Editor’s note: This is part of The Know’s new series, Staff Favorites. Each week, we will offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also let you in on some hidden gems).
One of the things I value in a bike, ski or mountaineering shop is the way its salespeople and maintenance technicians treat customers.
When John Polli was treated rudely at a local bike shop two decades ago, he saw a market opportunity and decided to give the offending shop some competition. It was one of the reasons he started Peak Cycles in Golden, my favorite bike shop.
“I have always been annoyed when you go into a shop and someone gives you attitude,” Polli said. “I was like, ‘That’s ridiculous, I’m going to open a bike shop. Those guys are total (jerks).’ Three months later, I had my own bike shop.”
Over the years, I have bought two bikes at Peak Cycles. I have all my maintenance and repair work done there, and I’ve always been impressed by the respect and patience its technicians show customers. It’s clear they understand that friendly, helpful service builds customer loyalty.
“We have kind of a family atmosphere,” said Dan Dwyer, who has worked there for 12 years. “When somebody comes in the door, it’s not about us, it’s about them.”
Location is part of why I like Peak so much, too. It’s situated in the heart of downtown Golden on a corner at 13th and Washington. The headquarters of Denver-based Icelantic skis is situated on another corner. Bentgate Mountaineering, my favorite shop for backcountry skiing, is half a block away, and there are all sorts of cool shops and restaurants nearby that make downtown Golden vibrant.
That intersection is also a crossroads for Denver cyclists heading to Lookout Mountain, the metro area’s most iconic ride, along with other great rides and trails nearby.
“Having access to a climb like Lookout Mountain is very, very unique,” Polli said. “That’s one thing I love about Golden, having Lookout Mountain and all the trails right there. It’s a cyclist’s paradise, for sure.”
The Peak Cycles story is pretty unique, too. The business started in 1998 after Polli graduated from Colorado State University. He was a competitive mountain biker back then, and he got interested in the sales potential of the internet just as the dot.com boom was starting. Driving back to Fort Collins from Englewood one night after a dot.com presentation, he decided he wanted to create a website to sell bike parts. The next day, he registered the domain name bikeparts.com, which is still going strong today.
In 2003, he opened a small bike shop on Old Golden Road to support the website. Three years later, Peak Cycles moved to downtown Golden next to the Higher Grounds Cafe, a favorite coffee shop for Golden locals, and then to its current location in 2009. The Great Recession was in progress, but business was good for the bike shop and bikeparts.com.
“People were riding their bikes,” Polli said. “It was a bike boom. Every time there’s something weird going on in the world, people turn to bicycles, whether it’s gas prices or COVID; it’s weird. I don’t want to say it’s recession-proof, but it is what people turn to because it’s a cheaper form of staying healthy.”
Today, about a third of his revenue comes from bikeparts.com, while the bike shop accounts for the remainder. During the height of the pandemic, it was about 50-50.
“We’re the brick and mortar for bikeparts.com,” Dwyer said. “It’s a symbiotic relationship. A lot of the parts somebody orders on bikeparts.com might be here in the store, and they can stop by to pick them up. At the same time, (bikeparts.com) reaches out to the whole country (and even) internationally.”
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