Interview with Incycle Co-owner Mark Smits, Celebrating 20 Years

Incycle bike shops recently celebrated their 20th Anniversary in May. A lot has happened in the bike industry in the last 20 years.  Incycle has grown to four successful locations (San Dimas, Chino, Rancho Cucamonga, Pasadena) since 1991. We caught up with co-owner Mark Smits to learn more about Incycle. How did Incycle get started and what made you want to own a bike shop?

Mark Smits:  Incycle got started in 1991 by myself Mark W. Smits, Dominic Galenti and another gent named Jesus that was in business across the street behind the REI when it was in San Dimas. Incycle was originally named Cycling Associates, so every day we would get calls asking if we were cycling lawyers. We would have made more $$$. How we got started was completely the wrong way. I was 19 working at Trader Joes and Dominic was my Boss. He, as he is good at today, got the whole crew interested in riding and I was one that got hooked on mountain biking.

We kept trying to find a store that meshed with the style of riding we were doing.  And at that time and there were still  really good stores in our area, but for some reason we thought we could give it a go. Dom was approached by Jesus and Dom approached me. I was pretty ambitious but had zero $$$. So I mustered up the nerve to ask my mother for a 10k loan, $2500 in which to pay off my personal bills and $7500 to invest in Incycle, and away we went. We moved the store to 531 W. Arrow Hwy (Lucky Elephant restaurant is currently there), to actually a smaller spot than where we were, but in a more retail zone and ran out of money quick. Did you come from a cycling background?

Mark Smits:  I came from a riding my bike all day and everyday background, raced a little BMX when I was younger, and dabbled in road and MTB racing, but was never really good. I swam competitively and played more team sports when younger.  I always loved riding my bike.  We as youngsters would ride our road bikes down to the Two Wheel Transit in Huntington Beach every weekend. What a cool store! How long did it take for you to start seeing success?

Mark Smits:  We started seeing success the day we started! There has not been a day that has gone by that I have not wanted to go to work. I consider myself very lucky and very successful in this respect. I absolutely love seeing our customers, young or old, get into riding and coming in to tell us of their adventures.  It’s great. Incycle was voted by the public to be one of the best shops in the Inland Empire, how did that come about?

Mark Smits:  We got voted by the readers as Top Shop in the Inland Empire.  This was really cool for us to be recognized by our customers and a very unbiased vote. We have never chased things of this nature, by advertising more heavily to sway a vote, so this was really cool for us to be voted in! Thank you to those of you who voted. What type of vibe do you consider Incycle to have as a leading shop in the San Gabriel Valley and Inland Empire?

Mark Smits: Our vibe has always been a little edgy. I think we have really gotten lucky branding ourselves and have pushed the limit a little. We have always wanted a young, fun energetic vibe and atmosphere. What we are selling is a way of life and we want people to be comfortable and to have FUN when walking in any Incycle. Having been in the business for 20 years, what trends are you seeing in the industry?

Mark Smits:  Our 20th year anniversary has just passed and with that a lot has changed and there is a ton of opportunity out there for companies. I see the trends going back to cyclists not having just 2 bikes, but a lot of people have 3 to 5 bikes. It coincides with the popularity of cycling being at an all time high, Thanks Lance!! Cycling has truly become a way of life action sport. How have you seen the trends change over the last 20 years?

Mark Smits:  The trends have definitely changed over the past 20 years! It used to be that there were a ton of garage companies making MTB parts, now we see a huge amount of BMX companies (rider owned) getting their starts this way. It’s very cool to watch! Work hard guys, you are becoming companies to compete with the big boys, and they are watching!! Of all the bike brands, components and accessories you carry, what are the companies that you see making big advancements in technologies and consider being on the cutting edge of racing in both road and Mountain biking?

Mark Smits:  We are very fortunate to work with or have in the past worked with almost every very innovative company in this industry. Some of the really cutting edge companies that I think are giving customers what they want are Quarq, Garmin, NINER, to name a few. And of course Cannondale and Specialized.  How do you keep making bicycles better and better? Being a supporter of many clubs, teams and the San Dimas Stage Race, how has this helped the community and Incycle from a marketing perspective?

Mark Smits:  Over the years and as we got started we did not know what we were doing, but knew we wanted to give back and get cycling more accepted in our area. We always had a presence as a MTB race team, but MTB racing has always had its struggles, but we stayed committed and joined forces with Ben Eisley of MT SAC and been a sponsor/supporter since day one and it continues to be a great mountain bike race. When things started to switch to road being very popular, we were approached and joined forces with ESPRIT VELO (currently SC VELO/ Incycle), which has had a ton of success with the SDSR road race, which is one of the best races on the calendar right in our backyard. Incycle along the way has gotten notoriety and branded nicely and luckily this has happened, but our intention was always to give back to the sport and it would give back to us. From a marketing perspective it has been great. It’s a really neat feeling to drive down the road and see a cyclist with INCYCLE all over themselves and you look GOOD!!! Thank you. Incycle opened the new Rancho store just over a year ago and reopened the Pasadena store shortly after that. How was that for your workload?

Mark Smits:  2010 was an amazingly HARD year, WOW, I did not ride much. We had an opportunity to open a new store in Rancho and we did.  Right when we finished building this store we were in a position of having to move our Pasadena store. OUCH!!! So we found what is now a better location and went for it.  It’s open and doing well. Big thanks to our current landlords. They are awesome, without them we would not have been able to afford this location.. Approaching 20 years in business and we were faced with one of the hardest years mentally, financially and the work load was incredible. We have always been very fortunate to have a great crew that gets in and rolls up their sleeves and gets it done!  They did! 95% of all Rancho and Pasadena were built by us or friends of the cycling community. Thank you to all that had parts in building the new locations. Incycle currently has four locations, do you see Incycle branching out even further to any new locations?

Mark Smits:  Any new locations on the horizon, not in 2011. NO we need to rest and get back to the basics, but anything is possible. How cool was it too see the Amgen Tour of California race in your own backyard? Have you noticed more people riding and getting into the sport due to AToC hosting the Claremont to Mt Baldy stage, which is in Incycle’s neighborhood?

Mark Smits:  Tour O Cali was amazing for our cycling community I think. It was very cool to hear and see our customers get so excited to see their cycling heroes and teams coming to take over our cities. It was very neat for us and I think Phil L said it best from the Baldy Stage that he hadn’t seen that much enthusiasm for a lot of years, even from the European fans. It was great. Hopefully the tour will return.

Thank you for the interview and truly there hasn’t been a day yet that I do not look forward to going to work. Not many people can say that. I do consider myself fortunate every day.

Thank you to all of our customers that have supported us for the past 20 years I look forward to many more….. Thank you for the interview Mark and for Incycle’s support to and to the Elite Team over the years!

Interview By Frank Sarate,

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