It’s the height of the cycling season, which means it’s also the busiest time of the year for Matt Lodder.
On a recent steamy day, his small bike shop is crowded with 28 bicycles of all shapes and sizes. They spill out onto the front and side porches. Some are awaiting their repairs. Others are ready to be picked up by their owners.
Lodder, 43, owns Cycle Surgeon in Cary, a bicycle repair company he runs out of his backyard. The former service manager at the now-closed Spin Cycle bike shop in Cary started the business when Spin Cycle shut down on January 31, 2009.
Within three months of losing his job, he had started the Cycle Surgeon, which focuses on mechanical repairs and services such as custom fittings, adjustments and wheel building.
“Deciding to do something myself wasn’t that far of a stretch because my dad had his own business for a number of years,” Lodder said. “Of course, I questioned if I would be able to earn a living and pay the mortgage, so it was definitely a little scary at first.”
He started small that first year, servicing bikes under a tent in his driveway.
“I stored all the bikes in the house,” he said. “During the busy season, I would have 20 to 30 bikes in the dining room.”
In January 2010, he finished construction of a 312-square-foot shop in his backyard, which he built himself with the help of some friends.
When Spin Cycle went out of business, Lodder purchased a vehicle from the company, which he uses to pick up and deliver bikes he’s working on. He also uses it to travel to charity events such as the MS 150 in New Bern and the Tour de Cure in Cary, where he sets up a tent for on-site bike repairs and adjustments.
“I was fortunate in that I have been busy since the get-go,” Lodder said. “One of the Spin Cycle’s last emails to its customers announced I was opening this business, and I had some of our clients follow me.”
During the spring, summer and fall, he works from 60 to 80 hours a week. Business slows down in the winter, but he still puts in about 40 hours a week, he said.
His wife, Deborah, helps with accounting and other office management tasks.
Lodder, who is a certified master mechanic, spends part of his time learning about the latest bicycle technology, including electronic gear shifting and disc brake systems.
“The great thing about bicycles is you can make them tech-savvy and geeky, or you can make them as simple as you want,” he said. “I love working on them because it’s never the same thing every day. There are always new products and techniques to learn.”
To start the Cycle Surgeon, Lodder used about $25,000 of savings, which went in part to the construction of the shop. Lodder neither wrote a business plan, nor uses a budget. He buys products and tools when he needs them, and charges between $12 and $60 per repair.
“I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of owning my own business,” he said. “I know that if I want to do better, I have to become better. If something needs to be done, then I have to do it. There’s nobody who is going to do it for me.”
Reach Teri Saylor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweet her @terisaylor.
Advice from Matt Lodder
▪ Do what you love.
▪ To own a small business, you have to be willing to put in the hours. If you are doing something you don't like, it really becomes a problem in life.
▪ Do your homework before starting a business. Learn what it takes to run the type of business you want to build.