Friday Group Ride #191


It’s 9pm on a Thursday night, and I’m shopping for a set of disc wheels. There’s not a bike shop open in the metro-Boston area, but that doesn’t matter anymore because any wheel maker worth their salt has a website that will tell me everything I need to know about each of their products including the price. I can either buy direct from the builder, or I can buy from any one of dozens of online distributors. If I was desperate for human interaction, as an absolute last resort, like if the zombie apocalypse happened and I was riding around looking for human survivors (and disc wheels) I could even wait for a bike shop to open, walk in and buy wheels there, assuming money was still even a thing.

OK. OK. OK. Simmer down.

It’s not the zombie apocalypse, and I actually love bike shops. I have a ton of friends who own and operate them, and I can’t go by one without wanting to go in, if only to hide from a marauding zombie horde. Despite all that, it seems very fashionable to hate on the LBS. Bike shop employees are surly and rude. They never have the part you need, and anyway you can get whatever you want cheaper on line, and cheaper is better. Always.

Everybody knows that bike shop employees are surly and rude because they’re young, iconoclastic or underpaid, sometimes all three. And we want them to be that way, because that’s what gives cycling its edge…even if it makes buying a WiFli derailleur and a handful of Gu’s a little more painful.

Also, they don’t have the part you need because of the proliferation of parts and their haphazard distribution. The cost of a functional shop inventory has gone through the roof over the last decade, and the manufacturers have all shifted a large part of the risk burden for their own sales forecasting onto the shops with large minimum orders and the lure of increased margin.

And the reason you can get it cheaper online is because simultaneously the manufacturers don’t manage their distributors well enough, with parts finding their way to giant, international etailers only too happy to ship into domestic markets otherwise protected by dealer agreements. Oh, and etailers don’t have to pay retail rents.

Within the industry there is a palpable and growing tension between e-tailers and their bricks-and-mortar competitors. How many times have I heard the story about the customer who spent two hours in the shop going over a parts spec for a new bike, only to go home and buy it all online. How many times have I heard about riders eager to show up for shop-sponsored rides, but unwilling to so much as buy lubes and tubes from their hosts?

A lot. A lot of times.

This week’s Group Ride asks, do you shop at your LBS or online, or some combination thereof? And if you don’t do business locally, why not? Do you worry about the disappearance of the LBS? Or the big-boxing of cycling retail? Or do you consider yourself an expert, beyond the level of the snarky sales clerk, fully independent and only in need of product to sustain your cycling lifestyle?

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  1. Full Monte

    I tell everyone, you don’t just buy a bike, you buy a bike store.

    You buy their service, reputation, assistance, experience, advice.

    I’ve found the helpful, friendly, good-natured LBS employees outnumber the surly ones.

    While I’ll buy kit online now and then (the LBS simply isn’t a clothing store, he’s got a few seasonal pieces, but selection is limited usually). But accessories, bikes, helmets, shoes, even lube and tube — LBS. Because I bought a bike store with my bike. They take care of me and my bike. And I take care of them.

  2. GregC

    Great article! You ask a question I ask my cycling friends frequently- I have a LBS that treats me well and is friendly and has competitive prices. We have a symbiotic relationship, we both need each other to survive.

  3. Randall

    I build my own bikes and I just moved, but I like my LBS, and I like all the things that they do. Organized rides, free technical advice, and local info for the newcomer all have value, and I am more than happy to buy my lubes and tubes from them. That said, i know how much a bottle of Rock-n-Roll or Stan’s costs online, and I still have to get a “good value” for my money (I think most people do).

    The question I’d ask isn’t whether to support them, but up to what level: 5% over Amazon? 10%? 15%? Certainly, if a product is 25 or 50% more than online, the LBS really SHOULD (IMHO) be getting angry at the distribution system, not the customer.

  4. Kyle V.

    I buy the lubes/tubes and odds and ends from various LBSs around town. I have several that I frequent depending on the situation. If I need something ASAP I go to the LBS. If I need/want something very specific I often get it online because 1)I’ve done a lot of research regarding the topic online, 2) the LBSs probably don’t have it (at least not the ones I frequent), 3) If I’ve had the time to research it then I usually have the time to wait for shipping.

