It is always a little intimidating , walking into a shop with a rough idea of what you want to purchase , but not actually knowing what exactly it is that you require . Some people will just walk in anyway and ask for a little advice . Others will pretendthat they know what they want and take a chance , whilst many others will ask a friend who they believe may have some expertise in the field . This final option happens a lot in bike shops with varying results .
Most people know someone who they believe is ‘ big into the cycling’ . These friends can vary from former professionals , through amateur racers to a guy who cycled to work twice and collects reflectors . They all exist , as do many others in between , and we’ve either met or heard the advice given by them all .
Often the advice given by the friend can be helpful and customers can have a good idea of what they are looking for before coming into the shop . However , there are also those friends who are self proclaimed experts , but who would not know a dura ace cassette from a Kenny Rodgers CD.
Recently a guy came in looking for a 32 inch Hot cross bike !! My first thought was that we only have a small 14” portable tv to show cycling dvd’s and that O’Gormans bakery would probably have a few hot cross buns . I kept this to myself , and instead tried to decipher what exactly it was that he required without belittling the friends advice . This one was actually pretty straight forward . The guy was about 5’9” so the friend probably told him that he needed a 23” frame . It would be too big , a 19” would be better and he didn’t look like a cyclo cross rider so it was more than likely that a Hybrid style bike was the intention behind the advice given . This turned out to be the case and he actually bought a nice 19” hybrid with a front suspension .
Occasionally , the friend will accompany the customer into the shop and this can proove quite interesting also . A few weeks back ‘the friend’ even tried to handle all of the negotiation . His opening salvo began with ;
‘Come on an’ we do a tangle ‘
Once more my imagination went into overdrive and I had a picture of the two of us taking long sideways strides up along the shop floor , facing each other with long stemmed roses in our mouths , but I kept that to myself and just replied that ;
‘We do have all of our bikes very well priced as we try to keep prices and margins as tight as possible at all times ‘
His reply was to offer 150 euro for a 400 euro bike . Now he was just annoying me . I was trying to engage with the actual purchaser himself , but ‘ the tangler ‘ was brought along for the negotiation and he was determined to do a tangle . I felt as if I was tangled up in a thorny bush but managed to extract myself by handing over a few catalogues and inviting them both to study them and for the actual customer to come back another day when he made his choice . The customer came back a few days later on his own and bought a nice bike which suited both his needs and his budget .
Then there was the guy who walked in with a 20 year old Raleigh Winner which he informed us was ridden to victory in the FBD RAS , or so his friend told him . Now , Ray has ridden the Ras for 13 out of the past 16 years , so if someone had in fact taken part in the race , let alone won it on a Raleigh Winner , he would know . Even in it’s day 20 years ago that would have been like a Fiesta in a Formula 1 race . Our customer was borrowing it for a triathlon so we gave it a service and I added it to my list of 4 previous Ras winners bikes that I have worked on .
Overall it is a great idea to ask a friend who really knows what they are talking about for advice . Just be careful what friend you choose . Also remember that good advice is an integral part of the service that any decent bike shop has to offer so don’t be afraid to ask . No matter what question you may have , they will have heard it before and will be happy to help .