Kevin Talley is standing outside his bike shop watching his son, Hunter, practice his mountain bike skills while attempting to get air over the ramp he built for Hunter out the Grizzly Cycles' Bikes for Rent sign.
Talley is a mountain of man with what has to be one of the greatest mullets ever grown. It should have its own Wikipedia page. It should be in the Mullet Hall of Fame. It is nothing short of epic but if you spend any amount of time with Talley, you realize the mullet is just there to throw you off. Like Superman's cape or Batman's mask it not the source of his power, it is just an indicator of it. He is big ol' teddy bear of gent with a heart of gold. We've ridden with him. We've shared laughs with him and now we sat down with him to find out a little bit more about what makes him tick.
So, you own and run the Grizzly Bike Shop in Bakersfield. What is Bakersfield like for bike riding?
I’m originally from the South Bay and the mountain biking is what actually keeps me here in Bakersfield. It’s one of the best kept secrets. We’re at the base of the Southern Sierra Mountains. We've got seven to nine thousand feet of elevation in our backyard. Our local trail systems are kind of like the wild west where you get a little bit of everything from mild flow trails to crazy bike park style jumps and wood features. On the other side of that we have a bike path that has dirt trails next to it that runs for about thirty miles across the city. From my shop it takes about forty minutes to an hour to get up to seven thousand feet and there's a trail called Just Outstanding where people are coming from all over the place to ride it. It’s about seven miles of single track and from there you have a couple options, you can take fire roads or you can climb a bit to get to different single track. If you like the outdoors, it's a great place to be.
Why do you think many cyclists do not hear about Bakersfield?
Nobody thinks of Bakersfield when you think of mountain biking. You think of the flat armpit of California, oil fields and nothingness. When I first moved here I didn’t think that mountain biking would be what would make me open up a bike shop. It’s that good that it drove my passion to open up Grizzly Cycles. When people first moved heard I was moving here their reaction was; “Oh, why are you moving there? There is nothing to do there.” That’s kind of the beauty of it. There’s nothing to do so you find things to do like mountain biking.
I understand your bike shop is steps away from where you live. What are the pros and cons of having a set up like this?
Yes, the shop is one hundred and fifty yards from my doorstep. A pro is that it's the shortest commute I’ve had in my life but that’s also a con because I don’t get to ride my bike to work which is something that I miss. I used to have a 15 mile commute to work so that was always my ride time. Now it seems like I get to the shop, do work and it’s been so busy right now I haven’t had the time to get out and enjoy the bike like I used to. Another pro is security. I’m right next door so if something happens, I can hear what’s going on in the parking lot from where I’m at. The pros out weight the cons, for sure.
What do you consider the key ingredients needed to run a successful bike shop?
I think community. Be a part of the community. Host group rides, host events at the shop and don't be a jerk. Treating people how you would want to be treated when you walk into a shop is huge. The biggest thing we focus on at the shop is quality over quantity. We don’t care about how many units we move or things like that we just want to make sure that everyone who walks through the door is taken care of the same as the next person. We don’t wanna have people coming in and having a bad experience. Cycling is a fun activity. We want it to be fun from the time you buy your bike to the time you hit your first double or do your first century. Treating people with respect goes a long way and that’s what a lot of shops are missing. Some may think they’re better than others like if you have a Walmart Huffy they may treat you different but we’ll treat the Walmart Huffy the same as the Ibis Mojo.
Can you give the people who are just coming into bicycling a couple of tips on how to make the most of their local bike shop relationship?
Come in and just hangout. I know it’s hard during COVID times but come in and build a relationship with your shop. Make sure the shop is giving you a reason to come back but building relationships is what it's all about. I grew up skateboarding so when I started my shop, I wanted it to feel like how I felt when I went into a skate shop. I could just go hangout, watch skate videos and shoot the conversation with the guys there and not feel like I’m being rushed out because I’m not spending a thousand dollars every time I walk through the door.
What is the most frustrating thing a customer can ask you when they come to the shop?I don’t think there’s anything that’s frustrating that they can ask me. I look at it like what’s the most frustrating thing they don’t ask. As someone who’s trying to get you exactly what you need, if you’re not asking questions we might not be able to help you to the fullest extent. There are no dumb questions. We are here to help and share knowledge.
What do you love about running your own shop?
Everything. I get to wake up everyday and go play with bikes. I get to do something that I love and it's not something that I wake up every morning and do to work toward the weekend. I hate when I hear people say, "Oh, it’s almost Friday. I get to go have fun this weekend.” If you’re working towards the weekend you’re not doing something you love. Everyday you wake up you should be excited about what you do and I get that excitement. I like the fact that our shop is on its way to becoming successful. We’re still a very new shop so I won’t say we’ve made it yet but it’s cool to have a solid staff and be able to support a solid group of people at the shop spreading the stoke, making sure everyone is hyped and keeping the wheels turning.
How often do you ride with your shop?Normally we were doing a group ride every Thursday but because of everything that’s going on with COVID and all that we stopped doing our group rides. We’re starting to ease back into them now with the vaccinations and what not. Regardless of how you feel about them the options are there so now I feel like we can do group rides again with anyone who feels comfortable with that. We plan on doing them once every two weeks again to get back into it.
Your son, Hunter, has begun to take on bike riding. Does this make you happy, concerned or what feelings and thoughts do you have about this? What advice do you give him?
He's been playing a game on the Xbox called Descenders and now he’s starting to get confident in jumping because of what he’s seeing he can do in the video game. He asked me if we could build a ramp for him and we took apart an old a-frame sign I made and used it as a ramp and we keep building it up little by little and making landings for it. He’s taken a couple spills on it. Thankfully he’s got his Kali Invader so his face has been protected and he’s out there every couple of days riding that ramp. He’s a pretty shy kid, so I try not to juice him up too much. I just tell him to go for it and if he feels comfortable doing it then do it and if not then we’ll work on it another day. I let him go at his own pace and that’s helped him progress faster. I don’t want him to lose interest so I let him do what he wants to do. So when we ride actual mountain bike trails, I get every feeling you can think of from, "Holy crap!" to "Oh my god. He did it!". When we go out and ride single track, I usually ride behind him so I’m watching everything he’s doing. He’s got the confidence and the skills to get through most things but as a parent it's terrifying watching your seven year old go down a decent that some grown adults are still walking down.