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52 Godly Men : Men of Today Teaching the Men of Tomorrow » My Journey » Week 34: Charles, A Bike Shop, And Thou

Week 34: Charles, A Bike Shop, And Thou

When certain people are surrounded by certain things, whether it be people, a closet, or even animals, they get really claustrophobic. Today, I was surrounded with bicycles all day, and some would have experienced severe claustrophobia. But I didn’t. Instead, I enjoyed myself immensely, while learning a ton about running a bicycle shop and spending some time with Charles Nelson, owner of Trailhead Bicycle Company here in Cleveland, and as big a lover of two-wheeled devices as anyone I’ve ever seen.

Charles, owner of Trailhead Bicycle Co.Right before dad left the shop, Charles informed him that the day was shaping up to be pretty busy. Dad immediately said that he was fine with that, and that I needed to get a sense of what a small-business owner’s life is really like. So on that note dad left, and I began my time with Charles. We didn’t do the ‘sit down and converse for a few minutes’ thing, mainly because Charles was really busy. I wondered why he had so much stuff to do, and he explained it this way: “People think that because I’m a small business owner, I’m my own boss. In reality, though, I have about thirty bosses–the people who come into my shop each day. They pay my bills, and they essentially keep me in business. So I have to keep on my toes and serve them well, or I’m out of work.” After that little bit of wisdom, I changed the subject, and asked him to tell me his life’s story. Charles said that he had time, so here it is. He grew up in Costa Rica as a missionaries’ kid (MK), and hung out with all of the other MKs his age. However, when he grew older, he never went through the ‘rebelling against God’ stage that a lot of MKs and PKs go through. He said that it was probably because his parents gave him a good blend of love and strictness that was perfect for him. Charles attended Lee University, and studied to become a medical doctor. But that avenue never worked out, and Charles decided to go back to what he had always wanted to do: start a bike shop.

That's no Bike!It was a short story, although interesting, and when Charles was done, he got back to work. Although his hands were busy, his mouth wasn’t, and so he explained things as he went along. One thing that needed to be taken care of was the assembly of a road racing bike for a customer. Charles told me that Trailhead buys bikes to stock their shelves, but they also order special bikes for some of their customers. This bike was especially built for short-distance racing, with a high seat for better aerodynamics, and special racing handlebars. When Charles took it out of the box, it did not look like a bike. The frame was wrapped in foam, and the wheels were separately wrapped. But piece by piece, screw by screw, Charles put the bike together, and had it looking sleek and crisp in almost no time.

The man who ordered the bike had arrived by this time, and he took it out for a test run to make sure everything was fine. While he was out riding, I got Charles to give me a quick run-through of the basic parts of a mountain bike, which you can watch by clicking here. Right after the video was finished, a guy came in with a flat tire wanting Charles to change it. One thing I noticed while Charles was dealing with the guy was that he treated him, a dude walking in for the first time, the same way that he treats his old customers, the ones that are in and out daily. So you didn’t feel like familiarity bred contempt, or foreignness for that matter. A guy named Andrew, Charles’s helper, had the inner tube of the bike changed in five minutes, and there was a bit of a lull in the business for a while. I took this time to wander around the store for a bit and look at what the shop had to offer. There were dozens of different bikes, from road bikes to mountain bikes to BMX bikes. They ranged in price from $300-$3000, with everything in between. I wanted to ask Charles what the best kind of bike was, but he had earlier said that there are over 25 different types of bikes, so I figured it’s just preference. One weird thing–Charles’s bike, with all of it’s cool brakes and suspension, cost him less than a bike that a man brought in that had one gear, no shocks, and no jacked-up frame. The difference was partially the wheels, which cost around fifteen hundred bucks, and the frame, which was made completely of titanium. So basically, there are a million different combinations of frames, wheels, brakes, gears, seats, pedals, and a ton of other things. It’s just what suits you best.

Plenty of GlovesThere were also a lot of accessories in the shop. Gloves, shoes, helmets, shorts, suits, and pumps lined the walls and shelves. I looked at a pair of knuckle gloves for a long time, but unfortunately, I didn’t bring any money with me. That’s something I can do better on next time, I guess. All of the BMX gear was starting to pique my interest a little, and since there’s a nice track in town, about 15 minutes from my house, I asked Charles a few basic questions on the subject. First, I asked (if I wanted to) if I could sign up for BMX racingĀ  right now, or if I had to wait for a certain date. and HelmetsHe said that you can register any time during the year, and it costs forty dollars for a twelve month period. Right now, there are a good deal of races left in the season, so it would be a good deal. Next, I wanted to know how much it would set me back to buy the gear necessary for BMX racing. After a few minutes of thinking, Charles replied that I could get a helmet, gloves, a bike, and sign up to race for about $400. And that’s not that bad, compared to some sports.

There was another lull in the business, and while Charles had an infinite number of things to do, I was stuck without a job. I watched a BMX DVD he had playing for a little while, with guys doing backflips and tailwhip 720s, but then the movie ended. After seeing my plight, Charles gave me a job. He had a sheet of about 300 bumper stickers that weren’t doing him any good where they were, so he handed me a knife, a pair of scissors, and told me to have at it. It wasn’t a huge job, but it was enough to make me feel like I had contributed (if only a little) to the shop.

Charles and IAlmost as soon as I had finished with the sticker sheet, dad came in to pick me up and whisk me away. The time seemed like it flew, although in reality, dad gave me twice as long as originally planned. My day was informative, diverting, educational, and oh yeah, I had a ball. I told dad afterwards, “If I need a job when in high school, I’m gonna work in this bike shop.” If you haven’t ever been in one, I invite you to check it out. It’s a great atmosphere, there are some really nice people, you won’t get claustrophobic, and, of course, you might buy yourself a nice bike along the way.

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