Bike riding can cause tenderness; chaffing of delicate parts. Sometimes it is necessary to have conversations about delicate anatomy when helping folks with their cycling needs.
Scott and Viv , new to Florida, came into the bike store where I work looking for a pair of bikes. The couple appeared to be about my age, which is to say mid-fifties. Scott stood just shy of six feet/181 cm while Viv could lay claim to all 60 inches/152 cm of her height if she stood up very, very straight.
We talked for a while about their cycling goals, how they were looking for basic bikes that emphasized economy and comfort over efficiency, low weight or speed and Scott and I gently persuaded Vic that even though Florida is relatively flat that at least a few gears sure beat the snot out of just one. We seemed to have built rapport along with a comfortable relationship and were ready to move on to bike specifics as opposed to generalities.
Working in a shop that features mostly Giant and Liv (Giant branded bikes for women) I was introducing them to fitness hybrids in both 700c and 26″ wheels. Scott was leaning more toward the comfort and stability of the Sedona DX, an entry level, 24 speed, cushioned fork and seat-post, 26 inch tire offering, while Viv was zeroing in on a seven speed, very upright, taller wheeled Liv Flourish.
We’d started with styles and purpose of riding but now Viv, at five feet zero inches, was voicing concerns about fit. I assured her that an extra small, adult woman’s bike would accommodate her without any problem to which she responded by saying, “Really? My friend Sara, who rides a lot, said fit is awfully important.”
Sometimes I hate friends. “Well, she’s right. Fit is important. Especially when you want to do longer rides or get more speed for a given effort but you indicated that you’re planning to ride mostly on the Pinellas Trail for maybe five to ten miles, right?”
“Yes. At least, I think so,” she replied.
“Well this is great for that.” I said.
“Okay. But something I haven’t told you is that I don’t have any collar bones; I have to use muscles to support my upper body. Plus I’m pretty busty.”
When a woman tells you she’s, “pretty busty,” the natural tendency is to look at her boobs. I, as an experienced professional, am determined to keep eye contact with Viv as she makes this statement but after saying “busty” she averts her eyes. I feel cheated. I have broken millions of years of evolutionary urges by maintaining my gaze on a woman’s face who has just asked me to look at her breasts and I feel cheated.
Not cheated because I didn’t ogle her ample bosom, but rather cheated because she didn’t see me resist the temptation of ogling her bodacious breasts. Feeling cheated I protest.
“I have to tell you, I feel a little cheated,” I say with a grin.
“Pardon?” she asks.
“Well, you just told me that you’re busty which is an invitation to look at your chest. I resisted, keeping my eyes on yours but you looked away and therefore didn’t see me keep my eyes up high where they belonged. I want recognition for my feat; right Scott?”
Scott smirked, “Seems fair. We men do have a tendency to look there don’t we?”
“Exactly! And I didn’t and Viv broke eye contact, thereby stealing the power from my feat of strength. Cheated is how I feel.”
“You two are too much,” Viv said, shaking her head.
I grabbed the extra small Flourish and after lowering the seat a bit asked Viv to grab the front brake lever, squeeze it tightly and then sit on the seat. I had learned the importance of a firm hold on the brake lever long ago after a customer had stood on the forward pedal and thrust the front wheel into my groin, an unpleasant experience that I did not wish to repeat. Viv did as I asked her and settled on the seat nicely so that I had to apply little effort to hold her upright; it’s amazing how many customers can’t trust me to do my job and contort on the seat in a way that makes holding them up a muscular job rather than an easy one. “Okay, ” I commanded, “now pedal slowly backwards.” She did and I asked, “Does that feel comfortable? How do your shoulders feel?”
“Good,” she said, “but I can’t reach the ground from up here.”
“Ah,” I said nodding my head. “Right. You’re not supposed to; reaching the ground is for children.Or for people who are really new to biking. On the vast majority of bikes if you can reach the ground while sitting on the seat then your seat is too low to put you in an efficient pedaling position. This is the U.S. of A. and we can put the seat wherever you want but I’d love it if you’d at least try it at the right height.”
Viv agreed to try and we walked outside to our test ride area where she did a few quick laps as I instructed her on gear usage. She found the very upright riding position a good mix with her physique as well as her skeletal anomaly and was psyched about getting a bike home ASAP. Scott selected the 26 inch wheeled Sedona DX in a medium size rather than a large because he preferred extra clearance between him and the top tube as opposed to a little higher handlebar.
We found a pair of bikes that served their needs in a price range that made them happy and I managed to talk to a woman about her busty body without once letting my eyes slip to the twin peaks, an accomplishment that I felt good about.
Bike sales, like bike riding, is full of peaks and valleys, twists and turns and potentially dangerous situations. It’s a nice feeling when I negotiate the curves with a customer in a mutually satisfying manner.