Sunday, October 20, 2013


If I were to apply for a cycling industry job, say for instance a marketing position with a tool company based in my home state of Minnesota, it might go something like this. 

I would be upfront about my experience by divulging the following. 

First of all, I’m a Minnesota native living in Texas since 1980. Born in Winona, raised in Rochester. My parents returned to Winona several years ago. My father found a second career in IT at the Mayo Clinic so I definitely still have strong ties to the state.

With that being said, I’m pretty well established here in Texas, just north of Austin, the cycling capital of America, if not the world. I’ve worked in every industry EXCEPT cycling. The reality is, I absolutely live, sleep, eat and breath cycling in my personal life, more specifically as a daily bike commuter.

I don’t have the years of industry experience to impress you with, so I’m just going to put it all out there, letting the chips fall and cookies crumble as they may. If you still want a formal resume let me know, but for now, this is what I’m about.

I would then point them in the direction of my blogging and Tweeting exploits.

Social Media:
Read my Tweets! Search for @advantagebike the next time you’re on Twitter.

I would impress them with my copy writing ability.  

Copy writing examples:
Read my tribute to the Surly 1x1. Another Minnesota-based company you’re likely familiar with.
Blog title: The One

Read my recommendation for an adventure cycling brochure.
Blog title: Touching Intangibles

I would blow them away with my creativity.  

GETJOEFIX was a fixed gear website I created in 2009. It’s basically a Route 66 sign with the numbers chopped up to resemble a seat and handlebars.

Ms.Butler’s was a cleaning company I started about the same time period. 

Neither is currently in operation.

I would share my ability to think outside the bicycle mechanic's tool box. 

Mechanical knowledge:
This may or may not qualify as mechanical knowledge but it does demonstrate mechanical creativity. See attached image of a quick-release recycled and applied to a brake caliper. It works like a charm.
See attached image of a bicycle rack recycled into a handlebar.
See attached image of a remote controlled brake system. It was low on power but the calipers actually moved as planned. Not enough to stop a rider on a bike but you get the idea.

And if they're looking for a genuinely nice guy who just loves bikes, I would show them how I combined cycling with a recent fund-raising effort.  

See attached images of a fund raiser I hosted for local non-profits called, Pedal for Pledges. The pledge amounts were based on my commute miles. 

If that didn't work, I would demonstrate my retail insights with a proposal that never found it's way into the hands of the right person at Target. 

Target Bike Department Proposal

With the recent increase in cycling popularity and bicycle commuting, I’ve put together a few notes for Target to meet this demand by exceeding the selection and service provided by your competitors.

As a life-long cyclist and daily bike commuter (Georgetown to Austin and back covering three zip codes), I tend to pay attention to the selection and quality of cycling products offered by non-bike shop retail outlets, primarily Target, Walmart and Academy.

Target seems to offer higher quality bikes, but the selection is extremely limited, as is the variety of accessories. The bikes also appear to be hidden out of view of customers shopping in other departments.

Walmart has a much wider selection of both bikes and accessories, but the build quality is at best, below standard.

Academy currently has the best combination of selection and quality, and their bikes are in plain view when shopping in other departments.

One feature that all of the above stores have in common is the absence of a dedicated bike department mechanic and/or sales associate. This is where the bike shops have the advantage. If I get the impression that a store is not serious about selling bikes, I go to another store or bike shop.

As a consumer, this is what I would expect from a retailer who is serious about selling bikes.


  • Designate an area for a bicycle mechanic’s repair stand.
  • Assemble the bikes in plain view of customers.
  • Help customers with bike choice regarding intended use and fit.
  • Perform adjustments for fit as bikes are sold.
  • Suggest accessories related to the intended use and recommend helmets to all customers.
  • Responsible for cross-department staging. See below.

To justify the investment in this position, we have to get customers thinking about bikes by putting the bikes in the departments they are shopping. Bike shops don’t have the problem of making the bikes more visible in their stores since bikes and bike accessories are their specialty. My last three visits to our local Target, the bike section was moved each time. It is currently facing the back of the store, hidden from view when shopping in other departments. How do we fix this?

Cross-Department Merchandising

  • Stage a loaded commuter bike in the grocery department. Include racks, fenders and bags.
  • Stage a loaded touring bike next to books and computers.
  • Stage youth bikes in the boys or girls clothing departments.
  • Stage adult bikes with a trailer in the adult clothing departments.
  • Stage mountain bikes next to camping and or hunting gear.
  • Move the messenger bags into the bike department. These are currently sold next to backpacks for around $50. Walmart offers similar messenger bags for $18 but again, they are displayed next to other bags instead of with other bike accessories.
  • I also failed to locate any cycling magazines in our local Target. Subscribe to magazines covering BMX/dirt jump, commuting, mountain bike and touring. Display these in the bike department as well as the magazine section.
  • Display cycling-related videos and/or ads on flat screen TVs, also sold in Target.
Customers will immediately recognize and appreciate this increased focus on creating a better bicycle buying experience. Implementing these measures will quickly make Target the bike shop alternative.

Regarding parts and accessories, stores like Walmart and Target are selling 29” bikes but do not sell 29” tubes or tires. Why? If you sell a complete bike with a specific tire/tube size, you should also sell those tires/tubes as individual items. If not, these items will surely be purchased elsewhere.

Taking this one step further, offer a bicycle rental program. The bikes will have signage attached to the center of the frame identifying them to the general public as a Target rental.

Revisiting the topic of service and build quality, the following describes my last experience with a large, retail store bike department.

I spent one and a half hours making my selection with no help from a store employee. Most customers would have walked away without making a purchase. Also, most customers do not inspect their bikes before riding. When I did get the bikes home after spending over $400, this is what I found.

18” boys bike:
  • Both wheels were bent or out of true.
  • Found a small rip/tear in the seat.
  • The bolts under the seat were loose.
  • Brake levers were not secured to the handlebars.

24” girls mt. Bike:
  • Rear brake cable was missing a cable end/nipple.
  • The derailleur and front brake cable ends came off by hand…these should be secured with a crimping tool.
  • Front and rear brake pads were loose.
  • Unable to tighten the front reflector, it was too large for the handlebar tubing.

28” girls bike:
  • Rear brake cable was too long…scratched my daughter’s leg when pedaling.
  • All cable ends pulled off by hand. Again, these should be secured with a crimping tool.
  • Seat would not tighten on the seat post. The parts did not match.
  • Front wheel was installed backwards. The quick release lever is typically on the left side of the bike.
  • Rear rack and fender bolts were loose.

I would love to be a part of implementing these measures in your stores. To discuss further, I can be reached at the phone number and/or email address listed below.

Best regards,
Joe Holan

As a last resort, I would show them that I'm actually a customer of theirs and would be honored to be an employee. 

No, I'm not seeking a job with Surly, although I would consider it. Are those Park Tools hanging in the background? Probably. 


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