Cycle Services was an awesome purple bike shop at 174 Cuba Street Wellington New Zealand, from 1991 to 2000
This site is only an archive now, but remains online so that sifters can relive the glory days.
Occasionally we unearth some new material and post it here, but don’t hold your breath or you will go purple.
We opened the shop in Feb 91 and closed it nine years later in March 2000. Three years was about how long it took to build the shop up into one of the most popular bike shops in NZ.
It was packed with stuff – inside the overfilled, highly ambient, strangely stimulating environment that was Cycle Services, we were lost within a world of bicycles. In fact we were over-run with bicycles, wading through them until they were coming out of our ears, leaving us with brains like freehub bodies, only able to turn in one direction.
Hard at work spectating at one of the King of the Forest MTB races, Waitarere Forest, circa 93
History is generally viewed as a kind of chronological thing. In 1991 we did some strange shit and then the police came and arrested us for it, sowing the seeds of the Xmas 91 massacre and the subsequent revolution involving a whole posse of Chilean insurgents from south of the border
This timeline view of history is best left to those who enjoy growing fungus in personal cavities and collecting their bodily fluids in large glass jars sorted on shelves by year. But if you were out there, you may have been in here.
The drain was one of the facilities that made CS different from every other bike shop in Wellington. It kept us in touch with our primordial roots.
The drain was well used, not only as a mud sump for bike washing, but it also a handy second toilet when we had visitors, and it was a great storage area for our reeking slime collection. One of our favorite jobs was reaching in to unblock it by hand, savouring the fullsome buckets of dredge that we carefully harvested.
A drain of many changing moods, it’s delicate aroma is difficult to replicate in a cyber environment. But in some ways, this picture “Portrait of a Drain” captures the essence of our special drain.
It’s a good thing we were not working in a fish processing factory. There was one just up the road. Sometimes the fish processors would come in to buy glue for their gumboots. They smelt just like the drain and we burned pungent herbal incense to ward them off. Sometimes customers mistook it for pot…. As if…
We didn’t sponsor all these riders at once, but over the 7 years that we had a team of sponsored riders, we did run up a grand total of 70. It’s no wonder we never made any money, giving out purple clothing to all this lot – they did pretty well though, and some of them even went on to be professional riders. Thanks to everyone who went out and raced in CS colours!
Craig Anderson DH, XC
The first week we opened, our friend Dave Humpherson came in and said “You guys need a logo.” He picked up a slip of paper and wrote “cycle” on it. Later it clicked what he had drawn – the ingenious word that’s also a picture. We always used that logo – first the original skinny MkI version, then the thicker MkII incorporating “Services” into the “e”.
And later the “phat” MkIII that we used in the oval and flaming logos. At first we were amazed that in over one hundred years of use of the word “cycle”, no-one had ever thought of it… but we were, to my knowledge, the first, and it was always fun to hear people say “oh, I just realised it says cycle…” – sometimes after wearing the logo for months.
The early 90s were a great time for colours – fluoro was everywhere, and people actually dressed in in pink. But when our nemesis, the Bicycles Unlimited shop in Courtenay place, introduced their pink riding outfits to the world, we suddenly had a blueprint of exactly what we didn’t want to look like. We started making tie dyed purple jerseys, tie dyed and hand dyed T-shirts and instantly found that everything we made sold like hot cakes. Part of the appeal was that every shirt was different, and amazingly even shirts that came out completely wrong were snapped up as soon as we put them out on the rack.
By the mid 90s, fluoro and bright colours of any kind were totally out. The bikes all started being painted in matt black. Anything pink was “gay”. Anything that wasn’t matt black was “gay’. Bicycles Unlimited outfits were mocked as never before (Bisexuals Unlimited). Even purple copped a little flak. The whole early 90s purple anodising thing didn’t help. For one season purple anodised parts had been cool. Then the following season, anodised parts in green red or “pewter’ were cool. but purple was out. Then all anodising was “out”.
So even CS entered a black phase – we made some black jerseys and black t-shirts. But while black is always in fashion, it’s also a bit of a strait jacket creatively. Wearing black drove us to seek “the new black”.
Our image was always linked to purple, and we eventually designed our third purple purple race jersey.
It still looks great and we modestly rate it as one of the best cycle jerseys of all time!
Inspired by Aaron “Flamejob” Lucy, our flame tattoo ‘d CS downhiller (we knew he was onto something when the grommets all started drawing flames on their arms in vivid markers), we designed the “CS flaming logo”, and the T-shirts with this logo were the most popular ever.
