[Bike Gallery’s downtown store.]

In Portland, we’re lucky to have a diverse and plentiful selection of bike shops. They run the gamut from a garage shop run by kids to some of the best shops in the country.

Last week, after I posted about how the Bike Gallery — which has six stores in the area and is one of the top Trek dealers in the world — was named one of the “Top 100” bikes shops nationwide, I received a negative comment from someone who challenged the store’s environmental practices and claimed the employees were “souless” (among other things).

The comment was responded to at length and it even elicited an email to me from Bike Gallery owner Jay Graves. Being the stand-up guy he is, he took the comment seriously and felt compelled to share the story of his shop in response.

I thought the story warranted its own post, not just because it was interesting, but because I think it challenges a common perception that if a bike shop (or any endeavor) reaches a certain level of size and/or success it must have somehow “sold out” or be otherwise lacking in heart.

Here’s the story of Bike Gallery, as told by Jay Graves: [Disclaimer: Bike Gallery is a major supporter of this site.]

    My father started this business in 1974 with me and two of my sisters on a foundation of customer service. We really were a family back then and I feel like I still work with family.

    CCC's Holiday Bike Drive

    [Jay Graves at the
    Holiday Bike Drive. 12/10/06]

    My father taught me when I was very young, “you give back to the community you live in” and I (and the company I have been entrusted with) have lived by those words since. Giving back takes many forms. We donate lots of time, energy and money to different community organizations. I personally have served on the board of directors for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Community Cycling Center and Cycle Oregon which are all local and promote cycling. I also serve on the National Bicycle Dealers Association board. We have also given significant financial support to the BTA and CCC over the many years they’ve been around.

    “All of our expansion has come from the owners of other bike shops asking me to buy their businesses…all but one of those shop owners was going to close their doors because they couldn’t make ends meet. They respected my business practices and wanted their business to live on.”
    –Jay Graves

    As for “green” I suppose it’s a relative term. We recently hosted some of the countries top bicycle retailers here in Portland for a regional conference and when I showed them our recycling area in the back of the shop they started taking pictures because they had never seen such a great system. One dealer took his pictures home and has already instituted some changes in his bike shops in Atlanta.

    We have used “green power” in our stores for years and we have recently purchased two diesel powered vehicles so we can eventually run them on bio-diesel. We have cardboard, paper, metal, battery and fluorescent light bulb recycling and have done so for years. We even paid to recycle all our (and our customers) tires and tubes until we found out the company we were using just burned them. Many of us use our bikes for transportation have won the Bike Commute Challenge numerous times.

    Cycle Oregon Day 1

    [Jay clowning around
    on Cycle Oregon 2006]

    When we recently refurbished a nearly 90 year old building for our Beaverton store to move into we used many “green” building practices. First on the list was using the Rebuilding Center to “deconstruct” the old walls and ceilings and then we reused and recycled a lot of what was taken out. We used low VOC paints, environmentally friendly flooring, added insulation to the ceilings, used recycled building materials. The list is quite extensive and I would be happy to share it with anyone interested.

    Our small family bike shop has expanded into a company of 6 neighborhood bike shops. All of our expansion has come from the owners of other bike shops asking me to buy their businesses. It’s hard to make money in this weather dependent seasonal business and all but one of those shop owners was going to close their doors because they couldn’t make ends meet. They respected my business practices and wanted their business to live on. You have to make a profit in order to have longevity, reinvest in your business, keep good people around and give back to your community.

    I get to work with some really great people here at The Bike Gallery. I am very lucky to have the quality of staff that consistently ranks us as one of the best bike shops in the country. We work very hard to be customer friendly and welcoming to all types of customers. We just received an award from the League of American Bicyclist for being one of the top 20 bike shops in the country. Ranked by their members… our customers!

    I love this community we live in and I am very proud of the work The Bike Gallery has done to make it a little nicer place to live.

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has done more for the Portland bike community than Jay Graves…and I’d say that with or without his support of this site.

Thanks for sharing your story Jay.

Please support BikePortland.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Avatar
    Allan Folz February 14, 2007 at 9:04 am

    Thanks Jay and thanks Jonathan. It is easy to throw accusation around in an anonymous or semi-anonymous fashion on the internet. As they say, opinions are like butt-holes, everybody’s got one. It is quite another thing to run a successful business with a hundred (plus?) employees for over 30 years.

    It’s nice Jay took the time to respond, but a bit of shame he had to.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    beth February 14, 2007 at 9:12 am

    Good heavens. Bike Gallery “soulless”?

    Bike Gallery is lots of things — and bigger is certainly one of those — but I would never describe it as lacking soul. Every time I have walked into a BG I have felt geuinely welcomed and appreciated, by real human beings — and I work at another bike shop, for crying out loud.

    I consider the folks at BG to be bike industry colleagues and fellow bike freaks, and very nice ones at that.

    Please. Big doesn’t always mean evil. Whomever suggested that needs to lay off the rhetoric, and perhaps the coffee as well.
    Beth Hamon
    Citybikes Workers’ Cooperative

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Joe Planner February 14, 2007 at 9:20 am

    I agree with Beth and Allan.. Bike Gallery’s been good to me. Ironically, I find the service and employee attitudes far more friendly and accommodating than other, smaller bike stores here in Portland (I won’t name names..). Undoubtably, every store will offer a bad experience to one customer every so often. I doubt Bike Gallery is no exception, but I’m pleased to say that hasn’t been my experience there.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Mark February 14, 2007 at 9:24 am

    I’ve had nothing but great service from friendly people at Bike Gallery.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    janis February 14, 2007 at 10:02 am

    I have to applaud Jay and all of his employees. Let’s remember that the Bike Gallery donates to tons of our bike fun in this City. The female staff help me in my Women on Bikes program – in order to promote cycling to women, showing how fun and easy it is to ride a bike here in Portland. They have a staff that promotes mountain biking and cyclocross by participating in those sports. And there is tons more that Jay does behind the scenes to represent Portland and bicycling in Washington, DC and around the world.

