“The Bike Shop Advantage” by The Independent Bike Dealers Association
The bicycle you buy, and particularly where you buy it, have a potentially huge impact on your safety, your comfort, and whether you actually get what you pay for.
Our advice is that you don’t waste your money on cheap or badly-made bicycle equipment! We urge you to shop carefully, and be extremely careful about buying from retailers who don’t know anything about cycling, or who stock only cheap products. There’s more to buying a bike than meets the eye, and it’s easy to be misled into making a poor choice.
Bicycles are vehicles that can travel at high speeds under demanding conditions. To do their best for YOU, they need to be constructed of high-quality materials, assembled by a competent and trained bicycle mechanic, and adjusted to fit your body.
Our advice: seek out a good specialty bicycle store in your area. Look for a store that is clean, has helpful personnel, offers a good selection of product, and has an on-site service and repair department. This will pay off for you in many ways.
We don’t dislike mass merchants or department stores. However, their expertise is in selling commodity goods, not in custom products or specialty items such as bicycles. They can be great places to buy a toaster, but generally NOT a great place to buy a bike.
Why is a good bike store important to you?
- They have the right bike for you. Professional bicycle retailers offer a wide selection of bicycles for different people and different issues. Look for a bicycle retailer to provide able assistance in selecting the proper bicycle type and model. You do not want a road bike if you are going to be riding mostly in the dirt. You don’t want a racing bike for cruising. You need the right type of bike for you, and you need a bicycle expert to help you make that choice. Department store or mass merchant clerks usually have limited knowledge of cycling, and a selection of models is often not available, so it’s easy to end up buying the wrong bike! It’s not that they’re misleading you on purpose; it’s just that they do not know nay better. It is never a good deal if it is the wrong bike!
- Comfort and Safety. Bicycles come in different sizes. They have available adjustments that can improve how they fit your body, and assure your comfort, as well as good positions for reaching controls such as brake levers and shifters. Professional bicycle retailers will work closely with you to find and adjust a bicycle just for you. If you want a softer saddle, they’ll have it. IF you want to sit more upright, they can make adjustments. If you want to pedal efficiently and safely, they can assure you buy the right size of bike, and that the saddle height is adjusted properly! Discount department stores offer few different frame sizes, and custom fitting is non-existent because the staff members are not cycling experts. Proper sizing is important for your comfort and safety! There’s enough pain in the world, you do not need any from your bicycle!
- Accessories. Professional bicycle retailers offer top-quality accessory equipment and advice to make your riding more enjoyable and safer. To get started, you’ll need some basics such as a helmet, pump, lock, and water bottle. A good professional retailer can advise you properly on these and other important accessory items. A mass merchant offers a limited selection of lower-quality accessories, and has limited, if any, advice on proper use.
- Experienced Advice. Professional bicycle retailers employ knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff people who are cyclists. Their only job is satisfying your cycling needs. Bikes are complex vehicles, and professional bicycle retailers offer complete explanation of use of gears, brakes, and quick-release mechanisms, as well as reference to sources for further instruction and advice on places to ride. Most department store clerks don’t have this knowledge because their jobs cover a variety of areas – not just bikes.
- Try Before Buying. Professional bicycle retailers will normally allow test rides on bicycles. This is important in helping you select a bicycle that will fit you, feel good to you, and meet your expectations. Many people believe a good bicycle has a soul. We have no official position on this, but bikes definitely have personalities. The only way to see if you and a bike can become good friends is to spend a little time developing a relationship. Department stores normally do not allow test rides, and this is a real disadvantage for you. All bikes are not created equal, even if they cost the same! Some bikes have attitudes, often due to bad parenting. It is better to know that before buying, rather than after!
- Top quality assembly. Many people do not realize that bicycles are not completely assembled at the factory. Bikes come from the factory in a partially-assembled state, and the final steps and safety checks are done by the retailer. Many of the better bike companies actually prohibit bikes from being sold in a partially-assembled condition by retailers, and require retailers to have on-site service departments. Professional bicycle retailers offer fully-assembled and tuned bicycles which are built and inspected by expert mechanics. This is a $150 value which department stores do not normally offer. Buying unassembled bikes in a box can be risky and frustrating undertaking. And even if a mass merchant offers “assembled” bikes, be very wary of the quality level if there is not an on-site service department.
- A tune-up/safety check. Professional bicycle retailers normally offer a free tune-up after an initial break-in period, a $50-$100 value. This is important for double checking the adjustments, wheel tension, and to make sure something has not come loose during the initial riding period. Department stores normally lack service departments, so tune-ups and safety checks must be done by a bike shop, and paid for.
- Warranty. Professional bicycle retailers stand behind the products they sell. If problems arise, product can be brought back to a professional bicycle retailer, who can honor warranties on the spot. Department stores generally have little knowledge of bicycles, and cannot resolve many issues quickly or well.
- Longer life. Professional bicycle retailers sell higher quality products which need minimum maintenance, and last a long time. Department stores often sell cheaper products which wear our more quickly and can break easily. Frequent repairs add to the cost of the bike, and replacement parts often are not available. All hub bearings are not created equal! There is much more involved in a bicycle than the paint job!
- Better Resale. Professional bicycle retailers sell bicycles that retain value for possible trade-in or private resale. Many department store bikes have little residual value, if any, because they are poorly made, difficult to adjust properly, and cumbersome to ride.
- Overall better value. Professional bicycle retailers offer a package of goods and services that add up to being great for cyclists. Look for a retailer that is truly a professional is committed to your cycling experience, and who will make you get the maximum value for your investment.
Make sure you get the most value for your money by taking advantage of the quality service and selection offered by your local professional bicycle retailer!