You can dispense an awful lot of cycling wisdom in the near 70 years that Condor has maintained a retail presence on the busy London thoroughfare of Gray’s Inn Road. Sales associate Mindi Mickevicius talks through the company’s heritage, how the purchasing process works and why customer satisfaction is the secret to success in such a competitive market.
Is there a typical Condor customer?
Not so much typical but what tends to unite them all is a need for quality, longevity, good service and a great fitting bicycle. All important aspects of our business model as word of mouth recommendations bring a lot of new customers to Condor.
Are the steel frames you offer still relevant in an era of carbon fibre?
Condor designs and manufactures the most amazing carbon frames but we also recognise that custom shaped steel tubing enables our designers to tailor a superb ride. As good quality carbon frames are expensive – and not everybody can afford a £3-5k bicycle – steel frames like our popular Fratello and Acciaio models are great alternatives and ride much better than cheap carbon.
Can you explain how the ordering process works?
It starts with a consultation where an individual customer’s needs are determined. Then the components and aesthetics are discussed. This is followed by a bike fitting session on our jig where we can replicate the geometry of a particular size frame. That’s when we can discuss whether a custom frame is more appropriate. The waiting times are determined by the amount of bikes in the build queue or if an order is full custom or a custom colour.
Do you view this waiting time as a necessary evil or an important aspect in the sense that it builds expectation on the part of the customer?
As each frame is built by hand in Italy there’s an inevitable element of waiting between the ordering process and your bike being delivered. But quality takes time – it’s embedded in the company’s DNA – and our customers are investing in a product that will last many years.
Do people have certain perceptions, real or imagined, of Condor as a brand?
The big manufacturers average things out. By that I mean a large size bicycle will come with a certain bar width and stem length. As a buyer you have no control over what components will end up on your new bike. The result is that you either ride the bike with these unsuitable components and a fit that is compromised or you start to replace items after getting a bike fit. The cost quickly adds up. They also tend to cut corners by fitting basic brakes, wheels, tyres, and cranks. When you get a Condor bike it’s already set up for you in terms of the correct saddle height, an appropriate handlebar width and stem length – all the variables are considered. As a customer you don’t need to compromise – you can pick and choose what’s going onto your bike. All that’s left is to ride it, enjoy it and maintain it.
Condor has a long-standing involvement in bike racing?
For more than ten years we’ve supporting pro cycling team JLT Condor and they enjoyed a very successful 2016 season riding the Condor Leggero. It’s nice seeing a handmade carbon fibre frame being raced in the pro peloton. And we’ve recently re-launched the Condor Italia RC that’s fabricated with a race tuned aluminium frame. It’s focused on riders wanting to compete, say, in criterium racing. Light, stiff and very fast.
As a family business, Condor can trace its history back to 1948. In your opinion, how does this heritage impact on the customer experience?
I think it’s easier for customers to trust a company which is family owned and has been trading for so long. You see Condor’s history everywhere in the shop from the founder’s original wheel jig to a display of frames representing each decade. But that’s not say we don’t forget the importance of staying current and fresh.
What’s the most enjoyable aspect of working at Condor?
I represent a family run business with a rich history and a successful professional cycling team. I get to work with all the latest cycling components and kit but also the longstanding customers with their ‘older’ Condor steel bikes; kept in perfect condition and fitted with vintage Campagnolo. But I suppose, basically, it’s about the interaction I enjoy between my colleagues, the mechanics and the customers. About learning something new every day.
For more information, visit Condor Cycles
Images by @openautograph