What I thought
I try very hard to make cycling approachable to my less experienced clients. The most common complaints you will hear about bike shops and their ilk are how much jargon is used and how little communication is accomplished. So when someone comes into Velopez I work to understand how best to communicate with that specific person. I actually enjoy this aspect of my work more than most others.
And I thought I had it down. I really did.
Meet Marin, My Sizing Client
Recently, though, Marin come in for a sizing. She is a new triathlete with LLS's Team in Training program and wants a new bike. During the sizing appointment she told of going to shops several times and not being any closer to a decision. This was mostly due to the aforementioned lack of common language between bike geek and newcomer to the cycling world. We found good common ground and the sizing went smoothly.
Afterwards I sent Marin an email with her measurements and suggested frames and configurations. Then I dusted off my hands and considered the job well done.
Turns Out I'm Just as Bad as any Bike Shop Wrench
Marin had a lot of questions. How do these numbers apply to real bikes I am looking at? Where does this measurement taken? Which bike exactly should I get? Etc. etc.
I came to realize that the dimensions output by a sizing session are amongst the MOST obliquely technical bits of bike info you can find. To wit, only a small subset of actual bike fitters know exactly how to make proper use of them. And in an obliviously callous way I merely emailed them out to poor Marin.
That put her in the unenviable position of explaining numbers she didn't understand to a bike shop employee who didn't understand them either. This was entirely my fault. Eventually she got me on the phone with the bike shop employee.
What I Learned and How I Will Fix It
A message to bike professionals:
Even if you think you are explaining all this junk in an approachable way, make damn sure. Figure out your customers language and translate. It's the best thing you can do for our sport.
...And To Their Customers:
More than likely your bike shop monkey is trying hard. If they are not being clear be a Marin and demand the answers you are not getting. I promise they will be very excited to use a more effective method of communicating.
I used the lessons learned from this experience and created a new page that explains, with big, helpful pictures and clear language. I will include a link to it when I send out sizing figures, and I hope it will be helpful. Please send me feedback if you have any!
Happy Ending For Marin
I finally clued in and offered to met Marin at the shop that had the bike she was considering. I got there a bit early and measured everything on the Cannondale to make sure things were ok. When Marin showed up we talked and she test rode and we came to a conclusion, together.
Ride Safe Marin!