When you bike starts having trouble, you will wish you had a good relationship with a reliable bike shop. When you get over the winter seasons and are ready to start riding again, you will benefit from having a good relationship with a local bike shop. And when you have questions about bikes or are ready to upgrade bike parts, you will likely make better decisions if you have a good relationship with your local bike shop.
All of this is based on my experience of course. Whenever I move to a new city, one of the first things I do is start looking for a local bike shop that “feels right.” This means:
- Laid back atmosphere
- Friendly employees
- Employees who know their bikes
- Each employee does “everything” – fixes bikes, rings you up, sells items on the floor (in other words, I don’t like a backroom with repairmen who you never talk to)
I’ve had good experience at local chain ships, such as TREK shops which are usually locally owned, as well as truly local shops that are not chains.
Advantages of Using Local Bike Shop Over REI
Many people don’t use their local bike shop because of REI. After all, REI has bike equipment. REI has bikes. REI will check your bike, tune your bike, and fix your bike. REI has other fun stuff that you can shop for too.
For all that, I strongly feel that using REI as your primary bike shop is a mistake for several reasons:
- Local stores have every incentive to provide quality customer service, REI doesn’t
- Local stores are more likely (in my experience) to not charge you for minor repairs
- Local stores’ bike guys have parts that they may be willing to sell you on the side
- Local stores are more likely to remember you
- Prices are comparable between REI and local
- Local repairmen are going to know as much about bikes as anywhere
Why People Don’t Connect With Local Bike Shop
Amazon. Ebay. Plain and simple, the number one reason people don’t connect with local bike shops (or any local shop for that matter) is because they buy things online. Do you buy your bike equipment online?
The answer is probably yes.
To connect with your local bike shop, you need to actually stop in. Bringing your bike in for a repair or tune-up once or twice a year does not count. Unless you have sort of exceptional interaction, the people at the shop won’t recognize you.
The other reason people don’t connect with their local shops is because of REI. REI offers bike services and bike equipment, and they are a well-known chain that some people abide by religiously. As discussed earlier though, there are advantages to using a locally owned bike shop.
Tips for Connecting With Local Bike Shops
Connecting with local shops is easy.
- Set aside a couple hundred dollars over the spring/summer and pop in with some regularity to buy small things you might need for riding – the point is to be a “regular”
- Be friendly (of course!) and ask questions (learn about your bike!)
- See if the local shop has any events, like weekly ride-alongs, a bike club, etc.
That’s it. If you are diligent about establishing a good relationship with a local shop, you will time and time again thank yourself for it.