  5. Jonathan

    Ask one of my fellow Australians about LBS prices, and you’ll understand why we use online stores so much. I’m talking markups of 120% on tyres, which is mostly the fault of the distributors, not the poor put-upon LBS.

    That said, I go where the good people are. I have a wheel builder and a frame builder, neither of which are actually “local”, but are awesome people and I’m willing to travel. My LBS is a Trek store and runs the local shop ride. The manager is a really nice bloke, a true bike tragic, and personally runs the slowies group for beginner group riders. I’ve sent a few people his way, told them to ask for him personally.

    So for me it’s about people. I still buy online, but for service etc I go to the good people.

  6. Patrick O'Brien

    We buy virtually all our cycling gear and bikes at our LBS (M&M Cycling), except jerseys and shorts which we buy online from Voler. I really like the quality, fit and value of Voler jerseys and shorts, and they are made in the United States. Our LBS owners and employees are extremely knowledgeable, provide excellent service and advice, and are almost like friends. One of the owner’s, Martin, helped build Graeme Obree’s first hour record bike, so I think he’s qualified to work on mine. Plus he has years of European road racing experience. The other owner, Mike, has won numerous road and mountain races and was a state time trial champion. The newest technician, Stephen, just won the Tour of The White Mountains, Epic Rides series, 60 mile single track race in the single speed category and was a prolific amateur and pro mountain bike racer. The youngest, Ben, is just starting out, but he is a strong rider and a good wrench, and full time college student. These guys know bikes, we listen to them and their advice, and are lucky to have them here.

  7. Ransom

    I have a favorite LBS, which is semi-cross-town and closed Sundays (and Mondays). I go there if at all possible. I hesitate to add that I bought my last two bikes there because rather than feeling like I supported them, they put such a neat amalgamation of bits together for me that even if I cleared out some old inventory, I feel like they were doing me a favor…

    I have a less-favored but just fine LBS (local chain) which I tend to hit if I need something within ten minutes of my house or on a day my favorite is closed.

    The bummer is that neither place stocks all that much, so I can get basic supplies or parts, and my last jersey was favored-shops shop kit, but for something like a helmet I more or less have to hit the local snooty shop. Worse, it’s stuff where I’d most like my favorite shop’s opinions.

    That said, the proliferation *is* crazy. You’d need a warehouse to stock a moderately complete cross section.

  8. Jan

    I buy basic supplies (tires, tubes, lube) at a local bike shop, also when they’re repairing something, I buy the supplies from them.

    Shorts, etc, I buy on line, because being a woman in a smaller community means that there’s nothing available.

    I bought my bike locally, a couple years ago, but they had to special order it (in a rather common size) because they don’t tend to carry many sizes that work for women. That said, at least that bike shop had several road bikes I could try. One of the other bike shops in town didn’t have any road bikes for women (I’m 5’5″, so it’s not like I’m looking for unusual sizes); the third bike shop in town had one I could try. Those two shops either basically laughed in my face (the first) or suggested I try a hybrid (the second).

    I’m really tired of women being treated like we don’t exist.

  9. Harold

    Combo of both. I bought my first bike online because I didn’t know no better but my next bike will be from my LBS. I also buy stock replacement parts there. Like someone above said, you don’t buy the bike you buy the shop and my LBS (I. Martin) is great…although I have on occasion wondered why wouldn’t a shop go ahead stock all types of Sidi heel pads? LOOK cleats?

