What’s In A Bike Shop
by Katy Murray
A bike shop serves many purposes to a lot of different people across a wide variety of skill, fitness and socioeconomic statuses. A good bike shop maintains decent inventory or at least the ability to obtain it, knowledgable associates, experienced and professional bike techs, and above all else a desire to serve the public. An excellent bike shop remembers that it’s not about the bike, but about the person riding it. The bike doesn’t complete a century ride. The cyclist does.
I recently had a reason to look for a new bike shop. Not hard to do considering I live in a town with more than 14 bike shops to choose from.
If you’ve read my blog, you know the recent issues I’ve had with flat tires. You can catch up here: Flat Tire Saga. My bike computer has also been failing. Only technology could turn a 16-mile ride into a 2.89-mile ride.
I am still relatively new to triathlons, and I don’t consider myself an expert with the bike by any means. Which is my main purpose for a bike shop. I can change my own flat, but at the very least I expect a bike shop to do that with ease. No big deal, right? What self-respecting bike tech leaves a piece of a tire lever in the wheel of a time trial bike?!
When I go to a bike shop, I want to be treated with interest. I want a sales associate to listen to me, treat me with respect, and at the very least provide a service at a professional quality.
Though I am new to triathlons, I am not new to racing and training and fitness prep. I know I am not in peak fitness. I won’t place in my age category and I definitely won’t win. But that doesn’t mean I won’t take the race seriously. I want to do my best, and I want to know I’ve given it my all. And part of a triathlon is the bike. In this triathlon, it’s the biggest part of the race. 2,000ft of elevation gain over the first 12 miles, on a course I have yet to master.
My last three memorable rides included a heat-stroke induced near passing out experience, two flat tires, a dying computer and a horrible bike tech.
So on Saturday I wheeled my Aeryn into Crows Feet Commons to ease some of my anxiety. I was greeted by a loud exclamation that someone recognized my bike. It was the tech who changed my cassette a few weeks ago. He was still wearing his cycling clothes, all the way down to his shoes. He had just come back from a nice ride with some bike pros. He could have ignored me and let someone else help. He could have taken time to change. He could have pretended he didn’t remember me, or what’s more – he could have not remembered me at all. But he had me at “I remember that bike!”
He took some time to go through my bike. He checked the chain, the gears, the computer. He adjusted the aerobars, which were loose and out of position. He adjusted my brakes, which the previous bike shop forgot to do. He tightened my water bottle bracket, he talked me out of changing my handle bar wrap. And he talked to me. Educated me. Spent time with me. And he returned my confidence I had lost in my bike last week. And I felt good knowing I had a bike shop I could rely on.
Some people have been telling me to taper this week, but I have too much at stake to start my taper right now. Things I haven’t yet experienced. Decisions not yet made. And a lot of bike time lost to mechanical issues.
Tonight I rode 25 miles after work. Compared to Deschutes Dash, it was a flat course but I tried to keep the resistance on hills rather than shifting through. I just wanted to wear out my legs to know they could handle it.
25 miles at 16.2 MPH, and when I got back I ran a mile with a couple strides at the end. And I learned a few things I would have missed had I taken it easy:
1. I was thirsty, and I drank my entire bottle. I had decided on Saturday to leave my aero bottle at home. But today I decided I need to have it with me. I’d rather be hydrated and annoyed with the occasional splashing than dehydrated.
2. The run is going to be uncomfortable and there’s no way to prevent that. On top of uncomfortable, I’m going to be slow.
3. I need to start taking the prescription my doctor gave me for acid reflux last year. Though I determined it was caused by chronic dehydration, it’s back and I don’t want to deal with it while I am racing.
4. I need to figure out what to do with the mop on my head. Not long enough to pull back. Too annoying not to.
Tonight I was able to ride 25 miles on my bike with an average speed of 16.2 miles. Because I was able to ride, I was able to gain a lot of wisdom. My bike shifted smoothly. It braked quickly. The aerobars and bull horns were comfortably positioned. And my new Crows Feet Commons bike bottle was easy to pull in and out of the tightened bracket. I could see my speed and my distance and everything else I had been missing.
My confidence is back. My anxiety is turning to excitement. I am beginning to feel ready!
This, my friends, is the difference between a good shop and the best shop in town. None of this would have been possible without that trip to CFC on Saturday.
If your bike shop doesn’t make you feel this way, keep looking.