Updated: Apr 14, 2020
It’s not often I make the trip down to my local bike shop (LBS) but when I do, I don’t come back empty handed. These days, it’s usually only a spare tube or chain link that I walk away with and, very occasionally, my bike - if I’ve neglected it a little too much and can’t be bothered dealing with it myself but, that doesn’t stop them firing up the coffee machine and filling my cup for a caffeine-charged conversation comprising of bikes, life and general bike shop shit talk.
I feel like no matter how deep your loyalty runs to your LBS of choice, there’s always another shop that entices you, catches your eye and tries to draw you in. They have exotic brands you’ve only ever heard of, they have a beer fridge AND a coffee machine and, in the case of Cyclexpress in Howick, Auckland, they have a HAAS CNC Machine, a laser engraver and just about every other tool/machine you’d expect to find in a small engineering shop. And that’s before you get started on the collection of vintage mountain bike frames and all the little things around the shop that make you stop and stare.
Cyclexpress has been that shop for me for as long as I remember. Right around the time I arrived back in Auckland after a stint down south, I was wrenching in another Auckland store and caught wind of how Cyclexpress had just taken delivery of their new CNC machine. I’d known of Cyclexpress for a while and had always heard about how good their servicing was and that if you wanted suspension serviced locally, they were the ones with the tools and the know-how to get it done. The name Bruno kept popping up and, eventually, I managed to piece together that Bruno was the man behind the shop. This was a few years back now and it brings me a little bit of shame to admit that it wasn’t until this year that I satisfied my curiosity and went in to meet Bruno and lust over his setup.
The first thing you should know about Bruno is that he’s Swiss. With this in mind, it’s safe to assume you’re in safe hands with anything mechanical and that’s before you take his tool-making heritage into account. Over the past twenty years, he’s built up a reputation as one of Auckland’s best mechanics. Not only is this thanks to his tireless work ethic and constant pursuit of improvement, but also down to his active involvement in, and support for, both the mountain bike and BMX communities on a national level (prime example: he’s supported NZMTBR since Day 1). Over the years he’s evolved from a bike shop with a workshop, into a workshop with a bike shop. Bruno’s passion is working on bikes and problem solving and as he’s built his brand up over the years, he’s been able to put more and more into developing the workshop and rely less and less on the retail side of Cyclexpress. With his knowledge and ability to breakdown products from a manufacturers point of view, Bruno and his staff have been able to educate riders on what brands and products will work best for them. Because of this, Cyclexpress doesn’t hold a huge range of products, but you know that anything they do carry, they carry because it works. With some parts, however, you can’t always find something that works and as a result, Bruno’s been slowly upping his manufacturing capabilities over the past few years…
I’m a self-confessed tool nerd. In my bike shop days, I’d always supply my own tools - not because any of the shops I worked in requested me to, but because I couldn’t stop buying them. If you got ‘em, you may as well make some money off ‘em, right? Considering this, the first time I visited Cyclexpress it was a bit like walking into a dream. As I stepped out from the entrance corridor and into the open-plan space that makes up Cyclexpress, Bruno greeted me at their coffee-bar-come-counter and immediately had the espresso machine fired up to brew me a long black. Good start. We took a seat at their big shop table and the first thing I noticed was how established the rustic space felt. Cyclexpress has only been in their current space for a couple of years, but you wouldn’t know it and I wouldn’t blame you for thinking they’d been there forever. Culture is one of the reasons many of us support our locals and why we’re happy to wait a couple of extra days for servicing, or pay an extra dollar here and there for product. Cyclexpress have nailed the culture aspect, with knowledgeable staff who are always keen to chat, and a low-key atmosphere. Both Bruno and Dan, his mechanic, knew all of the customers who visited during my time there by name, and were more than accommodating.
The first thing I asked about was, of course, the thing that interested me most about Cyclexpress: their HAAS CNC Machine. The only other bike shop I’d ever heard of with a CNC machine is located in Canada and, from what I’ve gathered, they use theirs to manufacture derailleur hangers in a high-volume, busy workshop so, I was interested to find out why one worked its way into a small Auckland bike shop. Cyclexpress manufactures to find solutions, for two main reasons: the first being that we’re located really, really far from most of the rest of the world (something I hope you’d know). Even for big industries, this can make sourcing parts difficult, so for niche industries like mountain biking, it can be even harder to get our hands on products. If you’re cashed up, you can get anything here but even so, there’s nothing rad about spending the same amount on freight as you spent on the product itself, just to get it here. The second reason is to fill holes in the market - which really describes itself. Sometimes Bruno and the team identify ways products could be made better, or come across problems that they could solve by manufacturing a unique part, such as their GT Dogbone Upgrade Kit.
The CNC machine is located in what’s probably best described as a ladder-accessed pit, alongside the workshop. As Bruno set up the machine to CNC one of the faces of a stem he was working on, we got talking about the products he’s manufactured under his CXP Racing brand so far. From BMX crank sets and prototype mountain bike stems, to suspension top-cap tools and narrow-wide chainrings, they are all things that Cyclexpress either had a need for and weren’t able to locally (or easily) source, or thought they could do better. Cyclexpress has the unique advantage of also being a bike shop. Because they service bikes, they not only get to engage with their target consumer face-to-face but also, get to see and track the performance of not only their products but also, other manufacturers products. With this unique insight, Cyclexpress can tweak their products to make up for where other manufacturers products may have let consumers down. This is before you even consider the fact that CXP Racing have the ability to get product tested by real-world riders as well as athletes.
With an instore laser-engraver, Cyclexpress are able to brand all of their products in-house too, meaning the only thing they can’t do is anodize but, there’s plenty of local companies that can handle that part of their process. As Kiwis, we take pride in anything that comes out of New Zealand; be it athletes, products or television stars, so it’s pretty rad to see New Zealand designed and made products coming out of a humble old local bike shop.
Even with the fancy machinery, standard servicing is still a big part of Cyclexpress. A combination of mountain bikes, BMX bikes and even a Cannondale commuter bike, were all in queue to pass through the work stand and, to me, that plays a huge part in making the shop what it is today. Call this ex-mechanic bias, but to me a shop’s culture stems from the workshop and is built upon the unparalleled shit talking that takes place in said workshop. Mechanics dictate a shop’s vibe. If they do a good job, the customer stokes because they know they’re going to be able to ride all weekend, worry free, and that’s exactly what Cyclexpress does; a good job. Not everyone benefits from CXP’s CNC machine, but everyone benefits from a good service - and I think that’s ultimately what Cyclexpress’ success comes down to, they’re simply good people doing good things.
If you’re ever passing through Auckland, make the visit to Cyclexpress and have a look around. Bruno and the team are flat out, but they’ll always take time out for a chat and to show off whatever it is they’re working on at the time. If you’re super nice, they might even offer you a coffee…
Words & Images: Cam Baker