Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Shop Talk with Shop Guy #1

Welcome to Shop Talk with Shop Guy* #1. We can't show you Shop Guy's face because he's a shop guy. Let it just be said that this will be a semi-regular thing where Shop Guy will teach you stuff. So, without further ado, here we go...

Working in a bike shop isn’t just about fixing your bike and selling you stuff. Sometimes we also like to teach you things, because quite frankly some of you have things quite arse-about. It’s not all your fault though. There seem to be a number of myths that linger in cycling that sometimes lead customers into some bad buying decisions. However this is not the time to start laying blame for these myths, better we just get on with correcting them. Here are some of the most common.

Myth 1 - ‘I need a carbon frame because it’ll be more comfortable’
It might be, but not necessarily. Carbon is a great material for making bike frames because you can essentially ‘tune’ it to give the frame whichever qualities you desire. It can be laid up to be more compliant and make a bike super comfortable (think Specialized Roubaix ) or to be rigid and make the bike more responsive (think Scott Addict). If comfort is your priority start worrying about frame geometry, tyre size, and a bunch of other stuff before you worry about what the frame is made from. Carbon does not automatically equal comfort. It simply affords the manufacturer greater freedom to give the frame qualities they want.

Myth 2 – ‘I need Shimano Ultegra/XT parts at a minimum’

No you don’t. We as an industry are as much to blame for this myth as anyone. We keep telling you how this year’s product is 20% faster/lighter/shinier than last year and you MUST have it. But the truth is that often most people could ride quite well using lower level components and their riding experience wouldn’t be any less for it. The drive train components have the least effect on how well your bike performs compared to the frame and wheels, but many customers get obsessed with having the best parts possible on their new bike. Shop Guy says get your priorities straight and stop worrying about that rear derailleur and start worrying if that frame is going to actually fit you and if the wheels will hold up under your limited ability to dodge potholes.

Myth 3 – ‘I need aero wheels on my road bike because I want to go faster’
If you are slow then aero wheels won’t make you faster. Training your arse off will make you faster. Aero wheels need you to be going at some sort of speed already before they start working (somewhere like 35- 40km/hr as a rough generalisation) so they can’t make your sub 30km/hr riding faster. However, they do make any road bike look awesome, so at least at the coffee shop your bike will look fast.

Myth 4 – ‘I need more suspension travel’
Shop Guy will let you off this one if you race downhill, but beyond that you probably just need to learn how to tune what you’ve already got. Most people would struggle to find their rebound adjuster let alone know how and when to use it. Some geeks in a lab have spent a lot of time designing a fork or shock that allows you to adjust it for your riding style and conditions and you repay them by not using those features. There’s hours of techno-geek fun to be had in playing with your fork and shock and it can make that bike you thought was a POS ride like a magic carpet. Get some knowledge people.

Myth 5 - ‘I need a lighter bike’
I doubt it. Many people equate a lighter bike with a faster bike. A lighter bike will help up a climb and when you need to lift it onto your car rack but beyond that the overall weight of the bike is doing sod all to your riding experience. If we talk about light wheels then that’s a whole new discussion, but the weight of a bike is only a fraction of the total weight you need to propel down the road. Your actual body represents a greater percentage of the overall mass you need to move and is a much more cost-effective part of the equation to shed weight off. As the book title says, it’s not about the bike.

*Shop Guy is not to be taken lightly. His years of experience in bike shops have made him bitter, jaded and lacking in any compassion. It has also given him a lot of knowledge that you’d do well to remember.


  1. do i know shop guy? his jaded views sound quite familiar...