You are here

I Fight Authority

Published October 27, 2010


It’s an ego-driven epidemic in bike shops. It scares away customers. It’s the Authority Battle. 

It’s mechanics and bike-fitters trying to prove their superiority over all others in the area, possibly on the planet. 

Two recent examples: On our Bay Area bike trip (see last week’s blog) we stopped in a highly regarded Marin shop. Pauline was having some shifting issues. 

The mechanic put her Bike Friday in the stand and ran it through the gears. His first reaction: “Who worked on this last? The thing’s all messed up, the derailleur hanger is misaligned, you need to find a new mechanic!” 

So out came the Campy J tool, he had it shifting great in no time. Charged us $5. I made him take ten. Thank you! Chances are it got knocked out of whack on the airplane. 

Second example: Helping a friend of my daughter’s find a used road bike at VeloSwap last Saturday. We found what I and she and her boyfriend all thought was the perfect bike for her. 

The shop guy who owned it refused to sell it to her. “I won’t sell someone a bike that doesn’t fit, this one’s too small for you!” 

Of course, he hadn’t asked her a single qualifying question about her road bike experience, future plans, or riding style. He’s the Authority, it’s too small, end of discussion. 

So where does this urge to one-up and dictate come from? (Disclaimer: Thinking back, I often behaved this way when I was in retail, too.)  

When you’re working in a bike shop, most of your work-related self-worth seems to come from how much you know. Especially for guys. 

So it becomes an “I know more than you!” ego battle back and forth between shops. And the customers are often confused and turned off by the one-upsmanship. 

When you put a bike up in the stand, do you REALLY have to know who worked on it last? If you do know, do you REALLY have to get a dig in? 
When you’re fitting bikes, are your “standards” REALLY more important than the customer’s comfort and satisfaction? 

Let’s make the shop battle about who can do the best job of getting the most customers to ride the most miles!


Join the Conversation