5 reasons why you should shop at your local bike shop

There's more to the buying decision than just finding the lowest price

Opinion
Trek Bike Shop

While online retailers sometimes offer better prices, there’s a number of good reasons why you still should shop local.

Every few weeks an argument breaks out in the Mtbr forums over whether a user should buy XYZ gadget or gizmo at the local bike shop or online. If you’re looking at things from a purely monetary perspective, it’s usually a no brainer. Online retailers almost always offer lower prices. Sometimes they even sell them for less than bike shops can purchase them at wholesale. But if you look past the dollar signs, there are dozens of reasons why should you still patronize your local shop. Here are five reasons why.

1. See and Feel

When you’re spending big bucks on a new bike or component, you want to be able to see and feel the product. If your local shop is a dealer, there’s a good chance they have your dream bike on the floor. Better yet, they may offer an in-house demo program. Some brands offer demo tours but the event dates are limited and your desired model may not be available. If you demo at your local shop, they may charge a fee, but you’ll be credited that sum if you end up purchasing a bike.

Yuba Expeditions

Yuba Expeditions is home base for mountain bikers in Downieville, California. This riding destination is famous for breaking parts (and riders). The mechanics here have seen a little bit of everything over the years.

2. Knowledge

Reviews are a great way to do basic research, but your bike shop has access to knowledge most websites and magazines don’t. Because shops do dozens of bike repairs each day, they know first hand what components fail and which brands stand behind their product. They also have first-hand knowledge about how specific items fair on your local terrain.

Another piece that’s often overlooked is parts compatibility. There are so many new (and old) standards, that it’s easy to accidentally order the wrong part. We’ve all done it. If you’re inexperienced, relying on a shop is your best bet.

Even more importantly, a bike shop will make sure that your bike is set-up properly. You can learn all about suspension tuning and cleat position online, but a 2-minute YouTube video is no substitute for an experienced professional.

Calgary Cycle FCS

To survive and prosper, local bike shops need to differentiate themselves. Calgary Cycles has grown to become one of the largest bicycle retailers in Canada by offering an impressive service guarantee.

3. Service Plans

Any bike shop worth it’s loam offers some sort of tune-up policy. For example, the folks at Calgary Cycle offer original owners a lifetime tune-up service that covers brake and drivetrain adjustments, a basic wheel true, and hub/bearing adjustments. Not every shop service plan is that generous, but most shops offer at least a free once a year safety inspection or tune-up.

Kelly McGarry Rampage Broken Bike

When sh*t brakes, it’s nice to have a bike shop in your corner.

4. Warranty

Parts break. Sometimes it’s your fault, sometimes it’s not. Whether you buy components online or in the store, you’re entitled to a replacement if you’re the original owner and your claim is reasonable. However, it can be a hassle to make a warranty claim outside of the local bike shop system. When you buy through a shop, they take care of all that drama.

A good bike shop will also go above and beyond for their customers. It’s not unusual to hear that a store has extra components stashed away to help out loyal customers while their parts are out for repair.

5. There when you need them

While the allure of bargain basement online prices is real, when you need something right away, your local bike shop is there. Whether it’s a spoke or a random tool, they can get you back on the trail faster than UPS.

Did you buy your last bike at a bike shop? Why or why not?

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  • blaklabl says:

    Maybe you should do another side to this story, like “What Local Bikes Shops Should Be Doing To Stay Relevant”…i.e. adequate inventory on parts, knowledgeable employees w/o attitudes, etc. My heart goes out to all of the LBS’s that actually try to earn business, but the ones that will not evolve their business model and adapt to the changing landscape are doomed to fail.

    • Saris Mercanti says:

      I completely agree @Blaklabl. There are a lot of poorly run bike shops out there but the good ones are worth their weight in gold.

  • YYC says:

    Having a local bike shop to call your own seems to take a lot of effort on my part as a customer. Service is great when you are in there spending $8k on a new bike, but that fades in time. Looking for a part or accessory? Most of the time they have to order it in. Looking for tuning/service? Book in and wait, because some bro-dude just walked in with a 6-pack microbrew and went to the front of the line. Got a question about something technical? The guy to answer it isn’t there, but you can talk to the mechanic who makes you feel dumb for not being current on whatever new hub spacing standard came out this year. The mentioned cycle shop here is more or less the epitome of a “boutique” bike shop.

  • Paul says:

    The LBS which carries the brand I want to buy, is suppose to be a great shop. I did buy my Grandson’s balance bike there and did receive good treatment. However, they offer NO demos, NO rentals, NO nothing. They even suggested I go to another bike shop, but that bike shop does not carry, nor rent, the brand I’m interested in. How am I suppose to really determine which bike is right for me without an actual test ride? I might as well buy online.

