Many people turn to online retailers for convenience and savings when shopping for a new bike. Window shopping for bikes from the comfort of your home is a great way to learn about what’s out there and helps you narrow your options quickly. However, when making the final decision and purchase, it's essential to consider the value of buying from a local bike shop (LBS). Not only do you receive personalized service and expert advice, but they also offer a range of services and community connections, making them an excellent choice for cyclists of all levels.
Buying a bike from a local bike shop isn’t just a simple transaction—it’s a chance to build genuine connections with people who share your passion. LBS staff are passionate about cycling and take pride in sharing their knowledge and expertise with customers. The human connections you make with the folks at your LBS also mean that you’ll always have a reliable resource to turn to when you need help or advice. Whether you need a quick repair or want to discover new trails, you can count on the staff at your LBS to help you out. These connections can lead to meaningful friendships and a sense of belonging that you can’t find at a big-box store or online retailer.
There's no substitute for expert advice when buying a bike. LBSs are staffed by experienced cyclists who bring a wealth of knowledge based on personal experiences; they know firsthand which products will hold up and which to stay away from. Connecting in person means you're more likely to get a recommendation that suits you, one that considers factors such as your riding experience and style, fitness level, and overall riding needs. Whether you're an experienced rider or just starting, whether you're looking for a road bike, mountain bike, or something in between, LBSs offer a personalized experience where you can ask questions and receive recommendations tailored to your needs, something that can't be found with online or big-box retailers.
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of purchasing a bike from a local bike shop is personalized service. LBSs offer a range of services, including bike assembly and fittings, tune-ups, and repairs, ensuring that your bike is adjusted correctly and handed to you in safe riding condition. And this kind of personalized service doesn't end after the purchase; continued support is always available through tune-ups, maintenance advice, and product recommendations.
An LBS is an excellent option for maintenance and repairs for those who either lack the time or skill to go the DIY route. Many shops offer special deals on services and parts, and the experienced staff can help you find and install the right parts to keep your bike running smoothly. They can also help you diagnose and fix any issues that arise, ensuring that you're back on the road as soon as possible.
Test riding a bike before making a purchase is crucial, as it allows you to experience how the bike feels and determine if it's the right fit for you. While online purchasing may be convenient, it means missing out on the necessary test-riding experience. A local shop offers the opportunity to test ride bikes and receive expert feedback, a critical part of the shopping process that should never be overlooked. Despite sizing tables provided by brands, various factors, including height, weight, flexibility, leg and arm length, riding style, and personal preference, can affect how a bike fits, making a test ride necessary. In recent years, bikes' geometries in nearly all categories have changed significantly while the sizing stayed the same on paper. So if you’re upgrading from a 10-year-old medium-sized bike, do not assume that the latest model in the same size will offer an optimal fit. Some LBSs host demo days in partnership with brands, providing an excellent opportunity to test ride bikes that are otherwise hard to access.
Don't just test ride a bike—test everything. LBSs provide an opportunity to try on apparel, shoes, helmets, and gloves. Holding the item in your hand lets you feel a material's texture and ascertain quality and construction. Inspecting products in person enables you to determine which suits your needs and avoid returning a purchased product. Even small things like grips, saddles, hydration packs, and tools are worth checking out in person.
Professional assembly and fittings
Bikes purchased from online retailers generally arrive partially assembled, with you having to finish the job. You don’t have to be a mechanic to complete the assembly, but you may find that the bike’s performance is subpar. Without the required background knowledge, you may not know that the cause of said subpar performance is due to the cables being too long, the derailleur not shifting crisply enough, or an imbalance of the brake lever back pressure between the front and rear. A professional mechanic at your local dealer ensures that all components are installed correctly and makes necessary adjustments to ensure that you’re leaving with a bike that’s safe to ride.
Even if you manage to assemble the bike, you’re still left with an essential task that’s challenging to do yourself—getting it fitted. Professional fittings are highly individualized and are based on your body measurements, riding style, and preferences to provide you with a bike that fits your body perfectly. Without a proper fitting, you risk ending up with a bike that doesn't fit you well, leading to an uncomfortable riding experience and potential injuries.