    I agree with the comment about how it is great that Jay took time to explain the history of the Bike Gallery and himself, BUT it really is a shame that he had to…

    Jay there are many people in Portland that know what you and your staff do for the cycling community and APPRECIATE it completely.

    Janis McDonald

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Evan Manvel, BTA February 14, 2007 at 10:08 am

    You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’s done more for biking not just in Portland, but across the U.S., than Jay Graves. He’s a legend across the country, and an inspiration to advocates and shop owners. His list of community service is a mile long.

    And he’s one of the kindest, warmest souls I’ve met.

    And yes, he has been very supportive of the BTA over the years. Without him, we’d be a lot less successful.

    For those who want a different shop experience, there are dozens of awesome shops in town. There’s no need to dis the larger shops — just choose what you want.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    IB Rich February 14, 2007 at 10:26 am

    Portlanders are very fortunate to have a shop and shop owner like the Bicycle Gallery and Jay Graves. I made it a point to visit the shop that I had heard so much about while in town on business a few years ago and was not disappointed.
    Having met Jay (too briefly) at industry events and heard him speak at the recent Bicycle Leadership Conference in San Diego last week, I can safely say that there are few bike industry members that have done as much for their communities, cycling and the industry as he has.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    tonyt February 14, 2007 at 10:43 am

    I would also like to bring up a much more “mundane” and practical matter. Larger shops are often in a better position to offer their employees higher wages and health insurance.

    During my time at River City, I was impressed by two things right away;

    Health insurance – Employees were offered it pretty much right away.

    Lack of seasonal layoffs – The deal is, if you bust your tail during the busy summer, you have a job through the slower winter. If you’ve worked in a seasonal industry before, you know that’s worth its weight in gold.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Brad February 14, 2007 at 11:08 am

    Sadly there are people in our society who utilize a mix of anger, ignorance, jealousy, low self-esteem, and politics to find “evil” in anything successful. Shame on Jay for building a highly regarded local business! I suspect the negative comments about Bike Gallery are more about self loathing and misplaced anger rather than any wrongs committed by Bike Gallery.

    We are truly fortunate to have a diverse mix of bike retailers and builders in Portland that fill the needs and aspirations of all cyclists. The free market is a wonderful thing as you can always vote your acceptance or dismissal with your wallet.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Bill February 14, 2007 at 11:13 am

    It would just be nice to see big shops largely supporting more than just HUGE bike lines that build all their stuff overseas where the average worker gets paid a puny wage.
    It would be nice to see big shops taking on a responsible role of promoting those brands that do good things for and within our local communities/environment.
    Im not a big shop hater (although Im obviously pretty critical of big bike lines). I do realize that small shops have many downers as well, including but not limited to some of them carrying big lines or big-line wannabes. I just dont think big shops consider as often the environmental and economic impact of their HUGE bike lines like they should. I think they get so wrapped up with the huge cost of running a large operation that they have to host brands that arent as sustainable because they are more profitable and easier. I just think people should vote more with their dollar and this burden shouldnt be left entirely on the consumer.
    Its easy to say you recycle, however I applaud it all the same. The reality though is that I havent worked at a bike shop in this area that doesnt do a fantastic job of this. Its another thing to base a lot of your purchases and inventory with sustainability in mind. There is the idea that if bikes werent as cheap, we wouldnt have as many people riding them and therefor wouldnt have as many commuters. I say you can have lots of commuters and support more sustainable labels. It would take a shift in thinking and in running business. However, if fair wages, low environmental impact and supporting local businesses was extremely important it would work, more than likely much better than our existing models. The idea of “keeping up with others (joneses)” would have to be dropped though and I think that is the hard part for most…. Just remember, if you make someone elses local job more sustainable, that business and their employees are more likely to do it for you. If we always look for someone else to take an economic “hit” so we can have more THINGS (dont we just love THINGS!?) for less money, then we’ll continue on this downward path.
    Nice job Jay! I do believe you do so much to create a better world. Unfortunately I will always ask for more in this respect til things get a LOT better.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Lynne February 14, 2007 at 11:29 am

    As for big bike lines… BG also carries CoMotion. Made in Eugene.

    And they’ve been nothing but nice to me every time I walk into their store. Thank you Colin, Carrie, Kennan, Mark, Michael, Saki, Clue, Jesse and Aaron. And Kelly and Brett for fixing my flats on Cycle Oregon.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Dabby February 14, 2007 at 11:30 am

    I believe I have been going to the Bike Gallery for 22 or more years now.
    I also know that there have been times when I have loved the Bike Gallery, and times when I have didn’t love the Bike Gallery.
    I am just being honest here, not negative.