  10. James Fitzgerald

    I ride with a large club north of Boston, and I have found that I am the exception. I have nearly no need of an LBS. I used to manage a bike shop, was a rep for Specialized and I’ve been racing since 1976, so I have quite a bit of technical knowledge, tools and the will to use them. On the opposite end, some of the guys I ride with take their bikes to the LBS to change chainrings, and couldn’t imagine buying a frameset from one source, components from another, and assembling it in their basement. However, recently my brother bought a frameset online and cross threaded the frame while installing the bottom bracket. I took one look at it and knew it needed the proper tools to re-tap/clean out the threads. I don’t have one of these rather expensive tools, but I knew that a good local LBS would, so I headed down there with the frame, stopping to pick up a thank you 6 pack of Sam Adams. So here I am, an unknown in this shop, walking in with what is obviously an on-line product, messed up by some less than competent person.
    They fixed it while I waited and sent me on the way. That’s why everyone still needs an LBS, because they’re pros, and most of us are not.

  11. Rick

    From 1999 through 2011 i worked for an etailer out of Little Rock AR. i can assure you that for the 1st half of my tenure we paid retail rent.

    1. Author

      @ Rick – It’s true that that particular company paid a retail rent, but not in all the markets it sold (sells) into.

  12. Doug

    I like to joke that those of us in the LBS religion must tithe 10% of our income to be members in good standing. I tallied up my LBS receipts once in the late 70’s, and I had indeed spent over 10% of my income there. Yes, that was before online sales, and the Supergo catalog back then was no match for the lure of our LBS; the Bicycle Business in Sacramento. I consider myself lucky to still be a customer, watching the owners come and go before the current owner came on board. I have watched young racers grow up in this nurturing environment, becoming part of the loose family that is cycling in my town. Our local shops sponsor racing, touring, and form a focal point for cycling in the community. When I consider the benefits my LBS brings to my life, I realize the percentages of discount don’t count for so much.

  13. Scott

    I have not run into a local store that did me much good. Long waits to get any repair done, which expecting knowledgable expert repair in exchange for my money I didn’t get, crappy selection-hope you like black Pearl Izumi! If I ever run into a great shop though, I would have no problem spending more than the internets best price for stuff, but, it’s turning into a trek and specialized world so…..

  14. Alan

    Scott, I am so sorry.

    Here in Colorado we have a lot of great shops. My team shop is Peloton-Specialized (sorry again Scott), and their turn around time is usually 24 hours. They do have to order some things as they don’t have everything all the time. But they can get it in often faster than an etailer.

    And I can’t imagine buying a bike online. I thought I wanted a large Rockhopper, but after getting a test fit, turned out that a medium 29er was a better fit! And a little lighter + more agile! I would have never have known…

  15. Rod

    Mostly through my LBS, and a few sprinkles of online shopping.

    I have an awesome relationship with my LBS. I actually worked there as a mechanic and could have ended up managing it if the fat lady had sung in an untimely manner for my previous employer. I am fairly competent, but don’t own some specialized tools (no taps, no headset presses, etc).

    I consider myself responsible for pushing their limits. I set them up as a Quarq dealer since I wanted one of their power meters. The owner has his own brand of bikes that are manufactured in Asia. So we get a lot of latitude with custom and semi-custom stuff. So I convinced him to commission some Ti frames (previously only Al and CF). It took a long time, but how often do you get the chance to design some aspects of your bieke (head tube length, angles, etc.). These Ti bikes now are fairly popular locally. Now I’m pushing them towards road-tubeless and CX road disc.

    It’s not perfect since all the little errors get magnified due to the small size orders and lack of a cash reserve. For example, we still are waiting for our 2013 team kit, and my latest Ti CX frame came with the cable stops under the top tube (as opposed to over). And some things take forever to arrive (still waiting for a disc fork, for example). Occasionally I trawl online, on ebay and so, for interesting bits and pieces.

    But in general it’s a great relationship – they allow my 2 year old daughter to go there, mess up their shoes and spin the cranks on the bikes. They are more friends than suppliers, we chat, bring beers, volunteer to setup race courses together, etc. It’s a good community.

  16. vNate

    I tend to buy tubes and minor accessories from my local shop. However, I buy mostly used parts on ebay or from friends that are upgrading. I have been riding for 10 years, but have made an entry level aluminum frame work for me that entire time. Adding on nice parts as the deals come along. Overall, I probably have less than $2,500 into my 10 year old bike.

