Smart Cyclist Bunch Riding Guide

Free Bunch Riding Guide to Increase Rider Safety

Safety for bunch cyclists is paramount, Smart Cyclist has just released the free Bunch Riding Guide which covers bunch riding etiquette, responsibilities and safety.

The safety of all riders is at risk when bunch riding, a single error can set off a chain reaction causing serious injury to others. Crashes in bunches are often the result of inexperience and inadequate knowledge of bunch riding etiquette.

The Bunch Riding Guide provides clear and concise information, illustrated with graphics for the benefit and safety of cyclists and cycling clubs.

Bunch Riding Etiquette

The Bunch Riding Guide is the first guide in the Cycling Essentials series and is available for free for individuals and cycling clubs. Cycling clubs can also apply for a free version of the Bunch Riding Guide branded with their club logo.

> Download the Bunch Riding Guide here

Trek Online Shop

Trek create their own Internet (shop)

The market size of the big brands allows them the opportunity to do business on their own terms, for example many of the big brands such as Specialized and Trek no longer exhibit at bike shows such as Eurobike and instead run their own dealer events and customer demo days. And they have also controlled online sales, the popular online retailers Wiggle, CRC, PBK and Ribble don’t sell Trek online. 

Trek and Specialized belong to the few brands that have prevented sales through the big online retailers and a quick search confirms. Wiggle provide a “not found” for the search term Specialized and Merida while for the search term Trek the big bike brand has some competition from a nutrition brand.

Screenshot from Wiggle:

Wiggle Trek Bicycles

Chain Reaction Cycles however take a different approach, while they don’t have Specialized or Trek in stock, they have plenty of positive results in searching for Trek, Specialized and Merida, however all promote their own inhouse brand called Vitus. They are ‘managing’ the search results to push their own gear.

chainreactioncycles trek bicycles

 

Runout Stock

It is common practice for brands to offload their old season products at good prices and the online retailers are good outlets as they have massive amounts of traffic and also operate on lower margins. This can be a Win – Win situation for the brand and retailer (and customer) as dealers are not able to offload the stock. It does however mean that the retailers may not stock new equipment. And some brands resist the online retailers regardless, and any stock that comes through are from rouge distributers.

 

Trek Connect Retail Marketing

This is the name of the new service going on trial for two years and open to 30 Trek dealers in the United States. The brand is supporting these dealers with an online sales platform which includes the dealer in the loop.

The big problem which dealers have with the internet is that they are cut out, the brands on the other hand don’t immediately lose-out with internet sales because they are still making sales. However in the long term it upsets the bike shops and the brand can lose retail support which is still crucial, particularly for higher priced items such as complete bikes which a majority of customers still prefer to buy instore.

With the new Trek online shop at trekbikes.com, the dealers will receive a ‘service commission’ and customers encouraged to pick up the bike instore. Any bike ordered goes to the dealer anyway who will assemble the bike and can delivery or hold it for the customer to pickup.

Trek Bicycles Website

 

Measuring Success

There are a number of angles to approach the move by Trek and predict the success. From a dealer perspective, the Trek brand is trying to support them and generate sales. And very importantly, providing a commission for sales.

From a brand perspective, they have to support their dealers and see the popularity of the internet and don’t want to miss the train.

From a customer perspective it can be viewed more critically, what is the actual benefit for the customer? Often customers are looking for the lowest price when buying online and have a number of ‘brand independent’ retailers who are competing for their dollar. A dedicated Trek Online store won’t compete with other online retailers or bike stores, the prices need to be regulated so that it isn’t creating a disadvantage.

For a customer, the online access however may provide some advantages such as:
• Faster and quicker overview and selection of the preferred bike and parts
• A larger range and more options than available instore (though Trek have the instore Project One concept)
• Convenience when a store visit is not possible

Buying online does assume that the customer can chose the right bike and right size so this may be an area for confusion, if a customer purchases online to discover instore that the bike is the wrong size. It is the fault of the customer, though the dealer will probably have to help resolve.

