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Gear Prudence: I am known among my friends as “the bike guy,” and every month or two, one of them will ask for my help and expertise at finding a great bike on the cheap. However, after procrastinating my real work so I can peruse Craigslist and find all suitable candidates (which I love doing, btw), these friends never seem to actually go and buy these bikes. If they buy a bike at all, I’ll find out weeks later that they just went to a bike shop and spent at least twice as much on a bike that isn’t nearly as good as the one I found. Why does this keep happening? Will they ever start listening to me, or should I just stop offering to help? —Seriously Considering Abandoning Niceties
Dear SCAN: What a horror it must be for you to invest your time, effort, and expertise in providing consistently thoughtful and correct bike advice only to be repeatedly rebuffed by those who sought it in the first place. GP can only imagine.
You shouldn’t stop “helping,” regardless of whether one of your looky-loo friends ever deigns to follow up on your recommendation. You like spending the hours online searching for deals, and if you didn’t spend the time browser-window shopping for bikes, you’d either have to get back to real work (boring), or you’d fritter away the time some other way (high-stakes mahjong, porn, cat videos, etc.). And if, in the course of your searches, a few wayward clicks lead you to further investigate your own next bike purchase, what a happy coincidence that would be. Don’t want all those hours to go to waste, right?
For a lot of people, buying a bike over the Internet is hard. So much of the shopping experience is tactile and most would-be purchasers want to examine the bike up close, touch the tubing, and maybe surreptitiously sniff it when they think no one’s looking. It’s much harder to a sniff an online posting. A bike shop also allows you to compare multiple bikes (both brands and sizes) at once, which is a key factor for the inexperienced or less decisive. Unless your friend is very price sensitive, supremely patient, or extremely covetous of a particular rare make, it’s no surprise that store shopping wins the day, even if the bike isn’t as objectively good as the one you found.
So, hedge. Every time you send a link, throw in a recommendation for your favorite local bike shop that stocks something similar. That way if they end up buying at the shop, you’ll at least know they did it somewhere you trust. Then you can still take credit for helping. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets @sharrowsDC. Got a question about bicycling? Email email@example.com.