Thursday, June 23, 2011

This is how you get my business

I decided this week that I need a new bike. My 18 year-old lime green CCM mountain bike has seen better days. While it's still quite functional, there are things that I fear may fail at an inopportune time at some point in the near future. Besides, I really need a bike with front shocks to ride on some of the crappy roads we have here in Ottawa.

I first found a bike that came in a 23" frame: the KHS Alite 150. The reviews were pretty good, it's a good looking bike, and the price wouldn't break the bank.

I discovered that there were at least three retailers in the Ottawa area that carried KHS bikes. One of them was Dinardo's Skis and Wheels. They listed all of their bike models on their web site, along with prices. I liked that.

The other two retailers web sites referred you to the KHS web site for details, and they didn't list prices.

Being a somewhat smart shopper, I sent the other two emails on Tuesday morning asking if they had the bike with a 23" frame in stock, and how much they were selling it for.

On Wednesday, just over 24 hours later, I received one reply. They told me that they didn't have that model in stock, advised me that they had hybrid bikes in stock with a 23" frame and suggested I call the store. I still haden't heard from the other one.

I sent Dinardo's an email Wednesday morning asking if they had the KHS Alite 150 with a 23" frame in stock.

Within a few hours, I received a reply from Frank Dinardo. He told me it wasn't in stock, but if I ordered today I could have it by the weekend. In addition, he told me it was available in black for the 2011 model, or red in 2009 model.

I sent off a reply asking if their 15-30% sale would still apply if I ordered today but didn't pick up until Monday since we were going away for the weekend. I said I could drop by after work.

Once again, I got a reply within hours. Frank told me that the sale was for in stock merchandise only, but he also included special pricing for the 2009 and the 2011, if I dropped by today to pay and place the order.

That is how you gain a customer.

We drove out to the store in Bell's Corners after work to have a look and chat.

The staff were really helpful. I explained that I had an email exchange with Frank earlier and one of the employees said that Frank had mentioned it. We talked a bit about what my primary use would be. He explained that for the KHS Alite 150, he doesn't like to recommend it for anyone over 160lbs. My wife asked him what the alternatives would be. He showed me a 2010 Jamis Allegro 1X. I guess you would call this a hybrid. Jamis calls this a "Cross-training" bike. For my use, which is mostly street and bike paths, he recommended it over the KHS Alite 150.

I had never really considered a hybrid style bike. The frame, even though it was a 21" was certainly large enough. It's actually a closer match to my 22" CCM frame than the KHS Alite. The tires are narrower than a mountain bike, but wider than a racing bike. I'm not sure what the wheel size is, but they do look pretty large as well.

He asked me if I wanted to take it for a test ride. He pumped up the tires, handed me a helmet and let me take it outside. I liked it. It felt good. It felt a lot like my old bike, size-wise. It felt large.

The regular price of this bike was over $700, but it was on sale for $549. It was a bit more than I had planned on spending on the Alite 150, but all things considered, if I could make this last half as long as my last bike, I'd be happy. Plus, I genuinely felt like I was getting good service.

That was enough for me. I picked out a carrier, a saddle bag, bottle holder, and handlebar extensions. He took the time to explain a few things about the disc brakes, some basic maintenance to keep it in good running condition, and said I should bring it back in 2-8 weeks for a free warranty inspection because cables, etc. will stretch from usage and adjustments might need to be made. After paying, he took the bike to the back room to install the accessories for me and make a few adjustments.

While we were waiting, Frank appeared and introduced himself. We chatted about the bike, and cycling in general. Seems like a nice guy. It was a little after 6:00pm when I got the bike and was on my way.

I have to say that my overall experience was a really good one. I was impressed with the email communication and professionalism in the store. They clearly wanted my business and they got it.

How good is the bike? I can't really say yet since I haven't ridden it for more than the test ride at the store. I won't have much time to ride it before the weekend, but I'm off work all next week so I'm definitely going to take it out often.

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Incidentally, I did get a reply from the second store I emailed yesterday. The reply arrived earlier this evening, after I got home. They told me that they didn't have the KHS Alite 150 in stock, but recommended another very similar model, same style, different brand, and it was on sale. The price was a little more than I paid for my Jamis. I guess it didn't really matter in the end since the price compared to KHS at Dinardo's was quite different, but to their credit they did reply with useful information. Unfortunately for them, not as quick as Dinardo's.

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