The biggest volumes of internet sales in the bike world is in parts and accessories, for customers there can be some convenience in saving a trip to the bike shop… but this is about bikes so the online purchase option for Trek bikes may be more ideologically important than for actually generating sales. The online shopping isn’t competing, rather is another doorway to Trek.

The new retail concept launches in September 2015 for the US and Bike-EU reports that this is a pilot program which will trial for two years.

Geo restriction Country Blocking

Geo Blocking Sales for bikes and parts

Traditional geographical boundaries meant that was always a regional focus to the sale of bikes and gear. Of course the key brands were available, though always through local agents such as the distributer / wholesaler / importer or a national branch of the bike brand. 

Mail order made it possible for enthusiasts in remote continents (i.e. Africa, Asia and Australia) to have some access to speciality gear, there was usually a long wait and premiums for currency exchange.

With the ride of online shopping, sales initially were regional and for successful shops who adapted, they become international. But there were two effects:

Firstly, the products were no longer just ‘niche’ and hard-to-get products, rather they were everyday parts and accessories which were already available ‘locally’.  Customers were buying because it was cheaper… not because they couldn’t get it from their local bike shop.

Secondly, brands were now selling to the same buyer, but not via their local importer and bike shop and for many brands it raised questions of warranty and supporting the traditional retail channels.

 

However, the customer was usually a winner.
The customer has the same item for a lower price and are comfortable buying online so it is also convenient. Of course there are risks such as warranty issues and customer service challenges when dealing with the overseas shop. The end effect is that the bike rider has the same item… and the brand still sold their product.

 

Geo-Restriction and GeoBlocking for bikes and gear

Mavic was a very early adopter and for years they have been blocking Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles from selling their wheelsets to selected countries overseas. Other brands such as Continental have remained readily available.

Of course for customer who really wanted the Mavic wheels there were a few ways around restrictions such as using a 3rd party service to mask the country of origin and in cases it allowed delivery to an overseas address. Sometimes a bit of juggling the cart (selecting £ and UK delivery, adding the item and then changing currency and location) or simply ignoring on-site notes of restricted delivery… and letting the wheels simply turn up a few weeks later.

For ‘direct to customer’ brands such as the German brand of Canyon bikes and brands which are simply unavailable and unsupported in some countries, mail-forwarding can be used and is a service which is becoming increasing popular in the U.S. for example. A last resort is an international flight to Europe when the cost of flight and expenses is lower than the cost of purchasing locally.

 

How do retailers GeoBlock?

Wiggle detect a visitors location and when the product isn’t available they suggest that the product is no longer available, rather than not available. A challenge being that the products can be easily found on the wiggle site and only when selecting an unsupported delivery destination are the products suddenly out of stock.

Product No Longer Available

Search Engine Optimisation dictates this approach, it is better to include a product in the inventory and then try and guide a customer to alternative products, rather than to lose them completely. Of course customers who also notice this and over time simply may not visit.

Error 404 Page Not Found

Chain Reaction Cycles likewise have the product available in their directories for SEO purposes, however appear to favour an approach of sending visitors with an incompatible destination to the homepage. This can usually lead to the customer wonder ‘what just happened’ and trying a few times. Within their search database the term “Mavic Ksyrium” with a UK destination and GBP selected shows 25 results while with Australia as a destination and AUD there are only 8 results.

Among the Australia results are a few Mavic wheelsets which are apparently not blocked. Perhaps clearance or hard to sell wheelsets.

Mavic Ksyrium UK

Mavic Ksyrium Australia

 

Evans Cycles takes a different approach. In the past they haven’t appeared to block brands for sale, though more recently have changed tact. During testing there was also blocking on some Shimano parts which is unusual as Shimano and SRAM virtually never have geo-restrictions, sometimes the big online retailers sell before local bike shops overseas can even get stock.

