The Bike Industry is Sick and Hiring More Women Won't Fix It

June 05, 2016 19 Comments

The Bike Industry is Sick and Hiring More Women Won't Fix It

Over the past few weeks there have been a few articles highlighting the need for better inclusivity for women in order to help grow the industry. First, there was Amanda Batty who left PinkBike as a writer after being bullied and not supported by her employer. Then, the League of American Bicyclists released a Women Bike report, “Bike Shops for Everyone: Strategies for Making Bike Retail More Welcoming to Women.” Quickly behind the Bike League, People for Bikes released new research on Women’s participation. Finally, Molly with Bicycling Magazine wrote a piece on how bike shops can be more friendly to women.

Over the past 5-10 years the focus of getting more women riding has spurred a lot of new product, brands and a great amount of debate within the inner circles of the industry if women really need a special product. As a woman that has essentially grown up in the bike industry, I really hope that the industry will catch up with the times and start to understand the larger problems that are keeping the industry from growing. These same problems will also keep turning women away.

In no particular order, here is my personal take on why the industry is sick and only getting worse. These thoughts come from running bike shops, working on the vendor side, and being an outside rep for 370 dealers in the Southeast.

Why is the Industry Broken?

1. There is No Barrier for Entry or Standard of Training

Finding a job in a bike shop isn’t hard if you like bikes and present yourself well you can find a job at one of the 5,000 bike shops in the US. As one works up in their shop career or decide to work for brands or distribution some experience comes into play but there isn’t an available degree, school or class regime that you can take to “learn bikes” outside of simply putting in time.

Due to this lack of infrastructure there is no standardization of training. Some folks will go to mechanics school such as UBI but if that is your only experience as a mechanic you probably won’t land a job in a shop right away as these schools do not teach real-life situations. There isn’t a class you can take in high school unless you are lucky to have a community shop. There is also no training provided by a hierarchy of the trade commission. If you aren’t a shop that carries Trek, Specialized or Giant than you don’t have much chance to teach your employees (or yourself) valuable skills like bike fitting, sales techniques, or basic accounting functions. Some brands such as QBP, and Mann University, have identified this and are trying to help but it isn’t standard or a requirement.

We have bike shop employees learning under fire and representing that shop to the customers that walk in the door. If they are lucky enough to work at a shop that has their own training protocol they are lucky, but unfortunately the employees often look at this training as “corporate” and not valuable. Most shop general managers or service managers are there due to Peter Principle and not due to having managerial experience or skills.

2. Lack of Training

This lack of training (and education) breeds lack of basic business understanding. Employees are doing their best with little guidance, and typically when a customer is unhappy you will only know from a negative Yelp review. Many, if not most, bike shops are being run on super tight budgets with low profit margins because the owners, buyers and managers don’t understand where they could be saving money, where they shouldn’t be spending it and how to maximize their bottom line.

3. Low Average Pay

Low-profit margins mean low average pay. Low average pay within an industry that requires a lot of knowledge within tech and product. Shop and brand employees are often quizzed by customers who have been researching the heck out of product online. There are tech events hosted by brands like SRAM, Park, and Shimano to keep industry employees knowledgeable on the product. We have employees working off hours (10-7, including weekends) that must know as much as possible on the niches of bikes their shops carry, including competing brands, making between $11-16 an hour, typically without any benefits other than a discount.

4. Product First Mentality

The industry has shoved product education down these underpaid adults throats but we haven’t taught them about business, about building a brand, about selling or making a community. There are multiple events during the year like Interbike and Sea Otter where brands and shops ship their employees to drink the latest Kool-Aid, but we are serving them a product that will be phased out in 6 months and not knowledge that will help any customer that walks in your door.

How Do We Fix The Bicycle Industry?

1. We teach bike shops how to run as a business. This includes marketing, sales, and data.

2. Once bike shops are running as businesses (and not passion fueled shells simply sitting in the black every year) we can pay people, and give them benefits so they don’t leave for another industry.

