The expression “killing them with kindness” is usually just that, an expression. But University Bicycles in downtown Boulder, Colorado, arguably has killed some of its competitors over the years — and the shop’s over-the-top customer service may well have played a role.
As soon as you walk in the door off the main drag in downtown Boulder, you are welcomed by a staffer posted at the entryway. Standard fare at Wal-Mart, perhaps, but a designated greeter in a bike store is quite rare.
1. What’s the coolest thing in your shop?
This one may be a two-way tie between the animate and the inanimate.
“Customers and bike industry people tell me all the time that when you enter our shop, there’s a positive energy that exudes from our shop,” said general manager Lester Binegar. “Based on that feedback, I’d have to say our staff is the coolest thing we have. We’re a bunch of bike geeks that just want to overtly help anyone interested in cycling for recreation, transportation or performance riding.”
But University Bicycles also boasts a veritable museum of old bikes dating back to 1888.
“As far as inanimate objects, I’m a big fan of Andy’s Giro winning bike,” Binegar said. “We also have a store full of sweet old bikes from the turn of the century that I would love to ride someday.”
University Bicycles is also one of a very few shops with a full-selection Rapha section.
2. What is your current bestseller?
With least 15 shops in the bike-crazy town of less than 100,000, each Boulder store has to specialize in something. At U Bikes, 29in bikes and high-end commuters are the big sellers.
U Bikes’ Matt Haas said that any bikes with 29in has proven quite popular in Boulder, and not just the performance mountain bikes. “We see a lot of college kids who want 29in bikes for commuters,” Haas said. “They mostly need transportation, but they might want to ride some trail, too. 29ers are better for that.”
“And we all sell lots of high-end commuters, from Spot, Specialized/Globe and Cannondale,” Haas said. “People will come in with an old steel mountain bike that they’ve been riding for 15 years, and upgrade to a really nice commuter.”
3. What are you personally lusting after or loving right now?
“My personal favorite thing right now in the industry is the Surly Krampus,” Binegar said. “It’s a bike made for fun and it breaks all the rules. The hell with light weight and superior pedaling performance. You can do anything on the Krampus from commuting to singletrack to snow riding and it’s a blast to ride.”