Customers from ‘incompatible’ delivery destinations will see the complete range and receive no information or notice of restricted availability (with their overseas location and currency selected). First when the customer tries to check-out and pay are they informed that they can’t purchase. How annoying!

Evans Cycles Unavailable

 

While Evans do allows their own system to be circumvented, this process will not be documented. And there are also many other retailer to chose from. From the big ones, with our example of Mavic, Ribble have a single wheelset in their database, without any restrictions for people outside of the UK. Likewise ProBikeKit have no apparent restrictions however are focussed on UK customers and seem to neglect customers outside of the UK when it comes to customer satisfaction.

Hargroves Cycles is also in our database however doesn’t sell outside of the UK….

Actually they do, but unlike their competitors Hargroves don’t allow the destination to be selected by (potential) customers while browsing. Country selection is hidden inside the checkout process and their overseas delivery charges are hefty in comparison. In favour of Hargroves is their extensive range of our example brand ‘Mavic’.

 

Where does this leave the customer?

Some brands block some online shops from selling to customers in some countries. It depends how determined the customer is, where there is a will, there is a way. The inconsistency by many brands who try to block will leave loopholes. When online retailers in England wont sell, what about Northern Ireland… or a German retailer?

For brands there are also consequences. Some customers who experience these road blocks may return to local bike shops or local online bike store. Some brands require their products to be sold in-store, even if you are in South Africa for example, South African online retailers are not allowed to sell.

But some customers will simply walk away and turn to other brands, brands which are comparable but which they can purchase through a channel which they prefer, and for price they feel competitive.

 

Wiggle Chain Reaction Cycles Sponsorship

How Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles change Bike Sponsorship

Whether you run an event, an advocacy group or are a publisher, the chances are that it has taken years to establish, and was have grown out of love, passion and enthusiasm also needs solid financial supporters to make ends meet. 

Have a look at the number of big events, or advocacy groups or publishers which have truly been able to retain “bike only” sponsors alone, even bike brand sponsored pro-cycling teams have a limited lifespan and tend to turn to the lucrative ‘non bike’ businesses who want to capture the hearts and minds of cyclists; Red Bull, Skoda, IAM, Sky, Saxo, Orica.

In big business there are big brands, but the more local, the harder it is, and the less likely that you can rely on Giant, Trek, Specialized, BMC or Shimano. These are big brands in cycling, but bike brands are tiny on a global scale and their marketing “vision” much shorter.

International online retailers are a new opportunity, they run big sales numbers and any event or organisation or outlet is a conduit directly towards their customers. They are still careful with their investments, but the larger your audience, the bigger the potential.

However the competition between the bricks and mortar retailers and the online retailers creates the perfect ALL OR NOTHING scenario…

Where support from locally based brands wanes, getting Wiggle or Chain Reaction Cycles onboard as a key sponsor or financial support can help you reach new heights… and it is ‘bike’ and it is compatible with the ‘non-bike’ sponsors.

However getting Wiggle or Chain Reaction Cycles onboard can also sever all ties with local brands and also leave you open for criticism for not being a patriot, for not supporting local jobs and business.

While sponsorship from local brands may have been tough to acquire (or non-existent), once you turn to the Dark Side, you may never again have a chance with the local industry again.

So the question is, what do you stand to lose and will this make a difference?

Will it really affect the ability of your event, your organisation or your ‘channel’ to grow… will you be able to retain enough of your participants, members, readers or following… and grow these numbers.

Whatever the decision, don’t forget that the world and the marketplace is changing so consider the future of retail use this to help make a decision today on your sponsorship and support allegiance.

 

photo © KevPBur

Bike Shop Advice Fails

Bike Advice which Fails

The motivation for this post comes from a Bike Radar post called “Buying from a bike shop vs online” which seeks to inform readers of the Pros and cons of direct-sale and bike shop purchases. Rather than a list of failed bike advice, this explores information and our ability to get quality information, as opposed to popular content.