3. Start training with the basics.
 Any large retail company trains their employees first on customer service, standard processes like working the register, store layout, and then product. Why? Product revolves every 6 weeks, being a good human does not.

4. NBDA needs to standardize this basic training
. Provide it online at no costs to your members.

5. Shops require this training before an employee sets foot near a customer
. Stop hiring 16-year-old high schoolers to help sell kids bikes their first day on the job. Parents will continue to look at bikes as toys if we don’t teach them otherwise.

6. Sponsors and advertisers hold your magazines, bloggers and athletes accountable. If an article is released that talks shit about women in the auto world, even in an off-hand remark, do you not think there will be hell to pay?

7. Grow up. Don’t show up to work smelling like beer. Keep your bathrooms clean. Brands keep it classy at demos. If your employer pays for you to go to Interbike don’t be so drunk that you don’t remember anything.

8. Be human and respectful. When a customer’s bike is wrecked and they are heartbroken, please don’t be a jerk about it. If someone is stoked about their first $750 mountain bike, give them a high five and recommend a couple of your favorite beginner trails. Stop talking down to each other. There is absolutely nothing to gain by proving others wrong or showing that you know more than them. You don’t earn a bonus, and you may have just turned someone off from biking.

We Aren’t a Hobby

In conclusion, I would also like to ask that we stop comparing ourselves to golf, or some other hobby. I would love to compare us to the auto industry. Not only because bikes are transportation but because cars aren’t so different. They requires sales, service and have a lot of variations in models. What is different is the training. To work in a car dealer you go through intensive training for both sales and service. My favorite part of comparing the bike industry to auto? You don’t see cars designed only for women.

Next Steps

Are you in the industry, or a consumer? Does any of the above ring true to you in your experiences? Tell us about them.



19 Responses

Katherine
Katherine

July 09, 2018

I am loving this discussion, but am a little disappointed that it’s descended so much into a BRAIN-style argument about pricing and competition with online retailers. That stuff is certainly an issue, but I get the feeling that BSG’s point here is about people and professionalism, not pricing (though, yes, I do realize it affects salaries). But I’d like to throw my hat in the ring for one of the softer things that I believe, anecdotaly, makes a big difference.

And that is: Be a member of the community. If you don’t want people to use your knowledge then buy online, give people a reason to value your LBS beyond just being a “store.” Riding a bike is largely about the experience. When I just need parts and don’t have time to chit-chat, I’ll run into Performance for the best deal on rim tape. When I happen to have an extra 6-pack on me and can’t for the life of me get the shifting working smoothly on my old, 8-speed commuter, I’m headed to my favorite LBS where they’ll let me sit back in the shop and teach me what they’re doing.

What I’m saying is, give people a reason to want to support you as an important local business because they want and need you there. Consider vocally supporting local advocacy organizations; hosting rides/clinics/events/trail workdays for a wide range of people (think beyond the wannabe pro crusher ride up the mountain); and being present at existing, in-town events. Tonight, I’m attending a talk being given by a local framebuilder at a bike shop I normally wouldn’t visit, but will now be exposed to. A few weeks ago, I went to a women’s night at a different LBS. Only one staffer was needed to let us in and lock up later; they allowed the women’s MTB group to use the space, but it also gave us a chance to explore the shop and I now have it in my mind as “women-friendly.”

$0.02

Dan (@chickenfried234)
Dan (@chickenfried234)

July 09, 2018

From my perspective as a consumer, things are great. I have plenty of options to spend my dough. My last truly bad retail bike experience was twenty years ago at a curmudgeonly old school roadie hole in the wall. Just never went back.

It’s funny seeing mike at chain reaction posting. ~decade ago when I wanted a road bike I went to his shop. I didn’t end up buying from him. They didn’t have anything in my size and price range, just higher or lower. But i still remember how nicely he treated me.

