Editor’s Note: Rovo Johnson has been cycling for 20 years, and he’s started a website designed to help people who want to save money when buying a bike online: RovoBikeReviews.com. That said, he still recommends buying from a local shop, and thinks there are some really good reasons to do so. The opinions expressed in this commentary are Rovo Johnson’s alone and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Singletracks.com
Within the last decade, online shopping was a new realm that was only trusted for certain purchases that were nearly impossible to find locally. “The times they are a changin’,” as the song goes, because in this day and age not only are people comfortable shopping online, we do it to the point that many local stores are going out of business, unable to keep up with the race to the bottom that is online pricing.
We’re all guilty of it. Why not order from Amazon, after all? You get to enjoy low prices while lounging on your couch at home. No fighting crowds, dealing with annoying sales people, and you get to peruse 100-too-many reviews on a $5 order of socks.
I’m here to tell you that while online shopping may be a great option in some cases, as a member of the mountain biking community at large, you should consider patronizing your local bike shop (LBS)!
Without further adieu, here are the top five reasons to shop at your LBS:
5. Support Local Businesses
Times have been tough for much of the middle class, and this is especially true for small business owners. Your purchase means very little to the bottom line of a company like Amazon, but can sometimes be the difference between being able to pay the bills or not at the end of the month for struggling local shops.
On top of this, you support the economy of your local area, which indirectly benefits you, when you buy local. Other than the wholesale cost of the product, most of the purchase price will end up going into the business owner’s pockets, the pockets of his employees, and then local service companies when the shop pays for advertising, electricity, and other things of this nature. Supporting just one local shop is a contribution towards a flourishing local economy.
The problem is that while that business may be struggling to make ends meet, so are many consumers, perhaps yourself included. Saving a hundred bucks or more on a purchase is a no-brainer in this situation, which is what drives many people online.
If you find yourself in this situation, consider asking if the shop could offer you a discount. These are business people, after all. If they see you wanting to make a big purchase but leaving to go order off Amazon, they will likely have some wiggle room.
While local shops likely can’t fully compete, there are additional benefits to buying locally that helps bring the value in favor of your LBS, such as…
4. Maintenance, Service, and Last-Minute Purchases
While it would be great if a bike was a one-time investment, this simply is not the case. To help a bike last as long as possible, you’ll need to take care of it. There will also be the unfortunate times when things break. Sometimes a little DIY flair and elbow grease can work in these situations, but in others you’ll need someone with the proper knowledge and tools.
The only place to turn in this situation is your LBS.
What if you have a big race, and the day before you bend a rim or find out you’ve lost a glove? Again, you’ll be turning to your local bike shop.
This is inevitable. When this happens, two things can happen. The first is that you walk in with a bike they’ve never seen, not knowing anyone that works at the shop, and needing service regardless of the price. They will charge you accordingly.
The other situation is that you walk in with a bike you bought from them, able to greet them by name, and talk about what happened. While there is no guarantee, you will almost certainly get better pricing and more thorough service. As human beings, we help those who help us. Your LBS is no different.
Keep this in mind as you make a big purchase. You could end up saving a lot of money in the long run, clearly tilting the value in favor of buying your mountain biking gear locally.
The owners and employees at most LBSs are completely immersed in mountain biking. They wake up and work on bicycles every single day of their lives. Along with this comes a knowledge base that is invaluable when making a huge purchase that you will be living with for years.
The bottom line is that the purchases you may make at an LBS are important, and sometimes the price tag can be quite significant. It is worth working with someone you can put a face to and trust to help you make sure you make the best decision possible.
2. Try Before You Buy
This is another invaluable part of buying local. When it comes down to it, every single person is different and has different preferences. This means that my absolute favorite riding shorts may be the bane of your existence.
Thousands of reviews make us feel safe making purchases, giving us confirmation that we are making the right decision. But consider the fact that even the highest-rated bike gets a couple one or two star reviews. Someone out there hates it for some reason.
Also, there are thousands and thousands of products that all end up with similar reviews. What do you do in this situation?
The answer is that you should be trying these things out ahead of time! One person may love a certain pair of gloves so much that they will insist they are the only pair any sane person would ever consider buying. You may find they rub between your fingers, causing worry about blisters. One person may find the newest mountain bike rides as smooth as silk, while you find it uncomfortable and too heavy.
Don’t let this be you! Head to your LBS and try these things out. Find out if you like something or not before you buy! Avoid having to deal with products you don’t like, returns, and other cumbersome aspects of online buying.
1. Get Involved
I wasn’t sure whether or not to include this point because it’s an intangible benefit, but one that is so important that I decided to give it the top spot.
One of the best parts about mountain biking is the community. Whether you love the companionship, thrive on competition, or enjoying shooting the breeze about your latest gear pickups, joining ranks with other local mountain bikers has benefits for everyone.
While you may be able to find some groups on places like Meetup.com, there is no better resource for finding local mountain bikers, groups, and events than a trip to your local bike shop.
You will likely find a whole world of mountain biking adventures that you had no idea were taking place every day in your community.
Maybe you even have some ideas of your own? Go talk about them with your shop’s owner. Events and groups help bring them more exposure, so many times they are more than happy to help you organize a mountain biking event.
Hopefully this was a compelling case to support your LBS, but the fact of the matter is many people will still be making a least part of their purchases online. This is completely understandable. If you are already certain about what bike you want, are a review-junky, or want to make sure you save every last penny you can, buying online may be the right decision for you.
Other people may be in the unfortunate situation of not having a very good local bike shop, or even not having one at all. The only choice in this situation is to buy online. There are many good online shops to choose between, and if you find a good one they will likely offer information and assistance in your purchase just like a local shop would.
If you find yourself in any of these situations, don’t feel bad about the occasional online purchase! Do what you can to support a good local shop when you can, but don’t worry about it when you can’t!
Your Turn: What’s your opinion about shopping local VS buying online?