Last week, a very special lady told me her LBS (Local Bike Shop) just closed. It’s a sad reality and even more so for someone like me who is a shop owner. Maybe your thinking this article will be bias written by a shop owner and this is a platform for me to vent about my daily struggles as a small business. I look at it as an opportunity to have a voice to a very influential group of Cyclists in hopes of helping the public understand just how important your LBS is to you, the community, and our parks.
By definition the LBS is a small bicycle shop rather than a large chain or online vendor. One could go on for pages about why you should shop local as these points apply to just about every small business in America but I’ll stick to the subject at hand, bikes.
Here is a very common scenario. A customer comes in to purchase a new saddle. This person has tried three demo saddles all of which were taken off and put on by their LBS and fitted to their specific needs with care and attention from the mechanics. After weeks go by they decide on their perfect saddle. Awesome. Here’s the catch, the saddle is available for less money online. Which begs the question, does the online retailer offer demos? Can you drive over to Amazon.com to adjust the fit? Will their website take the time to explain the different models for you? Why one model may be better for you and your riding style than another?
Another scenario, a customer comes in with a seat dropper that is broken and typically carries a 2-5 year warranty. However the customer is not the original owner as the seat post was purchased second hand. Unfortunately, the customer is told there is no warranty if they aren’t the original owner but the repair would be about $80 dollars. The customer is then frustrated to spend more money to service the seat post when an original purchase from the LBS would have maintain the warranty and they would merely incur a shipping cost to have the post replaced or repaired.
Possibly the most frustrating scenario is the price matcher. The person who will without hesitation look up a product online or on eBay while standing in the LBS. Some “price matchers” will go so far as to ask for a consult with the mechanic so they can be sure that they order the proper discounted product online. Spoiler alert, the discount you are seeing is afforded by online retailers because they don’t have employees answering your questions. Maybe On-Line retailers host group rides in your city but I have never seen one in Southern California. Maybe we will be able to have an Amazon drone fix our chain at a local race or change a flat at a trail head. I’m sure that day is coming but for now the LBS is hosting rides or setting up a tent at a local race, providing shelter, a place for you to sit, drinks and nutrition.
Your LBS provides a key link in the consumer process that has been designed by bicycle and components manufacturers over the last several decades. We are willing to invest time to understand you goals and help you reach them through proper equipment choice and maintenance. The simple convenience of air in your tires or a quick derailleur adjustment is the reason we can’t let the LBS be replaced by online resources. By supporting the LBS with your purchases you can rest assured that your cycling community will stay strong and you will always have a place to sit and chat about your next new bike, an upgrade or just to complain about that last flat tire.
So next time your clicking away at your computer or shopping at a big box store, think about who your supporting and think about who is supporting you and what you love to do. This nice lady has to find a new LBS. I hope she finds a shop that can weather the storm and be there for her with as much passion as she has for us!
Please support women's mountain biking and especially support your Local Bike Shop! THEY SUPPORT US!
Written by guest blogger AJ Sura from G2 bikes: www.g2bike.com