Glittertroll
Glittertroll

July 09, 2018

I am a 23 year old female identifying person who works in a BMX shop. I came from a customer service and managing background prior to working at this bike shop. Cycling was an avid hobbie before and now is literally my life. I definitely thinks he general air of unprofessionalism in this industry extends from small shops all the way to distributors suppliers etc. I would have been fired on the spot at previous jobs for the types of actions my coworkers and owner get away with. Yes that’s prt of the reason I love his industry, but at the same time becoming more well rounded and inclusive can only strengthen the cycling industry in my (and few other boys cluber’s) opinion.

I put in more hours at the shop then any of the other employee (all male ages 18-35) and have more years of customer service experience as well yet suggestions to make the shop better from marketing to ending the inappropriate sexist attitudes towards women customers and riders when it’s appropriate to share them get me comments like “stop being so stuck up” and “ok mom.”

I feel like one thing you didn’t touch on in your (awesome) article is the day to day strain that female bike shop employees have to endure that has me looking for other employment despite loving the perks of my job. Working as a female identifying (or any person who routinely experiences societal policing) person in this very sexist cisgendered culturally homogenous industry is seriously taking years off my life. I feel like other people in the industry and in my shop want to resist any kind of organization or betterment of the same old practices and then turn around and complain about all of the problems that result like low shop retention. Change requires EDUCATION and EFFORT.

And final rant, a personal experience that drives me crazy.

The majority of customers and everyone else I interact with in the industry does this thing (Even the female customers) where they automatically look at the man In the store (even if it’s not an employee) to ask a technical question or ask for advice. Like hello My vagina doesn’t get caught up in the drivetrain,
I also cycling and mechanical experience! I know that’s a mouthful(:/) but it’s my biggest complaint. I’m the second longest employee present in the store after the owner and it still happens despite working in the shop for years!

There are so few other females in this industry for me to connect with. Holler at #glittertroll on Instagram if anyone wants to start a forum for lady cyclist /bike industry employees lol ..
#endtheboysclub

MRMacrm
MRMacrm

July 09, 2018

I own a small support bike shop in southern Maine. It is not my first shop. I decided to punish myself again when the first one (a partnership) died from our constant bickering. My second effort, now 17 seasons old, has somehow beat the small retail odds and stayed open. Success measured by longevity, not by the cash I have added to my pockets.

My story is typical I think. Tired of the role of working for someone else, I became a bike shop owner. With no business or retail experience or training, I went at it happy as if I had a brain. My education has been ugly and tough to say the least. Your critique of the industry rings so many bells, I cannot think of which mistake you point out I did not make with the exception of one or two.

I always and still do aspire to sell my services and products as I would like to be sold to myself. I try my best to allow the customer to feel comfortable coming to my shop for their cycling needs, even if it is just advice or opinion. I have learned that women in particular want to be educated while guys generally don’t. I learned early on that bad mouthing and denigrating another product or shop does nothing but make me seem petty and mean. I also learned that there is no “best” anything or “fastest” anything when it comes to bicycle products. There are some better than others, but the differences are in the end usually slight and the quality of the product or services is based on the shop that markets and sells it.

I could have used some serious training when I first began to wrench for my future partner. Some companies did offer help in the way of excellent sales reps, but for the most part the sales rep culture in this business is pitiful and erratic. My experience with Univega reps before Ben closed the company being the perfect example. The first Univega rep taught me how to sell. Not just his products, but products throughout our store. His notion of helping the shop to become a better retailer would translate into more sales for him and his company. He was right. The second Univega rep was useless. He was only interested in bumping up his sales to us and disallowing as many warranties as he could. He told us what we wanted. He did not ask us what we wanted. I learned quite a bit from him also.

Anyway, did not mean to write a book. These were just some of my thoughts on your fine article.

