Friday, 8 April 2011

Your LBS

The Local Bike Shop can be a strange place for the un-initiated, all of the different bikes, strange clothes, walls plastered with odd accessories and worst of all, strange salespeople that are eagerly hanging onto some remnants from their punk younger selves, and worst of all, everyone is speaking some weird language that could possibly have evolved on a sister planet where the internal combustion engine was never developed and bikes reigned. And, the LBS can be just as anxiety inducing for the cycling regular; people trying to sell you things you know you don't need, mechanics over-charging for jobs you know take five minutes (but you have to get it done 'cause you're stuck without your tools), and of course, there's the problem of resisting the temptation to upgrade, and walking out of the shop with your wallet firmly lodged in the hip pocket.

Roadies are criticized regularly for chasing bargains whether they be online or at a low price chain, rather than staying loyal and supporting their LBS. I don't know about this - I tried to stay loyal to a shop for a while - but there's only so many times you can get ripped off and continue to just calmly cop it on the chin. The last straw was being charged $40 to replace a two dollar spoke, only to find out that the original broken spoke was just re-attached.

After that, I don't feel guilty about searching for bargains online, it's fun actually, I recently scored a Specialized Toupe saddle from the US for $100 less than here in Melbourne! And, in stark contrast to the situation with the spoke, I bought a cycling computer online, after 7 months it stopped working, I sent it back to the online store and within three days they had replaced it with another model that retailed for $40 more! That would just not happen at your LBS.

One day I went to a shop on Kings Way, I won't name them, looking for a hardtail for hire, to thrash at the You Yangs with an Irish friend. The smarmy prick that served us was a a true bike snob, not a snob like the satirical BikeSnobNYC, but a real snob in that he treated everyone like a noob - you and your opinion didn't count unless you worked in a bike shop. I think we actually asked him politely to stop bullshitting us - which made no difference. Unfortunately, the damage was done, and he made a lasting poor impression of Melbourne LBS's on my Irish friend.

Oh - then I had the funny encounter of impulse buying a shiny new fixie at a shop in Geelong. The girl that served me told me that without a shadow of doubt I could fit my Shimano 105 clipless pedals to the cranks. I took her word for it and off I went. Well, as it turned out, the cranks only took the smaller bmx style pedals. Guess I was the fool for not checking myself. Then again - I did flip the bike two weeks later on Gumtree for a small profit, so all's well that ends well.

And as for maintenance, for regular cyclists it would simply be too expensive to go to the shop every time something falls apart - most stuff has gotta be done yourself. I just wish I knew how to re-grease and re-build a hub!

On a recent trip to the States, I noticed an interesting trend in bike shops, especially in California (San Fran and LA). Bike shops there had tapped into another income stream - that being shop-branded casual clothing. Some shops had so much of it, it was like being in Abercrombie and Fitch, I had to fight through the clothing racks to see the bikes. It was cheesey, but some of the t-shirt designs were very cool... and I'm a little ashamed to say that I returned to Melbourne with a decent collection of new t-shirts from shops in the suburbs of New York, LA and San Francisco. Maybe, this is something shops here could tap into? If they can't compete with online prices and people (like me) are giving the workshop a wide berth in favor of doing work themselves - then draw people back to the store with something different. Then again, maybe I shouldn't be too concerned - a plague, of Victorian locust proportions, of new bike shops has sprung up over the last few years in Melbourne - maybe business is pretty good?

No comments:

Post a Comment