|How you handle servicing these could make "The Pie" smaller or larger.
With all that has been going on in 2020, we know one thing as cyclists: There are a LOT more of us now than there were a year ago. Many of these "new" folks bought their new bicycles at a 'big box' retailer. You know the story, "Those aren't 'real bikes', they are Bike Shaped Objects"? That one type of bike that gets snickered at when you see some poor, unfortunate individual pedal by you with tires at half mast and a chain that sounds like a thousand mouse chorus? Yeah......those bikes.
Well, I won't get into all the negativity that surrounds these "BSO's", but I will point out that during this pandemic that a LOT of those bikes flooded the market and are out on the streets and bike trails right now as you read this. They are, more often than not, being piloted by new-to-cycling folks that may or may not stick with this now that we are in the "Opening Up" phase of 2020. There are many influences that may be detrimental to their staying on as cyclists, not least of which is how they get treated on the bike paths, trails, and streets. But I want to focus on bike shops and how "BSO's" are often times disregarded as junk and the owners are many times looked down upon. I'm thinking about how that is often not congruent with the stated end goal which we hear from cycling advocates these days.
Heck, many shops won't even work on these things. First off, that is a huge turn off to folks wanting to become part of cycling. While it can be risky, expensive, and maybe not the greatest idea to fix such contraptions, you, as a service provider, really have to take a step back and disengage from your everyday bike nerd mentality and see things from these folks perspective.
Gentle handling of the situation goes without saying, or- you would think so- but I know of several stories concerning customers who were made to feel "less than" and stupid for even considering fixing such bikes. And of course, being rejected is everyone's dream experience in a bike shop, right?
During my first bike shop gig, my boss, a man named Tom, made an observation to me as I was learning the ropes. He said something to the effect of, "I like working on Huffys because as a mechanic, I can make more of a difference on a bike like that than one equipped with Dura Ace". You know, he is right. Many times what appears to be 'not worth the bother' just might make some kid thrilled and a parent happy. Or you might be able to get that person that cannot get a driver's license- for whatever reason- going on their way better than ever before.
Tom also said this:"You may not think much of that bike, but you should work on it like you would have to ride it." And that informed me greatly. I want those 'BSO' owners to feel okay riding their bikes, not ashamed, not fearful that it's going to 'kill them', or whatever other fear tactic they might get at some shops.
Of course, there are issues like money and there are dangerous circumstances and components which may need to be addressed as you go along. Cross those bridges when you get to them, but don't reject these people and their bicycles out of hand. Because, maybe you don't realize it as a shop employee, mechanic, or as an enthusiast, but you just might be with your attitude.
Embrace these new folks to cycling and help lift them up. Gently! If they don't have a helmet, are riding in street clothes, and have a what you'd consider a BSO, don't scoff and reprimand them, because, you know, that's just what they are looking for- some smarty-pants to make them feel bad. Get it? I could go on, but you probably get the picture......
Or you don't, and there goes another "Piece of the Pie", wishing they had a new SUV instead of trying to hang with us snooty cyclists and boorish shop rats.