    When I go back to the mechanics, to look for a little part, or for a certain pair of brakes, brakes that were probably sold last year or the year before, they help me find them. They bring them to me from another store, even knowing I may not be able to buy them.
    When I go to the counter, to buy things, I get smiles, and the messenger discount (still after all these years).
    When I am working, and have to use the restroom, even to wash grease off my hands, they give me the key, no question.
    The same goes for the handy air compressor hose.
    Honestly, I have never been well received by management. maybe it has to do with stress levels or something.
    The last warranty I tried to work out, (The threads died on a Phil Wood track hub, this is NOT supposed to happen I guess), did not go well at all.
    I was quoted 50 dollars for my replacement cost, and like 20 for shipping, for a hub that they can get for right around a hundred dollars(this is how much I bought my replacement for, I still need to warranty the old one, somehow). They even wanted me to use my old bearings in it when I got it back.
    I listened to the warranty guy talk to Phil on the phone, right next to me, and he was negative towards me, on the phone, with them.
    Right after that I was in trying to buy a $180 set of pedals. A mechanic that I know outside of the shop, loudly brought into view my personal finances, she laughingly shared the information, in front of my face, with the other mechanics.
    I have not been back in since she did that. And, while I do not buy new bikes regularly, I have spent countless amounts of money at the Bike Gallery.
    Don’t get me wrong, I will come back, someday.
    I always do.
    I remember the old bike gallery, right over where the BTA is now.
    I loved that store. And I would like to rekindle my relationship with them.
    Somethings take time…..

    One more thing….
    I do not think it is possible to be a GREEN bike shop if you are not patching tubes, and putting them back into bicycle tires.
    That is the what it means to be a green bike shop.
    Offer to the customer to patch the flat, instead of putting in a new tube, if possible.
    Or, sell them a new tube, patch the old one if you can, and send them home with both.
    This is what I use to do, when I worked at a shop in Wyoming, where I could call the shots.
    That is as green as it gets!

    In conclusion, I would like to come back to, and continue going to, the Bike Gallery, for the rest of my days……
    Please please please tell em that I can, and feel good about it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Michelle February 14, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    My mother lives in Los Angeles. After seeing Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” she decided she wanted to start biking to the grocery store. It’s the most local driving trip she makes, and the most realistic for her to replace with biking.

    That was last srping. She went to three – THREE – different bikes shops in LA, all far away from her house, and was underserved at all of them. The salespeople were aloof or oblivious or annoyed that this old lady who didn’t have a clue and was paranoid about safety was bugging them about a bike. They spent a minimum of time trying to sell her their crappiest, most overpriced bikes, without figuring out what she really needed or wanted. She bought nothing from them.

    In December, still bike-less, she came up here to visit me. I suggested we go to the Downtown Bike Gallery and talk about bikes and panniers to help her get a sense of what she wanted. When we walked in, we were of course greeted by a friendly employee. I told him she was from LA so we were going to be just window shopping, i.e. were not going to spend any money that day. Was he the least bit annoyed or deterred in his warmth and enthusiasm for helping us? Nope! He answered questions and asked questions and made suggestions.

    My mother was deeply moved by the experience. She said with passion in her voice as we walked out, “Why isn’t there a shop like this in LA? I need a place like this, that would make it so much easier.” She had been so frustrated by the exclusionary attitude of bike shops and bicyclists in LA, and here was a shop that wanted her to be comfortable and knowledgeable, and wanted her on a bike, regardless of whether or not she bought it at their store.

    If my mom lived in Portland, she’d have been on a bike she loved last spring. This is, among all the other things Jay has done for the city, a huge one: he’s created stations in 6 neighborhoods where people can feel comfortable STARTING TO BIKE FOR THE FIRST TIME. This is key to increasing the number of people – and the type – who use bikes to get around.

    Other shops do this well too, but it is clearly at the heart of Jay’s and the Bike Gallery’s mission, and I’m glad it has made his business successful. Perhaps he has even influenced the culture of bike shops in Portland in this way, and bike culture in general. That would be another big contribution to our community.

    Here at the BTA we can do all the outreach and education we want, but the new bicyclists we try to create must ultimately go to a bike shop before they get out on the road. It is essential for our success that the bike shops welcome them warmly and ease their transition into bikedom. It is invaluable and we are very grateful for it.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    AC. February 14, 2007 at 12:17 pm

    Several Bike Gallery locations send dead tubes to Splaff where they are used in sandalls.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Dabby February 14, 2007 at 12:31 pm

    Sandals are great, but tubes belong in bikes as long as they hold air!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Alison Hill February 14, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Happy Valentine’s Day, Jay! You’re getting some bike love, which you have earned.

    Thanks for all that you do for the cycling community and all that you’ve done for the Community Cycling Center.

    We’re lucky to have you.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Ethan February 14, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    Sure, I have had experiences at The Bike Gallery that were not good. I have even disagreed with Jay a couple of times. Any large business will end up with a few employees who do not embody the company values . . . but let’s be honest, that can even happen at small shops.

    I can only characterize his shops or his community involvment as an exceptional example. The vast majority of the time my visits to BG shops has been very positive, and I never cease to be amazed at how much Jay does each year for the bicycling community.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    heather andrews February 14, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    When I read that negative comment on the other post, I didn’t think that it really necessitated any attention because the claim was so outrageous. Jay’s need to respond personally exemplifies clearly that BG and its employees are absolutely not soulless.

    Although I feel similarly about all the BGs I’ve been to, my valentine today goes to Woodstock BG, which is my neighborhood shop and the one I’ve spent the most time in.

    The employees at Woodstock BG have a great rapport with people, and remain extraordinarily nice even during the crazy busy times. They’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty a number of times for me, even though I’m not a very big spender. Even though the staff sometimes try to upsell me a little, I don’t feel the sort of normal retail pressure that I’m kinda sensitive to, and which automatically turns me off. I am glad to count all of the staff members as my neighborhood friends, and I highly value their presence and expertise.

    When I was taking an overhaul class and trying to start fixing my own bike, all the employees were very encouraging, answering a lot of newbie questions and helping me get the right size tool for my bikes. None of that “because you’re a female I have to condescend to you” attitude that I get in all automotive contexts.