MRMacrm, AKA “CRUM”, owner – Crum Cycles, Springvale, Maine

Peter Stokey
Peter Stokey

July 09, 2018

From a consumer point of view, I like your ideas, they ring true to me. But I would like to add that the industry and cycling magazines should stop focusing on “get fit fast”, “get lean now” (you know who I am talking about) and the extreme sport end of cycling most of us will never do (although I like to watch), lose the whole sufferfest mentality, and focus more on casual riding, riding for fun, riding to get out in nature, advocating for safe roads advocating and for separate biking infrastructure the national manufacturers and trade groups should be do national of targeted regional bike safety pubic announcements, public awareness campaigns that champion family cycling, showing cyclists having fun outdoors while advocating for cycling safety. They should be lobbying congress and states for better traffic laws and more funding for biking infrastructure. Join the growing strength of the outdoor recreation lobby and promote cycling as a hobby. By making cycling safe and fun for all (not just athletes) will help build the industry.
A theme we should all be putting out there from the manufacturers, to the magazines, the trade groups and bike shops is cycling is low key, it is fun and healthy and by-the-way, that person you pass in your car is a father, a mother, has a child, is a doctor, fireman, has a face, and is a person…most cyclists are car drivers too, we need to de-demonize cyclists so cycling can as a way of life can safely expand across the nation.

sean
sean

July 09, 2018

IMHO what broke the bike industry was/is never-ending suburban car-dependent city design that prioritizes car movement over people movement. How is Julie/Johnny suppose to ride to school (like many of us of a certain age did) when there is no safe way for them to do that? If those same kids never ride to school, how are they suppose to find their way into cycling as a lifestyle as an adult? Our society makes it almost impossible for the average person to ride a bike for transport. Extend that out to the bike industry at large and you see what’s happened: carbon-whizzbang-go-faster-macho-expensive-recreational-focus-blah is what dominates the market – at the expense of those that wish they could save some money and ride a bike here and there. The bikebiz can do all this other stuff while navel gazing but the truth is none of it will matter if our cities are unsafe to ride bikes. What can the bikebiz do to fix this? Simple (but not): mobilize as an industry to advocate for safe cities for people, advocate against sprawl and highways, advocate for safe routes to school, fight against car dependent community design – and do it as an industry. But it won’t happen because that new shiny-whizzbang-carpet-fiber-wonder-gizmo will always win out over boring things like politics, meetings, and hard work. All of your points above are valid but will do nothing to stop the underlying problem that has forced our entire industry into the cul-de-sac of suburbia.

Fillbuster
Fillbuster

July 09, 2018

As far as the low or non-existent entry bar goes, I’m not sure why that’s an issue. A HUGE part of what drew me to the industry initially is the decidedly un-institutional feel of even the very corporate Performance Bicycle Shop I first joined. I learned by fire, and as I’ve figured out over my 34 years of life, that is the ONLY (not the best, the ONLY) way I learn. I don’t remember any calculus from when i was 16, despite the incredible teacher I was fortunate to have, but I can still play the upright bass in a dark room after months or years of atrophy. I started learning as I went at 13, sans any lesson, trying to keep up with the rest of band class. Most, if not all, of my classmates had access to regular training outside of class, and yet by the time I graduated, I was at a quasi-professional level while most of them were not even able to tell mixolydian mode from major scale. I would have never learned had the director said, “Come back when you know everything.”
Customer service only goes so far. The worst buying decisions I’ve made in the gear world were when I trusted a sales kid who was great at making me feel welcome and comfortable, but who knew nothing about the product. Product that is wrong for the customer, however happy she was while purchasing it, is still product that is wrong for the customer. I agree we shouldn’t be dicks, but that’s simple societal norm. Dicks are dicks, educated or not. Trained correctly in customer service or not.
Standards are a thought, but in whom should I trust? I know bike people. I personally know instructors at UBI. Some are every bit as curmudgeonly as me. Some may even follow the Charlie Brown principle–those who can’t, teach. (Granted, he was making a wry comment about himself, but you get the gist.) Wrong or right. The best mechanics I know either never went to a bike school, or went and figured out they already knew what the classes taught just through the punching of a clock. You hint that we should trust the Big Three, but I think we shouldn’t unless we want to learn how to sue everyone ever like Sinyard, how to talk shit in actual employee training materièl about every other brand like JB, or how to make mediocre-to-great products that are hamstrung by bad marketing and boring brand story.
What you are suggesting is a ridiculously wholesale overhaul of the industry. It also sounds like you’d opt to devalue all of the curmudgeonly experience many of us have because we didn’t gather it in a classroom which received someone else’s approval. This is something that is wrong in most corners of American employment society these days, something I’m happy I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid for over the last 19 years thanks to that low barrier to entry in the two industries I’ve chosen.
Lastly, the most worrying thing I’ve ever heard while in the bike industry was during a visit from the president of Performance when I was managing one of their shops: “It’s not a bike shop, it’s a business.” He didn’t mean that we should learn how to run a business efficiently (about which you are 100% correct), how to forecast demand versus payroll, how to present product better, he meant we should turn our little corner of the world into yet another Macy’s. No thanks. A bike shop is the unique product not only of the folks who work there, but the folks who frequently visit.

