A bike is a big purchase, and it's not an easy one. There are thousands of options out there, and few of them are cheap. And, in the end, only one is right for you. So it's not the kind of decision you want to entrust to a big-box department store, or spend too many hours searching for by yourself in the lonely expanse of the internet from the lonely confines of your desk.
Finding the right bike for you is a matter of knowing what your needs are, knowing what your budget is and getting the right fit. And to get all of those things and buy the bike of your dreams, it's best to visit a specialty store near you. Brock Webster, owner of Orange Peel Bicycle Service in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, said people come to his store out of trust. “We're a brick-and-mortar shop that's been serving our customers face-to-face since 1999.”
It's that kind of personal service that keeps the customers happy and coming back. Here are a few more good reasons you'll benefit from stopping by a local bike shop:
1. Unparalleled Customer Service
When it comes to buying a bike, one size definitely does not fit all. Experts at a specialty bike shop will work with your individual needs to ensure that your bike is the right size for you, and is properly adjusted. They even take the time to let you test ride the bike, making minute changes as necessary. "We offer one free tune-up, have an extensive service department and will help customers who bought online with mispurchased parts," Webster says.
2. One-Stop Shop
Specialty shops eat, sleep and breathe biking. They offer a large selection of quality cycling accessories, helmets and clothing.
Local stores are also the place to go for bike repairs, tune-ups and replacement parts. The staff is normally made up of cycling enthusiasts who are passionate about keeping you riding as safely and smoothly as possible.
3. Help the Local Economy
Buying at your local bike shop significantly boosts the local economy. The New Economics Foundation, a London-based economic think tank, found that twice the money stayed in the community when people bought locally (in the case of their study, at a farmers market) rather than from a national chain.
"That means those purchases are twice as efficient in terms of keeping the local economy alive," NEF researcher David Boyle told TIME Magazine.
4. Support Local Races and Causes
Local shops invest in their communities by organizing bike races, supporting local schools and participating in charity bike rides.
5. Access to Your Local Biking Community
You local shop has up-to-date information on the best and safest places to ride in your community, as well as bikes that will ride well there. "We offer better recommendations for bikes that work in local conditions," says Webster. It's a great place to meet beginners, riding buddies and like-minded cycling enthusiasts. Also, you can bet the staff is advocating for better bike paths and infrastructure in your area.
6. Bikes You Can’t Find Anywhere Else
Sure, major manufacturers may technically sell “bikes,” but they don’t carry THE perfect bike just for you. Local shops carry many models, colors and sizes that they will customize to fit your specific needs. Heck, they’ll even put your butt at ease with a customized seat.
When you buy a shiny new bike, it’s usually not street-ready. Rather, it arrives in a box in hundreds of pieces that require a skilled hand for assembly. At your local bike shop, an expert mechanic builds it for you, ensuring it's safe and ready to ride when you roll out of the shop. When you buy off the web, it's up to you to get all the right parts in their proper places. It's sort of like building a really annoying Ikea desk, only you have to trust this one to hold up while you bomb down a mountain or ride in traffic.
8. Full Warranty vs. Factory Warranty
Local shops offer a full warranty, ensuring that most problems will be taken care of in-house by riding experts and experienced mechanics. A department store bike will come with a factory warranty, which would require shipping the bike to the manufacturer for a costly repair. In many cases, you'd be better off returning the bike for a refund, if they’ll even take it back.