Patrick and I were talking on yesterday’s Paceline about buying a bike for a kid. I’m in the process of getting my 16-year-old, who has outgrown his current bike, a new set of wheels. Patrick was intrigued that I was far enough along in the process to be ready to buy, but hadn’t yet mentioned it to my son.
Here’s the thing.
I sold bikes for a bunch of years, and what I found more often than not is that most people don’t know which bike is going to be best for them. What’s that you say? Wasn’t it my job as a bike salesperson to help them with that process? Why yes. It was. And yet, by and large they didn’t recognize that. Sure. Some listened to my advice. But many just plowed forward with whatever skewed idea they had to begin with, because people don’t like to submit to someone else’s expertise. It requires the humility to accept that someone else knows more than they do, and in my experience, it doesn’t matter how little someone knows about a thing. They think they know.
If you suspect I’m talking about men more than I’m talking about women, I’m not going to disabuse you of that notion.
After a while, you stop worrying so much about convincing someone to go with your ideas. You say what’s to say. Actually. Strike that. You ask questions and solicit real answers, and then you say what’s to say. You might say something like, “Well, if you’ve never ridden off-road before, I might not start with the long-travel, full-suspension mountain bike.” After that, you’ve said your piece.
I admit it is somewhat amazing how many of my friends, people who know what I do and how long I’ve done it, will solicit my input and then wholly ignore it. But what can you do? It’s their money.
The situation with my son is different. In this case, it’s my money, and he can choose his new bike, but I’m not investing in a pipe dream or some hair-brained idea he has about what he’d look best on. With someone I am selling a bike, the single most important question I ask is, “How do you see yourself using this bike?” There are other questions, but that’s the key one. With my son, I know how he’ll use it. It’s a question of whether he wants to move from flat bars to drops, and what size tires will give him the best versatility. He’ll have ideas. Everyone does.
This week’s TCIF asks, what do you think the important questions are when you’re advising someone on a new bike purchase? Is there one more important than my go-to above? Have you ever had someone you advised come back and thank you for your advice later? Conversely, has anyone apologized to you for not taking it, recognizing eventually that you had been right. I know. I know. But it happened to me once.