Nicole
Nicole

July 09, 2018

Great article. I work in a bike shop in Australia and we have lots of the same issues. I spent 25 years in corporate comms/PR and decided to take a significant pay cut to follow my passion. Having worked in quite a few other industries I describe the Australian bike industry as a ‘cottage industry’ because it is completely unsophisticated for all the reasons you list in your article. However it is starting to change and this is partly because companies like Trek and Specialized are bringing a higher level of sophistication to the market but there’s certainly more that can be done.

Anthony Quintile
Anthony Quintile

July 09, 2018

This is a great editorial, but Mike Jacoubowsky is correct. Manufacturers are building increasingly technical product and then allowing it to be distributed pretty much anywhere. (Home Depot sells bike parts now…) Bike shops that function on the level described in this editorial are necessary to service these products because of the complexity of this product. This applies to things as diverse as rider fitting and electronic shifting. If bike shops are going to continue to exist, we need to not only step up our own game, but the manufacturers need to afford us the opportunity to make a profit selling their products.

Additionally good bike shops are vital to maintaining, and hopefully growing, the market for bicycles. Whether it is the simple presence of a bicycle shop as a retail option that piques the curiosity of the average shopper, or a high level of involvement in local advocacy and event promotion, brick and mortar shops are vital to keeping cycling in the culture of the United States. Once again, we need to be profitable if our presence is to continue, and vendors need to work in partnership with us to maintain that profitability.

Anthony Quintile
General Manager
Absolute Bikes, Flagstaff, AZ

Mike Jacoubowsky
Mike Jacoubowsky

July 09, 2018

Excellent piece. What’s not addressed is the industry’s obsession with doing an end-run around the brick & mortar retailer by distributing product less-expensively on-line, but expecting the brick & mortar retailer to be around to add legitimacy to the product by offering advice & service. Basically unpaid compensation. We can’t provide the investment required if we’re seeing our expertise spent on show-roomers who not only buy on-line while inside out stores, but brag to our mechanics about the great deal they got and expect to get a high-5 from them. This shouldn’t be happening; I shouldn’t be able to buy product less-expensively from retailers in Ireland than I can from my wholesalers.

Also not pointed out is the extent to which it demoralizes an employee when show-rooming happens. They learned about the product, they successfully figured out what’s best for the customer, and then are told thanks, I’m going to get it on Amazon and save 15%. What does that do for someone’s self-worth?

The brick & mortar bicycle retailer is an essential part of the cycling infrastructure. This industry needs to figure out how to, well, fund it, for lack of a better phrase. No handouts; we never had handouts, we never asked, never will. Just a chance for us to earn something for what we provide.

Mike Jacoubowsky, Partner
Chain Reaction Bicycles
NBDA Board Member
http://www.ChainReaction.com (not the on-line place in the UK!!!)

Jed
Jed

July 09, 2018

Well done. You hit some very good points and I’m sure a lot of folks are taking a good look at their operations and wondering how they can achieve some (hopefully all – and more) of your suggested improvements. Thanks for this.

Duncan
Duncan

July 09, 2018

Wow…you just summed it up. One of the biggest challenges that lay ahead for me as I begin to move toward hiring my first employee (I own a tiny store) is just how I am going to train them with out it being trial by fire…It is also hugely frustrating to me that there is zero barrier to entry into the industry I have discussed this with some of the big brands while working for them over the years and my perception has been that they don’t see it as enough of a priority.

