August 31, 2005

Bike Shop Rants

I went to the bike shop today with a friend who is looking to get a bike after not having had one for awhile. He fits the demographic of people who come into bike shops around here quite well; he isn't a racer or Mt. biker, but is looking for a comfort/hybrid bike to ride a bit and have some fun on. After the bike shop gig this Spring and my own fanatacism, I offered to go along and help suggest stuff and because, I generally like going to bike shops.

Caveat #1: The bike shop I am discussing has several employees who have made really great suggestions, are really helpful to work with, and are great in general.

However, I am coming to be really frustrated with the way a lot of people are being treated in bike shops now and frustrated with the way bike shop employees are trained to respond to customers (I myself went through the training).

Rant #1: The treatment of girls at bike shops is often horrifying. Salesguys have talked to me about what color of bike to buy, I have seen hardcore male bikers go in with their girlfriends who want to ride a bike and the girlfriend is never talked to by the salesperson attempting to sell her a bike, and preferences that are expressed are often deemed to be "silly," while certain products designed for women are pushed. Trek's WSD bikes are a great idea, the difference in geometry and componentry are noticable and they are better bikes. The different Men's and Women's (i.e. drop headtube) comfort bikes are ridiculous. I understand from Trek (and the bike stores’) perspective – a lot of people are convinced that a bike for women should be reminiscent of the girl’s bike they started out on. However, I don’t believe there is any useful benefit of this on an adult bike, unless you are wearing skirts while riding. Women are also not assumed to be serious riders, or our riding is deemed “cute” or it is assumed that by riding, it really means we go along with the group and hold them back and try to pick up biker guys. It is also generally assumed that women bike because their partner bikes. In my case, that started out truthfully and I never would have started riding if it wasn’t for the boy. However, that doesn’t mean that I was stop riding now that I am hooked if I was no longer with the boy (not that I really see that happening). So, girl’s get teased for using bike related slang (and I don’t mean words like “endo,” but rather words like “componentry”), we are told about group rides that are easy, and there is shock and disbelief that I own the mountain bike I do (all of these happened today). It is also assumed that I don’t know what I am talking about, that I have not researched different bike options, that I do not know general bike maintenance, that I pick gear based on its general cuteness (true in sock and jersey selection, not true in pretty much everything else). None of these assumptions are true.

Part of these fall within the cultures of some bike shops which definitely seem to be boys clubs with no teacher supervision. However, I think a lot of that is also the training. Doing the traning material that several of vendors provide, I learned a few key points.
-Men buy mountain bikes and road bikes; women buy comfort
bikes with big seats.
-Women will buy a cruiser bike as an impulse purchase if it is
cute enough (because really, who doesn’t want bike-shaped art?).
-If a couple rides a bike and are looking for a tandem, it is because the guy is a hard core rider and the woman has little riding experience. The suggested protocol when a couple are purchasing a tandem is to let the guy do the test ride, then take the woman out without the guy and help her to not be scared, and then take the guy out on the stoker seat so he can “know what it feels like for the woman.”

Rant #2: We need to think about who we are trying to get into biking. My friend fits the demographic of people we are trying to lure into biking; he thinks that biking is fun and wants to do it, might use it to go some places, is willing to spend some money on it, and is looking to do it safely and responsibly. When a person like that, who goes into this not knowing tons about biking or bikes, who might not care about SRAM versus Shimano or whether or not to use SPDs or Eggbeaters (Eggbeaters are phenomenal). The phrase “this bike has a Shimano Sora derailler” means ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. The salesguy today was overly aggressive, used tons of lingo, and didn’t listen to what my friend said he was looking for and seemed to be pushing for bikes that were obviously not good choices. When my friend test rode a bike, the salesguy put the seat at the proper position for a road bike, but it was so high that my friend was uncomfortable and said so. The guy told him that it was fine. I know the seat needs to be at a proper height to ensure that one’s knees are hurt. But, the reason given was for the maximization of muscle power. This is ridiculous; someone tooling around on bike paths is not looking for the maximization of gluteal power. I was tempted to engage in gluteal kicking. This is why more people aren’t biking or going to bike shops. The get intimidated by people acting like used car sales agents, upset by people talking down to them, and annoyed when people talk over their head.

Posted by woodw032 at August 31, 2005 10:02 PM