As an avid cyclist, you have no doubt noticed that you have become the go-to guy for everyone you know whenever they have a bicycle-related question. They will come to you when they have a flat tire and need a fix (and will express astonishment when you suggest replacing the tube instead of using a patch). They will come to you when they need to put air in the tire (and will be dismayed to find your pump doesn’t work with their kind of valve). They will come to you when their bike chain is so grimy and corroded that it has seized up, hoping you’ve got some WD-40 you can lube it with.
And, eventually, someone’s going to come to you with a request for help in purchasing a bike. This should be a flattering moment, because it indicates an enormous amount of respect for your opinion.
It should be flattering, but it isn’t. It’s incredibly frustrating, because they know so little about the arcane and wonderful universe of bicycles that they think a bicycle is just a relatively simple mechanical contrivance you can ride for transportation, exercise, and pleasure.
So, with their best interests at heart, you begin to ask them questions. Road or mountain bike? 26" wheels or 29"? Ever consider riding a fixie? Full-suspension, hardtail plus suspension fork, or fully rigid? Shimano, Campy, or Sram? Got a preference for pedals? Carbon, aluminum, steel, or Ti?
These are all good and important questions, as you and I both know. They are also questions which will send your friend into a blind panic.
You want to really help someone get into bikes? Ask them these three questions.
1. Where do you want to ride it? You’ll be amazed at the valuable information this intentionally vague question yields. You’d expect them to say "road" or "dirt," but they probably haven’t actually realized they need different kinds of bikes for different terrain. You’ll probably get an answer like, "Pulling the kids around the neighborhood," "To work and back," or "On hiking trails." Or probably all three. What they want is a hybrid.
I know, I know, hybrids are icky. But that’s what they want.
2. What made you want to start riding a bike?