Seven reasons to support your local bike shop
There's a place in this world for both cut-price online retailers and invaluable local bike shops
For decades, local bike shops have been the lifeblood of cycling in the UK – you simply couldn’t get a new bike, jersey or crankset without visiting one, and local bike shops are often the centre of the cycling community.
However, our local bike shops are under threat from impossible-to-beat online prices, changing shopping habits and rising rents - but there are some very important reasons why we should support these businesses.
We're not knocking online retailers - there's something extremely satisfying about ordering something on the internet, normally at a great price, and it arriving the next day - but it's also important we support the local bike shops and ensure they're not forced into extinction. There's room in this world for both.
From the unique technical expertise that you’ll get from a local bike mechanic, to the value of feeling and touching a product before you buy – good local bike shops still have so much to offer. Here are seven reasons to support yours.
You’ll miss 'em when they’re gone
It might not seem like you need to support your local bike shop, because generally you’ll be able to get absolutely everything you need cheaper when you go online. Many of us only drop into a real-life bricks and mortar store when we’re caught short – perhaps when something breaks, your short of inner tubes or running low on energy gels.
But what happens when that bike shop you occasionally visit shuts down because web stores have run them out of business? No more emergency inner tubes, and lots more abandoned rides when those inevitable punctures or mechanicals crop up.
A website can’t thread brake cables through a frame
Unless you live next door to the Shimano factory in Japan or the cathedral della Campagnolo in Italy, your local bike shop will be the first port of call when you want someone who can properly re-true your wheels or accurately tune your gears - unless, of course, you've taught yourself already?
Bike shops mean mechanics, and that means people with bags of technical experience and the know how to fix your machine – so you don’t have to make a bodged job of it yourself.
One thing you’ll find in good local bike shops - good being the key word - is customer service. Alongside groups of cyclists in lycra gazing lustfully at expensive carbon frames, of course. It’s one of the few areas where small businesses can not only compete with, but consistently beat the bigger guys. From stores in small towns like High Peak Cycles in Glossop, to Cloud 9 Cycles in the pulsing metropolis of London – you’ll find a friendly smile and staff willing to offer trusted advice.
You might get a discount
If you have a good relationship with your local bike shop or you're a regular customer, you may find that they can cut you a deal on a particular bit of kit. It's not a given and should never be expected - margins are being driven ever lower - but local businesses value loyal customers. Many local bike shops will also price match, giving you the chance to pick something up at the same price you see it online, but with the friendly feel of a local shop.
Feel the steel (or carbon, or lycra)
Unless you go and try out a bit of kit – especially a new bike – you’ll have no idea whether it fit, or how it suits you and your riding style. Bike shops give you the chance to try before you buy in a way that online stores simply can’t.
And before you get any clever ideas, there is a special place in burning fires of cycling hell for people who go into a local shop, try out the merchandise and then go and buy the item for cheaper online. Don’t do it.
You'll be part of the cycling community
Local bike shops have long been at the heart of the cycling community and that continues to be the case. In fact, as competition from online retailers have grown ever fierce, local businesses have been forced to up their game and diversify in order to differentiate themselves from the competition and attract and retain customers, whether it's organising beginner rides, group rides, supporting a local race team, adding a cafe to the shop or introducing coaching and training services alongside the sale of bikes, bib shorts and bottles.
The feel good factor
It’s always nice getting a shiny new bit of bike kit, and there remains something extremely gratifying about walking into a shop, browsing and leaving with something in your hands - plus it feels even better if you’ve supported a small business in the process. Obviously, using new gear out on the road is going to make you feel great regardless of where it comes from – but that little bit of extra feel good glow when you know you’re helping part of the local cycling community counts for a lot.