This might sound strange coming from the CEO of an online business, but you just can’t beat a bricks-and-mortar store, especially when it comes to the biking world.
The internet is of irrefutable value and convenience when it comes to researching anything and everything bike, but that local store down the road is where you will find your purchase returning its value time and time again.
As #supportyourlocalbikeshop day gathers momentum, here's why we love our local.
1/ They know more than you
I love that viral video, sh$t cyclists say. We might think we know it all, but our bike shop knows that little bit more. They’re not reading articles online, they’re going to product launches, closed trade events, getting the data direct, accessing the products early to try for themselves, pulling things apart and putting them back together. These people know their stuff and they know how to share it with you, whether you’re speaking their bike geek or you’re coming in green as the fields in winter.
2/ They’re powered by passion
Online video content goes a good way in stirring our emotions, but in-store is where bike passion is its most palpable. Whether it’s a store that displays its products like cutting-edge concepts at a designer launch, or that gritty and grease-monkey kind of feel that oozes no-bullshite, just bikes; passion is in many cases what got us hooked into this sport, and enveloping ourselves in that passion is good for our cycling soul.
3/ Please DO touch
You can look online til your eyes water, but it’s in your local store where you can pick up that product, feel it, probably even take it out the back or down the road for a test. Whether you’re after a trusty commuter to kick around and get you from A to B, or you want your machine to be an extension of you, bike shops are where you can physically connect with the product and start to get a sense for what all that online chatter is about.
See here: Find your local bike shop
4/ Bespoke is the new boutique
You are not a receipt number when you purchase in a store. You are a real-life person who has specific biking needs, and a body size and shape like nobody else’s. Bike stores are able to curate and even build entirely around your body and your needs. As more of us take up biking, a need to differentiate ourselves or indeed simply ensure we have something bang-on perfect for us has emerged. Bespoke building bikes is becoming big business, and for good reason.
5/ Getting the fit for you
This leads nicely into bike fitting, a service growing exponentially in bike stores. An experienced bike shop is going to intrinsically know what is a good fit for you, but state-of-the-art bike fitting services galvanise this natural instinct with objective, scientific precision. Whether you’re new to biking and want a fit that will help your body adapt ASAP, or you’re a time trialling warrior who loves flogging yourself on weekly endurance grinds, a bike fit (impossible online) is going to ensure that bike is tuned to perfection for you and the type of riding you do. This not only minimises the chance of injury but as everyone who’s cycled for long enough knows, when a bike fits you like a glove it takes cycling next-level.
6/ The community care factor
I’m not questioning the strength and positives of an online community culture, and I have a foot in each camp here, but nothing beats real-life community. Whether it’s pulling up after a grueling session to enjoy a coffee and a brag with your store manager about that Strava split, heading out on a store bunch ride (particularly brilliant for novices who want to learn about cycling etiquette, safety and just meeting people with mutual interests), or just shooting the breeze with the mechanic as they do their grease monkey business, bike shops imbibe a beautiful community feel.
And they reciprocate. Anyone who’s been in cycling for a while understands that a bike shop can play a crucial role when it comes to rallying support for a member of the community; charity rides in honour of so-and-so, in-store donations for cause ABC, providing product X for free so the school down the corner has a top raffle prize and reminding us all of what can be achieved when we rally together for those in need. I know a store that closes his shop to trade at the end of the day, and then opens it straight back up again for local charity/community groups who need somewhere free and comfortable for their meetings.
All you need to do is hang around a local bike shop during the Tour de France - chances they’ve organised a launch party with beer and pizza is likely high on the cards!
There’s also that club-like camaraderie that many a local bike shop has now developed and nurtured. Bike shop clubs are a great way to feel connected, get exclusive deals, keep you motivated and genuinely feel part of the bunch.
7/ Self improvement
Bike shops are a wealth of self improvement and learning when it comes to cycling. We’ve already touched on the knowledge they can impart organically, that’s just skimming the surface. Bunch rides specifically for novices so as to impart etiquette, skill, and confidence are unquestionably valuable. Many stores now offer bike maintenance classes or women specific classes (did someone say prosecco and puncture repair? I’m in!). Others go down the path of night-time in-store spin classes, or they team up with other local businesses like yoga classes and they run special stretch sessions. Bike stores want you to get better, they want you to love everything about cycling.
8/ No judgement here
A recent movement, #buyonlinefitlocal is starting to gather momentum. It’s borne from savvy bike shop owners who realise the internet is not going away and rather than try and beat it, they’re taking advantage of it. This campaign is designed to break down barriers an online purchaser might feel about taking their purchase into a bike store. Bike shop owners WILL service bikes not bought in their store, and they won’t look down on you when they do. They WILL fit a part you’ve purchased elsewhere because they want you to be safe (they’re not following a How To video on Youtube, they can do this blindfolded) and they’re smart enough to know if they do a good enough job and treat you well, you’re likely to return to them. An extreme example of this is my brother-in-law. His passion for cycling has now reached lofty heights and he likes to build his bikes from scratch. He does however, always then take them to his bike store where the local mechanic gives them the once-over and ensures he’s done everything correctly. He then takes the bike to his store for regular professional servicing and invariably buys parts and spares every time. His store knows they have a loyal customer, and he knows he can come in without judgement.
9/ That bike ain't going to look after itself
Speaking of which, I am a big believer that you have an obligation to look after your bike when it comes to the basics. Punctures, greasing the chain, regular washing, etc - all these jobs you should do in part out of respect for your bike but also to ensure it’s running well for you. Over and above the basics however, a bike store is crucial for that annual big service. Just as we take our teeth off to the dentist every so often to avoid mega problems and bills down the line, so should we check our bike in with an expert. This really only has to be once a year in most cases (obviously if you race you’ll likely do this more regularly) and it provides the big once-over to iron out any budding problems you’ve not yet identified, ensure the bike is safe and hopefully get a free thorough wash at the same time!
Image courtesy of EXACT Cycle
10/ Warranty and service
Forget about this online. Buying a bike from a box is a risk in many ways, not least of all warranty should something unforeseen arise. All good bike stores will offer compelling warranties but also, they’ll usually throw in heavily discounted (or free) servicing for X period as part of the deal. Add to this the goody freebies that are usually thrown in as you head out the store with your shiny new beast and you know, you just can’t beat local.