There are definite pros and cons to both. This article will help you figure out which is best.
Your Community Bike Shop
The local bicycle shop is the hub of a cycling community. In any area, the lack of a bike shop will reduce local participation in cycling. The presence of a bike shop can create new bicycle riders and enthusiasts on a daily basis. A good shop organizes events, rides and shows up at local races.
If you have ever been off the bike for a bit, does it not excite you when you drive past a group of riders? Doesn’t that pace line make you want to break out the old road bike and start pedaling?
Most all shop employees ride. They know which products to recommend and which ones to avoid. That is one aspect that makes this industry unique. The employees often directly influence the items that the store sells. If your local bike shop or LBS has a great staff, you are fortunate.
You can see, touch and even try the products that interest you. Do you need a new set of shorts? Try on a pair for the size and buy whichever pair is most comfortable. If you get home, and you have found out they are not just right, bring them back to the shop. You do not hassle with shipping charges or anything. Best of all, any parts you buy can be installed right in the shop by a professional.
Online Bicycle Shops
Online stores do offer a huge selection of bikes at great prices. Very deep discounts are often closeouts from previous years’ models. Good online shops offer detailed descriptions of products as well as customer reviews. They also typically share warranty information with buyers.
If you’re set on buying your bike online and want to read reviews, we recommend checking out cycling blogs. Rovo’s website can help you buy a bike online. I met Rovo a few years back and he’s super passionate about seeing people finding the right bike at the right price.
Be careful with online auctions for bicycles or classified ads. There are also unauthorized retailers called “gray market retailers.” The products available from these places may not come with warranties, and they may not even be authorized to sell various brands. Even if they offer a warranty, it may not be honored by the manufacturer.
Often, returns are not accepted from these online places. Plus, many classifieds or auctions are for stolen goods. Be aware of the risks when buying from online sources.
Your local bike shop has more expenses to cover that many shoppers are not aware of. They have to pay rent, payroll, and utilities. Your local LBS understands your desire to save money buying products online, but as much as they want to cut costs for customers, they cannot do so.
It costs them more to operate a brick and mortar shop than it costs online retailers to operate web stores. They often feel offended if their local customers buy online because they also pride themselves on offering personalized service.
Online retailers can offer huge selections at low prices. Some can be trusted, and some cannot be trusted. Online retailers can offer higher end products at really low prices. This makes it harder for your local bike shop to stock high-end bike products. Why should they stock these expensive items if customers are going to search online for a lower price than they can afford to sell it for?
LBS’s understand this but need local customers to be loyal to them. These shops are around to make money, and they have to if they are going to stay in business.
LBS’s employ people who are passionate about the products they sell. If some employees are not as knowledgeable as others, it does not take them long to learn more about bikes. They have passion and sensitivity that just cannot always be found online.
Local bike shops need their customers’ loyalty. They can feel hurt if their customers migrate to online sources for bikes and parts. It is hard to see a customer come in and brag about a part they got online for virtually nothing.
It is your money. You can spend it as you like. However, how you spend it can determine how long your local bike shop is around to serve you.