    As for buying new, full retail… it is a non-starter for me. Just don’t have the cash. If I could, I would probably buy everything from the local shop.

  17. Matthew

    LIke any store, my LBS still needs to be good enough to earn my business. Sure, I’ll give them a chance, but poor service and limited selection drives me online and to do my own builds and maintenance. The couple of shops that I really like and trust are far enough away that I only get there once every few months. The shops local to me have, at worst, mangled parts on my bike and, at best, sent me away with tuneups that I had to redo when I got home anyway. Not to mention all the days I’ve gone from shop to shop looking for something simple like a headset or vest only to return home and order online. That said, I still wish for a great LBS that I can count on and will keep giving the new ones a try. Hopefully one of them will come through.

  18. Scott

    Alan, glad to hear you have a great shop and a good community around it. I’m always on the look out though. Hope I didn’t give the impression I’m down on LBS’s, I just haven’t found the one yet. Happy riding !

  19. Mark

    I try to support the local shops, but they make it hard. They never have the component I need, which I can get faster & cheaper on-line. When I place a special order with them, they drop the ball & don’t follow through. How am I supposed to take that?

    I enjoy understanding my bikes & do most of my own maintenance. I keep a stash of spares on hand, ’cause the local shops won’t have them on the shelf. Good luck finding a local shop that can ream a headtube or fit a new crown race. I’ll shop locally for the simple things, lube, chain cleaner, some tubes, socks on sale. And I’ll buy a new bike from whichever local shop has what I want in stock at a fair price.

    I don’t envy the LBS. It’s a tough business. They have to focus on their most lucrative market, which I guess I’m not a part of.

    I do find that through the internet I am supporting other bike shops (brick & mortar stores), they just don’t happen to be my local bike shop.

  20. bigwagon

    I’m lucky to have several good local shops here in Milwaukee with competitive pricing. I would never buy a bike online, but I do buy my road tires online from the UK because they are less than half US retail; that’s about the only situation where I just can’t bring myself to eat the price difference. Tubes and most clothing and small accessories I buy at the LBS. Team pricing helps a lot too, but it also means the shop is not making much profit off me.

  21. JPrumm

    I live in a small rural area in NE Oregon. We have one LBS but at one point we had three. The one that’s still in business is a great shop. The owner is an amazing mechanic and gives great customer service. I am always amazed when I need something even an odd part he has it. The few times he doesn’t he has it the next day or two. Since he and I are best friends I get to hear all the stories of people who use the shop to figure out the type of bike they need and then buying online. I buy at my LBS even before my buddy owned the shop because I believe in supporting local business. It’s a tough living owning a LBS and the bike industry should do more o support them. There are a few company’s I will not support because they put all the burden on the LBS. On the other side there are a few that are great (Easton) that help he LBS.

  22. Ron

    I live in London and there are some good independent LBS that I use for small purchases when I am out and about but major things are always on-line as I cant afford the higher LBS prices in general. I agree that LBS’s need support from local riders but often the larger chain Bike Stores will try and rip you off with parts you don’t need, the classic being a new cassette when the old one is fine. I suspect that this is pressure from management and sales targets.
    I agree about supporting LBS’s – in the UK independent record store have their own ‘record store day’ where bands give them special releases and posters etc so they can compete against on-line record stores. Why not have an ‘LBS day’ supported by maufacturers with discounted prices and test rides etc? this would serve to promote a great resource.

  23. Tom

    When I lived in a large city and had multiple choices I had no allegiance/loyalty and did everything based on price. When I moved to a one shop town I hated the shop. They took forever to fix things, they didn’t have the selection and it became far easier to buy online and muddle my way through repairs. But I changed. I realized the shop was not just a place to buy things, but a linchpin of the cycling community in my town. The owner knows every cyclist in the area by name, donates to races, helps with the local high school MTB team and lets folks use the shop as a staging location for rides. So I try to support them any way I can. I use the web for stuff I can’t get locally, but use the LBS as much as I can.

  24. christopheru

    I shop at one of two LBS near me. One gets priority over the other (mainly due to a relationship which stretches back years and the bicycle brands they carry). In the case of both stores, they are operated by nice people and give good service.

