Last week, I made a quick visit to my local bike shop. An out-of-season warm-up was on the horizon in the days to come, and I wanted to be sure all the bikes were in good running order so I could put plenty of miles on them before the chill returned. The owner was the only guy around when I got there, and there were no other customers in the shop yet, so I was treated to a level of service that exceeded the already good service I get every time I stop by.
To begin with, we talked tires, and I got a crash course on expensive high-performance tires, inexpensive, über-durable all-purpose tires (good for commuting), and better-quality tires that are reasonably priced and suitable for the casual rider doing weekend rides and light touring. The tires on my commuter bike were the ones I had in mind to replace. The front one had bits of glass embedded in it, and the center of the rear tire was worn down more than it should be for its age from riding it on a trainer a few times. (Cursed things, those trainers, but I was desperate.) This is unfortunate considering they are only about one-third of the way through their life. He ended up selling me at half-price a pair of used tires with only about 200 miles on them, which he had been testing. That saved me about $30. Even better than the money saved, the impromptu class was conducted in the “employees only” workshop area. Cool.
I bought four tubes and a patch kit to go along with the tires, and I also picked up a Schwinn sticker for my toolbox. (I have an unwavering love for cool stickers that I think must be leftover from my skateboarding days.) I was going to buy a tire gauge, but he talked me out of it, saving me another $22. Finally, on top of everything else, I got a 10-percent discount for being a member of our local bike club.
Nearly every day I receive an email, a catalogue, or a flier from one or another big bicycle mail order company. I’ll admit, their offers are very tempting, and I’ve succumbed more than once to the alluring deals. But while I might feel thrifty, and am sure to get the usual thrill from opening my new stuff, all while enjoying the convenience of shop-while-you-surf Internet technology and the comfort of home delivery, the good feelings are strikingly more fleeting than is the sense of satisfaction, community, camaraderie, and knowledge I have after leaving my local bike shop.
I paid about twice as much on the tubes as I would have paid had I bought them online, but that was easily offset by the fifty-plus dollars I saved, the good conversation, and the free, knowledgeable advice. Local bike shops rock.
Oh, and the owner’s friendly dog was a big hit with my daughter, as if she needed another reason to get excited about going to the bike shop.
Just yesterday I stumbled upon two great posts waxing eloquent about bike shops. The Mellow Velo Blog sings a song of Bike Shop Love, and CycleBetter.com wonders “What kind of bike shops run by bike bloggers would you visit?“