This is a great topic. Of the four bikes I’ve owned or own presently, I used some combination of either a local bike shop, online or the hybrid model. My first bike was a Trek hardtail that I picked up from the local Trek store when I was living in PA. It was enough to wet the appetite and appease the budget at the time. As I improved in bike skills and grew my industry knowledge, I wanted something more boutique and built for my needs. I ended up working with another local bike shop (JB Mountain Bikes in PA) to help me get something more for my riding style and personality (2010 Pivot Mach5). I got the bulk of my bike from his shop (some other aspects online, but he built the bike for me). After grinding on that bike for 6 years, I decided it was time for another build and I did a full “internet bike” build (as my buddy Cody at the former Singletrack Factory South dubbed it). I built the bike myself after collecting all the pieces online. I did leverage SFS for some help with the headset install and the stubborn dropper post. Great shop I was happy to give some money too until they closed. My most recent purchase has been through an online/brick & mortar shop (if you’re in the SLC area) – Competitive Cyclist. I picked up an Ibis Ripley 29 and worked pretty much directly with one of their gear experts (Luke Dordai – highly recommend him, great guy and really helpful). He helped me swap a few components to dial this in for what I was looking for. I was going to drive up from Scottsdale for the Handmade bike show and pick the bike up in person, but he offered to ship it free.
The downside of the online experience is what I’m currently dealing with. No fault of Luke’s or Competitive Cyclist, but UPS further proved their incompetence by messing up the shipping. It shipped last week from Utah, scheduled to be on my doorstep within 2-3 days. I tracked it to Phoenix, and from there it somehow ended up in Shreveport, Louisiana! It’s presently in-route back from Mesquite, Texas and I think I’ve stalked UPS customer service daily looking for a logical reason as to why it needed the extra road trip.
Yes, some drawbacks to the online experience. There’s a couple decent shops in Phoenix/Scottsdale that have a decent vibe but also quite a few that aren’t very social or too quick to sell you something you don’t need. Perhaps that’s why I’ve gravitated to online more.