  • O Meu Nome says:

    In 10km radius there are around 20 bike shops.
    I only go to one, I check prices online, and then if he can match the price plus shipping and some extra I buy from him. Sometimes he even have lower prices that online, other times the wholesale price to him is even higher that the price online.
    My latest purchase was from the LBS and was a Fox Transfer with lever, 320€ total, I checked online and went to check his price, he asked me the lower I could get it online, and then checked the lowest price he could make.

  • p brig says:

    The days of you owing your support to your LBS by right are over. They must continue to earn your support and evolve just like every other brick and mortar business. I’m sure an LBS owner circumvents his local businesses and buys unrelated goods and services online as well.

    I’ve witnessed my own LBS is selling his goods on Ebay under an alternate account.

  • Jason says:

    My local shop Piermont Cycle is the best..This guy has has over 100 bikes in his showroom, and 3 mechanics that help you right away. Do they have the best price, don’t know, but the price is competitive and the service is bar none..Backcountry or Competive Bike isn’t getting back on the trail 15mins after I walk in..

  • mountainbyte says:

    Shop: You have contaminated your rotors you need new ones…KMC chains are garbage Shimano parts are not compatible with KMC. Shimano 10 speed cassettes wont work with sram shifters…. Nobody uses Crank Bros pedals any more… Shimano is the way to go… Cable end crimps are $2 each….Bikes have no margin anymore… 10% discount would put us out of business…. No but we can order it and have it be here in a week…Bike box costs $5 bucks. Let me go pull one from the dumpster… And we are supposed to pull out our wallets and shake our heads yes?

  • MH says:

    I think we should support our local bike Shops. Helps the local economy, like local taxes. I do buy some components on-line especially E-Bay, But when it comes to buying a new bike it is at the local shop. Another plus to having a local bike shop you regularly go to some of them well give you discounts. I my experience has been I can go into my bike shop tell them I need a shifting or brake cable they’ll just give 1 or 2 plus other perks Things like that goes a long way. They know I tune my own bike & they work with me on it.
    The Bike shop owners are trying to make a living at something they like to do & customer service is important to them. I know like everything else there are some bad ones out there. In larger communities you can usually find a good bike. They want you to come back. In the smaller communities not that many to chose from. But I find they are usually the best. They want your business when you are visiting their area for riding.

  • AS says:

    The comments section here reads more like a forum for trashing your LBS. Just as WebMD has made us all smarter than our doctors, we’re all now the most senior experts in any and everything bike related. On top of that, bike shops are supposed to somehow have every single part in stock and compete on price with e-tailers. The reality is that they’re not competing on a fair playing field and thus it is easy to find fault. I recognize that not all bike shops are equal and that I’m particularly lucky some nice shops close by. Here’s why I don’t mind spending the extra money and supporting my LBS because: A) they are the biggest/most visible advocate in my riding community, 2) they’re helping to get new people into the sport, 3) they make the local bike events happen (group rides, races, etc.), 4) they’re out there doing trail maintenance, 5) If they don’t have a part in stock, they can have it within a day or two, 6) they keep my bike running flawlessly and do the stuff I can’t do (fork servicing, bombproof wheel builds), 7) A great place to hang and grab a beer, 8) helps my local economy and a regular Joe put food on his family’s table.

  • Pynchonite says:

    I would just like to point out that many people advocating ordering parts from online are against LBS’s because they would have to order parts.

  • Johnny Rotten says:

    2 years ago, I bought a new carbon road bike from my LBS, and I couldn’t be happier with the experience, and ensuing maintenance visits.

    Conversely, I’m planning on buying a new full-suspension mountain bike in the next few months, but the unfortunate thing is that I’ll only be able to test ride these mountain bikes in a paved asphalt parking lot. That may just barely work for a road bike test, but doesn’t do justice to testing suspension and handling characteristics of a mountain bike.

    So I wish there were more shops with either an off-road loop with some features to test a mountain bike, or more demo days at local trails. That is the fatal flaw of most LBS’s, from the mountain biker side of me.

    Otherwise, I do fully support my LBS with regard to big purchases (bikes). The fact is that the selection of parts, accessories and clothing is severely cropped compared to the internet, and will cost a lot more at my LBS, including local sales taxes. I still try to buy things there, especially things that I NEED to try on in person, like shoes, helmets, gloves, jerseys, etc.

  • Oscartheballer says:

    I have two bike shops near me. The first one nearly killed me when he did not tighten a bolt on my fixie. He also stole a part off my son’s bike and resold it on ebay. The second, I bought 3 bikes from him at full price. I even said “hey, I bought two bikes from you before, can I get a discount?” and they said “No, sorry.” My friend, who is way cute, got an amazing deal. So when it came time for the big bike I went for the YT Tues and saved several grand. The bike shop at the park does my wrenching. I only use local shops when I have to.

  • Patrick says:

    I bought at LBS. I factored in about $500 of free tune ups at a minimum. My shop just swapped out my cassette for no charge. I almost bought off CraigsList. So glad I didn’t.

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