41FS_FEB_StirlingAfter spending many years in the bike retail industry, the Stirling’s have become experts at guessing client’s bodily dimensions.

After many years of selling bikes, we have become pretty good at guessing customers’ vital statistics. Mainly weight and height. Both these physical factors can be determined empirically: use a scale or a tape measure. Notwithstanding the apparent simplicity of determining your key physical dimensions it can be quite awkward sometimes. More about this once we’ve addressed the basics.

Height because we need to establish what size frame would suit the customer. Most of our male customers fit into the medium and large frame bracket. They are spoilt for choice. Then, next in line are the XL frames for the big guys followed by the small bikes: short men and average women (unless it’s a women-specific bike, in which case a medium could do the trick). On the other end of the tall scale is the XXL body height. That height is another challenge for the bike shop and the tall customer – the selection of bikes available in that size is very limited in both range and availability.

So, it is understandable that 80% plus of our floor stock is in medium and large bikes. Not so understandable to short and taller customers! This becomes even more of an issue when these customers want to test ride a bike. You guessed it, most test rides are mediums and large bikes.

Outside of these defined sizes you get cyclists who are on the cusp of say, a medium and a large frame size. A man around 177 or 178 cm tall could ride a medium or large mountain bike. At this point the personal preferences and riding style of the rider often sways the rider one way (medium) or the other (large). Investing time and money in a Body Geometry fit (or one of the other recognized bike-rider fit systems) will settle the debate and definitively put the rider on a correct sized bike which will optimize both comfort and performance.

Many men think (or claim) they’re taller than they actually are. When I started life as an adult I just made the cusp of a large/medium frame category at 178 cm tall. Over time I have shrunk to 176. Yes, we do tend to getter a bit shorter over time! I use my own height and my bike shop experience to get the initial estimate of my customer’s height. So, it gets uncomfortable when I stand eye-to-eye level with a customer’s who tells me he is 180 cm tall and he is 176 or 177. At this time, we have to subtly introduce our wall-mounted tape measure.

Weight is another sensitive subject. With men, generally not. With ladies, very often! There is a rule in life: never ask a woman her age. I’d suggest another rule is don’t ask her how much she weighs. Asking a woman her weight when she is clearly slim is not usually an issue.

And if a woman is a bit on the large size definitely DON’T ask her how much she weighs. Should she buy a bike and you need to set up the suspension then the you ask her to fill in the form with all her details.

That way you avoid the question but you get the details. Everyone is happy.

Since this is a family publication I won’t delve too deeply into the other Bits and Pieces mentioned in the headliner to this article. Suffice is it to mention that selling and explaining women-specific saddles (and cycling shorts chamois padding) to really inquisitive female cyclists can be a bit challenging. How DO you explain the physical fit between a saddle and a women’s anatomical parts? I quietly mutter something about ‘soft bits’ and leave it at that. Unfortunately, some women just won’t leave it that.

Stirling ‘Senior’ Kotze

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