Finding a Bike the 2.0 Way

After visiting Gardasee two weeks ago, seeing so much mountain biker riding around the climbing spots I knew, its time for a new ride. I did a bit mountain biking some years ago, but not very serious. Primary I bought my “old” bike riding from A to B (growing up in the valley requires at least a MTB) and some longer drives once in a while. Nevertheless I was thinking about spending some money on a nicer MTB for the last two years and this trip to Gardasee finally showed me, its about time. Yesterday I ordered a brand new bike but more interesting which bike I got is the way this decision took, 100% shaped by my social network.

I’m very unexperienced around mountain bikes and my first task was to gain some knowledge on gear! First address, the internet thing. Quickly I recognized, gaining knowledge in this area is hard for an outsider. Often people ask me about which computer, mobile phone, camera or lens they should buy - now I know how they feel! No way to get an slight overview quick with all these numbers, types and brands. More expensive is better, but what does better mean and is this rule true in general? Fortunately some of my FaceBook and Twitter friends are keen on sports like me and some are real MTB freaks. I posted my needs and how much I’d like to spent onto my FaceBook wall and expected some superficial responses, but the exact opposite happened.

It just took a few seconds for the first comments and they recommended some specialist dealer in our area as well as brands and even more important types which could match my requirements. Some wrote me direct messages and explained what I have to take care of. Equipped with this information I read some beginners guides of several online magazines. Primary the german Mountainbike Magazin helped me a lot in understanding the differences between Race, Touing, All Mountain, Freeride and Downhill bikes. After some reading I knew a little more, but still had no clue which bike is right for me. Back on FaceBook the social network showed its full power. I asked some more focused questions and my friends began to give me all their knowledge. Starting from which type of bike is best for which field of application as well as hints on brakes, gears, tires, frames, suspensions, rims, geometry and all the shiny things distinguishing a € 1.500,- bike from a € 3.500,- bike on the same frame.

I created a mind map collecting the information of my friends using MindMeister. It just contains possible candidates and the main aspects my friends told me to take care of. This map was my backup on the iPhone when talking to sales people whom I not wanna trust blindly.

I still had to come to an decision on my own but talking to someone you can trust (I don’t trust sales people in general) sharing her/his knowledge selfless helped me so much. I was possible to isolate a few models which seem to have the best cost effectiveness. Finally I visited the most highly recommended dealers, talked to them and tested most of these bikes I was willing to have a closer look at. Unfortunately one of my desired brands is only available in direct sales, no dealer around to test the bike. One important point everyone told me: You don’t really want to spent this amount of money on a bike you can not test. Neither I want to order one, test it and send it back, way too time consuming. I was lucky, my social network had an answer for this too. Chris organized me a test ride from one of his friends and finally I was able to get a live impression of this model too, priceless!

The “social media approach” is an advantage for the customer (aka me) compared to the traditional way of only relying on an specialized dealer or strangers in an online community. Its not substituting the other channels, its an addition and for sure the most trustworthy channel. For my part, I know I got the right product and my social network helped me…

  • to get what I want,
  • to spent exactly the amount of money I intended to spend,
  • to rely on the information I got because it was selfless,
  • to saved a lot of time in gathering information on the topic,
  • provided informations on brands and topics no dealer will tell,
  • and it was fun talking to my friends on the topic.

My question was also broadcasted via Twitter but 140 characters are way to less for this type of question. Most answers there just referred to favorite brands of my followers. People could not refer to other peoples suggestions because most of them do not see their input (the API hides @-replys of people you don’t follow). This information was less useful and less interactive. Nevertheless Specialized seems to be the Apple in the biking domain and everyone likes them (+ like to spend extra money for the Specialized sticker on their frame, like we Apple fanboys ;-)).

I really appreciate the help of my friends and want to thank them for their time and opinions, you’r awesome!