I work at a bike shop. Well, not a real bike shop, but one of giant internet retailers that “are killing the small local shop”. Except when it comes to those people who snag big deals on the net on gear they have no idea how to handle. Then those same people show up at their local shop expecting snappy service on their pimping new pair of carbon tubulars. I don’t feel bad about my employment situation. I don’t think I’m helping to kill the local bike shop. Do I wish I worked at a quote unquote “real bike shop”. Yes I do. But this is one job I was capable of getting after over two years of unemployment.
Truth is, I don’t have the skills to work in one of those real bike shops. As we discussed yesterday, I am not what one would call mechanically inclined. This, I believe at least, keeps me from working at the type of place I think of as bike shop. What am I talking about when I talk about a “real bike shop” is the type of place that has plenty of bikes and clothes, a few repair stands back behind a counter, an espresso machine and, some beers for the special customers. Of course an espresso machine isn’t mandatory, as my favorite Portland shop and my favorite shop lack one, though I’m pretty confident there is currently beer in the fridge at both shops.
Even though I don’t work in a real bike shop we still have to deal with the same type of people who come into the real shops. Well, they don’t just come into the shop, they call. They call from all over the country. Yesterday, I helped somewhere between ten and fifteen people in the first thirty minutes of work. I tried to keep count for the purposes of this very post, but lost count after one guy made me want to pound my head on my glass desk. I’ve held many customer service positions, never for an extended period of time precisely because of that impulse to bang my head into the desk.
Its not all bad (I do draw a pay check), occasionally a customer comes in who reminds me what I love about cycling. From time to time I talk to someone who understands what I’m talking about when I describe a brand of tires as “magic”. You know those people when you talk to them, you know them when they come into the shop. Just like you know the people who shop more than they actually ride their bikes. They’re in love with the idea of cycling — the things we hold up, like escaping the city under your own power, speedy descents, long beautiful climbs well not everyone loves those. The disconnect is in the stuff. They think that the new saddle, or lighter bottle cages, lighter wheels are the thing that will make their experience perfect. Those things help us go faster, but not as fast as if we actually rode as much as we wanted to.