Danny demonstrated some of the skills he developed as a top-level freestyle rider in the 1980s. The Roscoe’s not quite a freestyle bike, but it worked okay for this.
We first met Danny Lupold when he was around 15 years old and one of America’s best freestyle bike riders. That was over 30 years ago.
When Danny grew up, his riding evolved further, and he became a pro-level cross-country mountain bike racer and one of our favorite test riders for Mountain Bike Action photo shoots. Today, Danny runs one of the most successful Trek-owned bike shops in America. How he got there is a story worth reading.
Danny works the computer while Dalton checks out an older bike.
MBA: How did you first get involved in the bike industry?
Danny: I started riding BMX bikes when I was 7 or 8. I got into racing BMX, but only for a short time, as I found BMX freestyle. Growing up in Camarillo, California, we had an amazing talent pool of older guys who taught and mentored me in riding ramps and freestyle flatland. From there, my passion for cycling grew from those bikes on into road bikes and mountain bikes as I got older.
The shop does a great job of displaying products for maximum visual appeal.
MBA: A couple of years ago you were one of the top local pro-cross-country racers in this part of Southern California. How long have you been racing like that?
Danny: I wouldn’t call myself a pro (laughs), but I have been racing road bikes and mountain bikes for many years since I was 21. There were some years when I got heavily into adventure racing (mountain biking, trail running, kayaking and rock climbing for 12-, 24- and 48-hour events). This got me into endurance.
Mechanics Ed, Dalton and Aidan (left to right) are key members of the shop’s service department.
MBA: How did you come to start working for Trek?
Danny: I was working in financial planning and decided I wanted to come back to cycling. My original plan was to get into the industry and eventually own my own store. I started managing a Trek retailer in order to get firsthand experience and eventually make a move to venture into owning—or not. After two years of managing that store, I was approached and offered a position at Trek as a territory manager in the SoCal area.
This store is loaded with everything from kids’ bikes all the way up to top-level road, mountain and e-bikes.
MBA: We hear you’re on very good terms with John Burke, the president of Trek. How did that come about?
Danny: Ever since I started at Trek, I’ve been very fortunate in having quite a bit of face time with John Burke (or “JB” as most call him). Trek is based in Wisconsin, but he makes it out this way throughout the year. It’s truly amazing that the president of Trek gets out in the trenches to learn, understand and capture firsthand just what’s going on out in the field. He’s a very inspiring leader as well as getting down in the trenches to see what things we can do to improve the company.
Every tool bench has a full set of metal drawers with everything the mechanics need for whatever repairs they need to do. This photo shows only a portion of one standard toolset in the shop.
One thing that JB said years ago when I first started is that we all needed to be brutally honest. We have to give honest feedback in order to improve and grow. If there are things he sees, hears or learns out in the field, he always takes that to his Monday morning meeting with the managers and they run with it.
JB talks about people’s full potential. He really does want everyone to reach that potential, and it’s all about pushing our strengths and also getting us to continually learn.
Trek has a custom paint-and-build program called “Project One” with virtually unlimited paint schemes that buyers can select for themselves while also picking the sizes and levels of components.
MBA: What were you doing before you took charge of this shop?
Danny: I was working in financial planning for 6 1/2 years. After that, I worked for a non-profit that helped rehabilitate injured veterans through cycling programs. That was one of the most rewarding jobs I had. After that, I really wanted to explore owning my own bicycle store, so I managed a Trek retailer for about two years.
The team here is very focused on getting more young people on bikes, following the Trek motto, “More Kids on Bikes.” They also host clinics for both kids and adults to help them be better riders.
MBA: How did the people at Trek decide to have you manage this shop?
Danny: I live in Westlake Village with my lovely family. I had been the territory manager for Trek in one of our Southern California regions, and this was part of my territory. Someone at Trek headquarters offered me an opportunity to move over onto our retail business side of Trek. After spending five years driving 30,000 miles a year in the Los Angeles area, it was good timing for me, due to the extensive windshield time I was putting in. Trek knew I could help grow our market share in Westlake Village and surrounding cities, so it was a great move for me.
MBA: How much freedom do you have in running the shop?
Danny: I would not say that I have freedom. One of the most amazing things at Trek is the people. Every single employee at Trek works for me. What I mean by that is, I can pick up the phone and get help from just about anyone there.
One thing I’ve always tried to do for Trek is help product managers, the marketing team, finance department, customer service and inside sales. When you can provide feedback from the field or provide new ideas or improved ways to do things, they all take it seriously.
MBA: What were some of your ideas for making your shop more successful?
Danny: First off, there are a lot of people who worked extremely hard to get this store up and running. In some ways, it’s like walking into Pottery Barn and the Banana Republic—from the visual design to the service center to the floor layout. I have to give a lot of credit to everyone at Trek who helped with that.
One of the biggest things is making sure that every single person who walks through that door receives an experience that is first class. I constantly remind myself that our customers are comparing us to the high level of customer service offered at Nordstrom’s, a Porsche dealer, an Apple store, or some of your local favorite restaurants.
