It’s often said that great customer service is hard to come by these days. That adage doesn’t apply to Off the Chain Bikes in Hollister. Owner Brian Lucas and his chief mechanic, Chris Neher, pride themselves on providing an enjoyable experience for anyone who enters their shop.
“To do the job well, you just have to love the bicycle and love people,” says Lucas. “You have to take pride in doing a great job and doing it well.”
On a recent weekday afternoon, Lucas showed—on a customer’s request—how to change a flat tire. Thorough and detailed, Lucas explained the mistakes some people make. The exchange showed why Lucas has dozens of repeat customers he knows by name. Not only does Lucas take time to do a great job, but he’s willing to turn the extra spoke to make sure his customers leave happy and satisfied.
Neher has worked at the shop for 10 years, and the two have been enjoying a great ride together.
“We complement each other pretty well,” says Lucas. “He’s young and a different type bicyclist than I am. I’m older and on a road bike a lot, and he’s younger and more up to date with the modern mountain bikes. He’s great at customer service, so everything is good.”
Lucas’ wife of 30 years, Robin, does the bookkeeping and makes sure the shop stays nice and presentable.
“She makes the shop really tidy, which is not an easy thing to do with two guys in here,” says Lucas. “Actually, it’s a pretty difficult thing, but she keeps us on track. She also takes care of some of the technical stuff and other details that helps keep everything running smoothly.”
Lucas opened up the shop—universally regarded as the best bike shop in San Benito County and one of the best in the South Valley—in 2001 after working on the research and development sector testing products at Specialized Bicycle Components in Morgan Hill. After his run with Specialized came to an end, Lucas decided he didn’t have to work for other people—he could work for himself.
“I didn’t want to relocate to another company, and at the time I thought it was obvious to open a store,” says Lucas. “At the time, Hollister was growing so fast and there was no shop in town, and it kind of made a lot of sense. I’m happy to be here because it’s a great place to ride and be outdoors all the time. There are a lot of people who ride, and they end up in the shop at some point.”
Off the Chain Bikes carries road bikes, mountain bikes, hybrids, BMX, beach cruisers, cross cycle and children’s bicycles. Some of the brands the shop carries include Specialized, Felt, Look, Haro, Electra and Cult Fit. Bike prices range anywhere from to $275 to $3000. There is literally something for everyone, whether it’s a kid riding for the first time or a senior who is looking to get back into cycling.
Lucas leads outdoor group rides and indoor spinning classes, the latter which typically starts in January. The classes are held inside the store, and it’s a great way for people to stay in shape during the winter months, when cold weather and rain mean fewer people riding.
“We’ll set up your bike with a resistance trainer attached to the bike wheel,” says Lucas. “And we have a program that is actually a modified version of what the professional riders use.” “Obviously, you can’t use the same exact training with the general public, so instead of a two-hour program we modify it to one hour. But in that hour you’ll have aspects of sprints, power and speed workouts, and all of those are broken up into a couple of weeks so you can keep on progressing.”
Lucas’ passion for cycling took off when he biked across the country in 1983, going from San Diego to Boston in two months. Lucas started making friends in the cycling community, many of whom befriended him and showed him the mechanical aspects of cycling. From there, Lucas immersed himself in being able to fix whatever issues—and there are many—that come with riding a bicycle.
“I learned from other people, and the next thing you know I’m showing other people what to do,” says Lucas.
Off the Chain Bikes is located at 101 McCray St, #101, Hollister. The store is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 to 5.