Laith Beveridge
Laith Beveridge

July 09, 2018

I know this is an article in the USA but it could easily be written for the Australian market. Awesome article and very much how I am thinking. Thank you 🙂

Carlos Matutes
Carlos Matutes

July 09, 2018

As a 20+ year veteran of the bike industry, I’ve seen many of your pain points played out over and over again. Your solutions are valid, but one that seems to be really difficult for bike shop employees (especially those of us behind the service counter,) is your final one. I fell victim to the expected stereotype of the surly, foul-mouthed, curmudgeon bike mechanic for too long. Whatever masochistic tenancies led me to admire, then emulate, guys who treated their customers badly are part of what’s wrong with the industry.
This patriarchal hierarchy won’t go away by hiring a few women, but it certainly might start to change the game.

matthew
matthew

July 09, 2018

The more the merrier in regard to all sexes on bikes, but gender inclusion is not the root problem with the bicycle industry.

Online and off, buying bicycles and accessories is more often than not, as BSG put it, a broken experience for all of us. Thing is, bike shops have lots of company in this regard.

Crappy experiences in cycling retail is just example of a Customer Service Crisis that plagues many industries with direct customer contact. Luckily for cycling, there are remedies, such as those BSG outlined above. Luckier still, solutions can be delivered by men and women alike.

John F
John F

July 09, 2018

Thank you for writing this, Arleigh. There is SO much work to be done that, if shops and staff were more professional then the buying, servicing, and riding experiences would be much improved. from my 24-ish years experience in the bike industry I have seen a tremendous amount of development in the product we wear and ride, resulting in higher prices. That is not a problem by itself, but when the average level of professionalism does not reflect the quality of design, engineering, and manufacturing of the stuff we’re selling there is clearly a disconnect- but also opportunity for the shops who do get it.
I have been teaching bike mechanics for four years now at a big bike brand, and I’m fortunate to see the guys and gals who have a serious desire and drive to always improve and continue to grow. But they’re the minority in this industry- the culture in the average shop is in dire need of refreshing and updating and getting inline with the realities of modern business.

One of the things we talk about in our classes is how business is a uniquely human endeavor. Valuation and exchange of service and product is something that only we do and requires a robust and cultured relationship with other humans to be sustainable. Ignoring customers, criticizing their ideas and beliefs, mocking their bikes on Instagram and Facebook (I LOATHE #yourbikehatesyou), and speaking with derision when they don’t know how to do something will not save this industry.

Being professional, approaching challenges as opportunities to attain mastery, and remembering that the most amount of opportunity is with how we relate to ALL riders and how we maintain their stoke and passion is how we will progress.

Tim Jackson
Tim Jackson

July 09, 2018

Umm … all of the above.

We, as an industry, need to grow up and mature- as well as drop the idea that we’re just selling expensive toys. We are, and we aren’t. We are an industry that thrives on technology and innovation. Many of the smartest people I’ve ever known are in this industry. But continuing to sell more product to existing consumers is less sustainable than actually growing the consumer base.

Probs;
1) & 2) We need to do a better job of bringing smart people into the business- who are still passionate about the industry/ product/ sport- and giving them the tools to make us all look gooder. New consumers who do wander into our shops are often underwhelmed by the experience. I hear it nearly every day from people I know or meet.
3) The low pay and lack of benefits for nearly all of retail, and a bigger than expected chunk of suppliers, is one of the main things holding the industry back. And like a chicken versus egg argument, higher pay will help the industry grow … but so many companies are barely hanging on as is. Retailers almost always benefit by paying employees better- retaining better employees lowers expensive turnover, as well as improves profitability by having employees with a greater interest in the business. Same is true for the brands, but since moving out of the bike shops and into the brands is seen as a step up, it takes longer for employees to burn out. Usually. The industry- especially in North America- is hyper competitive, whether at retail or within the brand world. Profit margins are thin, to non-existent, so the system keeps feeding on itself. With such technical product- which is only becoming increasingly technical- better paid employees are going to become more and more important.
4) Gravel grinders? Really? We have too much of a tendency to rename something that either wholly already exists, or tweak ever-so-slightly, just to have a new marketing angle to sell essentially the same stuff. THIS is coming from a Marketing Wanker who gets paid to create the spin! It’s not to say that genuine innovation doesn’t exist- because it certainly does- but many times the product exists long before the consumer. We don’t listen enough, and often design within the silos of our company environments. Too often, we’re not out in the consumer world simply listening and taking notes.