    The staff has put together regular neighborhood “bike-in” movie nights during the last two summers, often taking care of the logistics on their own time. It fosters community in the Woodstock neighborhood as well as allowing the employees to get to know their clients outside of a sales context.

    I’m not fully informed about BG’s greenness since I don’t work there, but perhaps it could improve in terms of recycling scrap metal, rubber, examining their choice in degreasers, etc. I used to drop my old tubes off, and was told they were used by someone who made belts out of them, so greenness is obviously on the radar. Honestly though, couldn’t we all be greenER?

    Now, I shudder when I remember the days before BG moved into the neighborhood.

    (Woodstock BG, will you be mine?)

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Donald February 14, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    I’ve always felt a twinge of guilt that I purchased our family’s last two bikes (and a Burley trailer) at Bike Gallery, but the fact was, they had a large inventory to look at and it made for one-stop shopping.

    Service was efficient, but not personal by any means and I doubt I’d ever drop a couple grand there again.

    When time came to do some serious work on my old steel frame to make it a commuter, I was happy to give my business to Revolver, my friendly round-the-corner folks. It’s a terrific shop and I feel so much better giving work to an up-and-coming business than I do an established monolith.

    Also, as long as I’m giving nods to friendly local shops, 7 Corners has a great new location and expanded offerings and if I lived closer, he’d get all my business.

    Large scale can offer convenience, but, for me, the small fellows give me peace of mind.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Joel February 14, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    Bill, Thank You for Asking about the BIG bike brands and our position on supporting local at The Bike Gallery…

    I am all for supporting and purchasing local whenever possible. I practice this at home every day and attempt to implement this ethic at work as well. As for the brands we stock, Trek is far more local than any of the other BIG brands out there. Trek still manufactures tens-of-thousands of bicycles in their Waterloo, Wisconsin factory (that uses Union Labor). Believe it or not, most of their bicycles at $1000 retail price and up are manufactured in Wisconsin. Certainly I have watched the list of US made Trek bikes dwindle over the years, but at every opportunity I encourage Trek to resist the temptation on the sole basis of price alone to send more of their production to Asia. I like to think that because of the volume of The Bike Gallery and our relative importance to Trek, that we have influenced them on this issue more than once. Most of the other BIG brands almost exclusively source from Asia at all retail price points.

    As for Treks support for our local community, they have always stepped up when asked. Our local Trek Sales Rep is very engaged in his community and willingly supports local events. Trek will be donating an $1150 Trek SOHO city bike at the upcoming BTA Alice banquet to be auctioned off to raise money for the BTA. As far as I know, I do not think any of the other BIG bike companies have made this commitment.

    Lastly on this issue, The Bike Gallery began selling hand made Trek bikes made in an old barn in Waterloo, Wisconsin way back in 1977 when we were just a little neighborhood store on Sandy Blvd. At the time, Japanese made bikes were all the rage so the thought of bringing on a little no named American brand in their second year of business was risky. Over the years, both The Bike Gallery and Trek faced many ups and downs and close calls that did nothing but strengthen our relationship. I would like to think that our mutual success and size today has a little something to do with each others humble beginnings and commitment to community.

    As for other brands The Bike Gallery supports, we are the second largest Co-Motion dealer in the world and love working with this up and coming Eugene company. When Mountain Cycle was located in Portland a few years ago we supported this company and sold almost 30 of their bikes in 2004-2005. We were saddened when they were unable to make a go of it here in Portland.

    As for re-cycling bicycles and bicycle parts and supporting local institutions, The Bike Gallery is fully committed to supporting The Community Cycling Center. Jay Graves The owner of The Bike Gallery served on the Board of Directors of the CCC from day one in 1994 until just recently in January 2007. The mission of the CCC to supply quality used bikes to low income kids and the community matches very well with our mission. You would be hard pressed to find another local business that has supported the CCC more than The Bike Gallery. I would encourage anybody contemplating selling an old bike on Craig’s List to first consider donating it to the CCC. The CCC is always in need of quality bikes that may need a little bit of their tender loving care so they can re-cycle old bikes back into the community.

    I hope this helps clarify our position on this issue, and again thanks for asking.

    Joel Grover
    Bike Gallery Buyer

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Dabby February 14, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    What is your position on the patching of tubes?
    This is info I need to know.
    Of course you answer the question about supporting your big brands….It is your bread and butter…
    But the little man (me) wants to know what your position is on tube patching, the real tube recycling?
    I am sure there is some issue of liability that is the basis for what I have seen to be a non-patching philosophy…..
    What recycling, and patching tubes really is becomes a issue of morality, which far outweighs liability.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Jim F February 14, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    Why is it Bike Gallery’s job to patch your tube?

    If you want a new tube, go buy one from them. If you want to patch your existing tube (which is what I do, until the tube is a total mess of patches), then buy a patch kit and patch the damn thing.

    If you don’t know how to patch your own tube, then learn. It is easy, and you really ought to know how to do it anyway. I mean, what will happen if you get a flat tire someplace other than a bike store parking lot?

    But really, until Jay Graves comes to my house and weatherproofs my leaky old windows and sorts my cans and bottles, I don’t understand how he can call Bike Gallery “green.”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir February 14, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    I’ve never had a negative experience at Bike gallery– only positive experiences from knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly employees.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Jonathan Maus February 14, 2007 at 2:49 pm


    I think Dabby’s just wanting to learn more about Bike Gallery’s tire patching policies and practices in light of our discussion about being earth-friendly.


    Please don’t make this a personal crusade to 1) get an answer out of Bike Gallery about this issue or 2) get them to start patching all their tubes.