Bikes are very modular but are also highly personal. Local bike shops are fully equipped to help make your bike fit your unique style and needs. From handlebar and saddle swaps to achieve the utmost comfort, to braking system and drivetrain upgrades, the possibilities of what you can have customized are endless. Plus, you'll have the advantage of expert guidance and advice from staff members who can help you choose the best products for your specific preferences and riding goals.
If you buy online, you'll likely have to handle the customization work yourself or pay someone else to do it later. You may also miss out on discovering new and innovative products that you wouldn't have known about otherwise. With the personalized service and product knowledge offered by LBSs, you can enhance your riding experience and make your bike truly your own.
A good bike shop often has a selection of high-end and specialized bikes and accessories not commonly found in big-box stores or online retailers. By shopping at a LBS, you can access unique and high-quality products designed to perform well and last. In addition, many bike shops cater to niche riding styles, such as mountain biking, road cycling, or commuting, and offer products tailored to these activities. Some bike brands are only available through authorized dealers, so by shopping at a local bike shop, you may have access to brands that aren't available elsewhere.
Warranty and service
Nearly all bike shops are also warranty repair centers for the brands that they carry, so buying a bike locally also gives the peace of mind that if something goes wrong, a qualified mechanic is nearby to get you back in the saddle quickly. Even if you’re buying a used bike from a shop, you should expect limited warranty coverage.
If you’re not mechanically inclined, some shops offer tune-up and maintenance plans that cover services like adjusting brakes, derailleurs and suspension, and checking the bike's overall condition. If you plan on keeping your new bike for a long time, extended warranty might be something to consider as well. Opting for bike insurance may also be a good idea.
When you purchase a bike online, you may be left to deal with any issues that arise on your own. You might have to spend extra money to have it serviced or repaired, and you might not be able to find replacement parts if something goes wrong. By buying from a LBS, you can be confident that you'll have access to the support and resources you need to keep your bike running smoothly for years to come.
Trade-in and exchange options
Another benefit of buying from a local seller is the opportunity to trade in your old bike. Many shops offer trade-in programs, which can be compared to trading in a car for a new one. This way, you can get compensated for your old bike while reducing the cost of the new one. Plus, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that your old bike will be refurbished and resold to someone who can make good use of it.
Most shops will give you a window to return or exchange the bike if it isn’t a good fit for you. This is a significant value, especially if you’re shopping for your first bike and aren’t quite sure what you need.
LBSs often take an active role in supporting and nurturing the cycling community in their area. By organizing group rides, events, and clinics, they provide opportunities for cyclists to connect, learn from each other, and share their passion for cycling. Additionally, LBSs often have a deep understanding of the local cycling scene, including popular routes and trails, events, and group rides. They may also support local advocacy groups that work to improve cycling infrastructure and promote safer cycling practices. Supporting a local bike shop not only helps build and strengthen the local cycling community but also helps ensure that your support is going towards a business that is invested in the well-being of the community as a whole. LBSs support your local scene; it only makes sense that you support theirs.
Supporting local economy
Buying from a LBS also helps create local jobs and contributes to the community's growth. Local businesses customarily source their products and services locally, which has a positive ripple effect on the local economy. Additionally, small businesses are often more invested in the community, sponsoring local events and supporting other small businesses. When you buy from a LBS, you're not just purchasing a bike—you're investing in your community's future.
Buying your next bike from a local bike shop offers numerous, often overlooked benefits. Beyond having trained professionals who can help you find the perfect bike, you’re also supporting your local community, getting access to high-quality products, and enjoying personalized services that ensure your bike performs at its best. LBSs also offer customization options, extended warranties and service plans, trade-in options, and are deeply involved in the local cycling community. While online retailers may boast a lower price, purchasing from an LBS is a great way to ensure that your investment stays in your community and supports small businesses. So the next time you’re in the market for a new bike, consider visiting your local bike shop and see what they offer.