The Work: Go the retail route or join the wrench force. Sales associates perfect the three S's: straightening, stocking, and selling. Mechanics get greasy hands. Or be a bigger wheel: Buy your own shop, and do both.
Time Outside: 5 percent. The good news, though, is that you don't risk your job when you go for midday rides (employees of Mountain Bike Specialists in Durango, Colorado, spend their lunch hours pedaling some of the country's finest singletrack).
Payback: $6-$14 an hour. Berkeley's Missing Link, an employee-owned co-op, pays an across-the-board $12 an hour, plus full benefits.
Prerequisites: Retail sales experience is good; mechanical know-how is better. The Barnett Bicycle Institute in Colorado Springs (719-632-5173; http://www.bbinstitute.com) can take you from ignoramus to sage in about 100 hours.
Networking: The National Bicycle Dealers Association (949-722-6909; http://www.nbda.com) conducts an annual conference and tracks sales stats. Keep abreast of trade buzz with Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (505-995-4360; http://www.bicycleretailer.com) and hobnob with the cog-noscenti at Interbike Expo (949-376-6216; http://www.interbike.com), held every September in Las Vegas.
Peon to Pro: Five years to store manager. "When you know how to make good on a warranty claim or custom-build bike parts with a Dremel," says Shane Baird, 24, of Mountain Bike Specialists, "you've got it made."
Drudge Factor: Someone has to wash the grimy rags. And then there are those 70-degree days when you're stuck inside fixing a bike so someone else can ride it.
Outlook: Fair. Annual bike sales are stagnant at about 11 million, and 70 percent of shops go broke within a few years of opening.