What is your name, where are you from, who do you work for?
Nick Murdick, Lake Forest, CA, Shimano America. I am the hard goods product line manager, more on that in a bit.
What is your background?
I worked as a mechanic at a few bike shops during my college years at UC, Irvine. After three years in the chemistry department, I took a leap and went with a passion over future career options and got a degree in Studio Art focusing on sports photography. After graduation I took a job as a store manager at a local shop and also worked for free as a photography intern with the LA Clippers. When the basketball season ended, I sort of coasted through the summer. I was a little disappointed in the lack of creativity that was allowed in big sports photography, and didn’t really know where my career path was ultimately going to end up. I wished I could make a career out of being a bike mechanic but was looking for a little more independence than the retail word would allow.
A few months later at Interbike, I won Park Tool’s Fastest Wrench in the West competition. That got me a scholarship to the Bill Woodul clinic and I discovered the race mechanic profession. Suddenly, the career path was clear. I got a new job turning wrenches again and starting bugging the folks at Shimano for a job on the Multi-Service team. 15 months and 4 volunteer events later, they finally offered me a job... So my background is a university education heavy in both art and science, retail management, bike shop wrenching, and then race wrenching.
Can you tell us about your progression to your current position?
Shimano hired me into the customer service/tech support department, which was actually a step down in pay from my job at the bike shop. That’s the bike industry for you, but it didn’t take long to make up for it. During my interview I told them that I was only applying for the job in order to get closer to the Multi-Service department, Shimano’s neutral race support program. So the pay cut was worth it to me in order to take a step towards the dream job. Customer service is the hardest job in this building but it’s extremely valuable experience. I thought I was a pretty awesome mechanic until I started getting calls about bringing Auto-D 4 speed internally geared hub bikes back to life. It was an interesting challenge because we get the call when the best bike mechanics in the country are stumped.
Luckily, I was able to get my race mechanic fix while working in customer service by joining the Multi-Service team on the road several times a year. When a position finally opened up a year and a half later, I was well prepared to take over the big blue race trailer and hit the road. Some of my fondest memories are from that time on the road and I sure do miss it. I drove Big Blue for four years, working mountain bike races, fun rides, dealer launch events, etc. We like to keep our mechanics pretty well rounded at Shimano so several times a year I would park the truck and join our road race program to jump out of perfectly good cars and change wheels for a week.
After that, I handed off the keys to truck and settled into a role that we called Lead Multi-Service Technician. It was basically an operations manager. So I spent two more years doing events full time, but I was flying between them and doing scheduling, budgeting, and event contracts in between. That was when I learned Excel, an essential skill for anyone looking to advance in the bike industry or sure.
At the end of 2013, our education department, S-TEC, created a new hands-on education program after being exclusively an online program. I had already been giving Interbike tech seminars for years so it was a natural fit for me to move into that role full time. The biggest transition for me was getting forced to return to my retail roots and think like a bike shop mechanic instead of a race mechanic. You certainly fix bikes differently when a customer is paying compared to when you’ve got a race trailer full of brand new parts. In class, we always tried to think of the procedures we taught in a retail profitability context and design lessons accordingly. I also brought back some of the techniques I used both as a store manager and shop mechanic and we included service writing, customer interaction, and merchandizing for service in the classes.
The art background actually came back and proved really useful in that program as well. Not only did it help me make better presentations but art school was where I learned how to stand up in front of a group of my peers and answer really hard questions. I taught three school years’ worth of those classes before moving into my current role on Shimano’s product team a few months ago. It’s a position that we finally created after years of discussion and I was so excited about bringing a mechanic’s point of view to the business side of Shimano that I jumped at the opportunity.
Tell us what you do on a daily basis.
My job is to think about Shimano components, small parts, and wheels in an aftermarket sales context. That means building a product line-up that contains everything you need to build and sell a bike, and also everything you need to keep servicing that bike down the road. So before a new product is released, I decide which SKUs we’ll sell. I decide which length skewer new hubs will come with and which pad will come with a disc brake when we have a choice. At new product launch time, I distribute detailed information about the product to the whole Shimano sales and support team. I also make sure that we have new support parts on their way as well. For new Dura-Ace, there is a new vented titanium backing plate race disc brake pad that didn’t make into any of the press launch material but needs to be in stock soon after the brakes themselves arrive in case anyone contaminates their pads the first week of owning their shiny new bike.