Bike Radar is a well known website among cycling Netizens and gets a fair amount of attention as a product-centric website. I have enjoyed the breaking news, sometimes they are bold enough to ignore embargoes and they are big enough that the brands forgive them and come back for more. Their style however is often short and sweet to the point of being (or appearing to be) dominated press releases and with a major focus on attention grabbing news. The indepth article of cyclingtips and other similiar specialist websites are a completely different style, and while cyclingtips is well regarding, the site founder Wade Wallace has acknowledged the conundrum of publishing high quality indept articles verses the more popular, brief, attention seeking content, in other words, Click-Bait.

On the one hand, Click-Bait works to get the click, and the reader gets tabloid style fulfillment. But in the long term it is hard to judge the effect. Tabloid newspapers exist and thrive because they have an eager audience, but so does intellectual media which you could argue faces tough competition.

The repercussions of information

Google ranks content on popularity, they have an algorithm (which has not been publicly released) and ranks search engine results on an array of criteria. The chances are that in a Google search that the first page of results will be good results and you only rarely need to click through to page 2 and beyond.

Now that many publishers have become atune to click-bait, there is mountain of information which has the purpose of encouraging reader curiosity and their click, rather than delivering quality content.

As a test I searched Google.com for “online versions local bike shop” and landed on a quality CyclingTips article:  The LBS v.s. Online Shopping. An opinion article but with charts and facts.

A search for “buying bike online” brings me to the Bike Radar article [mentioned in the introduction] which has a different style, it tries to present itself as a ‘Pro’s and Con’s’ article however, as a 2014 article appears to be stuck on ‘direct to market’ bike brands such as Canyon and Vitus (which has become Chain Reaction Cycles inhouse brand). The positive aspects of buying a bike online are price alone.

Whereas instore:

The key advantage of buying from an actual physical shop is face-to-face advice, both in terms of buying the right sort of bike and also when it comes to fit and sizing.

It’s not wrong, but is also not very comprehensive. It feels limiting because off the top of my head I can list an array of advantages, they will depend on the buyer, but can be powerful incentives and reasons to chose a bike shop. Likewise, these advantages (sizing and fitting) can also be deficiencies in some bike shops.

 

The changing face of information

Content on the internet, when it started making its way into web browsers in the 90’s, was modelled on desktop publishing, including the quality. This changed as human interaction with computers is different from interaction with a book or magazine. Humans have a short attention span, and Twitter is a fantastic example of the development of electronic publishing.

But it also raises an important question about the quality of content – with Google as the gatekeeper of information, what piece of information is now presented as more relevant? When searching for “wheelbuilding” will the viewer get:

a) The top five Awesome Wheels or;

b) The Sheldon Brown – Wheelbuilding page.

Seasons online cyclists will know the late Sheldon Brown as a prolific publisher of high quality bicycle information and to this day is a reliable online resource.

The implications are vast, it is happening now, but it is also being influenced by many other factors, for example what Google knows about us. Google probably knows your age, gender and location and predicts what you want to see. Does this mean that a new bikes rider will be presented with information relevant to them while an experienced cyclist (using the same search term) gets a different and more relevant set of search results?

 

Bike advice which fails

The trend in publishing information which appeals, but without depth means that detailed or potentially more valuable or useful information may start to come up second. Will this force the modern human to retrun to evaluating the information and search results in more detail, such as in the days of lycos and alta vista where it took longer to find the right content?

Using the analogy of Facebook ‘Likes’, do we like something because it appeals to us or because it is better?

 

Unfortunately in this rambling commentry there are no answers, but it is food for thought in considering the information before us, our choices and how information will develop.

photo © Omar de Armas

 

Wiggle Warehouse Clearance Sale

Wiggle is moving – Get Ready for Warehouse Sales

In perspective, on a global scale of industry the cycling industry is very small. But the biggest retailer in this very small market needs a lot of space. Wiggle are moving from an 85,000 foot warehouse (with 2 million items) in Portsmouth to a 323,000 foot facility near Wolverhampton in the Midlands, a three hour drive from London.

