This is Episode 3 in an ongoing series known as the MTB Tip of the Week.
Episode 2: 1X Drivetrain Bail Out
Episode 1: Cold Fingers Remedy
EPISODE 3: The LBS…
The humble LBS.
Its also known as the Local Bike Shop.
Yes, my tip of the week is to visit your LBS. You may be asking, “Why is this a tip of the week?”.
Well, let me explain by first putting forth a few scenarios that I have witnessed, regarding riders and their LBS.
You may already visit your LBS weekly.
You may visit a variety of Local Bike Shops in your area and “not play favorites”.
You may be like many riders I know and shop wherever you get the best deal (including shipping of course) on the item you are looking for at the moment.
You may have a LBS that has great service, but only stock products that are not at all what you use. So you only visit when you need help getting it back into optimal riding condition.
You may have a LBS that has great inventory of products at great prices, but you would never let them touch your bike because of the horror stories you have heard of about their service department. So you only visit when you have a part that you want to replace or upgrade.
You may never visit the LBS in your area because shopping online is so convenient and you watch videos on how to fix your bike when you need service.
If you haven’t been to your area’s LBS, you are totally missing out.
Here is a quick minute and a half video of the LBS in my area of San Diego:
The humble LBS is a beacon in the fog of local retail shops for those of us who ride the local trails. They provide the products and services that only riders like us are interested in. Many shops have put in serious time, investment, and analysis of what products and setups work best and are most highly desired for the local trails, paths, roads, and climate in your area.
The owners, managers, and employees are well aware of the online shopping alternatives we all have access to and are usually willing to cut you a deal, price match, or do whatever it takes to ensure that you feel like you get a better deal from them. Just ask.
The LBS has riders that work there and know the local places to ride better than many. These employees are often the riders that you have said hello to on the trail. Have them put on a helmet if you have a hard time recognizing them. 🙂 Also, asking what bike they ride makes the connection between who they are and where you might have seen them on the trail. Strike up a conversation with any of them about any cycling discussion to find out what they are about. You will often find another rider that you may end up riding with every week for years. I can tell you from personal experience that I wish I would have talked to shop employees much sooner in my life.
If your area’s LBS doesn’t carry the products you want or need, let them know what those products are. They often will offer to special order them for you (a good majority of the products in a bicycle shop are ordered through the same distributors that all the other shops have access to). They will sell them to you at normal MSRP because they will not normally be aware of what other shops are selling those products for or they are not placing a large quantity order of that item. Have a genuine, honest, and open conversation with them about your wants and needs. They will probably work with you or even suggest another vendor that has those items.
There are many shops that have decided to focus primarily on a particular niche in one area or another within the bicycling world. For instance, there are shops in San Diego that focus primarily on triathlon cycling gear. This should not deter you from entering into the type of conversation I mentioned above about your cycling wants and needs, even if you are strictly a downhill racer. Chances are that they would love to know what other cyclists in the area are into or if they are potentially missing a part of the market that needs a good LBS that caters to their side of the sport. They very well may direct you to another shop, even one that you potentially didn’t know about.
Though you may be finding killer closeout deals online for some piece of gear that you could really use, seeing the items in person, especially those that need to fit well, is invaluable. Trust me. Anyone who has ordered shoes online, only to find that they didn’t fit right can attest to this. Its not only the fit however. By seeing, touching, and experiencing, in person, those items you will potentially buy, is more valuable than you may initially think. Sometimes you have to try the item out on the trail to find out however, which is why we try to provide our honest, and straightforward reviews here at Ride Alongside. There are some items that just plain fail, or need to be refined further, or are spectacular. Not only is it good to vote with your dollar as a consumer of those goods, but it is important to provide feedback to a Local Bike Shop to enable them to do so on a larger, wholesale bulk buy. This has a lot more power than you may realize. Sure, online reviews are good to some extent, but when you have a relationship with the manager at your LBS and they hear how great or awful a new product is that they are deciding to stock, they listen. It really can make the cycling industry better as a whole when you have a great relationship with your Local Bike Shop.
Those are the reasons why this is the Tip of the Week.
Thanks for reading all the way through this article, I really do appreciate it and could literally go on for quite a while longer about the value I have seen so far by developing a relationship with my LBS, but I will be learning more as time goes on and those relationships deepen, so a reminder and follow up article may be in our future, stay tuned.