TCI Friday

I have become that most elusive and chimeric of characters in the professional world, a consultant. What do I do? Who do I do it for? Some days it mystifies me, too.

What I like about what I do is that it keeps me in touch with a lot of the friends I made in the industry back when I had just one job, the people who taught me what I know and clue me in to what’s going on out there in the cycling wild. As a consultant, all I have to do is consult. I’m not responsible to many customers, and I don’t have to solve any of the complex challenges that are facing manufacturers, distributors, or the shops where the rubber sometimes gets to meet the road.

You can see why I like what I do.

The one constituency I’m not much in touch with anymore is the customer, the bike riding public, unwashed and unworthy in all their roiling beauty. I don’t miss them much, although really it’s the bad ones I don’t miss.

Some of you (abrupt pronoun switch, because let’s be honest, you’re all customers) are good, reasonable, informed, curious, attentive, and willing to listen to expertise. Some of you are not great. You demand satisfaction from people who can’t offer it. You take people who earn a pittance to task for minor infractions of what you deem professional etiquette. Some of you refuse to pay what things cost, abuse your bikes, and then give the mechanic a hard time when s/he can’t turn your repair around in the time it takes to microwave a burrito. You’re no fun to deal with, and you’re the ones who make today’s challenges particularly hard to navigate.

I’d like to believe the lion’s share of TCI readers are good customers, the ones who get it. But some of you, well, you need to relax.

What my network of bike business friends are telling me right now is that everyone has to wait for everything. It’s hard to say what bikes will be available and when. Parts shortages are rippling through every service department in the country. Many shops are hoarding rubber, tires AND tubes.

The pandemic has given many of us more time to ride, but it’s also taken away a lot of equipment options.

This week’s TCI Friday asks, what are you waiting for? Do you have projects in process that are being delayed by the shortages? Or are you quite content with the bikes and accessories you’ve got, pedaling away serenely while the masses leave yet another voice mail for their local bike shop? Finally, are you a good customer, or a bad one?

Join the conversation
  1. bluezurich says

    One thing I have noticed is that online retailers no longer have the depth and range of stock seen in pre pandemic times. i.e. only carrying current years gruppos and components and not stocking or listing previous such as only 12 speed and nothing 11. Now, this could be marketing and inventory control choices or supply issues, not sure. It seems NOS and vintage availability (and prices) are bridging towards more and more recent lines. Want something from 2019? Ebay might be the only place my friend. Sad.

  2. DaveinME says

    I agree with what Bluezurich said. My local lbs is waiting on lots of inventory. Online seems to be in the same boat. I’ve placed a couple orders only to get a message a day later saying they are waiting to get whatever I ordered.

    I’m not currently waiting on anything which is great. I finished building a new bike last month and it’s ready to go.

    I’m a good customer. When I go to my shop I’m happy to get the advice and recommendations from them. They all ride year round so I have confidence in what they recommend to me. I’ve been on the other side as a wrench and seen a broad variety of customers, so I know how much it means to be a good customer!

  3. khal spencer says

    “The one constituency I’m not much in touch with anymore is the customer, the bike riding public, unwashed and unworthy in all their roiling beauty. I don’t miss them much, although really it’s the bad ones I don’t miss. …” Wow, Emlyn. As a CI suscriber, I see bite marks in my hand after reading that. Or maybe the bike biz and the bike literature folks, don’t need we scummy inbreds any more, especially with the lack of inventory making everyone a little edgy?

    I get it with ornery folks making the guy behind the counter’s life miserable. I’m vice-chair of the Santa Fe Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Before that, I was chair of the Los Alamos County Transportation Board, which advises the county on everything from sidewalks to the airport. Generally, when we hear from the public its about something they want to see fixed and often are not happy about it. The complaints outpace the attaboys by a wide margin. I’ve not run into Oscar the Grouch in a bike shop (and I worship regularly the LBS as well as the LGS) but a week ago I stopped at the local gun shop and some lady was angrily dressing down the staff and owner for not having ammo on the shelves and said there was plenty in Arizona. Trust me, there ain’t much to be had there, either. Whether its bikes, bullets, or baby wipes, stuff has been scarce.

    To (finally) answer your question, I’m not currently waiting on anything other than enough ambition to turn off this computer and pull on some riding tights. I’m lucky to be a bit of a scrounge. For example, I buy nice tires when they are half price (thank you, squirrel them away, and mount them up when my old ones are long in the tooth. Then I sort through and store the best of the ones that are long in the tooth for a Covid Day.

    I do miss the better selection during normal times but frankly, these are abnormal times and I am happy to be rolling down the road, even if it is on wire bead rather than folding tires or hitting the trails with the one model of 26 x 2.3 tires in the LBS rather than the fast and grippy stuff I would normally hold out for. My main concern would be if something major breaks, like a derailleur. But even have a few old ones in the Box That Time Forgot. If the shocks go on the Stumpjumper, that’s a real issue. Anyone see Septunes on Ebay?

    Keep the rubber side down and the smiling side up.

  4. billwhite.envirolaw says

    I have everything I need to ride, but I am waiting on a new customer bike I ordered a loooong time ago. I understand. I try to be an excellent customer, understanding and patient, which isn’t hard for me really because I always have something that is ridable.

  5. alanm9 says

    Steve Rex is about to ship my wife’s new custom bike that was supposed to be ready in Oct ’20. She saw the Instagram pics and is really excited; its worth the (extra) wait. Not only did covid delay it, but so did brexit. Steve had to source the Brooks saddle from Spain (long story). Thanks to RKP for hooking us up!

    1. Padraig says


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