Ask the trade: Should bike shops teach customers to fix their own bikes?

The latest edition of CyclingIndustry.News Trade Journal (readable online here) kicked off by asking “should bike shops run in store classes to teach their customers how to fix their bikes?”. It is of course an opinion splitter, but here’s what our panel had to say…

Does it make sense for a business to offer paid mechanics’ basics classes to customers as some do?

Mark Almond, Revo Bikes
I can see why some people would be not in favour of this however, for me, I think they are a great idea. We are talking basics here, not how to tune suspension or bleed brakes, just real basics so it won’t take a lot if any revenue from your workshop by people being empowered to do it themselves. What it will do is position you as the expert in their eyes; you gave them knowledge. Your mechanic is now seen as the font of knowledge, so who do you think they will come back to when they need more advanced help and they will spend in the shop whilst there?

It forms a tighter relationship with them too – how can that be bad? A good analogy is that of a personal trainer giving a sample training programme away online. It shows they know their stuff. The customer gets some results, but reaches their limits and thus goes back to them, later paying for a monthly programme. Speculate to accumulate. In a service driven industry being the fountain of knowledge is a great start

Daniel Fox, Brampton Valley Cycles
I regularly run maintenance courses and find they are beneficial in two ways. Firstly, they generate extra income. That stems from the course, but also upselling products and tools that we have used and discussed.

Secondly, I tend to find that those that have attended the course still get their bikes serviced by ourselves, but the time in between services tends to decrease as they are more aware of what to look for. So instead of waiting for something to break, or a problem to occur, they get their bikes checked more often to prevent this.

Chris Cahill, Blood Sweat and Gears
This is definitely an opinion splitter. Personally, I would say it’s crazy to teach customers to fix bikes on their own. For a small short-term gain, teaching your customer’s how to do basic repairs means next time and every time after that they don’t need to come back to you. Not only that, think of the knock-on effect, the customer’s then do small jobs on friend’s bikes too, who would have come to you. Then they get more confident and do more complex jobs. The workshop is the only thing keeping many bike shops open. On the other hand, anyone can watch a YouTube “how to fix” video, it may as build relationships with customers. I doubt it though.