Ways to give back: An interview with Seth Wolins, owner of Big Ring Cycles in Golden, CO
In 2018, Bicycle Colorado wrote about Big Ring Cycles’ store expansion, and the shop’s focus on building and supporting the bicycle community in Colorado. Earlier this year, we visited Big Ring again to chat with owner Seth Wolins about how his shop has been serving their community of customers and other bicyclists in the greater Golden and Denver areas.
When Seth bought Big Ring Cycles in May of 2016, the store was much smaller than its current size.
“It ended right there where the Parts and Service sign is,” he says. During the expansion, about 2,600 square feet were added to the shop, expanding service areas and adding a specialized bicycle fit room.
Mounted around the shop are older, vintage bikes and memorabilia that are part of the “museum collection.” Seth says it’s important to him that there are these historical artifacts to learn about around the shop. “If old guys like me don’t tell people about this stuff, they’re never going to know about it. Part of it is to teach kids about this stuff.”
Seth: “The Colnago Arabesque was first introduced in the 1970s, but recently a box of the Arabesque frame lugs were found in one of the Colnago factory buildings in Italy. [Colnago] decided to make ‘New-Modern-Current’ Arabesque frames until they ran out of lugs.”
Big Ring is also known for its coffee bar, where customers can sit while their bicycles are being serviced. The store offers coffee and water at no charge and, after 5 p.m., adults can also partake in beer and wine.
Next to the coffee bar is “The Hub,” a lounge area. Seth notes that the area is used quite frequently. People come in to the shop to spend time in The Hub and have a coffee or water before heading out again. “I think people really enjoy having a destination to come to either before they’ve done Lookout Mountain or after … This gives them a place to recharge a little bit.” Seth also plans to open up the shop’s patio in the summer.
Customers that come into the shop can build strong relationships with Seth and the employees at the store. They tell stories about how they haven’t ridden for years but are excited to start bicycling again. The photo album on the coffee table contains pictures sent in from customers of them on their bicycles, and Seth says he really enjoys hearing how his customers are using their bikes. In his desk, he keeps notes left for him from children excited for their first bicycles.
Seth says people from all walks of life come in to Big Ring. “We get kids coming in here, and we always treat the buyer as the customer, whether it’s a child or an adult, to somebody getting their first road bike, to people who have raced for decades.” He has observed that recently, older couples and couples where one person is a racer come in to purchase e-bikes so they can ride together. The shop also supports a few unhoused neighbors with bicycle service.
When asked what advice he’d give to somebody who wants to buy a bicycle and start riding, but doesn’t know where to start, Seth emphasizes that it is important to define how a person will ride their bike and to get the right fit so they’re riding comfortably. He takes pride in keeping his employees trained in providing the right fit and the right service for bikes, and that’s why he recommends going to a professional bike shop for a good fit. He also points out that riding a bike before buying it is important. For him, this is why it’s crucial that bike shops stay in business—when someone buys a bicycle online, they’re not getting the benefit of expert advice and service from a professional shop.
Seth hopes that Big Ring is a welcome environment for all, and that it encourages people to come in, learn and buy from them in person.
“Our job is to inform, educate, and empower,” he says.
Big Ring Cycles has a major focus on equitably serving people of all genders. For Seth, it’s a no-brainer. He notes that it is crucial to create an environment where women, especially new riders, can feel comfortable. He points out that it is both good business practice for the bike shop and that it is also what all shops should be doing. He’s built up a staff that is respectful to all customers, and he doesn’t tolerate what he calls “[a] male chauvinistic environment.” He hopes people leave the shop having had a good experience, and he says the store deals with any problems correctly and swiftly.
“The whole grumpy bike shop, grumpy mechanic thing, is just over … the fact that we embrace women shouldn’t even be a thing. It should be normal.”
Big Ring also values supporting the community by giving back in-kind and financially to organizations that he and his employees feel are doing good work. He explained that Big Ring partners with Bicycle Colorado because “the work that [Bicycle Colorado] is doing protects our customers and, at a higher level, you’re doing work to protect customers of other stores and other businesses as well.”
Apart from being a major supporter of Bicycle Colorado, the store also raises money for high school bicycle racing, to encourage children to keep their bodies active. They sponsor the Compass Montessori School racing team and the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. Big Ring also donates bicycles and parts to the Golden Optimists, which provides bicycles for those in need in the greater Golden area.
“It’s hard to quantify everything we do because we don’t really look at it that way. We kind of do it naturally,” says Seth.
Seth believes it is an obligation for a business to give back to the community. He says they need to care. He feels that it is very simple—“they need to pick a group or groups that are important to them, maybe their customers are composed of some of the people in those groups, or whatever, but they need to find some place to do the right thing and give back.” He sees that community-focused organizations need support, acknowledging that finding funding can be difficult.
To other bike shops and businesses who don’t yet contribute back to their community, he says, “don’t see the obstacles. See the opportunity.”
Big Ring Cycles is a Business Member of Bicycle Colorado.
We’re grateful for their support!
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