Your LBS is important
Too often, I think people discount the importance of their Local Bike Shop (LBS). They shop the LBS for a bike, then buy it online because they can save a few bucks. But they fail to consider the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
I have an excellent relationship with my LBS and it has saved me hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. More importantly, it has saved me time, frustration, and effort.
When I ride into my LBS with any minor problem, it doesn't seem to matter how busy they are—they put my bike in the stand and take care of the problem while I wait. If I need a part that isn't in stock, they rifle through their scrap parts to find something slightly less broken or worn to loan me until the new part arrives. Failing that, they send me home on a demo bike. They never leave me stranded.
I do a lot of my own bicycle maintenance. When I have trouble diagnosing a problem or need some pointers on how to tackle some new task I'm not familiar with, they give me the straight scoop, free of charge.
When I have a friend or family member visiting and want to take them out for a two-wheeled adventure, the LBS sets them up with a top end demo bike.
They invite me on their group rides. They, many of them ex-pros or highly ranked amateurs, give me riding tips, share their favorite routes and trails, and offer encouragement and advice.
When I buy clothing and accessories, I get a discount.
When I have a warranty problem, they exchange the item across the counter and I don't have to hassle with shipping time or dealing with the manufacturer.
I'm sure not everyone who buys a bike at his LBS gets the same treatment I've just described. The level of service I've obtained is the result of a long relationship with the bike shop and the people that work there. I reciprocate as best I can.
I recommend my LBS to anyone who asks about bikes. I invite others to join their group rides. When I see another cyclist with a mechanical problem or changing a flat, I stop and assist. Often, that means using my own spare tube. When they offer me cash or ask how to get in touch with me later to replace the tube, I just tell them to stop by my LBS, purchase a tube and leave it in will-call for me.
I drop off a six-pack of beer once in awhile.
My LBS is so important to me that whenever I purchase a new bike, regardless of what the latest hot trend is, I buy what they carry. My LBS is a Specialized dealer. When I buy, I buy Specialized, or one of the other brands they carry. If my LBS was a Trek dealer, I'd buy Trek.
I've certainly heard the argument that the premium for buying at your LBS is worth it, for many of the reasons I've laid out, here. But in my experience, there is no premium. I'm getting a better deal, overall, than I would if I purchased online. In addition to the cash savings, I'm getting much more that simply isn't available any other way.
If you don't already have it, you need the same relationship with your LBS I have with mine.
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