    I think your point is a good one (that shops might consider patching tubes as an option to replacing them)…but I’m sure there is much more to think about when you’re fixing hundreds of flats a day and people want thing done perfectly and while they wait.

    Maybe shops could have a patch-only option?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Bill February 14, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    thanks for your response. I like that you hit on the idea that you continually pressure your suppliers to keep things local and/or sustainable. This was my hope. My intent was not to point my finger directly at BG, it was more so to point out a concern I typcially see with big shops, and to give my plea to shops of all sizes to think of who makes the product they sale and have some influence in pressuring these companies to do the right thing. If we dont have the clout or ability to sway the minds of these companies, I hope the people within our industry have the guts to draw a line in the sand and say, “we dont want this if you cant pay someone fairly, if you cant build this without ransacking the environment, if you cant provide a safe, adequate work environment, etc.”
    I have to admit, I have an extremely hard time believing a decent percentage of Trek’s bikes (even those over $1000) are built in the states, or that the majority of the frame is built here, but I will check more into it. I do know Trek has been guilty of building frame sections overseas, bringing them to the US, joining them together and slapping a US sticker on it. Thats weak and I will be fair and say they are definately not the only ones doing this. I do not see Trek as being much if any different than the other big brands even with what youve written.
    As for the free bike and some of the other advertising promotions Trek does in the area.. The brand makes a TON of money, its a marketing expense (so, really, its paid for with our tax dollars). Most big brands do these things and while its something, it’d be nice to see them doing some of this without always attaching their name to it. I dont think you really reach the status of “giving” to a community if youre always using it as an advertising piece. As you said, Trek has always stepped up when the Bike Gallery has asked. If they had a very communty engaged local rep it shouldnt have to be when the Bike Gallery asks that they do something.
    Again, I am not a big bike shop hater, I just hope they are willing to put the pressure on the industry instead of just rolling right along with status quo as everything goes to China/Vietnam/Taiwan and everyone gets taken advantage of. I understand you probably like seeing those profits from these big brands that bring this “value” to your sales floor, but always remember, there is a price even when you’re not the one paying it….
    I do congratulate BG for their part in our community, wish you many more great years and hope you continue to always strive to help make business sustainable, not just profitable.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir February 14, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Jeeze, when I was a kid, I used to patch my own tubes…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Dabby February 14, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    Jim and Jonathan,
    Certainly this is not a personal crusade to get them to start patching my tubes at all, or even to get them to patch a thousand tubes a month.
    I am making the simple statement that in order to recycle, you cannot just send things off to the back of the store, where they are taken away to the proper resources.
    It starts when you recycle your own waste first, then move the leftobvers, the minimum of leftovers, to the back of the store, into the bins.
    I had thought people would see that that is what I was saying, and I wanted the opinion of a “Green” bike shop on this.
    Questions are not answered until they are asked, and changes are not implicated until they are thought about it.
    I obviously have too much to say, about too many things, but this is a very legitimate question, one that all bike shops should ask themselves.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Dabby February 14, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    And, as if I wouldn’t, I patch every one of my old tubes, and the tubes of my friends if asked, probably too many times for the age of the tube.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Bill February 14, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    tube patching is something that cant be guaranteed. that is the problem. you walk into a bike shop and expect professional service. most people would be frustrated if not downright angry if they picked up their wheel and the tire went flat an hour later because the patch couldnt hold. I think recommending patch kits and using them over always selling tubes is probably the best pro option there. if the tubes can be re-used, you cant complain too loudly. I used to send our tubes to Resource Revival and Pedro’s back when they accepted them. Unfortunately Resource Revival ended up with more than they could handle and Pedro’s found out that washing the tubes before going overseas was costly, had enviromental issues itself and that foreign countries didnt like used items such as tubes being shipped in the country with all the security concerns these days. too bad those pedro’s bags werent made in the US, it wouldnt have been such an issue.
    there is at least one messenger bag brand using tubes in their product and of course the flip/flops mentioned earlier.
    Dabby, even though this doesnt seem as much of a viable option, there are plenty of other things your favorite bike can do to help. make sure and voice your opinions directly to them. I know Id be game to see if there are things that arent currently being done.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    hoopla February 14, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    As I recall it goes like this-

    Reduce, then Re-use, then Recycle.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    ange February 14, 2007 at 3:29 pm


    consider this scenario; a psu student rolls into the bike gallery with a flat. s/he wants to have the tube patched because a)s/he can save a couple bucks or b)s/he wants to reuse (recycle) the present tube. the bike gallery patches the tube and off the customer goes to class at psu. an hour later s/he returns to the bike and the tube is flat. perhaps the patch glue didn’t hold, or perhaps there was a second “slow leak” hole in the tube or…..whatever the case may be becuase the tire is now flat the bike gallery has wasted the customers time and money as well as there own time (which is money), and everybody loses. the bike gallery has a policy of replacing tubes because they can guaranatee the reliability of that repair. furthermore, its not as if the bike gallery does not sell patch kits. patching your tube is an option, just not one that we can guarantee. oh, after they replace your old tube they will offer your old one back to you to patch yourself as a future back up tube, or recycle your old tube by shipping it to the forementioned (see a.c.) tube sandal company or to alchemy goods which is a seattle based manufacturer that makes messenger bags from recycled bicycle tubes. in fact, i believe the bike gallery devotes quite a bit of shop space to boxes of old tubes waiting to be reused, which is undeniably an aspect of recycling (reduce, reuse, recycle). thanks for listening.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    JayS, February 14, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Dabbys point seems clear to me. Reduce Reuse Recycle. Prioritized in that order.

