With 100+ bikes on display covering all cycling disciplines and all pocketbooks, it's not surprising that there's a constant stream of cyclists looking for advice on kit and fit, components and bikes at our Sheffield Showroom.
This season we're introducing a new Planet Xpert personal bike advisor service that enables you to book a one-to-one slot with our most experienced product advisor. Craig has been a feature of the Sheffield cycling scene for almost 40 years. He's ridden for more clubs than you probably knew existed and he's worked in the cycle trade since he left school. With a wealth of experience in all cycling disciplines, a keen eye for technical details and an encyclopaedic knowledge of kit and componentry he's a walking, talking, advice giving bicycle bible. If you book a slot online he can be all yours, delivering the personal touch to your shopping experience and advising on all aspects of your next bike purchase, from bike fitting right through to training and nutrition advice.
We spent some time with him in our Sheffield Showroom, chewing the fat and getting a little bit of insight into the depth of his bike experience and his views on everything from disc brakes to computer-controlled gear changes.
Craig can you introduce
With 35 years on your bike and in the trade, you must have seen it all come and go during that time? "I count myself lucky to have been active during what I think will go down as being the greatest period for innovation in cycling. There's so much new stuff coming in these days it's hard for many customers to keep track of what's available let alone make an educated choice on what will be best for them."
35 years, did they have derailleurs back then? (laughs) "No need to be cheeky, I started off on a Raleigh Scorpio, that was a steel framed bike with a 5 speed freehub and a single ring chainset. I loved that bike, it felt like freedom! I remember it well, Weinmann
And things have progressed since then? "You know they have. Light alloy rims, indexed shifting, 6-7-8-9-10 and now 11 speed groupsets. We've gone from steel rims to alloy rims to carbon rims and now we're moving to disc brakes. It's the same with bike frames, from steel to aluminium to titanium and then onto carbon tubes and then full carbon frames. You'd have to be blind not to realise the speed with which things have progressed. There's never been a better time to be a cyclist, whether you are racing, commuting or just riding for pleasure the range of bikes out there is simply staggering and I think we offer the very best for each type of riding at almost every price point- we just don't do silly money bikes because we don't charge you three grand for the name and logo on the top-tube!"
What do you think the biggest jump has been? "That's a tough call. I think the integrated shifter with braking and gear change all up in the brake lever was responsible for giving cycling mass appeal. An indexed gear shift and not needing to take your hands off the bar to change gears made cycling feel simple and safe for a lot of people, that was a sea change. The development of full carbon frames for sensible money was another huge step; I think we are still in the middle of that change. Carbon fibre has become the mass market now and you can buy an incredible level of performance for the same price we were paying for good steel frames ten years ago. The trouble is that a lot of brands are still trying to bleed customers for a premium price on their carbon frames. I can understand that where they are completely handmade one-off frames, but for mould built bikes, I think it's a bit cheeky."
What does the future hold? "We're going through a transition with carbon wheels currently. Putting disc brakes on road bikes lets you design the rim just to transfer drive and braking loads to the road surface. It means you can build a carbon rim without having to worry about the effects and abrasive wear on the rim. Once designers get their heads around this I think we'll see wheel weights drop significantly, particularly on clincher rims where you can now shed a pretty big chunk of mass. I think 1300gm wheelsets will be available at sensible money within 6-12 months."
Where does electronic shifting figure in the future for you? "I think it needs some work yet. I've ridden and raced on Di2 and it let me down. You can always fix a cable actuated gear at the side of the road- I don't carry soldering equipment with me though! I think it's just a matter of ruggedizing it thoroughly for use on a bike. The potential for electronic shifting is limitless though. I can see a future where your power meter talks to your derailleur as you ride and decides when you need to shift gears based on your cadence and your power output. It'll be just like putting a car on a dyno. You'll go to your bike shop, ride on a turbo at various loads and pedal speeds and leave with your gears programmed for your personal torque curve. You could even have multiple maps uploaded that are suited to different needs, training for speed, endurance, racing. Whatever you need, you could even have a 'gassed' setting that lowers all the limits to make your life easier for when you've hit the wall and have to crawl back home."
"That sounds like the future to me though I'm sure there will always be riders who just want the simple foolproof system. If that wasn't the case we'd all be driving around with automatic gearboxes in our cars and that's not happened yet."
You can sign me up for that when it happens, I'm in!
What bike do you ride now? "I have a Kaffenback that I use as a winter trainer and general hack bike and I've also just picked up my 2015 PX team bike. That's a Planet X RT-90 frame fitted with SRAM Force22 and finishing kit from Italian brand Selcof. I'll be racing on that this year."