    The store I frequent the most has good prices and good deals which match what the online people can offer or near enough. I know I am getting a good price. In return, I steer business their way. I have long been a supporter of local business and would do this even without the nice price I find I often get. I make a point of never asking for a nice price. It is offered.

    It pains me to have to go the online route. Tubes, tires, full bicycles, parts etc I buy from the LBS. I only go online when the LBS cannot get what I need/want. For example, due to my delicate knees, I have a thing for Time Atac mtn bike pedals and use them on all of my bikes – ‘cross, mtn, single speed. I like the float they offer. However, Time changed distributors in Canada, and it is hard to get the pedals. The LBS told me to go online. They cannot get them anymore. I am likely going to follow their advice, but part of me is seriously debating crank brothers pedals since the LBS can get them…

    So, the point of the ramble is this: LBS for me.

  25. tinytim

    I buy everything online. Having years of cycling experience allows me to know exactlywhich part and tool i need for a given job. Being an impatient person, unwilling to wait days or week for a repair to get completed by an adolescent, i do all my own repairs, which means my bike is fixed to my specs quickly ans affordably. Being a cheap basrard, most of my grouppo type parts come from ebay, wear goods like tires and chains are purchased through UK etailers ( i can get a pair of gator skins and a 10speed chain for $70). Just yesterday i purchased a one quart! bottle of dumonde tech for $40, my lbs wants $17 for a six oz bottle. Now I’ve got enough lube for the ever impending viral/zombie apocalypse.

  26. Aar

    My LBS gets first crack a all of my cycling spend. I only buy online the bike goodies that my LBS can’t get or can’t get in time. The mechanic at my LBS is a true professional in every sense of the word but one of the curmudgeons who earn the widespread reputation. Years of generous tipping have cemented the superlative service I get from him without fail.

    I lament that the internet has eroded the mid and upper market from our LBSes. The result is a downward spiral in which they stock primarily entry level product and force otherwise loyal customers to the web.

  27. Les.B.

    “Everybody knows that bike shop employees are surly and rude because they’re young, iconoclastic or underpaid, sometimes all three.”

    This was a joke, right? Or it’s maybe a regional thing.

    I fight 25 miles through LA freeways to get to my “Local” shop, Bike Effect in SaMo. I’m paying for expertise, advice and for the trust. As I was purchasing an Assos jersey recently, I was notified that it was 40% off the tag. Sometimes one gets good discount at the LBS!

    Also a fun place to visit. It’s a small high-end shop, no economy beach cruisers, all nice roadie stuff. High-end gear with experienced wrenches to match, no adolescents. Always nice bike porn on the 2 racks; always cyclists passing through.

    For carbon frame repair I went to Predator Cycling, also in SaMo. Pick up my bike next week.

  28. debbie

    Even with the racer discount at the shop that sponsers my racing team, I can’t afford to shop there for most things beyond cables, tubes and tape. I’d love to “support my LBS,” but I have to support me first; if I had dependents, it would be downright irresponsible for me to shop at the LBS.

  29. David

    I bought my bike at my LBS, which provided me with not only expert advice but several hours of fitting (at no extra cost). I do often buy things like spare parts, tires etc on line when they are particularly cheap, but I am willing to fork over the extra cash to the bike shop when I am buying a big ticket item that I get good advice or service for.

    I recently developed some knee pain and thought I might need shims in my shoes. After watching me pedal on the trainer in the shop, the owner inspected my Keo pedals and diagnosed excess wear of the platform and saw that my feet were rocking side to side with each pedal stroke. I ordered a new pair of pedals from him (I sprung for the Ti axles, and they weren’t in stock) and he loaned me a pair until mine came in so I wouldn’t hurt my knees any further- no on line store could do that! I paid quite a bit more for the pedals than I would have from pbk or ribble, but the service was certainly worth it to me (and his diagnosis was spot on- no more knee pain).

