Do I Need to Love My Bike Shop?

In a word, yes. 

Bikes, parts, and gear are available everywhere from superstores to etailers.  Certainly there is some sense to saving cents, but you must be careful about the “big purchase” and how you plan to maintain your precious ride.  If you buy your bike from a local shop, you’re a part of their family.  They “own” a small part of your bike–mainly the part that makes it safe to operate.  They own the reliability.

This means, when its not right, they’ll fix it.  But first, you must develop a relationship with them.  For some, it means getting to know the owner and the mechanics.  For other shops, you can go with them on rides on Saturday mornings or week nights.  For others still, it might be bringing over a six pack or some brownies and sharing stories from great trips.

Having a shop to rely on means they’ll be there for advice on all things cycling: when to upgrade, what events to look into, how to train, eat, and dress.  They’ll have events they’ll invite you to.  They’ll welcome you in and ask you about your training.  Some of the best shops have coffee, WiFi, and a Facebook page.  Meaning you’re connected.

I’m not advocating spending all your “bicycle allowance” in one place.  If you can get a deal on tires you’ve used many times at a volume discount online, go for it.  But I’m not a big fan of buying your own cassette or bottom bracket and expecting the shop to be excited to install it.  They might have concerns over fit and operation with the other parts.  Play it smart and discuss the big buys with the shop.

Many shops will be more than happy to show you how to fix your own bike, too.  Flats, Truing, Emergency Road Repairs.  All good stuff you might want to know.  Some shops have fitness and training programs.  Others have extremely high tech equipment for fitting you to your bike (or next bike) so you’re getting the most from your effort.  And more importantly, avoiding long-term injury from a poorly adjusted bike.  For those who don’t know, a millimeter in seat height, 1-degree of seat or handle bar angle can make all the difference.  I’ve had numb fingers or neck pain and know this from experience.

Bottom line.  A shop is a lot like your barber/hairdresser.  You can go Cut-for-Less and get an express cut.  Or you can go to the same gal for years and know what to expect every time.

If you have your own reason for loving your bike shop, be sure to leave a comment on this blog post.


4 Responses to “Do I Need to Love My Bike Shop?”

  1. 1 Kathy Weldon January 26, 2012 at 4:34 am

    Very true. I LOVE my bike shop and the employees and mechanics. Rockwall Cyclng rocks!!

  2. 2 Tim January 26, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    I have found it very rewarding to find a bike shop that is more than just retail outlet of bike stuff.

  3. 3 Omare VIA Peaches January 26, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    While I agree with some points in the article, I think it varies from person to person. I don’t mind buying clothing, actual bikes, and cleaning supplies from LBS. But there are some things to me that aren’t worth the extra cost. For example, supplements have a HUGE markup, regardless if it is a LBS or Supplement store, as compared to online. Only makes sense for something like that.

    But the subject of components should depend on the person. If you can be resourceful, such as visiting online forums, watching YouTube, etc, then nowadays it is super easy to purchase a cassette online and install it yourself. However, I think it’s the experience you get learning more about how the bike works rather than the savings that truly matters. I would agree that being an engineer I want to do things on my own and not just drop it off and pick it up with no idea how things were done. I think income also has a lot to do with it, and the LBS knows this, hence why every LBS tries to feed off the naïve wealthy. You have $5k to spend? Sure, you need a carbon fiber with ZIPPs as a starter bike!!

    I’m 50/50 on the matter I guess. Just varies case by case. I don’t need a LBS to hold my hand and guide me step by step through my cycling life, telling me what I should wear, eat, ride, etc. Reminds me of the Apple vs. Android argument. I like flexibility, exploring off on my own and asking for the help when needed.

    • 4 bikewhisperer January 26, 2012 at 3:36 pm

      You offer some very valid points. And most definitely, it depends on the rider.

      As I mentioned, there are some items you can easily buy in other places. Bike shops know this and expect some sales to go elsewhere. At the same time, they’ll offer a spectrum of products for those who like to touch/feel/try on/inquire about/etc products before they buy.

      Components and parts that require special knowledge definitely has more to do with the rider than the part itself. Many riders enjoy working on their bikes (and many of these folks don’t need a shop at all). But for those who are not comfortable messing with their bike, they like to leave it to the professionals who know the little tricks of the trade or hidden gotcha’s.

      On the subject of trust…this is at the core of my message. It is my hope that riders can distinguish between a shop who just is there to sell ZIPP wheels for starter bikes versus a shop who takes the time to understand the rider and what they are trying to achieve. I have been loyal to two shops in ten years and both know me well. My starter road bike: A Specialized Allez (aluminum) for under a grand. I could have spent more at the time, but it wasn’t the right time to spend more.

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