    As I see it this falls more on the customer than the shop. If the shops don’t want to patch(seems reasonable for many reasons) those that are more eco-concious might consider making a one page handout on how to patch for yourself. In this day and age it could be done in a day with color photos. For each sheet they give out chances are they will sell a patch kit and some tire irons, and make someone a more knowledgable biker. Seems like a win win to me.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    noelle February 14, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    Brian from the downtown BG is awesome.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Remmers February 14, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    I credit the Bike Gallery team for getting me back on a bike after a serious car crash 20 years ago.

    From bike selection, to bike fit, to basic bike maintenance, the entire BG crew renewed my passion for all things bike.

    In fact, I learned about the BTA and the Community Cycling Center from the Bike Gallery. Since that time, I’ve become involved with both, spreading the word to many who are new to bike community.

    Having taken on the CCC director post last year, Jay stepped up to offer his support and guidance from the start. He has been incredibly generous with his time and knowledge, teaching me the in’s and out’s of running a successful bike shop.

    I think the Portland community is stronger for having a rich and diverse array of bike shops and bike advocacy organizations; and we are stronger when we find ways to work together.

    While many deserve credit for all they have done to strengthen the CCC over the past year, Jay stepped up at an exceptional level.

    Thank you Jay and the Bike Gallery crew for all you do to strengthen, support, and build bike community!

    Susan Remmers
    Executive Director
    Community Cycling Center

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Dabby February 14, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Of course the responsibility to patch tubes falls on the customer realistically.
    But, here in our town we have enough new cyclsists that either just buy new tubes, or pay to have them put in, that we all need to share the responsibility equally, not just pass it off to the next person with a tube in their hand.

    In case you didn’t catch it, I like the Bike Gallery.
    Or else I wouldn’t have gone there for so very long. There are a lot of options on that note.
    I must say, it is not productive for people to write comments here telling me what I already know.
    It is productive to have the question answered to which we do not know the answers.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Natron Bomb February 14, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    I have had the pleasure of working at both of these shops while in school and feel they both try as hard as anyone can to excell at customer service. Some of the small shops are only nice if your bike is single speed and cheap.Bike central is a joke(ask any messenger).Try going in to City bikes with a suit on and see what happens. It is not easy being green or gr$$n, but somebody has got to do it. I would say more but I have to finish my cover sheet.
    Peace out

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Dabby February 14, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    While I appreciate your response, and your great customer service, your post just helped to verify how fear of liability, (for a business, this liability is a combination of legal (having to pay to replace the tube out of profits), and monetary(having the customer pay to replace the tube again), as you pointed out) even for something as simple as a tube not holding air (which, by the way, a percentage of brand new tubes will also go flat within blocks of a bike shop after installation), is over shadowing “Green” responsibility.
    I already fully understood that this was the case.
    I was just waiting for someone to admit it.
    Please do not take this as any sort of personal attack. I would hate that. And it is not that in any way shape or form.

    To quickly put it in reference:
    If my house does not have the recycling in the proper containers, properly sorted, the men/ women who are supposed to pick it up will leave it on the curb.
    But really, it is my responsibility to put as little out on the curb as possible.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    rixtir February 14, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    Jeeze, I’ve had nothing but GREAT service at Bike Central too….

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Joel February 14, 2007 at 4:58 pm


    I got crackin on a response to your question a few hours ago, then like Natron Bomb, those pesky TPS reports pulled me under. Now that I have come up for air, I see that there are now 25 more comments, GEEZ! and most I agree with but none touch the root reason and that is liability….read on if you are interested….


    It is apparent this is a BIG and important topic for you which I really respect. I personally agree with many of your points of view and patch all of my personal tubes until it becomes impossible to do so. I’m sure you will find many more sympathetic souls working for The Bike Gallery as well. With that said, this issue is really complex where the realities of running a sustainable business and the litigious nature of our society come crashing into each other head on. There is always a certain amount of additional risk when selling used bicycle equipment. Certain parts and components on bikes have very little risk. Other components such as Stems, Handlebars, Forks, Tires (especially front), Wheels (especially front) and yes even Inner-Tubes come with considerably more risk. The risk comes in not knowing the history of the used part in question (i.e. was the item crashed? abused? How old is it?) and the fact that many of these parts and components approach the limit of durability because of consumers demand of lightweight and inexpensiveness. Moreover, with butyl rubber tires and tubes, age matters because they decompose over time. It is a fact that these items will wear out or fail…it is not a matter of if, but when. When considering all of these facts, Bike Shops have to be really careful about what they sell and choose to make a profit from. By selling and profiting on products we inherit the liability if something were to fail. Many times this may be worth the risk, but on really inexpensive used items, this may not be worth the risk at all.

    I can fully believe that there will be Bicycle Retailers in our community with positions all across the spectrum of this issue. The Bike Gallery sees this risk to high and the reward mostly negative for the re-using of patched inner tubes. We wish this were not the case, as it is totally obvious to us that in most instances a properly patched inner tube would likely never fail. But it would only take one person being injured to make it not worth it. So should we wait for that one injured person before we cease patching tubes? Or the alternative is to have the foresight to look into the future and ask all of the tough questions now hypothetically and determine whether we like or dislike the answers now hypothetically. With inner tubes, as it is with most used parts, the risk is to high and the reward mostly negative. This obviously does not preclude the fact that our customers are free to take all of their holey inner tubes (or others!) and patch em up and cease buying new inner tubes from us. For that we say Go For It!

