With the rapid explosive growth of the Internet also comes an growth of a new source of parts for the cycling community; The online bike shop/warehouse. What once started out as mail order shops for bike parts has now turned into a bike porn online shop, where even though we cant see the physical product, we are presented with a huge range of cycling goods, and not only the cheap ones, from low end FSA (sorry couldn’t help it)Gosammers, to high end Campagnolo Super Record Cranks. At the same time, prices are much lower than our local bike shops which according to the law of demand, means that we as consumers switch to a cheaper alternative, provided we do not mind waiting. Does this mean the demise of our local bike shop ?
Gone are the days in the pre internet era, where we would depend on the advice of the Local Bike Shop. “This Dogma would make you fly faster” to “Zipp wheels ? Yeah they are good, they will blow your competition apart” or if they were unscrupulous “What you mean Aleoca, those are crap, try our brand new Madone instead” Many cycling websites are available to help consumers make a more informed choice about what they are buying. Moreover, for those who are skeptical, there are many user forum reviews website that helps consumers say their opinion on products that they like or hate. This way, we are able to filter out nonsensical information from websites and our bike shop, and also to have better knowledge on the technologies found on our bicycle. Does this seeming new trove of information and reviews made on the internet made our bike shop obsolete ?
Broken a spoke ? Bought a new chain and do not know how to fix it ? Do not know how to clean your bike ? Do not fear! For YouTube and park tool are here to teach you how to fix them! No more going down to that Bike shop with the grumpy uncle where he will charge you an arm and a leg and one years worth of tube supply to fix your mechanical problems! And you do not need to wait for the bike shop to open with their weird days off and operating hours for now you can do it by yourselves provided you have the proper tools! The best part is if should you screw up your repairs you can do it at a bike shop, learning from your mistakes!
This 3 lethal combination of low prices from online stores,seemingly perfect information and the big internet help book have made it more difficult for local bike shop to tide over the current tide of economic uncertainty. Now they have to be more knowledgeable about their products and have exceptional mechanics who can solve any problems on bicycles. As for prices, they are simply uncompetitive due to the many expenses that are bound to happen if you open and run a Local Bike Shop.
There have also been a new breed of consumers as well, the one that takes advantage of both the cheap online prices, yet does not have the mechanical know how to fix up their new found products. Worst still, after looking/or without looking at YouTube video, they still do not know how to fix their stuff and ask their local bike shop to fix it up. Even though it is perfectly legal to do so, deep down my heart, I find it very unethical to do so. I mean you cant clear your own shit and now you are asking other people to do it for you? I know you are paying them big money to fix and build up your stuff, but I find support from these people paradoxical since they claim that they are supporting local bike shop by asking them to do mechanical work, and yet refuse to buy a single spare tube from the bike shop because online tubes are a couple of dollars cheaper.
Let’s envision a hypothetical situation without any bike shops, no more looking at bike porn in the flesh and we have to resort to looking at pictures on the web. No more local support for local bike races. No more last minute buying of gels, tubes and other critical essential spare parts. And worst still, cant fix your own stuff up since bike shops are no longer around! A scary vision that might happen if we buy all of our stuff online.
Even I am not spared by the low prices and have been buying relatively high ticket items from the internet after finding out that it is 30% cheaper and have even bought some tools to expand my minute mechanical know how. Yet, I do support my bike shop by bringing repair work to them, or buy that bottom bracket that just gave way the night before, or ran out of spares which i bought from them previously.I thought about buying whole bicycles from them before, but the prices are relatively prohibitive compared to my tiny purchasing power.
Local Bike shops do need to innovate and move ahead with times as well. No longer can they appear as that snobbish brand whore fanatic uncle who chases away potential customers just because customers makes snide remarks about your crappy attitude (remember the power of social media) nor put prices up so high that only god can touch(this is kind of hard to achieve given that fact that pricing has way too many factors involved). Instead what they need to offer is a friendly attitude. and their expert knowledge to help consumers make more informed choice(though this is pretty subjective which is a conflict of interest with the objective views of customers) and their many years of experience of seeing any bicycle problem to gain a reputation for themselves.
As for pricing wise, as long as it doesn’t deviate to more than 20% for big ticket item and 30% for small ticket items, I would gladly give my LBS the money both for their expertise in fixing the item up and as well as to thank them for having the product that I want immediately.