  30. Steve

    I can’t really believe we’re having this discussion.
    I have three “LBS’s”, one is twenty miles east, one is fifteen miles west and one (my fave) is 95 miles from home. All of them use the products they sell and as such will tell if it’s “good or crap”…. Does your on-line retailer do this? Do they know your strengths? Do they know your riding style? Do they drop what they are doing when you walk in to diagnose your latest creak or squeak?
    I may not be able to buy anything I want but I find that they will order it, it will arrive in a couple of days and I can return it if it doesn’t fit or work for me. Again, does on-line do this?
    Then there is the separate matter of cycling community.
    Enough said.

  31. Quentin

    I have bought a few bikes from local shops, a and few used bikes. I’ve never bought a complete bike online, but have been buying parts online since the mail order days. I have never felt any particular sense of obligation to support the local shop, and I don’t feel like I’m really their demographic: I know how to work on my bike, I like doing it, and some of my bikes are unusual enough that the LBS couldn’t be expected to stock parts for them anyway. On the other hand, I am still supporting them: we recently upgraded my wife’s road bike through the a local shop.

  32. Johan

    I shop at a range of LBSes, and online. My rule is no ‘show rooming.’

    I live in Malaysia. Some of my preferred cycling bits and bobs are either not available at LBSes (e.g. Rapha kit), or are only carried in limited quantities by one LBS (e.g. Lizard Skins bar tape).

    For locally available items, lower on-line prices are offset somewhat by shipping costs.

    I did most of my own bike servicing while I lived in Europe. But the relatively cheap labour costs here make taking my bikes to an LBS for a full service the obvious thing to do (USD25 / GBP16 or so for labour).

    So on-line for hard to find stuff. An LBS for everything else. The extra cost of parts is more than offset by the additional knowledge and personal service. Plus there is great value in being able to look a seller in the eye as you hand over cash.

  33. Drago

    LBSs seem to be a lifestyle. I already have a life. I just want a 24″ MtB tire for my kid that isn’t plastic. I don’t really like IPA, even though i do own a single speed . I’ll wrench my own stuff, I also park my own car and tune my own skis.
    So, I guess I just gave up. Walking in with my pockets burning too many times with no relief . I tried. And tried.

  34. Mark

    It seems like I’ve always been lucky in regards to the LBS. Plenty to choose from when I lived in Davis, CA and plenty to choose from now in north-coastal San Diego County. My experiences shopping at LBSs have been overwhelmingly positive. I like to talk with experts about the pros & cons of the particular bike issue of the day. I like that LBSs stand behind what they sell and I like to shop in the local community so that people here can make their livings. And as has been stated in this thread, many LBSs often provide a wealth support for local events.

    As for shopping online…I guess it depends on what it is I’m looking for and if the stores around here carry it. I know local stores can order stuff for me, and I have gone that route and I will again. But I have to admit that I also enjoy going online and shopping for myself. For example, I’ve found great deals on refurbished items like a camera, a GPS watch, and a trailer hitch for my car. I’ve also bought new items online, including a bike rack (that fits into that trailer hitch), misc. bike parts, and misc. bike tools. To be sure, online selections and ratings are not the same as seeing and evaluating items in person. But never the less, shopping online has and will continue to be a fun and satisfying consumer experience for me.

    I think the big question or worry is in the face of competition from online outlets, will the LBS go the way of so many independent book stores? I don’t know the answer to that, but I hope not. And about the ethics of going to a LBS to see what they have and to have them help you decide what you should get, and then leaving their store and buying the same thing online just to save a few bucks seems kind of lame to me. But again, I’ve been pretty lucky with regards to really great LBSs.

  35. Garuda

    The 3 LBS gets a visit or phone call if I want new bike porn, but as everyone else attested to… It is near impossible to keep in stock the various crap we want. Case in point, of my 3 locals, only one had keo pedals, and only the keo plus, which is 2 steps up from what I want. Before that, i wanted a 12-30 cassette and my lbs swears they do not exist in ultegra form. Thankfully, i am still too inept at rear derailleur adjustment to do it myself all the time, and tools remain too expensive for me to buy for a one time use. On the other hand, when i broke my right shifter the lbs had sram replace it on warranty even if they i didnt buy the bike from them. My wallet was so happy i felt i needed to unload the equivalent amount i would have paid for a right shifter towards a something else like a gore fully sealed cables.

