Marc Wiederkehr – bikes, Cape Epic and much more
05 June 2016
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Gerald de Kock: Thanks for downloading another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Bike podcast. All matters mountain biking, the people, the personalities, the races, the faces and the trails around this incredible sport. Which is growing at a rate that is difficult to keep up with in many senses.
Today we’re going to be speaking to a man who has a great passion for mountain biking, he also is an owner of a bike shop that focuses on cycling. But I think mountain biking is a predominant thing going on at Dunkeld Cycles in Johannesburg. Marc Wiederkehr, thanks for joining us. Firstly, your cycling pedigree, you’ve done a lot of Epics, how many?
11 Cape Epics and counting
Marc Wiederkehr: I’ve just completed my 11th Epic, which they never get easier. You seem to just get older every year. But the passion is still there if you know what I mean. It’s that fine balance of not training too hard for it and always coming out knowing you can actually do better. I think that’s what keeps me going me back. Otherwise, if you peak too high, it’s hard to go back because you know you won’t actually achieve it again.
GDK: Do you train as hard as you did 10/11 years ago?
MW: Far less, substantially less. You’re most probably looking for Epic training, between 6-8 hours a week and very much, primarily, on the indoor bike. You’re doing very specific sessions.
GDK: The quality of the training is probably a lot better.
MW: It’s all about quality now. On a mountain bike you can almost get away with pure quality. Because luckily when you go up you work hard. But then you rest on the downhill and the new routes are more technical. So you ride up and down a lot more and those short little rests are enough to keep you going.
Sticking with the right partner
GDK: You’ve ridden a lot with the same partner, haven’t you?
MW: Yes, Gus Klohn has been my partner, we’ve done 8 Epics together, so the combination works.
GDK: And a few Pioneers.
MW: About five Pioneers. Everyone jokes about the two of us, but we ride, we know each other, communication is zero. You get to a point where you just pick up the body language, the way the person is feeling. We enjoy each other’s company. I think that’s the main thing. You’re going for weekends away and that’s your annual ‘leave’ almost, these races.
GDK: And this is your business as well, as we stand on your shop floor here in Dunkeld. There’s a nice vibe, there’s plenty going on here, combining business and pleasure.
MW: I think it’s the key and it’s the key to keep the passion, it does become a job at some stage and it’s hard to avoid, but you have to work at it.
GDK: You’ve also dragged your wife into it, or did she come willingly. Has also completed a couple of Epics.
MW: She just trains with us and then the entries always pop up and she just does it. She’s actually the only one who always has a smile on her face where a lot of us have tears in our eyes. Depending on when the picture is taken, but she goes out there and has fun, it’s nice to see.
What level of bikes are guys buying
GDK: Let’s get to the business side of it, not to hide it, it’s an affluent Northern suburbs of Johannesburg here. So there are high-end people here who like high-end equipment and high-end bikes, is that a trend you see?
MW: Yes, I think we’re very fortunate for our location. It is a low density, high income area and we’ve got brilliant clients. It’s been over 10 years and you’ve built up a sturdy client base and the 40+ is where our market is. People have got disposable income, fortunately for us, to do the sport, which isn’t cheap at the end of the day.
GDK: It’s not and it’s getting more and more expensive in every sense, in terms of the bikes and the events. But still there’s almost an insatiable hunger to ride events, to have the best or the nicest gear. Is it still climbing from your perspective, on the retail floor?
MW: It’s climbing, but in different aspects. People mature, in the sense that not everyone wants to race. They just want to be out there and enjoy it and so their choice of bike changes, so you’re not always going for the most raciest, you’re going for a more comfortable bike.
It’s become quite a social sport, is that you’re riding, we’ve got lots of big groups that do holidays away. 30 people who go away and do a training camp. you can see the industry is also moving that way, it’s more about the trail and the people around you, rather than the competitive advantages.
GDK: Do you think that the riders have become more knowledgeable about what they’re doing out there? Or are we still seeing people saying, ah, I want to ride a bike, this one’s a nice colour, I think I’ll buy that one.
MW: No, the client is very informed. There are trends that are changing, more and more people are looking at longer travel bikes. But people tend to know what they want, know their capabilities and know what they want to get out of it. Not everyone wants to win the race at the top of the hill. There’s people who just want to have fun going downhill and we’re starting to see that generation come through, where people want to just purely have fun.
