Supporting your LBS (and why I don’t)

Many people feel strongly that you should support a local bike shop (LBS).  And I don’t.  Typically the arguments of why you should support a LBS falls into 2 categories: 1) They provide a service no one else in town offers (that’s working on your bicycle) and 2) you’re keeping money in your local economy.  Below is my response to these arguments:

Your LBS provides a service you can’t get anywhere else
Here are some examples of the “service” I have gotten at my local bike shops lately:

  • I’ve been looking for a tandem for about 1.5 yrs.  Unfortunately for me, SLC is not a very big tandem town.  Only one bicycle shop (actually they have a bunch of shops) deals tandems.  I walked in to get some basic information and I even hoped they would let us ride one for an hour or two.  Of course, they wouldn’t let us take an “extended” test ride or rent a tandem (which I was well prepared to pay for).  They acted bothered to bring a bike up from another shop that would actually fit us so we can ride it around the parking lot.  I asked for some catalogs and what not to compare models, sizes and prices – they didn’t have any.  The answer I got was, “Most people end up just buying a custom anyway.”  I’m sure they would have liked the $7250 I just dropped on a tandem, but instead their “service” was less than helpful, so I phoned a company that could actually help me.
  • ME: Do you have any vulcanizing fluid? SHOP KID: No.  [I look around for a few minutes and find the box of vulcanizing fluid]
  • The latest is when I walked in and asked if they had any campy brake cables.  They responded, “Road or mountain bike?”
  • I used to ride an old road bike my father bought me when I was barely a teenager.  I was riding the original wheels and naturally, I broke a spoke.  I took the wheel into the shop to have the spoke replaced.  The bill I got was $50.  We all know a shop pays less than $1 for a spoke and nipple (b/c that is what they commonly charge me!).  So I had $49 in labor?!  And the wheel, almost 14 years old at the time, wasn’t even worth $50 (which I explained to them before I handed the wheel over).  When I protested that it was too much (and they told me it would be about $25 before they started), they went on about how they had to remove the rear cassette, true the rest of the wheel etc.  That is no more than 30 mins, and I know because I can do it myself.  They were unrelenting, and I never returned.

I find most shops to be arrogant – if you aren’t riding the latest carbon bike and kitted out, they look down their nose at you.  Or I guess they expect you to buy a new tube every time you get a flat….

I should also point out that I can, and do, perform all maintenance on my bikes.  It’s not rocket science and all it takes is a bit of time to study up on the subjects.  If for nothing else, you can have an intelligent conversation with your bike shop.

Supporting your local economy
When it comes to spending my money, I get the best bang for the buck.  What I mean is, when I stop realizing value to me, I stop spending money.  So, I’m not “cheap,” but rather I ensure the things I purchase serve their purpose for the amount of cash I plop down.  When it comes to buying bike components, and even bikes, I find the better deal to be online.  And even so, I buy most my components from across the pond.  Most are procured from Ribble Cycles or Wiggle.

Before you start hucking produce in my direction, perhaps you should evaluate how many bikes you own that were built in the US.  Not the Trek or Specialized “built” in the US, but actually made and constructed in the in the US.  I own 2 which were handbuilt by American artisans.

Finally, I find those who criticize one for buying a bike or bike components online, happily use the interwebz for many of their other purchases.  And they do this knowing there are many other business which are local that they could support.  When discussing face to face, I usually start out by saying, “Have you ever bought anything over the internet?”   I suppose, one day, I may meet a person who hasn’t…

At the end of the day supporting your LBS is a preference.  Some will find value in paying for a service.  Some feel there is value in spending the money directly in their local economy.  Others, like myself, value the work they put into their bikes and doing it themselves.  And most importantly, being a bit slower on the bike because all the cash they saved is weighing them down!


13 responses to “Supporting your LBS (and why I don’t)

  1. Couldn’t agree MORE buddy! I do go about twice a year to a local shop. Spend between 30 and 50 bucks for the year there. Fortunately, they happen to be very nice and accommodating to even the ‘cheap’ guys like me! 🙂 One of the reasons I do not buy the bulk of my parts and accessories is my budget plain and simple. I have a p/t job, that does not pay well. I haven’t been gainfully employed since 2001. Layoffs, closings, etc. So, I have to make the dollars stretch. I buy most everything from Amazon or ebay or sometimes nashbar. I don’t feel bad about it at all. But, as you say, those who criticize are mostly hypocrites. Buying online merchandise from other retailers not related to bicycles. Oh well. c’est la vie!

  2. Yes. It’s only important to support your local economy when it comes to bicycles. Oh, and China’s economy as well!

  3. Pingback: The Local Bike Shop… a respectful rebuttal (or at least, a variant viewpoint) | Now is the winter of our discontent·

  4. Pingback: Shimergo – 1000′s of miles later. | life on 2 wheels·

  5. Believe it or not, I am in complete agreeance with you on this topic. It IS a preference. I buy a lot (but not everything) from my local shop (including two mountain bikes and two road bikes – one was used)… I get stellar service on ALL seven of my bikes (one purchased from a friend and one from Craigslist) including cold setting my aluminum Cannondale so that I’ll be able to upgrade to a 10 sp. drivetrain when I want, and aligning the frame/rear wheel because I “slightly” ran it over after I’d had it for a whole week… For $35 – and I had to convince him to charge me ten more than he was going to! Seriously. I was back in the shop watching/learning/helping him work and the OWNER had more than an hour on that little project. If I’d taken my bike in for a spoke, my wallet would never leave my pocket – guaranteed. In fact, when I bought new wheels from Nashbar for my Venge, he had his guys make sure the wheels met his specs (true’d them perfect – a little finer than what I’d done) and switched out the cassette for me, then indexed the derailleur… $15. Going by what you’re describing, you’d have been hammered for a couple hundred bucks for what I paid fifty for. I don’t blame you a bit. If I got service like what you do, I’d be asking you where you got your campy shifters from and doing all of that stuff myself too!

    BTW, yes, I am very aware that you don’t cold-set an aluminum frame – but we did and it turned out just fine though I was well aware of the possibility of a catastrophe. The owner of the local shop is an old-time frame builder who apprenticed in your neck of the woods.

  6. I think I’ve found a decent bike shop near me….and if I ever need anything in a pinch he’s my guy to go to. I’ve also found more jerks near my new house and I hate them even more.

  7. Pingback: Finally, a bike shop I can tolerate | life on 2 wheels·

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