    Thanks for asking and thank you in advance for your understanding with this complex issue as I believe everybody is entitled to their own point of view and determine their own exposure to risk. I could say a lot more about this but gotta go…

    Joel Grover
    Bike Gallery Buyer

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Dabby February 14, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    Thank you for your response to my query.
    I appreciate it, and as I already pointed out, knew that that was why.
    It is great to hear you testify, and lay it out there.
    I think that certainly, in your’s and every shop in town, as stated above, a nice handout out on removing and properly patching tubes available near the tubes and the patch kits, combined with a upfront request to the customer to take home the tube and patch it, would result in more reuse of tubes, and increase tube and patch kit sales at the same time.
    I appreciate your response personally to me, during what I know is a busy work day for you.
    Thank You,

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Joel February 14, 2007 at 5:36 pm


    I would like to offer a personal meeting to go over what I know (and don’t know) about what “Made in the USA” means, and how Trek behaves in comparison to other BIG brands on this subject. I think after such a meeting and a tour of the Bike sales floor at the Hollywood store and our warhouse you would be convinced that they are different. Call me if you are interested. Just call the main Hollywood Store phone number, 503-281-9800 and ask for me during Mon-Fri business hours and we can set up a time.

    thanks again

    Joel Grover
    Bike Gallery Buyer

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    brad February 14, 2007 at 5:54 pm


    Since City Bikes covers the entire spectrum of used parts sales with no ill effects, it seems sort of ridiculous to claim that the risk is too high for Bike Gallery. If used parts were constantly failing, with people getting hurt and suing, City Bikes would have been out of business long ago. They don’t have the financial backing of Bike Gallery, but they seem to manage just fine.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    bagel February 14, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    Keep in mind that Bike Gallery offers various free clinics for the community. One of the clinic topics is flat repair. See for dates and locations.

    Sounds like BG has an interest in making the community more self-sufficient on the road.

    So learn how to get to your holey tube. Then choose to replace or patch. Make it your responsibility.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    mike February 14, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    Only in Portland could patching a tube be such a huge topic. Kinda cool, kinda sad. It also seems to me that Bike Gallery employees have souls, and that they have gone to great lengths to reach out to the community while engaging in sound business and enviromental practices. Dabby has his answer publicly announced and Elmira has been thoroughly refuted and debased. I believe the horse has long since expired; may we stop beating it?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Vanessa February 14, 2007 at 7:57 pm

    In 2000 I built a bicycle powered video installation for a show entitled “Taking Space, Making Place”.
    More info here:

    I needed a rear wheel trainer in order to make the piece work, and I had no money at all to buy one. I went to the Bike Gallery downtown and asked if I could borrow one for a month for the duration of the show. They did not not who I was from a pothole, but Jay said, “Sure!” without any hesitation. That was the first time I made the piece, and it has since shown in Eugene, NYC, L.A. (next month) and will show again in Portland in April. Its success could not have happened with out Jay being so generous way back when.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Ron February 14, 2007 at 8:19 pm


    So I was in my second of year riding. I topped Bennet Pass on my way to Hood River and points east, and my tire was under inflated. So I pull in at the rest stop and sought out the bike mechanic. “Hey” I said, “I tried pumping up my tire at the last stop but my effort failed. What’s up with my tube?”

    Jay takes my bike away from me and checks the tires. While hooking up the pumping and pumping both my tires to 120 psi, he patienly explains the Presta mechanism to
    me and how to break them loose so the tubes are easier to inflate.

    Unreal service. Absolutely unreal. And I am so greatful.

    We’re all newbies at some point. I’m just glad Jay was there for me.

    The rest of the hundred mile ride went fine.

    Ok, the head winds dropping down to Hood River sucked, but my Trek held up fine on that ride, and for another 4000 miles.

    Thanks Jay, for the bike, and the help with the tires.



    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Brian February 14, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    i had the worst bike shop experience ever at the bike gallery just a week ago. after helpful service finding the right fenders for an older bike i went back in the next day because the threads in the rear were not a standard size and as a result the screws wouldnt fit. thinking the bike gallery a cool place, with bikers who care and have a soul, i figured it would be no problem to run it back in the next day and have them help me out. boy was i wrong. i got the down right snootiest a#$%hole who had no interest in providing decent customer service. after trying a couple of screws that were to big, he said i would just have to use smaller ones with bolts so he packaged them up in a small bag, handed it to me and went back to the bike he was working on. recognizing that his solution wouldnt work because the bolt/or the screw – either way – would interfere with the derailers ability to shift into the smallest cog, i pulled the screws out and tried to put them on while still in the store (and after paying a dollar plus for two screws and a couple of bolts – despite the fact that i bought the fenders from them the day before and the screws that came with it didnt work). seeing that this wouldnt work i go back to the unhelpful mechanic who shruggingly and with an exacerbated sigh takes my bike and throws it up on the stand. after trying to use the screw/bolt he gave me he too finds that it messes with the derailer. after fishing around in a perturbed state in a box of screws he finally finds one that is flat enough to not encumber the chain. he pulls the bike off and hands it to me without saying a word. i was aghast at how out of sorts this guy was. i could of and should of just gone to the local hardware store where i know they have sould and would of helped me out out of pleasure just becuase thats what they do. oh well. know i know the bike gallery is just another lame ass store with soulless mechanics working for them. never go there again. id rather support some soulless online store than a snooty store that is too good for its customers.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Klixi February 15, 2007 at 12:59 am

    Last year I was hit by a car, it totalled my bike. A couple months ago when I gained the courage to buy another bike and start riding again, I went to Bike Gallery (downtown). The service was above and beyond what I had previously experienced (my only previous experience was at Citybikes.. and though they are likely well intentioned, the last word I’d used to describe them is “kind”). Bike Gallery employees were beyond awesome and made my buying experience great. I think its quite lame to accuse a company of being “evil” just because they are larger than other local bike shops. If Citybikes, Revolver, or whatever hip bike-store-of-the-month got too big, these same people would scoff at their supposed “evilness” too and find another cool “independent” store.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Morgan February 15, 2007 at 8:28 am