The move was announced last year, and now the warehouse sales are starting with their latest campaign promoting up to 50% off.

You know the online sales where a product retails for 30% less than the stated RRP, then during sale time there is a 30% discount… off the RRP, so you are paying the same price. It is hard to spot the real sales, sure there are some run-out products but the run of the mill accessories don’t drop dramatically in price.

Well this should be different. Wiggle are moving and any business would prefer to sell their stock and get new stock delivered to the new location rather than ship the lot.

 

Genuine Savings Predicted at Wiggle

For the warehouse clearance, I expect to see a more great value sales and significant savings. But it could also be a mixed bag with plenty of hard to sell gear that they simply want to sell going for dumping prices.

And a question on small verses big items. Big items are more costly to ship, while small items are fiddly, so will Wiggle try to clear out more of the big and bulky gear, or free up space with the smaller bike accessories and gear.

There are over 5,000 products listed, but do expect some running, swimming and triathlon gear as well as cycling gear.

 

How do you spot the genuine sale items? 

That is the hardest question of all as it is likely that some items which fail to clear will get further price drops. The best approach is to keep your eyes open. One tip is to use the Smart Cyclist price comparison if you know what you want, type in the items and quickly check the current price. Alternatively, visit Wiggle, to pick up a bargin where you need a bit creativity and luck.

But the best tip of all if you are anywhere near Portsmouth, keep your eyes and ears peeled for warehouse direct sales. It won’t help online shoppers but experienced suggests that for any leftover stock that they simply have to clear, there will be a lot of happy locals.

 

 

 

Brains Travel on Bike

Do you lose your warranty when you buy online?

I was reading a 2012 article on Grey Market imports – which was defined in the article as anything purchased overseas and not through the ‘proper’ local channels. The grey market is actually more than this, but that is a conversation for another time. 

The author of the article quotes a US bike shop owner (with names and details removed) and the following caught my eye.

When one buys from these companies they are: a) putting money in the pockets of somebody unknown, b) hurting the local economy, c) getting products with no warranty whatsoever, d) dealing with poor customer service after the sale – try to return something to them e) Could be in violation of U.S. Custom’s import tariffs

Briefly addressing a) and b), if a customer buys a Shimano or SRAM item locally, it shouldn’t be forgotten that in most cases the item has been manufactured overseas and the chances are that  the brand is overseas (i.e. the Headquarters are not in the same country unless you are from Japan or America). Point taking, adding in the local importers and retailers gets more money moving in the local economy when buying locally. But the fact is that if you really wanted help the local economy you would only buy locally produced and manufactured items. With food and some consumables this is possible but the reality is that bike and cycling gear manufacture is usually cheaper in Asia, all of the big brands manufacture there and it means that ultimately there is a flow of money out of the country.

In perspective, the comments are dramatic and about creating guilt among customers who wonder why some items cost a fraction of the price overseas and their local bike shop isn’t doing anything to provide enough advantages to purchase from them.

 

No warranty online… really?

Sometimes warranty replacements are easier online – from the comfort of home you send in a photo and provide details. A few days later a courier comes and picks up the item and a new item is delivered. It can be that simple, but of course it can be a real pain.

The pain can involve packing and taking time to post, having to cover postage costs yourself and then waiting. Sometimes the customer service is poor. But generally as a customer you have rights and the retailer (from whom you purchased) should resolve any issues. And generally they do, sometimes better than bike shops.

