The Spokesmen 25 – October 29, 2007

The 25th episode of The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast included David from The FredCast Cycling Podcast, Carlton Reid from Bike Biz Magazine and, Tim Jackson from Masi Bicycles and The Masi Guy blog, Tim Grahl from The Crooked Cog, and Fritz from Cyclelicious

Among the topics we discussed:

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  1. October 30, 2007

    Fantastic timing! I’ve got a long drive tomorrow – this’ll be perfect for the commute. 🙂

  2. October 30, 2007

    I agree with Tim Jackson in his assessment of the customer service problem with many bicycle retailers. Long ago in high school and college, I worked in a bike shop as a mechanic making barely more than minimum wage (all of which went back to the shop through my discount). I rode my bike to work at the time and, when I ventured up from the workbench , I like to think that I was better with customers than the average young, part time bike shop employee. That said, I know that in my late teens and early twenties I was more interested in talking about racing than anything else. There is nothing wrong with a shop hiring young, enthusiastic people. As long as they don’t have the “I’m the local superstar racer and I know more than you” attitude, they can really be valuable employees. My point is that bike shops also need those higher paid career employees who, in addition to having a wealth of bike knowledge, are business savvy and focused on listening to individual customers. The best shops that I know of today are full of employees in a range of ages who genuinely care about ALL facets of cycling.

  3. October 31, 2007

    I read about Fritz being on this podcast at his web site and gave it a try. I liked it and subscribed via iTunes. I also hit you with a “Digg”.

  4. November 1, 2007

    James- Thanks for agreeing with me. In the defense of bike shops, they do have a hard battle finding good employees willing to work for the amount of money they can afford to pay. It is a very tough environment in retail. Cyclists tend to be a little cliquish to begin with and sometimes I think that hurts shops as well- if you aren’t from the group, then you’re “different”. There are many things I loved and sometimes miss about working bike retail- the good friends you worked with, the good customers who were thankful, the reps who tried to help you out… there were a lot of good things. Eating cold pizza and a warm beer with greasy hands at midnight building bikes heading into Christmas. Lots of cool things… but I can’t say I miss the pay. And I worked for some really good people who paid better than most and they really cared… but it still wasn’t much money. That’s why the good employees, if they truly love bikes or the industry, try as hard as they can to make it out of retail and into a company on the other side… like I did. It frequently leaves retail as the farm team or classroom for those of us who work at manufacturers or other vendors.

    I can’t say that I envy shop owners at all. They have a tough job.

  5. lakeviewbiker
    November 1, 2007

    I am anxiously waiting to see what the new GPS product was Carlton was talking about having pre-ordered the Garmin Edge 705. Do I need to cancel my order? Please ost info on the Fredcast or Bikebiz ASAP.

  6. Carlton Reid
    November 1, 2007


    I was reticent on the show because at the moment it looks like its a UK-only product. The site features OS mapping quite heavily.

    OS mapping on a mobile device can be done but the Active 10 looks as though it does it really well. I get a review model next week, I’ll post a quickie report as soon as I can.

    Whether this thing will work as well with US topo maps I’m not so sure.

  7. Cameron
    November 6, 2007

    Loved the cast but it was so quiet I couldnt hear it on my IPhone. I had to play it on my computer to make it loud enough.

  8. Paul
    November 12, 2007

    Bike shops are becoming their own worst enemy. Luckily, Darwin will solve the problem – in my area, at least four of the most clueless shops are now closed, and one of the huge-but-still-clueless ones has new ownership.

    The Trek boutique thing is a good concept – but unfortunately they sell Treks, the sliced white bread of the cycling industry. But if I owned a LBS I’d steal that idea – have the front of the shop dedicated to the average consumer with all of the mass-market product up there. In the back, I’d have a small boutique, with the $4000 and up products there. No need for much stock – since almost everything would be custom order – and one dedicated employee who handled that area, and only that area. Make the customer feel special, and he’ll buy more from your shop and less online. Chryslers and Mercedes are made by the same company, but they aren’t daft enough to put the two in the same showroom.

    As far as RAGBRAI goes – I sincerely hope they carefully pick their route next year to totally avoid bringing ANY revenue to Crawford county at all, and spread it to the surrounding counties. Lodging, food, and gas for 10,000 riders is a fair amount of money for any government to willingly turn away.

  9. November 28, 2007

    First of all, thanks for the very kind words…..too kind really. I’m nowhere in the same ballpark as some of you guys, that’s for sure!

    Now, as for the two things that struck me, (close to “home” on both counts) The RAGBRAI issue is far, far more complex than portrayed or probably known to anyone outside of cycling in Iowa. There are several dynamics at work here and to simply castigate the county government as villians is shortsighted. Iowa has a plethora of paved roadways, and several poor counties that struggle to provide services for their residents. Resources are already at a very stretched state. Add a lawsuit by a grieving family over a cycling event that passed through your county and left little in monetary rewards, (I’ll address this in a moment), and you can see why RAGBRAI might be seen as something not so good in this situation.

    RAGBRAI is run by an organization that has increasingly been taking more of the monetary gain from the economy at large and hoarding it to themselves. Vendors are approved and contracted. They follow RAGBRAI across the state and are not leaving the dollars collected in the communities they pass through. The “Register” also “closes towns down”, (or more accurately, they have the State Patrol do this) at specified times along the route as a means of encouraging the cycling horde to move along and discourage alchoholic abuses. It used to be that the small bars and resturaunts had a heyday whenever RAGBRAI passed through their town, but no more.