I also plan transitions between product generations. That’s where I get to use some technical expertise to know which parts we need to keep around and which ones can get discontinued. No need to keep the old Sora rear derailleur around but the old front derailleur and shifters have to stay for a while.
A lot of my time is spent thinking about service items since that’s where a lot of opportunities for profitability lie within the bike shop. The Shimano Genuine Parts Catalog is basically my baby. I help craft the stories and line-ups that we see in that book and make sure that it’s an accurate depiction of what we sell. Making that book requires listening to feedback from retailers and also looking for opportunities for everyone. For example, in last year’s cable and housing supplement catalog, I wrote about using retail packaged cable and housing kits during service writing in order to establish a flat price and actually improving the customer’s experience, and then servicing the bike with bulk stock in order to boost profit margins.
It’s been a very rewarding five months in this job so far. Shimano has a long way to go to be a better retail partner but I’m exciting about my role in making that happen.
What is your favorite bike and why?
Long before we had an education department at Shimano, I’ve acted as the point of contact with bike mechanic schools like United Bicycle Institute. I would teach them about new parts every year and help them build out their fleet of classroom bikes. Several years ago, they made me a hard tail 29er frame that they built while teaching a class. They got Keith Anderson to paint it a beautiful Shimano blue with UBI and Shimano logos complementing each other nicely. I’ve had some fancy bikes, but I still ride that one more than any other. It’s not as shiny as it once was, but I kind of like it better that way.
Where is your favorite place you've been to for work?
Singapore was pretty wild. It’s like someone picked up Las Vegas and dropped it on an island in the middle of the Pacific. I was there to see our factories and learn about the manufacturing process – that was cool, but not quite as fun as a race. The Mont Sainte Anne World Cup in Quebec is my favorite race venue. My first trip there was for the world championships in 2010 and I’ve always had a great time there.
In your opinion what makes for a good service writter?
That is an excellent question. There are three huge things that the perfect service writer will do. Always take the customer’s side, demonstrate their expertise while the customer is in the store, and not be afraid to ask for the sale. The worst part of my day as a shop mechanic was pulling a ticket that just had the words “tune up” written on it and nothing else. A sale has to happen when the customer is in the store.
I think it’s easy to forget how big of a deal it is for most people to pack their bike into their car and bring it to the shop for service. They’ve likely been dreading the day for a while, putting up with a nagging issue. They have to unload and reassemble their bike in the parking lot, feel very awkward bringing their bike into a retail establishment, and walk through all the fixtures to get to the back. Going through that ordeal signals a pretty big commitment on the part of the customer to get their bike working again. When someone just books in a tune up and says the mechanic will call in a few days leaves them unsatisfied and wipes away all the selling tools the service writer would have had at their disposal in the shop.
I mentioned always taking the customer’s side as well. Several times a day I see mechanics post on social media about the bikes and customers that come through their shop. While a lot of it is good natured venting or trying to be educational, I would never ever take my bike to a shop if I thought they might take a picture of it and post it online as an example of what bad upkeep looks like. I get very good deals on bike parts, can do all the service myself, and still several of my bikes still could use new cables, a brake fluid flush, suspension service, fresh bar tape, or new sealant in the tires. So why should the average Joe feel bad about falling behind on service like me?
A perfect example of how to re-think our customer interactions is the delicate chain lube discussion approach that I used myself for years and then rolled into the S-TEC classes. A mechanic can certainly tell when someone isn’t lubricating their chain. I felt bad about saying “I can tell you don’t lube your chain and you should” so I started simply asking what kind of chain lube they use at home so that I can try to use the same thing when I work on the bike. I already know what the answer to the question is but phrasing it that way softens the blow to the customer, demonstrates my expertise and professionalism by pointing out that I’m concerned about chain lubricant mixing, and creates an easy opportunity to sell them a bottle of chain lube to take home with the added value that the first application will happen in the shop and be included with their service.
What else should someone know about Nick?
I know a lot of mechanics that are in the same boat, but it’s a little weird around the cycling industry – my favorite thing about bikes is working on them, not riding them. Generally speaking, I would rather spend four hours working on a bike than riding one. Don’t get me wrong. Riding is awesome, but wrenching is better.
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