Our latest shop visit lands BKW in the Pacific Northwest with a visit to Cascade Bicycle Studio (CBS), a one man, one-on-one bicycle studio that operates by "appointment only". Given the nature of the studio and the individualistic approach, we'd fall short if we didn't mention its proprietor and founder, long-time bike industry guy, cyclocross fanatic, and Hup United founder, Zac Daab.
Zac's background is very similar to most bike industry folks: he began working at a bike shop at a very early age, sweeping the floors, building bikes for inventory, and picking up lunch for the mechanics and sales team. It was during these years that Zac became hooked on cycling and it became his full-time obsession and, in one form or another, his vocation for the next 12 years. Prior to his launch of CBS, Zac worked at Seven Cycles as Senior Fit Expert, recommending more than 7,000 frame specifications for a variety of clients, including olympians, professional athletes, weekend warriors, and cycling enthusiasts. Zac's broad industry experience equips him to offer an expert opinion as it relates to bicycle fitting, custom bicycle design and geometry, and material selection based on the rider's intended use of the bike and previous riding experience. Zac's education at Seven and his years of retail experience provided him with a perfect segue to the "studio" approach to bicycle retail.
CBS is located in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood. The studio space is set just off the main street, resting literally below the hustle of North 36th Street. Stepping through the doorway and into the Studio was a sensory experience. The warm glow of the wood floors paired with the beautiful, neatly aligned machines created a sensation that was part awakening and part flash bulb memory. Much in the same way that small shop in Redding, California did when I visited it after more than 22 years: the smell and feel of the space marked a first. For CBS, it was the first time I entered a "studio" bike shop, and for the latter shop, the first time I walked into an honest-to-goodness California bike shop. The first impressions of CBS remains etched into my mind's eye.
My initial thoughts were "where is all the stuff?" The streamlined nature of the shop and simple lack of the superfluous was, at first, disorienting. I mean, where are the boxes? the bright colors? the racks of clothes? the kids bikes? the tire inventories? the big service area? Where is all the stuff? Ahhh..., but this is the essence of CBS...streamlined and clutter-free. With these components missing, CBS is free to focus on the aspects that a passionate cyclist is seeking. Great advice, empowerment and top-level service.
The atmosphere at the studio is relaxed, professional, and rich in bicycle culture. Clients of all abilities and goals are welcome at the studio and a strong emphasis is placed on uncovering client needs and goals, rather than quizzing client’s knowledge, skill set, and accolades. At CBS, one does not need to “earn” the right to be a part of the studio culture. - CBS websiteTo some, CBS's product and service offerings may seem too narrow, too single-minded, but for others who seek their dream bike or relief from pain on the bicycle, CBS provides the right blend of offerings and non-exclusivity. A comparison could be drawn between cycling and motorsports. If you own an older model BMW, a car dedicated for use at the track, and you are seeking advice and mechanical expertise to make your car faster on track days, the dealer is probably the last place you would seek info. The focus of the dealer is different than a small shop who specializes in track cars (maybe even your generation BMW). Add a mechanic whose former experience was building BMW's race engines and now you have a shop whose focus aligns with your very specific needs and has the background to offer a level of support that few others do.
When you break down the Studio approach into its simplest form, it becomes apparent why it appeals to cyclists seeking top-level service and advice on the purchase of their next machine. Today's bikes are more technical and more expensive than ever before. CBS distills all components of a traditional shop leaving the services and products that are of interest and benefit to the serious cyclist. CBS aims not to sell a cyclist their first bike, but rather to sell them their second or third bike or fourth.
CBS's offerings are not limited to solely bikes. While visiting, Zac was wrapping up the installation of two SRMs for different customers. Having spent a season riding the SRM, I see the benefit of purchasing such a complex instrument from a retailer who has the time to explain the functions of the training tool and to address the enivitable flood of questions I will have in the future.
The cycling population at large is slowly adjusting to the new kid on the block, and for those who have a "studio" in their community, the acceptance of this approach to bicycle retail has already begun. In the same way the "corporate store" has rewritten the retail landscape, the studio approach is next. Bicycle retail is undergoing another transition in an effort to keep up with its customers and their needs.
If you find yourself in the Pacific Northwest, schedule a visit with Zac and drop by CBS. You won't be disappointed.
CBS is hosting an open house this weekend (June 27th - June 28th) to welcome representatives from Seven Cycles. Three days of Seven demo rides will be held. Please email or call CBS if you would like to attend the open house or to schedule a Seven Cycles test ride.
Cascade Bicycle Studio
473 North 36th Street #C
Seattle, WA 98103