Help me find bike parts and accessories.
March 2, 2010 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Anyone have any experience with Bicycle Parts and Accessories distributors? I'm thinking of starting a online store specializing in a segment of the cycling world that I feel is under-served. Any advice from inside the industry would be helpful.

Ideally they would be able to drop ship. Also would be interested in purchasing quality bike lights, racks, etc... that could be branded. Thanks in advance for your expertise.
posted by trbrts to Work & Money (9 answers total)
I sort of wish I had figured this out a decade ago when the fixed gear craze began. I could have made some serious money, not enough to quit my job, but still. Anyway, I see Rivendell cry non-stop about how little they are making. Velo Orange seems to have carved out quite a nice niche with the rando, etc, crowd. When I looked at this ten years ago no one wanted to sell to me unless I had a storefront. I couldn't buy wholesale with just an LLC and a web presence. That may have changed.
posted by fixedgear at 9:26 AM on March 2, 2010

Quality Bicycle Products is one of the most common. If you go into most bike shops and ask for something to be ordered, you're likely to get the QBP catalog.
posted by meowzilla at 9:52 AM on March 2, 2010

In short, all of the big distributors will want you to have a brick & mortar storefront and I don't know a single distributor, big or small, that'll drop-ship for you.

Without knowing what segment of cycling you're referring to I can't say whether or not any of the distributors that specialize in those areas have the same b&m policies.

Are you looking at an actual online storefront or selling through eBay? Keep in mind that many manufacturers have anti-auction policies. While not everyone (obviously) complies with such policies, I've worked in a few stores that have had some harshly worded letters sent to them.

I can add more later, I've got a class to attend to.
posted by fore at 9:53 AM on March 2, 2010

Bike industry insider from years ago - but some things never change.
Generally, in order to have good pricing, you need direct relationships with manufacturers. If a particular market segment is under-served, there's not likely a lot of interest on the part of the standard suppliers, so you need to convince a manufacturer to make more of the widget you want. That means you need to travel extensively to Asia, attending bike/trade shows, with letters of credit in hand; at least back in the day, that's how purchase orders with foreign countries were handled. You'd place your order, contact the banker, have them cut the check and subtract that amount from the active letter of credit - the supplier gets paid in local currency, and ships your order.
On this end, you'd need a relationship with a freight expeditor to get your stuff off the container, through customs, and to your warehouse.
This all assumes that the distributors couldn't supply you.
If they could, then you'd need to set up an account with one or more - be sure to have a back-up supplier for key items, that way if one runs out, you've can get more. Drop-shipping direct to your customers doesn't really provide them with much advantage - they've got the hassle/expense of packaging and shipping individual items - and distributors do just that - distribute products in bulk.
Do you work in a bike shop? Know anyone who does? Talk to them about who supplies their parts, and see if you can find out when the next big trade show is (I think you just missed it), or barring that, see some catelogues.
Good luck!
posted by dbmcd at 9:56 AM on March 2, 2010

There several online bicycle parts and accessory stores. I believe all (or almost all) started out as a brick-and-mortar bike shop. I know my local shop had to provide evidence that they were a physical shop before they could get distributors to deal with them. When I took my bike in for a simple Shimano repair, Shimano required a copy of all kinds of documentation including photos of the store.

One does not simply walk into Mordor open and online bike shop.
posted by Doohickie at 12:31 PM on March 2, 2010

Thanks for the input guys. Yeah, I've got no experience in the bike industry, I currently work in the ski industry but not in the product sides of things really.

I won't be doing auctions, just an online store. I don't even envision myself selling complete bikes at this time, more along the lines of accessories related to bicycle commuting. So, helmets, racks, bags, lights, pedals, shoes, cool cup holders, etc... So maybe it's not that underserved of a segment, but, I think by focusing in tightly on this segment and gearing everything to them, offering related content, etc... We could find a niche. Start small with a few products and build up I think.

What are the big bicycle trade shows? I'm here in Salt Lake City. Does the Outdoor Retailers convention we have here every year do much with bicycle companies?
posted by trbrts at 12:47 PM on March 2, 2010

The guys selling bike parts online from Singapore and Hong Kong -do- simply "open an online bike shop", they buy direct from the source in Asia, and ship to the consumer from Asia by EMS or courier... I bought a very nice road frame, fork and seatpost package with OEM SRAM Force component set that way.
posted by thewalrus at 12:48 PM on March 2, 2010

Interbike, Las Vegas, September is the big show. I wish you the best of luck, but blogs like seem to get tons of stuff to review and plenty of click through revenue. I don't think this market is really underserved, REI has all the gear one could want, and even local racer shops are branching out.
posted by fixedgear at 1:08 PM on March 2, 2010

REI has all the gear one could want

But not at prices that are competitive. Don't get me wrong I am a member and love the place, but things are insanely priced there (unless on sale obviously).

I always thought Performance was catalog only until they opened up some stores out west. I have very little industry knowledge (gained from working as a shop whipping post during high school years ago) but it does seem like the name brands control the market very tightly. It seems like all the smaller online retailers I have bought from do have at least one b&m store.

On online store that could offer great prices due to less overhead than a b&m would do well I would think.
posted by Big_B at 3:06 PM on March 2, 2010

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