Spoken like a wheel bike guy

img_7304Zack Macik gears up for bike business in Charlotte

By Alex Bunten | The Charlotte News

Tucked behind a stand of sumac on Orchard Road in a field of fresh corn, Zspokes, a bike shop built into the front of the Macik family house, quietly opened its doors last week. Billed as a custom wheel building and general repair bike shop, Macik’s tools are anything but general. With a brand new suspension bench, an industrial ultrasonic cleaner, a small hydraulic press and specialist contraptions that look like they could easily extricate parts from NASA’s finest, he’s outfitted to fix (or build) the most modern bikes.

What’s the secret to truing a bike wheel, you ask? Macik says, “You just tighten whichever [spoke] needs to get pulled one way or loosen the other ones.” Simple, right? Well, that’s easy to say for someone with 24 years of experience in the industry. Having lived between Colorado and New Zealand for 15 years of those past 24, working for other companies, Macik was finally ready to settle down near home and start his own “practice.”

“I wanted to be able to consistently deliver a very high level of professionalism and service standards,” he said. “That continuity was something I found very difficult to instill in employees, so I really wanted to be able to have a direct one-on-one connection with all my customers.”

Originally from Shelburne, Macik cut his bike tech teeth as a “grom” at Tim Mathewson’s shop, then Champion Cycles in Shelburne village. (Tim now owns Little City Cycles in Vergennes.) img_7281

“Zack had the best quality we look for in an apprentice,” Mathewson said in a recent phone call, “he showed up, had a can-do attitude and was always interested in bikes. He took what little I gave him and built a fantastic career. I like that he’s always had a great time with it, too.”

The story goes that at about 11 years old, after breaking his BMX bike, Macik got a new mountain bike—fully rigid with cantilever brakes and a basic shifting system. The way he was riding, though, it didn’t last long. After a few trips to Catamount with his dad and brother, Nick, he found a knack for amateur tinkering.

“I got quite good at breaking the bike. I got good at taking it apart, too,” he said, “and I could not get it back together. Tim’s shop was the one that was bikeable and walkable. I would go there, basically with Mason jars full of parts I’d taken off my bike and disassembled way beyond what was necessary. It didn’t occur to me that you could take stuff off as a unit.”

The love of making big parts into smaller ones, and an interest in reconstituting the whole, is what propelled Macik into his current vocation. After Macik went to Champion Cycles a few times with yogurt containers of bolts and nuts and brakes, Mathewson took him under his wing and anointed him a shop “grom” (slang in the industry for a young kid who works in a bike shop doing basic tasks), working nights and weekends.

Fast forward a few years and Macik landed at a high-end bike shop in Denver, Colorado—what some might consider a cyclist’s Mecca—working on the cutting edge of bike technology in 2001.

“It was an enthusiast-only shop,” he said, “which meant that they would fix anything—anything and everything—but they didn’t sell new kids’ bikes, or ‘townies’ or commuters. You had your mountain bikes and road bikes—all at enthusiast level. It was also one of the few shops that had built its reputation on professional service.”

Enthusiast level meaning the vanguard of the bike world. At that time, that was disc brakes and high quality suspension. Nowadays, electronic or even wireless shifting is what gets Macik excited. While there for this interview, he was updating the software on one customer’s bike—the two gear shifters acting like two mice of a larger computer.

Macik hopes to bring some of that professionalism and wild Coloradan enthusiasm back to the Green Mountain State. “In Colorado, riders don’t hesitate to drop $6,000 on a new bike,” Macik said. “In Vermont, people are more inclined to spend $2,000 to 3,000, but they lose a lot in quality of parts and build.”

Another facet of Zspokes’ business will be refurbishing high-end bikes. Macik contends that getting on a refurbed $6,000 bike for a few grand provides a far superior biking experience to buying a new bike for the same price. He also plans to offer high-end bikes for rent.

One of the biggest hurdles for many riders-to-be or riders-who-once-were, Macik says, is just getting a beat up old bike to the shop. Queue a local concierge service. But he won’t pick up (and deliver) your bike (for free) in any old beater. Macik is also a car guy. He’ll stop by in his beautifully kept 1986 Toyota 4-Runnner (he got it in Colorado, of course).

Will he fix your bike at your house? Depends on the level of tools needed.

Macik hasn’t decided yet if he’ll be hiring a shop “grom” of his own. Bring in a few Mason jars of parts down to him and see what he says.

Zspokes will be open from noon–6 p.m., Monday to Saturday. More info can be found on their website, zspokes.com.