“How did you guys get your own bike shop?” people used to ask. There are people in NZ who have paid 1/4 million dollars or more for a bike shop, so maybe we provided an interesting example. Personally, I would be hesitant to pay anything for an existing bike shop. It’s just not that difficult to start a new one.
First we went on the dole, because back in 1990 that made us eligible to keep collecting the dole for 6 months if we started our own business, and no outgoings in wages is a major help in establishing a new business. But we didn’t stop there – we were world champion cheapskates. Our entire budget for the business was $10,000. This included our first months rent up front ($2000), all the fittings, tools, shop fit-out, signage, insurance, all other expenses and of course, the bikes and stock. We scrounged up suitable stuff for 2 months before opening, and pretty much refused to pay more than $20 for anything.
We took over the lease from a clothing shop called “No Wear Else” on Fri, 1 Feb 1991, and luckily it was already painted green and purple, saving us hundreds of dollars in paint, not to mention time. And we didn’t have time to watch paint dry, we wanted cash flow fast. We took over the shop at 9am on Friday and opened for business at 9am on Monday – hauling arse doesn’t even begin to describe the way we worked…..
As we were new and had no credit record, no supplier would give us a credit account. In fact, most of them thought we were dodgy, and wouldn’t supply us at all. So we had to send a cheque up front to get any stock. We literally started out ordering 5 inner tubes at a time. Every time we sold out, we would double the order. And even once we got credit, we made it a rule from the outset that we would only buy what we could afford and that we would always pay before it was due.
Very soon we had one of the best credit ratings of any bike shop in NZ (bike shops are notorious late payers) and went on to have over 50 suppliers. But the one that helped us from the start, Hope Gibbons Ltd, we always put top of the order list, and in a year went from buying 5 inner tubes to spending over a $100,000 with them.
So we probably sound like some kind of example out of a self help book on business. But at the same time, we had a party lifestyle – the shop was like a non-stop party, and there’s no way most businesses could function that way, no boss would stand for it. But we were the boss, so we had some good times.
The main reason we were able to grow so fast was mountain bikes. They first took off in Wellington in 1988 and sales grew every year, peaking in 1995. At that point, the scene was huge, and it was said that Wellington had the highest number of people riding off road per capita of anywhere in the world. Everyone had a mountain bike – they were considered essential.
It’s an interesting business case study, that this thriving industry in 95 would be so decimated only a few short years later. It’s not often talked about, but anyone who was mountain biking in Wellington in the 90s would have shopped at Cycle Services (closed), Sam’s Bike Shop (bust), Bicycles Unlimited (bust), Pins (bust), John Deans Cycles (bust), or Penny Farthings Cycles (bust & later reopened under new management).
They would probably have been riding a NZ Yak (bust), Reiker (stopped manufacture), Diamondback (bust & bought out), KHS (disappeared in NZ), Marin (disappeared in NZ), GT (bust & bought out), Mongoose (bust & bought out) or Milazo (bust & later bought by the Warehouse). And many of the other smaller manufacturers also stopped NZ distribution, like Klein, Cannondale, and Gary Fisher. When the smoke cleared, Avanti was looking strong, along with Specialized and Giant.
The main reason this happened is that all these brands and shops were cutting their margins to remain competitive, and the only way they could do so was to keep selling more and more “units”. Which only works as long as the market keeps expanding. And then it all comes crashing down. Even CS, a primarily service based business was affected by this.
The servicing was how we made our money, but we needed the bike sales to cover the cost of having an inner city shop. So from 96 on we knew the party was winding down, and kept a close eye on the books.
Basically, when the accounts showed we only breaking even, we sold off everything and closed up, because the next stage is losing money, and being in business to lose money would suck. Hence the end of an era and no more purple shop. But it was a great business for the first five years.
The CS Wharf jump was part of the Wellington Rockshox Mountain bike Festival week that ran up to the Karipoti, and was organised by the Kennett Bros as an annual event.
It ran for three years (96-98) and became a bit of a legend. At first, it was intended to be a bit like a “bird man” contest, with riders jumping from a fairly mellow ramp into Frank Kitts lagoon, while judges rated the jump out of 10. There were lots of costumes, a good sized crowd turned up, and it was going well. Then Dwayne the sponsored freestyle rider from Burkes rolled out his 6 ft high half pipe ramp, and the wharf jump changed for evermore. He got things rolling with some spectacular back flips, and surprisingly a whole pile of people who had never ridden any kind of ramp, wanted to get into the action too.
