In the world of entrepreneurs, it’s often said there are two types: missionaries and mercenaries. The missionary entrepreneur is focused on the passion, the why of what they do. The mercenary may be young, hungry and relentlessly driven but missing the larger goal that is pushing for the greater purpose or good.
Young and pushed by a passion for bikes, people and the why of what he’s doing, Zach Edwards makes his home in Boulder, Colorado where he owns and manages Boulder Grupetto, a professional cycling service center for discerning riders. He shares his thoughts on what motivates him to get it right every day.
Bikes are pretty awesome and whether it's someone who is racing or just commuting to work for me it always feels good to help someone achieve that lifestyle by getting their bike rolling for them when they need it to. The challenges involved with starting a business aren’t uncommon: making enough money to keep things afloat, the amount of paperwork and logistics that need attention. But the actual focus: fixing bikes—that’s the fun and satisfying part for me.
In terms of being a bike mechanic there are a few people who really helped shape me along the way. My parents taught me to have a strong work ethic and be proud of what you do. My dad and I spent time hanging in the garage and helped me hone my mechanical skills.
At 15 I was a teenage bike racer punk and began working in a local shop to help fund my racing. I began with new townies and cheap hybrids—I was an apprentice. The path to honing my craft began with assembling bikes, having shop staff observe my work and tell me what I did incorrectly. They’d walk through the steps and then they’d have me leave the room while they created more problems on the bike for me to solve over and over until perfection. I did that all summer long for the first couple years there before I was allowed to do any real bike repairs on customers bikes. That helped set things up for each step of where I've been from a bike builder, to mechanic, to service manager, to now owning my own service studio, Boulder Grupetto.
There are a few stand out people who I've met working on bikes, particularly my girlfriend. She came into the shop needing a crankset installed on her bike before she left for the Giro. No other shop in town gave her the time of day as she needed it done quickly. That was that and then she came back to town a year later and stopped in the shop because she "needed to buy co2" and the rest is history as they say.
I also fixed Peter Sagan's bike a few years ago, kind of a funny story. I saw some dude walking down the sidewalk in full Cannondale kit pushing his bike and just thought to myself who on earth does this poseur think he is, then he walks in and it was actually Sagan— oops.
Earlier on in my career, I put more emphasis on working rather than enjoying the process. It got to the point of me being so burned out that I began to hate bikes and the thought of riding them sounded awful. I was just a grumpy and terrible person to be around. Since then I have made changes to keep balance in my life; I’m happier, I've learned the need for a healthy balance of work and fun.
As most cyclists can relate, the bike should be a way to escape and get outside in the fresh air and let stresses disappear for a bit. I also learned that if there are issues then make the needed changes rather than letting it go on and get worse. Now I'm much happier, enjoy work, and riding bikes as much as ever again.
My perfect day on a bike would for sure be here in Boulder. Ideally it would be summer and sunny but not too hot, if it is hot that's why we're climbing and escaping to cooler altitudes. The ride itself would be somewhere between 4 and 5 hours, actual distance is irrelevant when riding in the mountains. We would probably be climbing something around 8000ft or so of elevation, the ride would start on pavement but most climbs around here eventually turn to dirt but that's where all the good stuff is.
If she wasn't off racing, I would be riding with my girlfriend Ruth trying not to get dropped. If she was away I have a pretty solid group of friends that all like to ride fast but still keep it super fun. Favorite ride in Boulder would be up Flagstaff, down and around Gross Reservoir, up Twin Spruce/Gap road, then Peak to Peak highway until you get tired then descend back to town.