As for the answer part … all of the above is a great step in the right direction. We need more cohesive attempts AS AN INDUSTRY to help each other survive. If we all work better to help educate retailers and their staff, we all benefit- whether selling Trek, Specialized, Giro, Lazer, Shimano, or SRAM, etc, etc. If the NBDA and other groups can work together and get the industry support they need, we all benefit. Simply making a given set of retailers better capable of selling a given product/ brand just continues to harm the overall health of the industry. Does anybody remember when Schwinn was the THE dominant brand in the US? They got SO good at selling Schwinn to Schwinn dealers that when the brand lost some of its appeal and fell behind, so did the vast majority of retailers because they only knew how to sell Schwinn. Today’s dominant brands really, really need to remind themselves of that. Retailers too. If you are too deeply allied with a given brand, what are you going to do when consumer tastes change, even a little?

There are countless other issues at play, so no single set of answers or “best practices” is going to work for everybody. But one thing is clear; if we don’t begin to make some serious changes, the outlook will only continue to get worse- not better.

industry vet
industry vet

July 09, 2018

I agree with everything you said, that hiring women will not solve the problem, that professionalism is the true culprit.
Make sure your staff is trained, both sales and service. Larger brands should have training requirements in their retailer contracts and have their local reps sign off on the training.
Labor rates need to go up and should match those in the auto industry. Both require specialty equipment and training. Why then do we charge so little? If we want bikes to be viewed as transportation options, let’s treat them that way. Realistic labor rates also translate to better wages and benefits. This means the retailer can retain their experienced staff who might look elsewhere for better support.
The industry should also consider hiring more people from outside the bicycle world. Let’s stop perpetuating the same ideas and acquire some fresh ideas. And those retiring athletes, who do you think they will market to? Yep, the 1% who drive the next 5% in purchases as that is what they learned from their supporting brands. We need to rock the boat a bit.

Katherine
Katherine

July 09, 2018

This is a very good, valuable piece and I’m glad someone is saying it. It’s not really about gender; it’s about sound business practices, customer service and good public relations. Your list is spot on and should be nailed up to bike shop doors nationwide. Unfortunately, I think the problem also extends beyond bike shops into the entire industry (I have worked in the mountain bike industry for 5 years).

Even in positions where formal education is available and would be valuable, many outdoor industry companies are hyper-focused on hiring ex-pros and big names, particularly in marketing, sales and branding departments. I have nothing against those people; I have a friend and neighbor who was a big-name pro MTB racer back in the day and works in global sales for a gear company. He’s a rad, intelligent dude who works hard, but I think some big industry players only care about your name and who you know, not your skill set or professional background. That eliminates a lot of women—and a lot of generally skilled people who are also super-passionate about bicycles … two things that threaten to stunt the bicycle industry as a whole.

At the very least, the broader bike industry has gotten slightly better in that working in a bike shop is no longer an ironclad prerequisite for entry into the boys’ club. But it’s still a world that could stand to grow up. I’m all for having as much fun as possible, but fun and being super pro are NOT mutually exclusive.

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Thoughts on Electric and Cargo Bike Pedals
Thoughts on Electric and Cargo Bike Pedals

January 07, 2020 2 Comments

I talk about pedals a lot at the bike shop and while building up a customer's new cargo bike I was reminded about how much a good pedal can change the ride of a bike completely. Here are my musings for pedals on electric and cargo bikes but can probably be applied to any everyday style bike.

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