Here's What They Should Be Talking About At Interbike

Interbike—the biggest annual bike business trade show in the U.S.—is in full swing right now. I suspect that while there, the bike manufacturers will proudly display their latest 14-pound road bikes, and their latest 36-inch-travel mountain bikes. I wouldn’t be surprised if both Shimano and Campagnolo announce (coincidentally, natch) that they have innovated a new 11 cog cassette. And I would be astounded if these same two companies did not announce that this year’s cranksets are (at a minimum) 30% stiffer than last year’s models.

If I were in Las Vegas attending Interbike, I would make a special point of walking up to the bike manufacturers, giving them a firm handshake, and saying, "Well done, bike manufacturer."

And then, once I had them comfortable and feeling good about themselves, I would grab them by both shoulders and shake them soundly while I shouted, "But your stupid-light, crazy-expensive bike innovations don’t mean a thing if you haven’t mastered the very simple task of actually shipping that bike to your customers." I would be very careful to become red-faced while I said this, and I would foam at the mouth a little, too.

I Am a Patient Man
About a month ago, I got really excited about buying a track bike. I looked at what I could afford, and decided on a Bianchi Pista. I then went to my local bike shop and pulled the trigger. They said I would have the bike in a week. That was August 29. A couple days later, the bike shop guy called and said that Bianchi didn’t have the bike in the warehouse they thought they had it; it would be a couple weeks before I got the bike, instead of one.

And then nobody called ever again.

So after three (not the promised two) weeks elapsed, I called the bike shop again. He apologized, and said that Bianchi didn’t have its act together, that it turns out they didn’t have any 2005 Pistas anywhere. They’d be getting me a 2006 model instead, and it should be here at the end of the week.

And then another two weeks elapsed.

Yesterday, I called the bike shop again, and he said that this time he has a tracking number, and that the bike would arrive and be built sometime today. I have elected to not hold my breath.

But Not That Patient
Meanwhile, Bianchi is two days shy of taking an entire month to ship a bike. Let me rephrase this so as to make my astonishment and frustration clear: Bianchi, a company whose sole business is to sell bikes, has taken a month to sell me a bike. During that month, the great weather of September—during which I had planned to ride my bike—has come and gone. I’ll get it in October (if I get it at all), which is not exactly a prime outdoor velodrome riding season here in the NorthWest.

So there goes the Cyclingnews series, "Track Racing for Absolute Beginners" I was going to write. Too bad for Bianchi.

I’m pretty sure it’s not just Bianchi that’s doing this, either. If you don’t want what’s in stock at the bike shop—and if you’re looking for anything special, that’s going to be the case—you’re going to have to wait for it. And wait for it. I don’t know any other industry that keeps its most important clients dangling like this.

OK, I’m nearly done venting now. I mean it, though: Bike manufacturers, stop spending quite so much time telling us about the wonderful bikes you make, and consider thinking about how you can actually deliver them on a reasonable timeline.

[Update: 20 minutes after posting this, I got a call from the bike shop. My bike is ready to go. I should point out that I have no gripe whatsoever with the bike shop that sold me this bike — they’ve been very good to work with.]

PS: If you’ve had a good or bad experience with ordering a bike, post a comment. I’m riled up enough right now that I’m thinking of emailing a link to this post to a number of different manufacturers. They should know who’s doing well, and who’s not.

PPS: Why I am I so grouchy today?

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