Have you have made too many trips to the bike shop? “Come back on Tuesday”, so you make the trip to the shop and return on Tuesday to discover that they have forgotten you, and forgotten to call. Your chances of having a warranty replacement are that same as online. With online orders you have to wait, but instore you may have to wait, sometimes the shop sends it to the distributer who then needs to send it to the brand and that can take months. With an online purchase it is common for online shops to ‘cut their losses’ and make it easy for a customer by quickly replacing (and resolving the warranty replacement with the brand later) or in some cases to suggest the customer keep the part and a new one will be sent.

Customer service can be poor online, but the big online shops such as Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles are out their to win and retain customers. Their customer service has been boosted dramatically in recent years and all of the serious online bike shops know how important this is to their business.

There are rogue online bike shops out there, probably plenty so there is safety in sticking with the big stores (which in turn makes it tough for new and honest business). Comparing to local bike shops, are they all honest? Do they all look after you after the sale? Some bike shops don’t even look after you the moment you walk in the door.

I can tally some great experiences in local bike shops, but also some shocking experiences and in the face of growing online competition its a wonder that some bike shops believe that they can survive with their poor customer service and shonky service.

 

There are good and bad retailers online and offline. As a customer you shouldn’t feel pressured to buy from a local bike shop who isn’t looking after you, guilt-tripped because you are killing the economy. But the local bike shops can lift their game and become a better option for you… because their service is better and they look after you. As a customer take time to know the risks of buying online, such as not being able to try before you buy, but if you are buying from a reputable online retailer, the chances are that warranty and customer service is just as good as in store.

 

photo © Vanessa Gutierrez

 

Mario Cipollini

Culturally incompatible – Cycling gear that doesn’t sell

A blog came up on my radar, Jonathon Nunan is a consultant in the bike industy and publishes insider news on his brand new Better Bike Business blog. A February post caught my eye:

Selling cycle clothing in Australia? No hotpants or white Lycra for starters.

It covers a list of do’s and do nots for selling cycle wear in Australia, a good list and explanations such as including UV rated wear, Australian cyclists love full length zipper and women like 3/4 knicks. Surprising is that cycle wear needs to be offered in size 6XL, 8XL and 10XL plus… wow.

That’s a nice example of some of the cycle wear that does and does not sell in Australia, what about the rest of the world?

 

What are the Rules for Cycling Wear?

Do you remember the The Official Euro Cyclist Code of Conduct (by Dom Guiver and Mike Flavell)? It is a goldmine of goodness, here are some excerpts:

Rule 1. Image and style shall be the primary concerns of the Euro Cyclist. When suffering, one must focus first on maintaining a cool, even composure and second on performance. Winning races is an added talent, and only counts if said Euro Cyclist wins with appropriate style.

 

Rule 5. A prominent line where one’s kit ends and where one’s deep tan begins is essential to one’s image. Artificial tanning is BANNED. The tan shall reflect the level of training commitment.

 

Rule 6. The socks of the Euro Cyclist shall extend to within two (2) cm. of the main bulge of the calf muscle, and shall never extend further than one (1) cm. past said primary calf muscle bulge. All socks SHALL BE WHITE in colour with prominent logo placement.

 

Rule 12. Ridiculously stylish eyewear (see endorsed products list) is to be worn AT ALL TIMES without exception. Glasses are to be worn over helmet straps at all times.

There are 63 rules in total, and if you are serious about cycling, you really need to learn them by heart. The most current version is on the OREC (Official Rules of the Euro Cyclist) facebook page.

 

Cycling Brand Matters

Getting a bit more serious, it goes without saying that there are differences between continents and nations with regard to well known and lesser known brands. Popularity can depend on the brand origins, the marketing of the brand among other factors.

Seasons play a role, how cold is winter, how hot is summer. Is professional cycling (road, track, MTB, BMX) popular and what about access to these different styles of cycling.

Consider mountain biking, in one country or region it is considered a fringe sport, a sub culture. In other countries it is an active sport more open to a broader age range and sports cycle wear, even lycra is commonplace.

