More info: dirtlabs.com
To Mike Luebesmier, the trash can full of old bike forks in the back of his shop is more like art than garbage.
Luebesmier, founder of Boulder-based Dirtlabs Suspension, works on bike forks, shocks and suspension -- and nothing else. He keeps the bin full of old bike forks around for sentimental value and because it shows how serious Dirtlabs is about specializing in suspension.
Luebesmier and co-owner Mike Howse are suspension specialists, receiving shocks, forks and other parts to repair and service from around the country. Luebesmier said Dirtlabs is one of a handful of suspension shops around the country, so they do work for mountain-bike-crazy Boulderites and riders who are thousands of miles away.
Dirtlabs Suspension moved to a new larger location in March, upping its total square footage from 600 to 1,100. The company's current location, 3046 Valmont Road, is much roomier and has allowed the owners to add a few additional employees to the business.
The floor, a navy and white checkered pattern, is slick with grease and huge photos of people riding mountain bikes adorn the walls. Near the door, good-to-go bikes wait to be picked up by their owners.
Because they're both named Mike, the two co-owners go by nicknames. Luebesmier, 32, is "Luby" and Howse, 29, is simply "Howse" to prevent any confusion. Luebesmier founded the business in 2008 and brought on Howse last year.
With the additional staff and space, Dirtlabs is able to guarantee 24-hour turnaround times for customers.
"We want to be out on bikes," Luebesmier said. "When our bikes are broken, it sucks. We really want people out on bikes."
The suspension on a mountain bike absorbs some of the abuse from riding on bumpy singletrack or other terrain that might be filled with rocks or tree roots. How Dirtlabs tunes a bike's suspension depends a lot on riders' weight and where they'll be riding, Luebesmire said.
Customer John Payne, a Longmont resident, has brought three bikes to Dirtlabs Suspension because of Luebesmier's and Howse's expertise, he said.
For Payne, being able to walk in without an appointment and have his bike back the next day is unheard of -- almost.
"Nobody does that," Payne said one day while dropping off his wife's bike. "Like nobody."
Luebesmier, who wears a black shirt and shorts set off by his red and blue Dale's Pale Ale socks, has been working in the bicycle industry since college in Minnesota. Howse, who grew up in Gunbarrel, started tinkering with bike parts as a teenager and has been perfecting his craft in the Colorado bike industry ever since.
Though their business is still growing, Dirtlabs Suspension sponsors one athlete, local rider Armen Davis.
Davis, 14, got to know Luebesmier while riding out at Valmont Bike Park in Boulder. Davis and Luebesmier started talking about the importance of keeping suspension tuned depending on the terrain or riding conditions.
"We quickly learned that suspension was an important part of bicycle componentry and being able to ride fast," said Armen's dad, Chip Davis. "When you go into most bike shops, they will dial your suspension at one setting for all conditions and for maybe the weight of the rider, but they don't have time to spend educating you about changing that suspension as you go to different types of trails."