  36. Peter Leach

    one of first visits to a bike shop was to get ‘new for me’ bike serviced – and that shop stayed my lbs until it closed earlier this year. But, I’m a hybrid shopper. Consumables [lube, tubes, servicing …] from the lbs and major purchases [group set / tyres …] online.
    sadly, the prices available to lbs owners in Australia are often higher than online pricing.
    Overall, I’d most like an lbs that acted as my consumables and pick up point for major purchases made online.
    Open a new shop, Paulie – you’re missed very much

  37. Brian

    I always buy at my LBS. I like the guys & they take care of me if I have an emergency. It ends up being cheaper in the long run. I also love the group rides & camaraderie that you can build in there.

  38. Andy

    Local business pay me, therefore I buy from locals whenever I can. I’ll easily pay 10% more to buy local, sometimes more if good advice comes with it. In our small community there are at least four different ways I’m connected with the people at my LBS, so not to go there would be to abandon some friends and some really good people. That said, I buy used bikes on line and in person, and the LBS guys check them out and do all my important service, build wheels and supply me with whatever I ask. True, it sometimes comes with a bit of a wait, but it also comes with a “why do you need that?” which precedes a discussion of alternatives where I always learn something.

    I’m sorry for the folks who lack the support & community that some of us have in our local shops. I hope you can find one that suits you as well as mine does me.

  39. Souleur

    Well, the query this week is a novel one

    To say your in the ‘no’ LBS crowd is like admitting you like eating kittens for breakfast. When your in that crowd, its usually accompanied by a gasp from the crowd, or eyes that roll at you and walk away like your carrying Herpes. Then there’s silence. That being said, I am a no LBS guy.

    And there is good reason for it

    With the availability of the internet, the proponderance of a needed indication as to ‘why’ my LBS comes down squarely on the LBS to perform and pass a litmus test. For those that do have a LBS that does this, I am really jealous, just that here in the ozarks where I live, there isn’t much and they have just not passed the test.

    Perhaps I am jaundiced. My first experience was like a bad sophmore prom date gone bad, as in big failure at the end of the date bad, like, why even try again bad. I was advised to buy a Peugeot that was hanging on the wall, it was the wrong size, the components were trash and for a poor freshman in college, it was terrible advise, and ThanK Merckx, I gave the bike another chance.

    My second experience was completely the opposite. I was greeted and befriended by a master mechanic who was great, and a good relationship ensued for a decade, until the realities of his family, and the realities that the LBS was not a profession with retirement/benefits and all forced him to be logical and start working for the corporates with benefits. And there is no blame in that from me.

    By this time, i had at least cut my teeth in cycling, a decade and a half later, racing some and building my own bikes with help, building wheels with little help. Given now, that the LBS nearest is 60 miles and farther, when I go, its no accident. But, now to go, and be greeted by the iconistic college student as Robot describes, who assumes you know nothing and berates you each time you open the door, becomes insulting. I know, the first time is game, but perpetually every visit to not be recognized and disregarded compels me to ask…what other business can exist by doing such poor performing business? When I can call online and have always been treated like a PRO. They have resources, they talk in real terms, they don’t push the only thing they know, they tend to be open ended. I have been transferred with questions to the ‘ones in the know’. Its nice, and they are timely. The product is usually at my door in the same time, and quality wise, I can always find the same or superior quality.

    Subsequently, I have done a ton of e-trade. I have bought bikes, frames, grouppos, wheels. I love it. Its a big world out there and I feel the LBS’s would do best to understand that. Instead, the do hold the internet in disdain, as a threat.