    I should mention that being an overnight, “host town” is still a lucrative deal, but even then not as much as it was ten years ago.

    So, a county that can not keep up with road maintenance, doesn’t see a benefit to RAGBRAI passing through, and can not afford expensive lawsuits in the not unlikely occurance of death or injury on RAGBRAI might just think about not letting it come through as a means of playing the odds. (By the way, death and injury happen every year on RAGBRAI, it just doesn’t get much press. RAGBRAI is run by the press……Hmmm………….)

    Now, as for the bike shop snobbery that is being talked about, I have several strong feelings about it. I would tend to agree with a little bit of everybodies viewpoints here, but let me hit upon something that Tim Grahl was passionately expressing here. The business aspect. I came from retail before my bike shop tenure. I was in the jewelry business for ten years as a bench jeweler, designer, and salesman. One of my peers always used to say about being a salesman: “You have to think of it as being an actor.” What he meant was, you have to put yourself aside if you are to sell well. Customers do not care about you, they expect you to care about them. This maxim is lost on too many sales people these days. Not just in the cycling industry, and it isn’t bound by age or gender. I’ve seen bad sales people in all walks of life, but it seems to be an epidemic amongst bike shop employees.

    I agree with David, the owner must set the tone for his shop. There must be higher expectations set at the onset of employment. As for pay, wasn’t it Carlton’s father Al that said, “If ya aren’t gettin’ paid enough, find a better job!” Well, I’m afraid that is an issue as well, and has been covered in the podcast, but still: something needs to change fundamentally about how shop employees interact with customers. There are just too many stories out there to ignore.

    Allright, thanks again for the kind words and I must say that it was nice to hear all of your voices again. I enjoyed meeting all of you at Interbike immensely. I look forward to seeing you all again somewhere down the trail.

  10. John
    December 11, 2007

    I finally got around to listening to this podcast and have a comment about your comments on bikeshops. I like in Portland Oregon, and I think that our bike shops are better than what the typical one is as mentioned in your show.
    Without naming names, I frequent 6 to 7 different shops (and regularly spend money at 3 of them) of which one is a national chain and two have multiple locations in the Portland area. In all cases, unless they’re busy, someone asks me if I need help when I walk in. My problem is that when I first walk in I don’t know what I’m looking for, when I finally do have a question, then I have trouble getting the attention of a salesperson.
    Recently I’ve been finding myself as both the knowledgeable cyclist and a clueless one. I’m familiar with mountain and road bikes and have my opinions. But with the opening of a local skatepark, I was curious about BMX bikes. I don’t have a clue where to start or even if a BMX bike is the right choice. My responses have run from our BMX expert isn’t working today come back later (from the shop that I’m confident wants to sell me the right bike not just any bike) to what I suspect was a shop owner directing me to a 26″ dirt jump bike that would probably work but I think he was trying to get rid of the bike.
    So as our riding interests change or expand we can find ourselves as the new cyclist again.
    On another note, one of the local shops conducted a survey of people who visited their shops in an effort to improve their customer relations. Pre survery, this shop frequently made me feel like they didn’t want me as a customer. Post survery, I’ve found the sales staff warmer, and the staff more willing to talk bikes. They’ve also remodeled their stores in order to present their products better.

  11. I’m late! I’m late! I’m late for a very im, oh wait, that’s been done before, sorry. ;-D

    Way back in October, when my friend Fritz told me about this episode of your show I, while aware of Podcasting, had never listened to such a thing before, and was only just beginning to consider the notion of doing one myself.

    There is a lot about the world of computers, and the things we use to bring our thoughts to the wider world that I don’t fully understand, and so when I tried to listen to the show, and nothing happened, I figured there might be some expensive program I needed.

    Ah, well, at least I could add new list of links in the sidebar to Podcasts so others could enjoy them. ;-D

    In the months since, as other friends began to encourage me to consider this I’ve bought certain gear, and added a program, and begun to finally get more serious about it.

    I listened to my first podcast, this morning, and realized my original mis-understanding about what in my computer would allow me to listen, and immediately went to find your show.

    What fun! What an interesting collection of discussions!

    I especially enjoyed the ones about the statewide bike ride (I will be searching out that book that was mentioned asap.), and customer service in bikeshops.

    You mentioned a 60 year old shop in England, and I am curious if they have a website, and may actually have a hisotry going back before 1941.

    Why? Well, on my Blog I make it a point to honor the Elders in the Cycling Retail Shop end of things, and am always looking for shops that have been in business since before America entered WW2, and who now have an online presense.

    The oldest shop in the world, as far as I know, is in New Jersey, for instance. ;-D

    Many of these places proudlay share their history on their sites, and as a history buff I love that sense of pride this shows.

    The 2nd thing I loved about this show was that I got to finally put a voice to Fritz, and to Carlton. ;-D

    Lastly, though I long ago told him so, now that I’ve finally actually heard it for myself, I wish to, again, say thank you to Fritz, and to you, for the mention of The Cycling Dude in this episode.

    It truly does mean a lot to this ordinary cyclist, a non-expert unlike yourselves, to be mentioned in such a forum.

    When I began Dude over 5 years ago I set the following mission for myself:

    “An ordinary road cyclist spreads the word and the word is BICYCLE!”

    I’ve witnessed the BikeBlogosphere grow, and evolve since then, and maybe I’m finally ready to try to take a few evolutionary steps of my own. ;-D

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