Three for Thursday: Vecchio's Bicicletteria

By Ben Delaney | Thursday, November 29, 2012 6.00am

Three for Thursday highlights bike culture, bikes and gear as celebrated by local bike shops. Each week BikeRadar checks in with a different shop around the country to find out what's hot with riders in their area.

As a boutique road shop in Boulder, Colorado, Vecchio's Bicicletteria's most popular product isn't a product at all. Vecchio's has made a business out of its expert service, whether that's tuning existing bikes or building bikes and wheels from the ground up.

Wheels waiting to be born. vecchio's only sells wheels built on the premises: wheels waiting to be born. vecchio's only sells wheels built on the premisesVecchio's brings the skeletons of wheels to life — by the thousands

Since Vecchio's opened 12 years ago within one mile of four other bike shops, the boutique shop with brick walls and vaulted ceilings has sold more than 5,000 handbuilt wheels. Vecchio's founder Peter Chisolm has sold a handful of stock wheels at the insistence of certain customers  — "I think we've sold 11 in 12 years," he said  — but the ethos of the shop is to sell purpose-built products tailored to the individual rider.

1. The coolest thing in Vecchio's is: the service

Old jerseys and bikes — like a 35th Anniversary Colnago — adorn the walls and ceilings, and scotch and tequila bottles share shelf space with European road racing memorabilia. None of it is for sale.

"We are more about the experience of cycling than the gadgets," said Chisolm, a 20-year Navy veteran, who rides each weekend with a group he calls Vecchi Scorregi (old farts).

Master mechanic jim potter at his station: master mechanic jim potter at his stationMaster mechanic Jim Potter at his workstation. Many shops put the service area behind closed doors; at Vecchio's, the service area is a central part of the store

Inside Vecchio's, the experience is more about the service than any particular product. Three work stations surround the showroom floor, and the bike fit station takes front and center in the main shop window. While anyone can walk in and watch Chisolm, master mechanic Jim Potter and master fitter Joe Hughes at work, you can't just drop off your bike.

"We don’t have storage," Chisolm said. "It’s same-day service, by appointment only."

Boulder, a town of 99,000, has no less than 15 bike shops. Wait time to get on Vecchio's service calendar? Two to three weeks.

Bring your own lights: bring your own lightsDecoration at Vecchio's isn't exactly stock marketing material from the big brands

2. The current best seller in Vecchio's is: the service

"We don’t sell much out of boxes. We don't sell any wheels we don’t build. We don’t sell any bikes we don’t build. And we start all bikes sales with the fit," Chisolm said.

"We are very fortunate that we can do this, and we can do it because we're in a bike-crazy town like Boulder," he said.

Owner peter chisolm talking with a customer from his usual spot behind a workstand : owner peter chisolm talking with a customer from his usual spot behind a workstand Owner Peter Chisolm at his post

About 60 percent of Vecchio's business is service, meaning the skills and labor to fix, assemble and tune bikes and parts. A typical bike shop does about 10 percent of its business in service.

"We build about 450 wheels a year," Chisolm said. "We only sell about 55 bikes a year, which average $4,000 to $5,000."

Vecchio's sells a number of Moots bicycles, which are made in nearby Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

3. The one type of thing owner Peter Chisolm most loves is: Campagnolo

Many veterans of the US Navy have tattoos. And many cyclists have bike-related tattoos. But Peter Chisolm may be the only US Navy vet with a Campagnolo tattoo on his forearm. If this isn't a heartfelt endorsement, we don't know what is.

For a visual tour of Vecchio's and all its idiosyncrasies, check out the photo gallery.

Vecchio's owner peter chisolm isn't shy about his component preference: vecchio's owner peter chisolm isn't shy about his component preference

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