Tell us a bit about your competitive background. "I've ridden for one team or another ever since I were a lad. I started with Beighton Wheelers from the age of 16-19, then I went to B.C Roach for a couple of years, then Hull Couriers, Chesterfield Couriers, then J.E.James and for the last few years Planet X. I'm not big on mileage, I probably do 100 miles a week during the offseason, but I cross train with running and swimming so I stay fit. During the season I'm doing 200-250 miles a week, much more road time with a focus on quality rather than just quantity. I take part in the Thursday night race league and I'm looking to get back on the track. We might run a PX track team this year, I think we have enough old guys to do the masters. There will be some triathlon events in there as well, shorter distance, halves and sprints."
Craig our new 'Ask The Expert' personal shopper service, where customers can book a one-to-one appointment with you is due to kick off soon, what's the idea behind it? "Well we get pretty damn busy in the showroom, especially between February and October so we thought we'd offer customers the chance to book a one-to-one appointment. It means they can be sure of getting the advice they need when they need it. It allows us to make sure we always have exactly what someone needs in stock before they make the trip and it lets me spend some quality time with our customers which helps us design and build better bikes. Everyone wins."
What can a customer expect from their appointment? "That starts long before they turn up on the day. Our customer service dept deals with all of these bookings initially . They get in touch with the customer as soon as they make the booking and start building up a profile, getting a bit of their bike history, how much they ride, what type of cycling they do, find out what they need help with, what they want to achieve with their cycling. From that first contact we'll make sure that we have each size and type of bike that they are interested in available in stock for them to try and we'll go forward from there."
"On the day I'll sit down with them, agree exactly what we're going to work through during the appointment and then we'll make it happen. It's going to be different for every customer. No two customers will have the same needs. Some of them just know they want 'a' bike and they want advice on every aspect of that. Which bike suits the riding they want to do? What size frame will fit them and what finishing kit will give them the most comfortable and efficient ride? Some customers will come in with knowing exactly what they want to do; they might be shooting for a goal, targeting a race or some cycling event. Whatever it is, I'll work with them to get them on the perfect gear for them."
What types of advice can you offer them? "Pretty much anything related to road cycling, nutrition, training and racing, even triathlon. I've been a competitive cyclist for 30 years, I'm a regular on the evening race league, I've competed in Ironman triathlon and I'm also a Retul trained bike fitter. I'm confident that we have all the bases covered. It doesn't matter if you are completely new to cycling, looking for a commuter bike, after your first race bike or a seasoned competitor looking for a completely custom built and specified race machine- we've got your back!"
You mentioned that you're Retul trained can you tell us a little more about that? "For anyone who doesn't know Retul bike fitting involves the use of a 3D motion tracking camera system to track the movement of infra red marker LED's placed on the riders body. We put your bike on the turbo trainer, attach the markers to your foot, knee, thigh, hip, shoulders, elbow and hands and we set you off cycling. The camera captures the movement of the markers and the Retul software makes suggestions for adjustment of the bike set-up that will result in a more comfortable and more efficient riding position for you. We have two full time Retul fitters who work at our Sheffield and Barnsley stores and they will perform the actual fitting, but I'll be there overseeing everything. There's a lot more to a Retul fit than just that of course, we set up your shoes and cleat position. We'll advise you on insoles and orthotics should you need them and of course there's swapping over bike parts for more suitably sized parts. So it's a team effort especially on TT/Tri bikes where seatpost and bars need cutting down or extending to get a perfect fit."
"It's entirely possible that you can walk into the shop with an idea of what you need and leave at the end of the day with the bike of your dreams, fully fitted to you and built up with the perfect component and finishing kit for your riding needs. That's what we are targeting."
What's the follow up with the customer after their appointment? "Obviously our customer service department follows through a lot of sales but for customers who've had a Planet Xpert one-to-one appointment they'll continue to receive the personal service they had in store. I'll be their primary point of contact and look after their account. So they'll always get the personal touch and the very best continuity of service. We might not be able to offer you automatic, computer controlled shifting on your next bike yet, but we do guarantee that you'll get the best possible advice and ongoing support available anywhere and of course everything we design, make and sell is so competitively priced that no one else can compete."
I think you're going to be really busy with the new Planet Xpert one-to-one service. "I do hope so. It'll be really nice to be able to spend a good amount of time with each customer on a one-to-one basis. It's such a different idea to what happens in your typical bike shop. But that's Planet X all over, we've never been your average bike shop."
To make your booking please click on one of the available time slots in the calendar shown below. During busy times it may help make things run more smoothly if bookings are made to start and finish on the hour- then we can see as many customers as possible each day. We look forward to seeing you in the showroom soon.