There’s nothing like a crowd to bring out the Evil Knievel in punters. It was an awesome sight watching people charging down to the near vertical ramp on the shitty old bikes we’d provided. They hit the ramp like crash test dummies, with no idea what would happen next. Faces frozen in panic, they were flipped upside down and found themselves tossed like rag dolls 15 feet above the water. With no idea which way was up, most of them slammed into the water still upside down, only to be narrowly missed by their bike’s landing beside them. The crowd loved it, and the first ever wharf jump was declared a success.
The second wharf jump ran pretty much as the first but with an even bigger crowd. It was a great night, and no-one was expecting anything more spectacular, but then the vert ramp appeared at the top of the Frank Kitts overbridge. The crowd went wild, and Dwayne did the all time hell move, off the bridge, clearing the walkway and falling a good 40 ft into the lagoon. How could a move like that ever be beaten? Crazy CS rider “Tintin” fronted up. Despite never having ridden a ramp, he was game to give it a crack. Even Dwayne looked worried. He launched himself off the ramp, and then seemed to hang in the air for an eternity while the crowd held their breath and thought to themselves “Hang on, is he out far enough to clear the walkway?”. Well, he was, but it was a scary moment. And it was that jump that we used on the poster for what was to be the final wharf jump.
Like all three evenings, the 98 one was another beautiful, calm autumn evening, and it went great and was another crowd pleaser. But there was no jumping off the bridge allowed, and somehow the nervous sense that something new and crazy would happen just wasn’t there. to tell the truth, it was probably a good thing because someone would probably have been hurt if it had gotten any more loose. So that was it for the wharf jumping, three great events that brought the whole jumping/freestyle scene to the public consciousness, and disappeared before they got stale.
Back in ’91 when the shop was newly opened, our friend Ginge came back from a days surfing at White Rock. “How was it?” we asked. “It was filthy,” he replied, “totally going off. I was shralving bigtime, but it started closing out and I got drilled a few times – fully stenching.” It turned out all this was good, and we thought “Why should surfers have all the cool sayings? We need words like that to talk about riding…
All the American influences (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Beastie Boys, etc) were way too obvious. We couldn’t exactly go around saying “Bodacious move dude, that’s like most def homy” or we would look like try-hard bozos. So we looked out for words that seemed to come from local sources.
Here’s a few favourites: Freaked, C.U, Frottage, Stylee, Vert, Posers, Strictly, Hardcore, Death Vert, Poseurs, Strictly Downhill, Softcore, Hell Vert, Stoners, Gutted, Hoser, Mirkin, Ravers, Masti, Sphincter, Tosser, Triheads, Shuntmeister, Sphincter out, Out there, Coneage, Jizz, Shiny face, Going off, Punters, Fully Jizz, Get drilled, Nihilist, Kick back and chill, Grogan, The business, Munted, Hellmen, Hooter, Anal, Dribbler, In the trade, Bogan, Bongwater, Thrasher, Shralving, Postal, Filcher, Cheesies, Get hard, Schwing, Trolleyed, Bungles, Sifting, Holding, Marginal, Frot Out, Fear, Fully Marginal, Frotty, Styling.
Quite a few words originated from CS sifters like The Poison Dwarf, Tall Beast, Azza, and Guido, but many were ripped off from a range of obscure sources. Apparently “liz” came from a movie in which someone says “Liz move, Exlax” to a guy who bangs his head in the shower.
Back in the day, we could pull out the latest purple anodised components and say “hey, check out this frotty new piece” and get a response like “wicked, that’s fully reeking, the missus would liz out, but I want it on my rig, how much ping?” “$380” “Is that it with you, bro? I’ll just have to go home and jizz over it while you sharpen your pencil. Tongue it, liz, CU”
It’s a shame we never wrote all this stuff into some kind of movie script, like”Clerks”. We could have been immortalised in celluloid by some unknown local director like Peter Jackson. But never mind, this liz website will have to do… If you are offended by anything on this site you are probably a sphinctered gopher penis
It was going off and reeking to see a few years later in Victoria St, on the side of a bus shelter, an ad for a new drink. “Serious tongue action” it said. How totally jizz is that?
Strange scenes from the grease pit
After nine years in our little purple shop, we certainly needed to have a good final party. And we did! There was truck loads of alcohol, masses of drugs, hot babes all over the place, pumping sounds, good vibes, Mexican food, a BBQ, a guy massaging a wall, an ambulance that came to check out the guy massaging the wall, cops who Rod managed to convince didn’t need to come in and check out the drugs, a fire, bikes that fell from heights, hundreds of punters, old friends from out of town, a sessioning room that just smoked, two full fridge’s, pissed out grommets, spectators, instigators, sifters, trendsetters, the cool people, some TC’s, the odd Barry briefcase, a donkey farmer, geeks, dealers, all the usual crew, and even a few downhillers.