Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I don't know you, but I hate you.

Consider this scenario:

It's a beautiful Saturday morning. You and your friends just got with an epic ride on one of your favorite trails. There's a mixed bag of banter going on between the group as you change out of your riding clothes, load bikes onto bike racks, and take swigs of beer from the stash of cold ones someone was thoughtful enough to bring along. Pretty soon the random chatter becomes a little more focused as the discussion turns to where we should ride tomorrow. You pipe up and mention, "Hey, I think I'll give John a call to see if he wants to join us."

Your friends suddenly stop in your tracks and look at you like you're nuts. One of your friends says, "Why in the world would you want to ride with John?"

"Well, why not?" You ask, puzzled. "Besides, I don't even think you know John that well, so why would you say such a thing?"

Your friend rolls his eyes and says, "John's Asian. Why would you want to ride with an Asian? We don't want him or any other Asian on our ride."

Flabbergasted by what's just come out of your friend's mouth, you blurt out, "But you don't even know him. How can you say you don't like him?"

"And I don't want to get to know him either," he says. "Besides, we all know that Asians can't ride a bicycle. They aren't real cyclists. They are just a bunch of posers!"

To your horror, the rest of your friends are nodding their heads in agreement with your friend. One of them even goes as far as to say, "He's right. I wouldn't bring John if I were you. You have a lot of other white friends who ride...why don't you invite one of them?"

At this point, you don't even know what to say. Your friends all start to walk towards their respective vehicles, leaving you confused and alone at the trail head.

Of course, this situation never happened. It's a story I just made up. But if this were a true story, chances are you'd be outraged, right? You'd feel compelled to speak out against the bigotry and insensitivity of the situation. You'd forward this story to all your friends and co-workers. You might even demand to know just who these creeps are who refused to ride with someone simply because of the color of their skin and their perceptions of that race.

Although I have never heard of anything like this happening that involved a person, I can tell you that this "bigotry" happens with bicycles all of the time. I hear it at the races and on the trail. I read it in the forums. And since my brand is one of the proverbial "minorities", it breaks my heart. Here are just a couple examples taken from a thread on MTBR.com:


"Why so many Haro haters out there??? I just finished the build of a x7 and I really like this bike but guys on the trails and forums seem to dis the Haro! What is up with that? I don't care as I like my bike but it gets annoying. HARO was the shiznit in the bmx world when I was a kid!!!"


"I have had a bike mechanic comment that my [Extreme]X2's suspension design wasn't "real". I have also had a guy comment that 'it certainly wasn't the bike' the first time I made it up Heart Attack hill at Phoenix's South Mountain."

The biggest challenges I have faced as a brand manager for the Haro MTB line is overall lack of awareness for the Haro MTB line and the perception that Haro MTB line can't be taken seriously since we also make BMX bikes. The awareness issue is turning around thanks to increased marketing efforts in that area. However, convincing some of these folks that Haro does indeed make a legitimate mountain bike has proven to be more of a challenge.

However, I don't want to turn this into a Haro problem. It's not. I see many, many other bike brands..good bike brands...falling victim to the same form of brand bigotry. It sucks. While I have met some of the coolest people ever through cycling, I have to say that the biggest downfall cyclists have as a group is their closed-mindedness to certain brands.

This isn't an issue with brand loyalty. I encourage people to be loyal and become true "fans" of the brands they enjoy. The biggest issue I have is with people who feel the need to bash other brands in the wake of their loyalty without having any direct experience with the brand they're picking on.

Consider this situation:

It's a beautiful Saturday morning. You and your friends just got with an epic ride on one of your favorite trails. There's a mixed bag of banter going on between the group as you change out of your riding clothes, load bikes onto bike racks, and take swigs of beer from the stash of cold ones someone was thoughtful enough to bring along. You say to your group of friends, "I'm thinking about buying a new bike so I can keep up with you guys. I think I am going to go with Brand X".

Your friends suddenly stop in your tracks and look at you like you're nuts. One of your friends says, "Why in the world would you want to buy a Brand X?"

"Well, why not?" You ask, puzzled. "Besides, I don't even think you've ever even ridden a Brand X, right?"

