I’m a big proponent for shopping at your local bike store. Being in the cycling tour business, I occasionally get asked about where can one get the best deal on a new bike. Often people are interested in the best online deals. They would like to know the cheapest place to order from. While I’m not against online stores, I tend to favor and recommend that people shop at their local bike store. Yes it’s true that your local shop might not have the seemingly infinite selection of bikes and parts that one can find online, but it’s not just about the hardware. By shopping at your local store you’re developing a relationship that is worth far more than the little bit of money that you’ll save down the road on parts.
But this brings me to the real topic of this post: what do you do when you do all your own work and repairs on your bike? Do you still go to the local bike shop or do you buy what you need in bulk, online? I was struck with this question the other day as I went into my local shop to buy some cables, housing, brake pads, bar tape, chain, cassette, etc. I was doing a fairly good overhaul on my bike and needed quite a few parts. There I was at the sales counter, going down my list of items and for many of the parts, the mechanic & salesperson was going into the back room to get what I wanted. Everything I needed was in stock, but I was struck by the fact that I was purchasing many things from BEHIND the counter, in other words, the things that many customers don’t need right in front of them in display cases or racks (i.e. tubes, tires, pumps, clothes, bottles, etc.). I knew that I could save money by purchasing these things online, probably at least 10-20%, especially on the more “bulk” items like housing and cables, but even still I preferred to buy them in a local shop. I figure that despite my doing my own bike repairs, at some point I’m going to need a good mechanic and their expertise. Some repairs I’ve never done myself due to lack of owning the correct tools (e.g. a headset press) or others because I just simply don’t practice enough to do it well. (e.g. building wheels). These are invaluable reasons to have a good rapport with your local shop. Even when you like to tinker on your own bike, you’ll need to turn to an experience mechanic pretty regularly.
If you’ve previously established a good rapport with your shop (i.e. you do business with them regularly for parts, tools, accessories and other items), you’ve already started to build the groundwork for a good relationship. But please… please do NOT go online, buy all your parts from the cheapest vendor and then go ask your local bike shop to put it all together for you. Sure, you’d be paying the shop for the labor cost, but being in the bike shop business can be competitive and hard work. If you need their help to work on your bike, the least you can do is give them business for the parts as well.