Suspension Syndicate: Shocks and Symbiosis in the Salt Lake Mountain Bike Scene
Action Sports: Interviews & Features
Entering its fourth year in business, Suspension Syndicate specializes in mountain bike suspension services backed by expertise. Founder Cody Priano spent his entire professional career prior to Suspension working in bike shops, growing fascinated with the intricate mechanics of suspension systems. He began Suspension Syndicate in 2018 in a tiny, 400-square-foot unit. The business blossomed since then with the additions of partners Flo Irizarry, Erik Denwalt, Stew Greer and Dave Crespo. The team operates according to a collaborative vision of indie business, one where shops can cooperate with one another and act as platforms for community, building common ground around a shared passion for mountain biking.
Suspension Syndicate offers aftermarket repairs, service, diagnostics and custom tuning for mountain bike suspension products. In addition to this service, Suspension Syndicate also stocks Vorsprung parts, the Diaz Suspension Design RUNT air spring fork cartridge, CAPO-RC2 dampers and EXT racing products. According to Priano, taking care of walk-in, appointment and mail-order customers makes up half of their business. The other side involves cooperating with local bike shops, offering expedited suspension service and bike pick-ups and drop-offs. If a client schedules an appointment, repairs take only a few days. Walk-ins may have to wait longer. Working with other shops, they complete most repairs in a tight one-week turnaround.
This strategy cuts down the time of maintenance for other shops and reduces the waiting period their customers have to endure. “It’s hard for shops to send suspensions off because there’s only a few big suspension service centers in the country,” says Priano. “In Salt Lake Valley, before we were here, a customer would come into a bike shop and if their suspension needed to be serviced it would be gone for three, four, five weeks, which is a long time to be without your bike. Also, it weighs on the customer expectation, even though the shop has nothing to do with it.”
“Working with other shops, they complete most repairs in a tight one-week turnaround.”
Suspension Syndicate developed a niche business model by design. Rather than compete outright with bigger, more generalized mountain bike shops, Priano and his associates take a symbiotic approach, meeting the need for knowledgeable suspension specialists. “If a shop is doing their job right, then they have made a friendship or social bond with their customer, and so the customer is going to continue to go there no matter what,” says Priano. Suspension Syndicate steps in to support the valuable bonds their partner businesses build with customers, and this ethos shines through even in the business’s name: “The definition of a syndicate is having multiple people [work] for the same common good,” says Priano.
In the past, local shops acted as social hubs, connecting diverse people into networks united by their shared interests well before social media catered to countless micro-cultures. The friendly local record store, cafe or bike shop all provided welcoming spaces for people to share information and build lasting relationships. With the rise of direct-to-consumer shopping driven by uncaring market forces, these social pillars risk fading away, taking the communities they support with them. “There’s so few places where you can go and find camaraderie and community. For me, the mountain bike scene has always provided a space where I can find connections with people regardless of their views or perspectives, and we can find a common ground in which we can then break into other types of conversations,” says Priano.
“The mountain bike scene has always provided a space where I can find connections with people regardless of their views.”
“I emphasize working with your local bike shop and going in, meeting the people, being involved with the community, finding the social space in which you can connect to people and find something that you are both passionate about,” he says. By supporting other businesses and providing quality expertise, Suspension Syndicate itself attests to the community-building potential Priano saw working in bike shops, where people could meet, grow and create lasting bonds.
Indie shops offer physical forums for their respective communities, but they can also help build the infrastructure that supports their passion. When they can, Suspension Syndicate’s members encourage others to attend Salt Lake Valley Trails Society meetings and connect with trail-building advocates. As the sport grows in popularity, demand for new trails soars. The need for all sorts of trails looms large, but Priano also worries that the state fails to offer more technical, advanced courses for the avid bikers who lead the community in new, bold directions. “In Utah, we’re kind of behind the times when it comes to trail building,” says Priano.
“I emphasize working with your local bike shop.”
Suspension Syndicate experienced healthy growth along with the scene, but Priano feels unsure if the pandemic that drove many Utahns to the trails directly contributed in 2020. “I don’t know if my business is growing because of COVID or if COVID is contributing to our growth, but I think it will. For all of those people who stay with the sport, they’re probably going to find us when they need service,” he says.
As they wait for Coronavirus-era bikers in need of servicing, Suspension Syndicate wants to maintain their niche within the Salt Lake mountain bike ecosystem. Now that the business moved into a larger space, they hope to eventually break into fabricating custom parts themselves. Meanwhile, their focus remains on the mountain biking community they serve, supporting more local races and events while advocating for new trails.