walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Dating Bikes

There are a variety of questionnaires out there intended to help bike shops help a customer find a bike. I have glanced at a few. Some are much worse than others (basically, they let you pick price range, frame size and from an extremely limited frame geometry, and they _might_ let you pick fixed gear). Some of the pages define bike types via pictures and/or text; others don't. Some pages base the frame size off height alone; others want inseam, also. Like bra fittings, everyone who is an expert is convinced that their approach to measurement and fit is The Right Way, and 80% or more of everyone else is Doing It Wrong. Some of them ask you what you are planning on doing with the bike, and then limit your choices to things like speed, terrain, and adjectives like casual vs. competitive. A lot of bike shops are using the _exact_ same bike finder form, which leads me to wonder where, precisely, it came from. BRAIN or some other industry provider? I dunno.

This is not how I would do things.

I think it is probably a good idea to ask what people can afford to spend, altho it might be worthwhile doing a little education on what you can get at various price points before taking that number as a done deal.

I think the next question(s) asked of people should probably be what do you plan to do on this bike, letting people select _as many_ as apply. So don't make them pick between fitness and recreation. And give them options like carting shit around (including their beloved offspring). And doing tricks and stunts! The flip side of long tails are very short bikes that turn amazingly sharply, that you brake by pedaling backwards, etc. Fixie culture isn't being addressed by these questionnaires, either.

There might need to be subquestions -- if they're carrying crap regularly, you'll need to know the range involved. If they're carrying a kid or kids regularly, you'll need to know age/weight/developmental issues.

Then the next thing you need to know is what physical position they want to be in when they are riding (reclined back recumbent, reclined slightly, bolt upright, leaning forward slightly, bent way the fuck over).

You also should ask them whether they want to be able to put their foot and/or feet on the ground without getting up off the seat, and whether that needs to be flat or tippy toe. And you should ask them whether they want a step through configuration, or something they have to swing a leg way up and over. These are separate issues! And both are important. And _do not_ make it a gender thing, or an age thing, or a disability thing.

Then ask them the range of weight they will be carrying total including all people and stuff, the angle/height of any hills they expect to be able to ride up (as opposed to walk the bike up), the maximum speed they are comfortable going on the flat and downhill. You need all that information if you are going to select appropriate gearing and brakes. [ETA: For that matter, to pick an appropriate frame and adequate wheels, you have to know total load.] People who don't collect all of that information together are assuming you're going to be within the narrow envelope the bikes were built for, which means that heavy people will not have a low enough gear to go uphill, nor will people with cargo. AND they won't be able to stop quickly enough. Sucks! [ETA: Also, their frame may flex too much and their wheels may fail.]

There should be questions to get at climate (will you cycle in snow? rain? at night? on hot days?), to address the need for lights, to provide for equipment (locks, obviously, but also to carry stuff needed at the destination. It's sad that there's so much focus on selling clip-in shoes and so little focus on panniers that are easy to carry when not on the bike).

There should be questions about physical appearance of the bike (and I'm the wrong person to define this space, but it is very important).

There should be questions about the customer and the bike's tolerance for abuse -- is this a person who will meticulously keep this thing dry and oiled is part of it, but also are they going to drop it? Stick it on an outside rack on a bus? You don't need to overengineer, but you don't want someone to destroy something they just spent several hundred dollars on, doing what they do unthinkingly all the time with their old bike. Or everything else they own.

Finally, a general question or several specific questions should be asked to determine is this is the kind of person who is interested in and prepared to use and maintain derailleurs, or if they should automatically be directed to internal hubs. Currently, bike shops _assume_ their customers are a good match for derailleurs. I firmly believe that this actually chases a lot of people away from cycling that might otherwise participate.

I don't actually think this is that hard. What I think is that it's not the way bike shops and the people in them tend to do things. Which is a pity.
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.