Your friend rolls his eyes and says, "Brand X is a road bike company. Why would you want to ride a mountain bike made by a company that makes road bikes? We don't like Brand X mountain bikes."

Flabbergasted by what's just come out of your friend's mouth, you blurt out, "But you never even ridden one. How can you say you don't like them?"

"And I won't ever ride one," he says. "Besides, we all know that Brand X isn't a real mountain bike company anyhow."

This, sadly, is a story based in truth and propagated by ignorance. Pretty sad, right?

So here's where I'm speaking out against the bigotry and ignorance of this situation. To those of you who participate in this sort of bike brand bigotry, take the time to ask yourself why. Does it make you feel better about the brand you bought? Does it make you feel like an expert? Are you just a hater? I'll tell ya, life is too short for those types of head games. Next time, try giving the person seeking your opinion information based on your experience with certain brands. And if your friend shows up at the trail head on a bike that's not on your "A" list, keep your opinions to yourself. Be grateful he/she in on a bike.

To those of you looking to buy a new bike and are thoroughly confused by all the opinions people have of the brands you are considering, just remember...buy what YOU like. Buy what you can afford. Buy the bike YOU feel will perform the best for you and meet YOUR needs. Take test rides, do your research, and buy what you like...not what people say you should like.

OK, rant over. :)



7 comments:

Evan Bacon said...

This is so true. I used to work for a shop in Reno that sold a lot of smaller brands such as Haro and Jamis and KHS. I think that a lot of the hating comes from other shops. I know we were always undercutting the Cannondale/Specialized guys up the road and they would say anything to keep people at there store. I think a lot of what makes a brand are the folks behind the scenes. I know a couple of years ago I wouldn't have recommended a Haro to anybody, but since the collaboration with Cam and all the cool On One inspired stuff and the steel commuter bikes Haro and Masi are the some of the first brands I think of. There are probably good reasons to hate some brands like GT/Schwinn/Mongoose, but I try to base my judgments on the products, and if you make something im looking for at a fair price I wont turn my nose up at it. The 650b line was a brilliant move, but I do wish you folks would do more framesets.

Anonymous said...

I don't follow the logic of thinking that a company that makes great BMX bikes wouldn't also make great mountain bikes. I would consider buying a Haro or a Redline BECAUSE of their great success with BMX.

iused2bfast said...

Even a tired old Schwinn rider can be convinced to try and enjoy a new ride....lol. I will ride with anybody on anything as I am just glad to share the experience. I love my Haro. Happy New Year and hope to see you soon. Dave

el said...

Hi Jill.

Just a comment on the photo. That's from the Philippines right? Have you been there?

'wishing for the day the Beasley SS becomes available here... (and hoping I could afford it!)

Israel (Quezon City, Philippines)

PS
Happy new year!

jill hamilton said...

I actually don't know where that photo was taken...I just found it on Goggle images.

stickboy said...

Jill,

Why do closed minded people always have their mouths open! Ugh! I used to manage a bike shop and I picked up Haro MTB (and Masi too)solely b/c of being an ole' bmx head from the 80's. And had decent success selling the bikes because we believed in the brand and personally road them.

When it comes to shops selling a niche' brand like Haro's MTB category, it's totally up to the store to give your brand credibility...unlike the big 3 brand's bikes where the product unfortunately give their supporting shops creditability, sales walk to the counter easily and their customer service usually stinks.

Don't loose hope, your reps will continue market penetration over time as the shops of the Big S and Big T are starting to get pissed off. Reps ARE making them take models that they can't sell or currently/demographically don't have a market for them.

I know you've stated that kind of heavy handed approach exhists but I wouldn't have believed it until I took a rep job with a niche' bicycle brand last May. I'm making inroads b/c of dealers in my territory are getting p.o'd with S & T. Especially with the economy being a mess, dealers are now more than ever realizing it is about margins and a competitive price/bike spec...selling the sausage with the sizzle!

Remember: Dead fish always float with the stream...

Anonymous said...

Hey G.I. Jill,

I want one of those Fred Flintstone bikes. Seriously, I've done just fine riding around Mission Trials et. al. in SD on my WalMart Special.
That's right - I said Walmart Special. If I crash and burn, no big deal...I'll just replace it.
In my opinion, it all about the rush and thrill of being out there on the trial.