    While i agree that he/she SHOULD have been nicer to the customer, It seems as though you have a non-standard bike. Unfortunatly, 99.99% of 4 or 5 mm bolts are one pitch in cycling, and one pitch only. The fact that your threads wouldn’t work seems to confirm that. Although he might not have rubbed your belly as much as you would have liked, he DID fix your bike, and charged you a DOLLAR to install your fender. Not a bad deal, if you ask me.
    Look, everyone has a bad day. Everyone gets frustrated. He/She might have just dealt w/an intensly aggravating customer before you(imagine that…), or might have been in the middle of a difficult repair that wasn’t going right. We don’t know, and sadly, since you didn’t deal with it then, we will never know. Instead, we all hear about it a week later when you realize you might catch the ear of the owner. That post smacks of squealing to someone’s boss to “make them pay” for the decent repair, but poor service(vindictive, much?). If this is the reason for you sending your money to online retailers, just look for a new shop, and keep the money in your community!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Sasha February 15, 2007 at 9:50 am

    I hate bike tubes. They pop. This is most unfortunate. I hate them so much that I go to Bike Gallery (which I love) every day and buy a tube. I then cut it in half and recycle it by sending it to a tube recyclery. I did this every day for weeks until I found out they just set the tubes on fire. How dare they? I can set my own tubes on fire thank-you-very-much! Now during lunch I buy a tube and make a little tube fire to cook my food over. Stupid tubes, why do you have to pop so much? I cut thee!

    I also hate cans.


    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Mike February 15, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Plastic bottles. Evil, but so damn convenient.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Todd Boulanger February 15, 2007 at 11:15 pm

    This topic has been an interesting ride.

    Well I have had the pleasure and luck to work with Jay on several different projects: CCC expansion to Vancouver, Bikestation Portland concept, etc. I have seen him check bikes during Breakfast on the Bridges and other late night wrenching at events – while I was having riding fun.

    Once when I was in his shop for the annual sale looking for the most robust and repairable floor pump, he not only took the time to find me a decent product to use with the help of a mechanic but he also took a personal interest in this mini out-of-pocket funded project (installing bike pumps at downtown bike racks here) and sold me the 12 pumps at cost and then took out some of his own cash to round down the price.

    He is very approachable and listens to most folks, this is the key to making bicycling stick in this or any town.

    Todd Boulanger
    Bikestation &
    City of Vancouver/ Transportation

    As for tire patching…if there is this much interest in this reuse angle then why doesn’t someone collect all of these popped tubes and set up a hot vulcanizing shop. (Just like they do in the Philippines, Vietnam, etc.) Perhaps even along side the Hawthorne Bridge – commuters could drop off their tubes in the morning and have freshly pressed tubes on the way home at night. 😉

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Carlo Delumpa February 16, 2007 at 9:01 am

    Bike Gallery has always been gracious to me, their sales people friendly and courteous and their mechanics (especially John, Saki and Clue at BG Beaverton – Jay, please give these guys a raise) are top-notch. It’s next to impossible to be all things to everyone in the cycling community. The only thing we can ask for is good customer service and I think BG has done a good job instilling this in their culture.

    Portland Velo

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Aaron February 17, 2007 at 11:57 am

    Despite the fact that BikeGallery sponsors this site, I think that it is your responsibility to post the ‘negative experience’ that this person had to provide balanced reporting.
    I have had both positive and less-positive experiences with BikeGallery. I am on a first-name basis with most of the staff at the Woodstock store becuase I go there so much. However if I go to another store, I get friendly but-not-personal service. This is to be expected cause they don’t know me from a hole in the wall. I think Jay has done an excellent job of combating the ‘big store’ mentality. But it still falls on us to frequent one or two stores and create a social relationship with the human beings there.
    I have a good enough relationship with one (nameless) shop. That when I had a REALLY BAD commute one day, the guy let me in after hours, fixed my bike (pulled almost half a dozen pieces of wire out of my wheel) on credit, and reasured me that these are people we can depend on. (it wasn’t BikeGallery)

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Gordon February 20, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    I have not had good experiences at Bike Gallery. On one occasion at the downtown store I needed a small component replaced on my bike. The sales person went in back and gleefully brought out the most expensive Shimano Deore LX titanium component (which didn’t even match what was on my bike). I asked if they had something more reasonable – but I had to ask.

    I’ll go to City Bikes or Coventry any day – but not BG.

    I certainly hope you don’t censor my comments because they aren’t positive and because BG sponsors your site.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Jonathan Maus February 20, 2007 at 6:57 pm


    you said:

    “I certainly hope you don’t censor my comments because they aren’t positive and because BG sponsors your site.”

    not sure why you mention this. Aaron was referring to himself in the third person above. perhaps that’s where you’re confused?

    I simply do not censor comments based on who advertises or not.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Erin February 20, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    Ummm, Gordon a Deore LX component is not by any means the “most expensive”. It also has zero titanium in it.

    You seem to be upset that they did not immediately offer you the cheapest, most likely to break quickly part. Should they have busted out some masking tape and rubberbands to fix the old one? For free? Wouldn’t that be swell!

    Usually when something has broken on an inexpensive bike, it makes sense to replace it with a more reliable component. Are you in such a hurry to have to buy the same part again?

    You shouldn’t take your ignorance out on others. You can’t expect the whole world to be on board with your particular version of moron.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar
    Gordon February 21, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    Jonathan: Thanks for posting my comment.

    Erin: Thanks very much for your insightful response.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Avatar