Monday, April 27, 2009

SLC Bike Company

Posted By on April 27, 2009, 6:02 AM

Spring finally came to the state, somewhat. And with summer not too far behind the skis get packed away and out come the bikes.

 --- And one of the places gearing up to help would be the SLC Bike Company. Sitting in downtown, the building they occupy today was nothing more than a restaurant and cheap housing a few years back until a fire struck the place in early 2006. But rather than make it another piece of dying property, owners helped put the building back up to make way for new tenant space and downstairs business. Which the Bike Company was more than happy to fill, setting themselves up as a major stop of all downtown cycling. I got a chance to chat with owner Brent Hulme about the place, as well as a number of other topics, along with pictures from the tour.

Brent Hulme

http://slcbike.com/

Gavin: Hey Brent, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Brent: I have lived in Utah for 20 something years. Approaching a time in life that we don’t like to talk about our age. Married with children. I love bikes, food and art. I have worked in the cycling industry my entire adult life.

Gavin: Where did the idea come from to start up SLC Bike Company?

Brent: I watched the downtown market loose a fixture of a bike store and saw opportunity to put something in it’s place.

Gavin: Do you feel there's a big cycling community in Utah, or is it primarily focused in downtown and places with trails?

Brent: The cycling community in Utah is big and very diverse. I think that there are more factions within the bike community than one would expect. The interesting thing is that here at Salt Lake City Bicycle are in a unique situation to see most of them. The other interesting thing is that I don’t think that those that are in one faction are necessarily aware of the other factions. They are all great. The most prominent factions that obvious to me are the following: Downtown there are the fixie crowd, AKA “hipsters”, tight pant militia etc. This is a great group. They love simple bikes and they seem to be drawn to things that are classic road bike based. I went to a alley cat race last fall and I have to say that I had a wonderful time That is a lot of excitement and a little mischief. Since I am a father I found myself stopping at every light and proceeding with caution. It was a riot. I am also aware of the race community. Road, mountain, triathlon, adventure, cross, BMX they all have a core group of racers that are well known in their communities. In each of the racing There are the club riders that are doing good and having a good time. These people do more good for various charities than you would imagine. Mostly made up of adults that just want some break from the rat race. I like the commuters—these hard core ride through all conditions and the interesting thing is that this crowd always seems more politically active. These guys seem to be the ones that are really making a difference in society because the are pushing for things like the 3 foot rule and the upcoming car license plates that promote cycling. We are all in debt to these riders. They have and continue to make Utah a better place to ride. Beyond these groups there are thousands that own bikes and are having a great time doing events or riding trails and events and planning trips to Moab. Utah is quite possibly the single best place in the nation to ride bikes and it is becoming better because of the diversity of the people that ride them. Funny to think of Utah as being diverse.

Gavin: Were there any reservations with having other bike shops downtown, or did you feel there was a market for another?

Brent: Downtown needs to have a bike shop. In my previous job I was aware of the fact that cities like Portland, Seattle, Boise, San Francisco all have great urban bike shops. Why should Salt Lake not be like that. We have a strong relationship with Trek Bicycles and because of this I expect other big bike companies to try to make a presence here.

Gavin: What drew you to move into the old Stratford Hotel?

Brent: What a great place. Once you see the building and how we are using the space it all makes sense. I had pressure to put my business in a suburban strip mall. I have longed to be more in an urban setting for a long time.

Gavin: Was it difficult getting set up in the space or was it pretty easy going after the renovation?

Brent: It was work. The owner of the building had done some great work to make this building true to its roots. I think that the building looks more like it did 100 years ago than it did 3 years ago.

Gavin: What was that first month open like for you?

Brent: My head was spinning. I didn’t expect to be so busy right away. I knew what things I had to do, I just didn’t know how much there would be.

Gavin: For those who may not know, what kind of services do you offer for cyclists?

Brent: Of course we sell bikes, and bicycle accessories. We have a great service department with talented, experienced mechanics. So we fix bikes. We rent townie and road bikes. We are hoping to let others see what a great city SLC is to ride bikes. We do custom bike fitting. I seem to be trying to get us into anything else that will offer a good cycling experience to our customers.

Gavin: Do you do many custom orders or designs? And what's the process like to having those created?

Brent: Our main bicycle line is Trek and they have a great road bike program called Project One where a customer can pick paint, wheels components and essentially put together a bike that can really be one of a kind. Then with our fitting we hope to offer one of the best bike buying experiences available. Some of the Project One bikes can be finished in about a week with no additional charges. We certainly will try to find special parts for bikes where we can.

Gavin: How did the decision come about to host bike maintenance classes?

Brent: Originally it was to try to help people that had purchased bikes from us. Then we decided to offer it to everyone. To be honest this is still a work in progress. I think that we need to ask people to RSVP so that we are fully prepared.

Gavin: You also do a lunch-ride program. What's that for and how can people join in?

Brent: Right now it is on Wednesdays and it is a real ride to about 50 miles. Our ride leader McCool is the greatest. Again a program that we hope to expand and optimize. Next on the list is a shorter ride for the novice rider. Chances are I will lead that.

Gavin: On events, tell us about the upcoming Gallery Roll.

Brent: This started as a little idea that I had and I shared it with a local cycling champion, Zed. Zed took my little idea and added some of his great ideas and evolved it into Gallery Stroll. We decided to put this in May which is National Bike Month and there are a lot of great events happening around the state. What I envision is seeing what artists are doing with bicycles. There are a lot of great pieces of work in the world of art that have cycling as a theme. We want to have a venue that will allow those that are passionate about art and bicycles to show their work. Really I just like art and wanted to get into the thick of it.

Gavin: A little local, what are your thoughts on the possibility of rental bikes coming to downtown?

Brent: I think you are referring to some large scale loaner bike program, like Paris or something. Anytime you can get more people riding bikes it is good. Bring it on. I would love to see our community grow with bicycle use.

Gavin: Do you feel the use of bikes is growing locally, or is it more of a fad based out of gas prices?

Brent: Gas prices certainly got people to recognize that maybe they should consider alternate transportation. Then gas prices went back down, but many people have memories of $4 a gallon and they don’t want to get stung by this again, they are planning ahead now. I think that the bicycle use in the state is on the rise. Somehow we have built a society based on cars and It is difficult for many to be as productive with a bike as they are with a car. As public transit and traffic planning go on I think that it will get better. But I always seem to be impatient.

Gavin: What's your take on extreme sports and how its affected cycling as a whole?

Brent: I have met some of the top “X-Games” like riders that are here in the state (another part of the cycling community). These guys are very talented and they are pushing the envelope every day. Some of the things that they do make things better in other parts of cycling. Downhill riders have made suspension better for cross country bikes. Technology is one of the fun parts about bicycles.

Gavin: What can we expect from you and the shop the rest of the year?

Brent: We are new and we are hungry. I hope to really establish the business and see where it takes us. I have intentionally not tried to designate Salt Lake City Bicycle Co. as the bike shop for ____. I don’t want to do just road or mountain or urban. I want to be universal in helping people have a good experience on a bike. Our goals are to get involved with the community when it comes to cycling. We are still a business and we need to tend to that first, but we realize that we can benefit the community through our involvement and programs.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?

Brent: It is easy to over simplify lives, but consider the positive effect that bicycles can have on some of our societal ills -- Dependency on foreign fuel, transportation, health, obesity, environment -- Bikes are the answer. What other transportation can you go 50 miles on a bagel?

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