It’s that time of year when there’s children’s bike buying to be done and thus good-will to all humans flies out the door, faster than Santa on a full carbon-fibre frame.
I’m not entirely sure what the rules are but I think the yellow winner’s jersey goes to those canny parents who beat the rest to buying the biggest, shiniest, whizziest bike for Christmas.
So in celebration of the Christmas competitive spirit, here is my (tongue-in-cheek) top 5 guide of bike buying customers gracing the store so far this season.
1. The excited parent (my favourite) – More often than not, it’s funny to note how it’s the parents that get far more excited to be buying a bike than the prospective child. One father, in an effort to spark his young son’s enthusiasm, took off round the store on a bike just out of stabilizers. Knees under his arm pits and practically folded in half he happily zoomed around the store, operating the police siren horn whilst his bemused little boy stood guarding the shopping bags and looking embarrassed.
2. The accessoriser – Many of the childrens’ bikes come with a bewildering range of matching accessories, literally all bells, whistles, not to mention the handlebar mounted rocket launchers (oh yes indeed). And in the days of canny Disney-themed merchandising, these can all be complimented by matching gloves, helmets, mudguards, stickers, ribbons and much much more. Collating and accessorising, let alone assembling one of these bikes can be a full time occupation. My appreciation for Bob the Builder and Little Mermaid has hit at an all-time low as they grin out from every available bike surface. Did the Little Mermaid ever ride a bike….I think not?
3. The teenager –
Universal rule number 1 – the teenager knows EXACTLY what bike they want (BMX, dirt jump bike, racer).
Universal rule number 2 – it will be NOTHING like the one their parents have in mind on entering the store (front basket, pale pastel frame, handlebars that don’t turn 360 degrees).
Universal rule number 3 – Rule 1 added to rule 2 means there WILL be conflict. Conflict often involving tears, expletives, scowling, stomping, raised voices, or all of the above – and the teenager is no better.
On average a ceasefire or stormy exit will normally be reached with 20-30 minutes. Further tense negotiations finally produce terms of surrender.
In an estimated 80% of cases those terms involve capitulation on behalf of the parents. Teenagers are tough negotiators!
4. The room for growth purchase – I can more than appreciate that children often grow at alarming rates which makes keeping up, in terms of bicycles, a costly business. The need for prudent buying therefore is a delicate balance based on anticipated sprouting vs the ability of the child to reach the pedals. If my sympathies lie with the parents in the number 3, they are definitely with the kids in this one. I’ve lost count of the mums and dads who optimistically hoist their tiny progeny on giant sized bikes (something akin to a penny farthing), holding them in the saddle and launching them store-wards yelling “it’ll be fine as long as you don’t stop son”.
The challenge, how to tactfully suggest that a ‘good sized bike’ is usually one where some part of the child can touch the floor whilst stationary.
5. The biggest kids – Husbands buying bikes for wives, girlfriends for boyfriends or adults just buying themselves a well-deserved present. The grinning, barely contained, hopping up and down excitement is not just limited to the smaller customers. The joy of owning a shiney new bike is definitely best displayed by ‘grown ups’. I have seen a few reserved, 50-something executives in suits turn into the most excited, delighted 5 year olds when picking up their new toy. They could even show the kids a thing or two. Long may it continue!