And even the media and television coverage of cycling events will play a role. If cycling fans see the professionals in the latest gear, the lastest gear is likely to be a big seller – and this includes styles such as long cycling socks.

 

Making or breaking it

While writing, I have been thinking hard, what cycling equipment or cycle wear is truely specific to one country. For every I can think of, I can’t say that it is really specific, such as Americans only wearing white cycling shoes or the British only wearing black helmets. I can say that in Europe, commuter cyclists are more fashionable, particularly where bike riding is a convenient or prefered transport mode. When cycling is less integrated into society, there is a natural focus on safety, so fluro and high visibility wear becomes more important.

So this is a great topic, and for the cycling industry, something most brands should know – so what unique trends have you spotted in cycling, unique to one country or region?

Title Photo: © David Hunter

New WIggle Logo

Wiggle redesign their Logo, Smiling Cyclops?

The website for the worlds biggest online retailer, Wiggle, was a bit shakey the last few hours, and then suddenly a new logo appeared. I have grown used to the playful logo with the looped g’s,  it has always reminded me of the other playful Wiggle…. or The Wiggles to be exact. The Wiggles are an Australian entertainment group for kids which were quite popular across the globe.

What does the new logo reveal about Wiggle? We see the Wiggle orange, but now with a darker foreboding grey background. The company name ‘wiggle’ has a new font, still stylised but a little more refined and compact.

I am not married to Wiggle, and can live with the linked g’s being removed, but after the surprise of the new logo suddenly appearing, the Smiling Cyclops graphics which adorns the text is truely unexpected.

Yes, they are trying to create a unique graphic symbol to represent Wiggle which also works without the text. Chain Reaction Cycles have the broken chainring in their logo and can use the chainring as a stand-alone graphic.

Chain Reaction Cycles Logo

But aside from the functional aspect of creating a recognisable symbol, the symbolism is equally important. What does it represent. It depends how you look at it and it looks like they are trying to evoke a similar feeling to the Toyota “Oh what a feeling” ‘thingy’. It’s a ‘thingy’ because it is not the actual Toyota logo, but is a recognisable and trademarked… um… ‘thingy’ which Toyota use in their advertising. It also means you are not allowed to jump for joy next to your car, unless it is a Toyota.

 

Oh what a feeling

So if the curves in the new Wiggle logo mark represent a persons arms, and the dot is the head, do the g’s represent the ample breasts of a man or women with crooked legs?

Updated WIggle Logo

But I didn’t see the ‘jumping for joy’ person when I first looked, instead I saw a Smiling Cyclops. If you want to freak yourself out, do a google search for “Smiling Cyclops”. I really loved the green monster from the film Monster AG, Michael “Mike” Wazowski (with the voice of Billy Crystal), and you could classify Mike as a happy cyclops so  this is the visual that will probably stick with me when I see the Wiggle logo from now.

mike makowski orange

So now Wiggle have a new logo and we can expect to see this appearing everywhere – but can we also expect other big changes? Let’s see.

 

Bad Online Bike Shop

What NOT to buy online

I am subscribed to a newsletter from Anthony BikeRoar, though didn’t actually subscribe and know for a fact that my email address was scrapped and included without an Opt-In, so it’s all very naughty. 

The purpose of the BikeRoar website isn’t obvious, they seems to have a bike comparison function, a directory of American bike shops and cycling articles and news with a strong Mountain Bike focus. I generally glance through the newsletter which has “Top Five’s”  and beginners tips, but in their current newsletter I spotted a featured article, “What NOT to buy online” by author Joey Esterhuyzen.

Now that is an interesting topic and in the first paragraph the author states the position of BikeRoar to online shopping,

Although we are not anti-online shopping, we have, in the past, made a song and dance about buying and supporting your local bike shop…

But it continues, unfortunately, to say,

…here is a light-hearted list of what NOT to buy online…

All of my anticipation has immediately vanished, but I continued to read anyway and discovered that the article isn’t ‘light-hearted’ (as in humorous) rather it includes one funny picture and instead is ‘light-reading’; basic common-sense information with broad comments, barely pausing to give substance or examples for justification.