    The reality is, the internet commerce is ONLY a threat for the sub-standard LBS. For the occasional visit I make, they are consumately PRO, and they are not a bit afraid of going out of business. I have struck a balance with my LBS experience. If I am just shopping, I tell them, I snob them back right up front pick up my cap, my tubes,, my lube, tires or whatever I need no help with. I get it, and go. If I need something, and have need of advise, and indeed don’t have a clue, that is when I go in, take the lashing and listen to the non-racers advice to the racer. Hell, I am taking up framebuilding here now, give me a break. The visit, when needed its like pentance, I need the forgiveness, I seek the pentance, and I pay the price for not knowing. That is when I hope the advice I get is worthy, but no doubt have had alot of bad advice just the same, or indifferent advice. That is the price of doing business, and I now accept that.

    However, becoming informed, drawing from forums, the others out there in the blogosphere who do the same, and incorporating that into a working solution, is what I now do.

    And that is something I love about being a cyclist, being resourceful, not dependent.

  40. PK

    We all buy online. The difference is that QBP, JB Imports, BTI, etc. get their stuff from the actual factory, not back-alley counterfeiters. A guy brought in a week old Schwalbe Marathon he got online, the problem is that he could not get it on his 700C rim. Hmmm. A friend had a stem snap in half like a Twix in his driveway. The sticker on it looked fishy, at best.

  41. PK

    Actually, the online guys have it figured out. They sell you a wheelset then order it from their distributor and ship it. Brilliant. They do not have to clean, offer you a public toilet, vacuum, heat or cool you or stand there tslking with you about upcoming rides, events, recalls, or local gossip. They also won’t introduce you to other cyclists or listen, in detail about your last epic adventure. Sign me up.

  42. Tony

    Seriously, if you’re a grown person who allows a youngster to get the best of you with a simple application of attitude, you need to looks into your own self.

    And if you’re in a store and you sees improper customerial servicing, then it behooves yoself to impart knowledges to the proprietor bouts his help. Lestwise, you ain’t making things better in the all round.

    It also wouldn’t be the first time a gave a seminar on salesmanship to the underlings of a retail outlet. In a kind way of course.

    Just helping my fellow man.

  43. Mark

    I recently had a bike break in the middle of a race, and the LBS bent over backwards to help me get it warrantied by a major manufacturer. They earned serious points, and I will buy my next bike from them. I still do shop online when it is convenient, for small parts, clothing, etc. that the LBS doesn’t carry.

  44. jorgensen

    Being a former bike shop employee from decades ago I do my own work and have gathered the tools I need, a substantial investment but I enjoy it. For others I often demur offering to do work, I am just too busy. I have found a local shop that does decent work, the price was fair and those who I advised were happy. One of the reasons I liked the place was that the service stands were visible to the customer, many shops that have bikes disappear into a back room for work are just a wee bit suspect to me. I purchase much of the consumables face to face. Tires 50/50, I guess I am a bottom feeder for myself and have not bought an absolutely new bike in decades for myself, plenty secondhand. For my oldest child it was a hassle just to find a shop who was willing to order a junior 24″ wheeled road bike, he is now ready for a 650c, I am not looking forward to it. I did look here an there, and no, a small 700c wheeled machine is not going to work for him, thank you very much. I understand the desire to sell from stock, but sometimes it is just not going to work.

    By the way, the shop with the service I like does not carry a brand that makes a 650c road bike, otherwise I would have gone there, I tried.

  45. Will

    I try my best to support LBS but it seems to be accrss the board that LBS employees/owners are just condescending. Add on prices that are up to 20% greater than MSRP and I find myself feeling robbed every time I leave one. I have recently forun one thats decent but one thing is for sure onlie shoppingcarts and reviews donttreat me like an idiot.

  46. Robo

    Some great responses here. But I like Randall’s thoughts on where the retailers should direct their ire. I don’t know where my threshold is, but there is a point when I can’t justify paying full retail when I can save so much online. But for tubes and lubes, I’m definitely loyal to my LBS. If I went back and added up all of the money I’ve spent on lights, locks, tubes, lubes, tools, bar tape, etc., I’m sure my wife would definitely divorce me. And I have to believe the margins on those items are much higher than on bikes and wheels.

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