I love popping into my local bike shop and chatting with the guys there, and their service is top notch. It’s fun to throw a leg over the newest models from Giant, Moots or Niner, but when it comes time to buy something I almost always go online. I know my size in bikes and clothing, and I plan ahead when buying replacement parts. The only things I buy locally are items where the price is the same or less due to shipping, and consumables like chain oil and tubes.
Here are five reasons why I shop online.
Brake pads for my Formula Oro K24 brakes:
LBS in Moab: $34.00
I work hard for my money, and with a wife, two kids, a house payment, etc, I just can’t throw away $30 no matter how much I like to support the local economy. Economies of scale allow the online vendors to offer prices at a substantial savings compared to the LBS, and shipping charges are usually offset by the lack of sales tax. For items that can be easily self-installed, like tires or grips, there is no reason not to hit up the interwebs for them. In my opinion, the LBS is there for when you need something in a hurry, like before a race or ride, and for things that need to be tried on for size like clothing and bikes. (The first time. Once you know your size…)
As much as I like my LBS, they frequently don’t stock whatever part or widget I have decided I just have to have. Stocking inventory isn’t cheap, and most small local shops will carry merch from the vendor who gives them the best financing terms. Ever notice how the best bike EVER is whatever brand that shop happens to carry? The major online retailers also have staff on hand via chat or phone to discuss the technical ramifications of your purchase. At JensonUSA the staff are also cyclists. They are knowledgeable and very good at helping you get the right component for your particular setup.
This isn’t really an advantage to online shopping, but the following example demonstrates that it doesn’t have to be a disadvantage either. Several years ago one of my local bike shops implemented a new policy where they posted an a la carte list of service charges for installing any component on your bike, regardless of where you bought it. I commented to the manager about it and he said that the cost of stocking inventory was so high, and the margin so low, that in order to survive they decided to ramp up their service department. He explained that one employee would have to sell a ton of stuff to generate as much revenue as that same employee wrenching all day. He further explained that he kind of encouraged shopping online because if you later had a warranty issue with your online part, they could then charge you again to take it off and get it ready for you to send back to the online retailer for replacement, and again once the replacement comes back. (They usually split one charge over the last two events in that scenario).
Bottom line, the LBS just made double labor servicing a part they didn’t have to borrow money to inventory. For example, I bought my RaceFace crankset from PricePoint for $75 less than the LBS listed it for. I paid them $22 to install it, so I was still $50 to the good. Even if it had broken while still under warranty and I had to pay them again, it would still be about $25 in my favor.
Try shopping at your LBS at 2:00am … in your underwear. ‘Nuff said.
5. Support the Mountain Biking Scene
While it’s true that most bike shops support the local scene, national retailers also support mountain biking in the same way, but on a national scale. Here are some examples:
JensonUSA supports the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Loma Linda University, Movember, IMBA, Bikes Belong, Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day, World Bicycle Relief, and donates to cyclists in the US Military. You can even link to them from your personal or club website and they will pay you a commission for sales from your link!
Best of Both Worlds: Chain Retailers
Performance Bike has a decent online selection where something is always on sale, and they also have over 100 local bike shops around the country. You can order from the site, have it shipped to a local store, have them install it, and you can do exchanges and returns right at the store. It really is the best of both worlds.
REI also has a decent collection of cycling gear, and their closeouts can be very well discounted. They let you ship to your nearest store for $1 and most stores have a small bike shop for installation and service.
In summary, online bike shopping is not for everyone. If you like to touch and feel your merch before laying down your cash, then the LBS is the venue you for you. If you are mechanically inclined and live for internet research, cruising forums, and hunting down a killer deal on that component with a 5 star user rating, then the internet is your bike shop.