About the author: Randall R. Jacobs is the founder of THESIS, a company that's reimagining how high-end bicycles are created. He is a two-time amateur national champion and a former pro XC mountain bike racer. Having started his career in bike shops, Randall went on to learn Mandarin, architect supply chains in Asia, and develop product and market strategies for Specialized and other brands. He also co-developed the OpenBike bicycle technology platform and is a trusted advisor to a number of leading innovators and organizations in the industry.
We created THESIS to forge a better future for the bike industry.
It started with our OB1 bike. Instead of marketing hype, proprietary gimmicks, and hidden cheap-out parts, we created a single, obsessively curated, customizable carbon bike that even the most discerning riders could point to as “the best choice, hands down.”
But we’ve always had bigger aspirations for who we could empower. And today, I’m very proud to announce our THESIS Local Bicycle Professionals Program for shops and independent mechanics and fitters. We hope this will be a key step toward a healthier bicycle industry.
Local bicycle professionals are getting the short end of the stick.
Most bike shops lose money on the sale of new bicycles. That was the conclusion of an extensive study done in 2013. Many shops close each year, and of those that remain, many are struggling. All the while, bicycle mechanics remain some of the lowest paid skilled workers in our economy. I find this heartbreaking and unacceptable.
The problem stems from the fact that our industry has two main models:
In the traditional model, brands sell exclusively through local bike shops. To be blunt, the shop gets a raw deal. They end up trapped on an inventory and debt treadmill by some big brand that dictates how they run their business. What do I mean? A large brand will come in, force the shop to carry its entire line of inventory (even if it’s not relevant to their market), and switch the model years halfway through the buying season. If you don’t sell through everything, you end up forced to offer heavy discounts. If you can’t afford to pay right away, they make you take on debt. On top of all that, it’s the shop is paying for square footage and employee salaries and utility bills -- not the brand.
That’s how, despite an initial 35% wholesale mark-up, most shops lose money on the sale of new bicycles. Shops end up paying for the honor of serving as free warehouses disguised as local bike shops.
- Customers are gravitating toward the second model: shopping online. With direct-to-consumer brands, customers get to skip the middleman. There are problems with this, however: 1) customers can’t try out the bike beforehand and 2) many need a professional to help them through the confusing process of finding, configuring, and fitting the right bike for them.
As a result, some customers are walking into shops just to check out a bike and ask questions, and then they’re going online to find a same or similar bike at a lower price. The brand and customer benefit from having the shop as a showroom, while the shop gets nothing for its time, expertise, and investment.
We need a model that fairly compensates the people and organizations that create value in our industry.
Let’s explore a new path together.
We’re extremely proud of the OB1. We developed it to a mechanic’s discerning standard: it’s bombproof, versatile, easy to service, and a blast to ride on all types of roads. We want our bikes to be discovered.
We want to build a model where customers win, you win, and we win. We see three opportunities where that happens:
Discovery and experience. I don’t want you to be an unpaid warehouse or showroom. Instead, I want to reward you for introducing our bikes and helping our customers configure them to their unique needs. For many customers, being able to see our bikes in person, take them for a test ride, and have a local professional help them with configuration can be the difference between a happy customer and a lost sale. We think you deserve to be paid for creating that value./
Frame-up build. The OB1 comes 20% assembled. As a former mechanic, I know how bad factory assembly can be. It’s so bad that many mechanics will tear down and rebuild factory-assembled bikes just to make sure it’s done right. Ironically, after you factor in all the expenses, the factory assembly process costs a customer more in the end than a frame-up build. So we thought: why not pay a local professional mechanic to build it right in the first place?
- Fit. From my days as a pack-fodder pro, I learned that a professional fit is easily one of the best investments in cycling. That’s why we allow our customers to customize their handlebar width, stem length, and crank length at no extra cost before their OB1 ships. If you help them get their fit right, everyone wins.
So here’s what we’re offering:
No inventory, no debt, no brand dictating what you do. You’re in control of your own business.
We pay your business a 10% commission for referrals on the sale of THESIS products. That means $300-$450 cash per bike. That’s in addition to what you can earn on a professional frame-up build, advanced fit, ongoing maintenance and other areas where you’re currently making most of your profits.
We’ll sell you demo bikes at cost. You can put them in your window displays, offer them for test rides, and use the deal for your own bike too.
- We refer customers to you too. Even if a customer makes a purchase from us directly, they still need a $200-$300 frame-up build, potentially a fit, and ongoing service. We’ll list you as a local business that will welcome them with open arms. We take no cut, we just bring you together.
In other words, you get paid for your expertise, your work, and your investment in the discovery experience. The rider gets an amazing bike for a fraction of the traditional price. And we bring another THESIS joy machine into the world.
And in case you’re wondering, we’re making this a level playing field. Customers will pay the same price regardless of whether they buy directly or with you. We’re in this together.
By the way, if you’re a cyclist reading this: I want you to know that our model is still as factory-direct as possible. If you don’t need the expertise of a local bicycle professional, you can continue to shop directly with us. That said, we believe that the best investment we can make in your ride experience and the health of our industry is to reward those professionals who help you discover our bicycles, fit them to your body and riding style, and make sure they're built and maintained right to last a long time. And whether you work with a local professional or do everything yourself, the OB1 will be the best bike you can get for your money, hands down.
Know any bike shop managers or independent mechanics or fitters who might be interested? We want to change the industry for the better, and we'd love your help to spread the word.
Ready to join us? Apply today.