Community outreach is vital for success. One recent project we conducted was shortly after the Woolsey Fire. The devastation this fire caused was indescribable, and it was right near the holiday season. I reached out to some key people at Trek and asked them if we could get some kids’ and adult bikes to give away to fire victims. Within a week, things were rolling. Jack Nosco, a local fire captain (you may know him from the Nosco Charity Ride that’s held on November 3rd each year) was an integral part in helping out once the bikes showed up. He was able to get some local help to unbox them while our mechanics got things built up. He was also able to reach out and find many people in the community who suffered a full loss, partial loss, or were just dealing with the trauma from the fires
At our store, we provide a free ride lesson to every customer who purchases a bike. From kids’ bikes to high-end Trek Madone race bikes.
It’s great to go beyond having people walk out the door and wish them luck. We really strive to stay connected with customers, and this is just another way to do so.
MBA: We hear that your shop normally repairs bikes in one day. How do you do that?
Danny: All Trek Direct stores offer 24-hour turnaround time on services. So long as we have all the parts, we will get it done the same day or within 24 hours. It’s a promise we stand behind. It’s not easy, and sometimes it means service is working late or getting in super early.
We have a great fleet of demo and rental bikes at our store, so we have the ability to keep our customers riding by loaning them a bike if theirs is out of commission.
MBA: How do you attract more business to your shop?
Danny: Referrals are a really big part of how we get customers. It’s great because current customers are willing to put their reputation on the line and trust us that we will take care of a friend, family member or coworker.
One thing is that all of the staff here ride bikes, so we are out there in the community. In addition, my goal is to make sure the staff is riding bikes they normally don’t ride so they can truly convey how a bike rides to a customer and also recommend something based on what the customer is looking for.
MBA: You’re located in one of the nicest areas in California, with hundreds of multimillion-dollar mansions between your shop and the Malibu coastline, which is only about 10 miles away. Do you ever have movie stars or other celebrities visit your shop?
Danny: We get quite a few celebrities in the shop. Our area is very special because there are a lot of behind-the-camera people and quite a few professional athletes. I really believe those folks who live around here are well-grounded and love living a more normal life than the one they’d have living in Los Angeles or Beverly Hills. Yes, they have nice homes, but when you see them out and about, it’s nothing special, and I feel they enjoy that type of lifestyle.
When they visit the store, we treat them like any other customer. We don’t want to make their visit awkward or uncomfortable by taking pictures or video, or getting autographs. Last year Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue came in and purchased a couple of Electra Townie Go! e-bikes for himself and his wife. To watch the smiles on their faces when they got out cruising those e-bikes around was priceless, partly because he’s this heavy metal musical legend who usually wears leather pants and makeup. We have a lot of other celebrities who come in, but I’d rather not mention them, just to keep it cool.
MBA: What’s the key to dealing with the kind of varied clientele you have?
Danny: Just taking care of them, period. Whatever it is they need help with, we do it. If a customer calls me and is stuck on the road with a problem, we will go out there and help them. We’ve done it before. Yes, it takes time and costs us money, but it’s what we do because we care about our customers.
MBA: You created a special section of the shop to show people where the best rides are in your area. How well has that worked?
Danny: Oh yeah, the Trek Westlake Village Ride Club. This is something brand new that our awesome marketing department designed. We helped in putting the rides together, and it’s been a huge success for everyone from folks visiting to local riders who want to learn and explore beyond what they currently know. The Ride Club has mountain bike routes, road bike routes and family routes within the entire county. We also go a step further and have these routes preloaded on a Wahoo GPS device for people to use, which makes it easy to get routes turn-by-turn. Another really nice thing about the “ride wall” is it gets people talking about those routes and their experiences, which usually get shared with other customers.
MBA: Do you sell more road bikes or mountain bikes in your area?
Danny: We sell just about the same number of mountain bikes, road bikes and e-bikes—and kids’ bikes. We are not a specialty store that only sells and works on mountain bikes for instance. We have an amazing staff of Trek-certified service mechanics who can work on just about anything.
MBA: What are the most popular mountain bikes in your lineup?
Danny: We just launched the new Trek Super Caliber. This is the game-changer in fast, light, cross-country mountain bikes. The next two models would be the Top Fuel and the Fuel EX. All three of these bikes are ideal for our Santa Monica Mountains. Depending on what type of rider you are, or what you would like your bike to offer, we have it in stock.
MBA: What trends have you seen developing in the mountain bike world the past couple of years?
Danny: Electric mountain bikes—this category is doing so much for the industry. It’s really exciting for me to see customers who have never ridden, or haven’t ridden in a long while, or a current customer looking for an entirely new experience in riding.
Here are a couple of really incredible things I’ve been able to accomplish through Trek: I was very fortunate last year to have traveled to Washington D.C. to work on Capitol Hill with PeopleForBikes. Trek supports this nonprofit, and the work these hard-working folks do is amazing. It’s not a glamorous job, but it’s a long game, and they take it seriously. It was very rewarding to meet with our state’s assemblymen and -women to ask if they could co-sponsor some upcoming bills for bicycle tax credits and infrastructure, along with educating them on e-bikes and how they shape the way transportation can be.
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