There are a broad spectrum of riders out there
GDK: It’s interesting because you’re dealing with quite a broad spectrum. You’ve got those people who ride in the road and take it very seriously. That’s what they do and right the way through to those who want long trail bikes or enduro bikes. So you’ve got to cater for quite a broad spectrum here.
MW: Yes, no doubt. I think it’s difficult, not for a store, but for the suppliers into the market. If you miss a season you’re out. So they tend to bring in everything, which is high risk, if you know what I mean. If a bike doesn’t move for a season, it’s a lot of dead stock that’s sitting there.
GDK: You’ve got everything here. I’m standing on the floor, it’s immaculately decked out, we’re in the clothing section here, some wonderful high-end clothes. There’s helmets and shoes and gloves and all the parts for the bikes. You’ve even got a bike fitment set up here as well.
MW: Yes, we’ve got Richard Baxter has come on board with us, as a joint venture. He’s running the bike fitment, which has been a brilliant upliftment and synergy for the store. It’s these little tweaks that people are looking for. I’ll say it’s all about balance on the bike and he’s offering that. It’s from the smallest of injuries to just riding better on the bike.
I think our key focus at the moment is making sure our clients don’t have accidents and mountain biking, it’s high risk. Just changing set up, getting the person perfectly balanced on the bike helps. I think the big thing for us having Richard on board, it’s just offering clients that little bit extra to enjoy the sport more.
Understanding and servicing clients needs
GDK: Are most of your clients regulars, are these people who come in and have been coming here for many years?
MW: You tend to know the person coming up the stairs.
GDK: Is that important?
MW: I think it’s critical. People come here, it’s the personalities in the store that they come, that’s what you’re competing against at the moment. They’re looking for advice, they’re looking for help, but in a subtle way, it’s not a sales environment. People come here because they enjoy being in a cycle store.
GDK: They do, I do too and that’s one of the beauties of this sport, but they want to speak to Marc. Quite often a store like this is driven, as you said, by personality or by the owner. People will be walking, ja, Marc from Dunkeld Cycles helped me, there’s that sort of cachet about being helped by the owners. There’s a bit of pressure on you to be here and be attentive?
MW: It’s very much a personal touch thing. You build up the name, it’s not the Dunkeld Cycles, it’s the people on the floor and that’s the key aspect of the sport. It’s very much the owner driven stores that have that personal touch. You can feel it straight away when the owners aren’t on the floor, it does, the stores do have a different feel.
GDK: In terms of the costs and pricing increases going up all the time and the exchange rate is not doing us any favours at all. Are people being more discerning, are they being more choosy about how they’re going about their purchases now?
MW: I think everyone, the future is slightly uncertain, so yes, you definitely see it. We’ve been quite fortunate that a lot of our prices are holding until 2017, especially on the Specialized range. But when the 2017 comes out, we’re definitely going to feel it in a different way.
A Specialized elite store
GDK: You are a Specialized dealer, with a few other brands?
MW: Yes, we’re a Specialized elite store and it forwards us the opportunity to carry other stock, high demand stock items on the floor as well. We carry MERIDA at the moment as our secondary support brand and they’ve just brought out a new bike in 2016, the 96, which has been brilliant for us, it’s really, it’s going to be a good seller.
GDK: There’s something about Specialized in this country, isn’t there? And particularly in this area.
MW: I think Specialized works, there’s no doubt about it. It’s one of those bikes you can hop on and it works, you don’t have to sell it, you just have to ride. People enjoy it and I think that’s the key to the brand. The differentiator is it’s a balanced bike, so you feel confident on it straight away, a confident bike is a fast bike.
GDK: You’re on the floor here a lot, you work full time, how much do you train whilst you’re doing all this?
MW: Not enough!
GDK: I’ve seen you ride, you do!
MW: I do high intensity, 30 minute sessions three times a week and one weekend ride. It’s enough to make sure I’m enjoying it and fast enough that you’re slightly competitive, not competitive, just slightly competitive.
GDK: I’ll leave you to work out what ‘slightly competitive’ is, but that’s Marc Wiederkehr from Dunkeld Cycles. If you’re in the area of Northern Johannesburg, along Jan Smuts, pop in and say hi.
Have a look at what they’ve got here, it really is one another of these wonderful local bike stores that will keep you entertained and informed, as we like to be in mountain biking. Thanks to Marc from Dunkeld Cycles and thank you for downloading another edition of our Old Mutual Live Mountain Biking, until next time, cheers.