Walking into Planet Cycles for the first time brought a huge smile to my face.
It is the closest thing a bike-loving adult could get to being a kid in a candy store. There are countless special edition Tarmac S-Works frames on the walls, a huge line up of MTBs downstairs, clothing as far as the eye can see, an entire wall dedicated to shoes and a fat bike sitting out the front that is just screaming to be ridden.
Planet Cycles has been owned and run by Mark (who has owned bike stores since 1990) and Bronwyn Victor since 1999, is about 600sqm and employs a strong workforce of over 20 crew. That amount of staff highlights how busy the team are. I got there first thing on a Tuesday morning and it was all hands on deck.
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The shop is where some of Queensland and Australia's best athletes come to get their bikes serviced. Emma Jackson, Sam Betten and Melissa Hauschildt all frequent Planet Cycles to ensure their machines are in tip-top shape for international competition. Knock on wood, Mark has not had one issue since servicing the pros' bikes in six years, highlighting the exceptional high standards of the workshop.
A remarkable fact about the workshop is that it is environmentally friendly, only using tank water and never any chemicals. Mark has the environment at the forefront of that decision, but he also comments that harsh chemicals or contaminated water can be just as bad for your bike as they are for you. As a result all of your bikes parts will be protected from corrosive substances or potentially harmful chemicals. The team go as far as to use bio-degradable degreaser, leading the way for an industry change.
Planet Cycles has a strong female focus through Planet Femme, which aims to introduce women to cycling and make it easier for them to get involved. The team will play a big part in Specialized Women's month where the shop will have bike maintenance sessions, "Talking Triathlon" with Mel Hauschildt and Emma Jackson, women only rides and bike skills sessions, which in the past have proved extremely popular.
Mark says about a third of their clientele is female, and that number continues to grow. There are three full time female staff members at Planet Cycles, which has no doubt helped the growth and popularity of the shop and women's cycling in the area.
Planet Cycles has a huge demo fleet that isn't limited to the bike. As well as road and MTBs you can test a massive range of wheels and saddles.
And the demo fleet isn't your run of the mill entry level line-up of bikes... In no particular order here are some of the road bikes you can throw a leg over: S-Works Tarmac Dura-Ace, S-Works Venge Dura-Ace, Shiv Elite, Alias Sport Tri, Tarmac Expert, Ruby Comp, Roubaix SL4 Expert, S-Works Amira SL4, and the Diverge Expert Carbon.
Not to be outdone, the line-up of demo MTBs is equally as impressive: Stumpjumper Elite 29, Stumpjumper Elite 650B, Camber Elite Carbon 29, Epic Elite Carbon 29, Fuse Expert 6 Fattie, S-Works Epic Carbon 29 WC, Enduro Comp 650b, Women's Rhyme Comp 650B, Women's Rumor Comp 650B, and the Women's Era Comp Carbon 29.
Roval, MAVIC , HED, ZIPP and SHIMANO make up the list of demo wheel sets, along with the full line-up of Specialized saddles to cater for every type of rider.
Looking at the above list of elite products, you can quickly see that Planet Cycles is all about delivering the best possible product and service for the customer. Very few shops will allow you to test the best and make arrangements regardless of your cycling discipline or unique circumstances.
The store is in a very fortunate position to be based in Brisbane, and is blessed with glorious weather all year round, the likes of which the southern states can only dream. The idyllic conditions mean there is no downtime for the store, customers ride their bikes all the way through winter, potentially only changing the distance as it heats up in summer.
Customer service is number one for the team. Mark is well aware that there will always be new players to the game that are selling things cheaper, but the interaction and value you are getting with Planet Cycles is something you can't buy on-line.
'You can't buy labour or customer service online'
There are exciting times ahead for Mark and the team as they look to expand the shop and potentially move into a bigger space to try and cater for the ever increasing demand. In addition to that, the Commonwealth Games are approaching in 2018, which is great news for the state but also for the infrastructure of Queensland and excitement around the city. Mark has seen a lot of growth in cycling over the years and the store's Saturday bunch is an example of that. It has swelled to almost 100 riders, with three groups now rolling out on a Saturday morning. Mark is proud of the numbers but also of seeing someone start in the beginner group riding 10km at below 30kph, and building up to the experienced group riding 70km at 38kph.
The experience and passion at Planet Cycles is very clear to see, and the store's popularity and longevity speaks volumes of their staff and service.