An Interview with Jason Gardner, the Genie-Wrench Behind Jinji Cycles
by Lee Waldman
One of the people who made my ’cross season last year run so smoothly was my mechanic, Jason Gardner, owner of Jinji Cycles. I love his motto: “Engineering a higher standard in bicycle maintenance and repair.” It was so nice to be able to drop off my dirty bikes at Jason’s shop on Sunday evening knowing that they would be ready for me to train and race on when I needed them. If it weren’t for Jason, my Friday nights would certainly have consisted of me in my garage surrounded by dirty bike parts and no doubt cursing myself and my bike – myself for having waited until Friday night to prepare for the next day’s racing, my bike … just because that was an easy target.
Back in the day I could do almost everything on my bikes myself. Bikes are so much more complex now than they were when I started racing. Someone like Jason deserves every penny he earns, and more, attempting to fix the mistakes that people like me create. I’ll let Jason talk for himself though.
Let’s start by you telling me a little about yourself.
I was born and raised in Grand Junction, Colorado. In 1992, when I was in sixth grade, I started mountain biking. Grand Junction provided a great place to learn to ride. That first bike was a Toys R Us Pacific Rockstomper. I rode it all over the Grand Junction and Fruita trails until I bought my first true, bike shop mountain bike, a Trek 930, in 1997. In 2003, after college, I got my first bike shop job at [appropriately enough] The Bike Shop, in Grand Junction. I worked a season there, then moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia where I started road riding. In 2005 I moved to Denver and worked at Bike Station in Golden. While I was there I was manager of the service department. In 2008 I left to start Jinji Cycles.
What got you started wrenching professionally?
I had to work on my own stuff in junior high and high school, so I borrowed books from the library to learn how. I developed a proficiency and then needed a job after college, so I found the job at The Bike Shop.
What is it that attracts you to working on bikes?
They’re not cars. As a cyclist I, of course, love bikes. I know other people love riding their bikes, and I’m pleased to give them the best experience possible. Bicycles can be simple or very complex, and the technology is always getting better, which makes skilled technicians more necessary.
How hard is it for you to work on other riders’ bikes while wishing that you were out riding yourself?
I came to terms with that a long time ago. I get my fair share of bike rides.
I know that you’re on your own now just starting up. What caused you to make the decision to go it on your own instead of staying in the relative safety of a shop?
I could no longer accept my destiny being in someone else’s hands. At the age of 27 I had reached the top 95% of what a bike shop employee can make for a living. That was a pretty dismal outlook for the rest of my life. With other career options fading, I decided the only way to do anything more was to do it myself. Believing that I could provide a better service experience, and preferring service to retail, I started a service center operated from home.
How is it going?
It’s going great! I have had constant work from the beginning and continue to expand my client base. I’m thoroughly satisfied with how well it’s going.
What’s attractive about owning your own business, especially in the bike business and in this down economy?
The ability to make my own decisions and implement my own passions into my work. My success or failure is more or less my responsibility. While the economy may be what it is, I’m not getting any younger. The bike biz has been my life for years now, and I love it. I’m excited to make my living in this industry.
I know that you’ve ridden bikes forever. Any background in racing? Any desire?
I’ve had two bad experiences in racing – one road, one mountain. Both experiences were my own fault from lack of preparation. Since then I haven’t found the time to race. I always harbor some aspiration to race mountain or ’cross, but life is pretty busy right now.
What do you like about the industry, and what bothers you the most?
I love that it is primarily driven by independents, not franchises and chains. Anyone, with the right drive and creativity, can make a run in the bike industry. I am bothered that the failure rate among start-ups is high. The profit margin is so narrow, it makes success very difficult. Another thing is that I think good bike mechanics are smart, competent and exceptionally skilled, but many are not paid or respected commensurate to their abilities. My boss in Virginia Beach told us that he wanted us as technicians to stand shoulder to shoulder with any mechanic in any industry, and I have carried that idea with me. Unfortunately that attitude is not present everywhere. I think in some ways our bike shops have devalued how exceptional some of our technicians can be. I’m working to elevate that respect and increase the value we place in these skilled people.
Why should someone bring their bike to you rather than to one of the bigger shops?
My promise is simple: nobody does more comprehensive labor and backs it up. I do the work necessary to fix and improve a bike and provide my clients with a detailed report of everything done to the bike. My clients have my phone and email and can contact me with whatever questions they have. I offer a level of personal customer service not found anywhere else. I can work with my clients’ schedules to get their bike back to them when they need. My goal is that when I’m done with a bike, nobody can improve on the work performed.
Thanks for doing this Jason. Is there anything else you want people to know?
Just how to contact me:
All work is by appointment only.
For those of you who live in the Denver area and are interested, one of the services that Jason provides to ’cross racers is this: For a monthly retainer, he will service your bikes after every race and have them race ready for the next weekend. Just knowing that I could drop a bike off and have it ready to train and race on every week took tons of pressure off of me last season. Give him a call if you’re interested.
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