Funny Bike PictureScreen caputure from BikeRoar

 

When buying your cassette there is a high chance of getting it wrong. Selecting the wrong gear ratios, wrong model, wrong gear count, or forgetting to replace the chain at the same time (which itself is riddled with landmines). Along with this, you’ll need very specific tools you’ve never used before – for both the cassette AND the chain.

For a beginner, perhaps it is useful to ensure that the reader knows that the techy details (specs) are really important and if you get it wrong, you lose. But this type of information is not particularly new and applies to mail-order, telephone-orders and online shopping for car parts, audio sound-system parts, instruments… and almost any product that has parts and comes in different sizes.

In core message is that if you go to your (physical) local bike shop, the mechanic will get the right item because they have the experience, plus if they stuff it up, it is their fault. If however you chose to buy yourself online, then know exactly what you want and be prepared to assemble.

The information on cycling shoes does try to provide reasoning as to why and identical sizes shoe can still be a bad fit.

 

But what I am missing is…

I am missing two things. Firstly, even accepting that the light-hearted humour is limited to a picture of a funny bike, I want more depth and I want real-life examples to open my mind. For example explaining what happens if I buy a compatible cassette for my bike which has a different gear range and the effect it will have when I try to climb the steep hill next time. Instead of telling me “…you’ll need very specific tools you’ve never used before…”, tell me which tools they are.

And secondly, I am really missing the content that made me click through in the first place. I do want to know what NOT to buy online. Online shoppers are now buying things online which they would not have considered five years ago. Clothing is booming and the risk of getting the wrong size is hardly stopping sales. There are not many product segments which are untouchable, but there must be some things you shouldn’t buy online.

 

Here it is: what should you NOT buy online

Let’s exclude advice targeted to beginner cyclists whether or not to purchase, rather really try and think of specific products you should not buy online. It was more difficult to put a list together than I anticipated.

You should not buy:

  • Flammable lubricants / cleaning agents because it is simply better not to air-deliver dangerous items.
  • Second-hand cycling knicks. It is not hygenic as they are intended to be worn without underwear.
  • Bicycle Helmets are a safety item so a perfect fit is important and you also need to ensure that the helmet complies with local regulations (if applicable) and with any regulations for competitive cycling, if you compete. I recommend that you know that it fits perfectly before buying which means a trip to your local dealer. Though do consider that showrooming (when you try first at a retail store with the intention of purchasing online) is bad form.
  • Items which are illegal to use in your country, for example, Germany has strict regulations on the brightness of bike lights and even how loud audible devices such as horns can be. While lights and loud air-horns for the bikes will pass through customs, if you fit them and uses them on public streets there can be consequences if you are stopped by police officers or involved in an accident.
  • Fake cycling apparel (and gear). Though it may be a fraction of the price of a genuine item there are two problems, the quality is often signficantly inferior and secondly by supporting fake / counterfeit / unlicensed products it supports an industry built on fraud rather than the cycling teams and cycling brands who deserve the support.
  • Bikes and gear of unknown origin. By all means, do some research and find out more, however if you don’t really know anything about the products and are not getting the right signals, then you don’t really know what you are getting.
  • Anything from untrusted online retailers. Check and see if it is a genuine online bike shop because you will never see your $800 again for the top-of-the-line-brand-new-too-good-too-be-true Pinarello.

And for an attempt at humour, don’t buy yellow jerseys or ‘world-champion’ jerseys or any other cycle-wear reserved for the victor of a race. You have to earn it first. The exception is when you are buying a collectable (and the money goes to charity) and you don’t wear it rather it hangs on the wall until it is uncovered that your cycling hero was a doper all along and now the jersey is worth only disdain.

 

 

Title Photo: © Egan Snow