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Truth, Lies and Test Rides.
Editorial by Tom Demerly.

Tom Demerly at Eco Challenge.

You go to buy a new triathlon or road bike. How do you know which one to buy?

Buy the one that fits. Get measured, listen to the fitter and do what he/she says. Put your trust in them. Make them responsible for your choice. That's The Process.

How can you screw it up? Mess with The Process. Ask your friends for opinions, take some bikes for test rides, go on the Internet chat groups. Get confused. That is how to mess up The Process. I almost guarantee you'll get the wrong bike if you do that.

Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch recognized this and turned his company around using The Process called "Six Sigma" many of you know about. Welch realized several companies make aircraft engines, appliances, plastics and all the other things GE makes. He knew his products were nearly a commodity, he had to do something to differentiate doing business with GE.

He had to make it better, more worthwhile. The Six Sigma Process does that. Stephen Covey has made millions selling his Process of managing everything in your life called The Seven Habits. Even PepsiCo turned Taco Bell into a profitable, fast growing company by using their version of The Process.

What is "The Process"? At Bikesport we have a Process. We developed it by taking parts of ideas from other "Processes". We've even messed around with naming it: Something like "M9". Men, who make up most of our customers, seem to like things that are named "letter, letter, number, number"- like BMW 325i or F-14 Tomcat. We figured men might like "M9". Although we don't make too big of a deal out of it, our process is called M9, and its how we make sure you have the right bike.

So why not do test rides? So many people come in and say "I just want to ride a couple bikes". Actually, you are free to ride any bike in the store if you'd like, but we discourage it as a tool for evaluating potential purchases. Here's why:

Think about it: What will riding a bike for 20 minutes in street clothes tell you? What if you bring your pedals and shoes, some riding clothes and your own helmet and ride it for, say, an hour? That's not really any better.

People tell us they are test riding a bike to "See what it feels like". And they will. They will find out that a bike that does not have the correct stem length, crank length, handlebar size, configuration and adjustment. It doesn't have the right gearing and saddle for them. In short, any information or "feeling" they get from a test ride will be misleading- good, bad or indifferent. Worse yet, some or all of those things may be wrong and they don't even realize it. Test rides are not an accurate representation of what the ownership experience is like, or how the bike will work for you once it has been properly configured. Then again, if the place you are buying your bike from pushes test rides and they intend to sell the bike to you the way it came out of the box, hey, what the heck. But do you want to drop $1000+ on a bike that was just assembled out of the box, handed to you in the hope that the fit is "good enough"?

Test rides are the lazy person's way to buy a bike. It is easy for the salesperson since they just have to pump up the tires, make sure everything is tight, switch your pedals and send you out the door. It isn't that easy.


© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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