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.

1. Price

Brake pads for my Formula Oro K24 brakes:

LBS in Moab: $34.00
Pricepoint.com: $0.99

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…)

2. Selection

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.

3. Service

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.

4. Convenience

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:

Pricepoint.com supports CORBA and IMBA, as well as a number of individual riders and causes.

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 yourpersonalor club website and they will pay you a commission for sales from your link!

Colorado Cyclist supports The League of American Bicyclists and the International Bicycle Fund, as well as various local races here in Colorado.

Huck n Roll and JensonUSA both supportSingletracks.com. 😀

Best of Both Worlds: Chain Retailers

Performance Bike has a decent online selection where something isalwayson sale, and they also have over 100 local bike shops around the country. You can order from the site, have it shipped to alocalstore, 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 decentcollectionof 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 forinstallation 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.

# Comments

  • trek7k

    Wow, brake pads for less than a buck – were those things stolen or what? 🙂

    For me the biggest advantage online retailers have over the local bike shop is selection. Sure, the LBS can order pretty much any part you need but you gotta wait for it to come in – there goes that convenience advantage. Not that I blame the LBS – it costs money to stock stuff and they can’t afford to take a risk on specialty items.

    Early in the season I went to Performance because I really needed to pick up a tubeless 29er tire (didn’t matter which one) for a wheel set I was reviewing. I told the guy at the store what I was looking for and he helped me search the rack; come to find out they didn’t have a single 29er tire in stock (tubeless or otherwise)! And they sell 29er bikes!

    A few weeks later mudhunny was looking for a set of lock-on grips – again, not particular about which ones she got. At Performance they had a selection of ONE and she ended up paying way too much for them (don’t remember the brand but they were like $30+).

    I think your LBS is smart to ramp up service for online buyers. The margins on service are probably better and it’s one area where the online retailers can’t compete.

  • dgaddis

    I usually use online retailers to do research (compare weights, relative costs, etc), then order thru the LBS. They can usually get the part to me at least as quickly as if I bought it online, if not faster. Unless the online retailer has a big sale going (which I’m imagining is the case on those $0.99 brake pads?) the cost usually comes out pretty close. But, as an IMBA NMBPer I have access to pro-deals on certain brands, ordering directly from the manufacturer, and I take advantage of those when I can. I bought a suspension fork for 50% off MSRP.

  • maddslacker

    The brake pads are Alligator Ceramic Sintered and they stock them in models for several different brakes, with different prices for each. The Hayes and Magura ones are $1.98.

    The selection has dwindled over time (they used to have Shimano and Avid ones too) so I suspect these are a closeout or overstock.

    I bought 10 pairs so I’m good for a while. 😀

    @trek7k, REI usually has a decent stock of tires on hand, usually at good prices. Plus it goes toward your dividend if you’re a member.

  • mtbgreg1

    REI is can be sweet and sometimes they have good deals especially on REI brand clothing, but I find that other things are outrageously expensive. $9 for a tube, are you kidding me? My LBS charges $6 for a 26er and $7 for a 29er…. or I could go to JensonUSA and get one for $3, or even $2.50 if I buy a set of 10. Guess where I buy the majority of my tubes?

    But there are those days when you rode through a patch of thorns, flatted both of your tubes, and just have to buy one…

  • fat_billy

    I do like Performance due to their prices. My LBS matches the Performance price 99% of the time. If I need a tube or something simple I will go to Performance because they’re closer. My LBS has more parts and I don’t have to wait. Both have a place but I try to use my LBS as much as possible. Later,

  • mtbgreg1

    @GoldenGoose, true dat. I really want to make the conversion, but the tough part is deciding which bike….

  • dgaddis

    The Goblin has WTB LaserDisc rims right? Ghetto tubeless works great on mine….

  • wbernest

    You should always give the LBS a chance to meet the online prices. And I find that since I spend significant amounts of $$ at the LBS they generally put priority on my repairs, which are quite often fixed immediately while I stand there and shoot the breeze with them.

  • ericnico

    I think you’ve just talked me out of ever opening a bike shop 🙁

  • grandlakejames

    I agree with wbernest, you should always give your LBS a chance to match the price, most of the time they will. I like dropping by the local LBS to talk about the newest products, it’s better than sitting on a computer and once they get to know you, the service and sales get much better. My last bike was 50% off from the MSRP at the LBS where online it was 35% off and the LBS still made a profit!

  • abegold

    Sometimes the LBS is my online connection with PerformenceBike.com. I’ll order online and have it delivered to the shop, free shipping if you spend $50.
    Always soooo many more choices, styles online.

  • jeremiahbwhite

    Another big plus of the LBS is that after we get to know you as a regular, we fully support your habit and will hook you up. I’ve seen my boss throw new parts on demo bikes to get people to a race they are signed up for. I personally work with about one young kid every year to get him/her what they need in order to really ride. If the kid needs free brake pads because he’s riding the shit out of his bike, so be it.

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