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Chain Stores vs. LBS

1019 Views 4 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  DubbL Tapp
I'll start by saying my opinions aren't a general comment about all LBSs.

For years I was fortunate enough to have a great shop about 10 minutes from my house. They started me racing and supported me throughout. For the 5 years I was heavy into racing I never set foot in another shop. About 5 years ago it all started to fall apart..I decide to quit racing to get a "real (paying)" job, and the shop manager decided to move on to another career. The owners then decide to pick up and move to another city ( about 1 hour away). With my competitive years behind me I didn't really need much from my LBS and the shop I used to go to that had since moved was to too far to visit for the little things.
I always missed hanging out with the guys at the shop, but I thought any of the other local shops would pick up the slack, boy was I wrong.

I have always tried to support my LBS I know how hard it must be to compete with the big chain stores, but I can't do it anymore. The shops in my area SUCK. I know they can't compete with the chain stores when it comes to price, but poor service and lack of knowledge is unacceptable.

I recently decided to build up a new DH rig that as we all know can require some special parts (thru rr hubs, 1.5 headsets, chain guides, etc). I got hooked up on the frame and fork so I was off to build the rest of the bike. I seriously spent 5 hours last Saturday driving up and down Ventura County looking for parts for my bike. I was not able to buy one single part from any of the 5-6 shops I visited. " You need a 1.5 headset reducer?...Don't have it, and I'm not sure what headset goes in that...sorry." Well, I do, just tell me you can get it or act like you have a clue. Long story, short(er), I gave in and when to Supergo, yes I said, it I went to Supergo. The guys there were VERY knowleable and passionate about cycling, something I thought you were supposed to find at your LBS. I was also able to buy about 80% of the parts I needed. Of the 8-10 employees I came across on Saturday I seriously doubt more the 1/2 ride a bike, and that is just wrong. Did Supergo hire away all the good employees in VC? Maybe it was that my questions and needs were DH specific which I understand is a very niche market, but it is a bike shop they should at least know these things, and if they were smart they would realize that it could be a very profitable part of there business since we break more parts and get more flats than the XC guys. I'm not surprised these shops are struggling, they have a bunch of people who know nothing running their shops. Anyways, I'm done venting, but it was amazing how many blank stares I got when I asked if they stocked a 10mm thru axel, or a 1.5 headset reducer. I know Santa Monica has great shops like Helen's and Wheel World, so who knows I may have to the make drive next time I need something or I'll just go to Supergo, and guess what I won't feel at all bad about it either.
Long Live K&A the best bike shop ever!
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Personally, I've found the LBS's to be the best to deal with, but its totally just a matter of luck as to who you have in your area...

In UK we have Evans the chain store, who have about 18 bike shops in greater London. I think they started off as an LBS and have just grown big over the years. They've attracted quite a bad rep among a lot of enthusiast cyclists and smaller bike shops - most of their assistants are students or travellers who don't know much about bikes and are really only any good at selling commuter/hybrid bikes to the more undemanding customers. All of their stuff is sold at retail price except during the sales.

Two of my LBS's seem to be catering for the more serious rider, selling mid to high end mountain bikes and parts. They are staffed by knowledgable people who ride off road every weekend and both are happy to offer discounts/negotiate price. Also a big thing for me is that I've met and chatted to the mechanics, so when I have to take my bikes in for the big jobs, I know exactly who's going to be working on it. I recently had a stumpjumper fsr pro built up and the guys at the LBS did all the little things like specc'ing 170mm cranks (cos I'm a short @rse) and aligning the Hope logo's on my headset dead straight without being asked - quality!!!

Anyway, seems to be a bit of a trend here in London - the big shops catering for the masses and smaller shops for the enthusiasts - both offer a valuable service but my preference is firmly with the LBS (I guess I fancy myself as a serious rider then!).

My rule of thumb, make a beeline for the saddle rack, if its got nothing but big @ss comfort saddles that look like they came off a horse then walk straight out!
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Shops are specializing, it seems.

First off...that's too bad your favored shop is no longer. Be happy it worked out as long as it did. Nothing lasts forever. seems like shops are specializing. High-end road shops. Mountainbike-only shops. High volume shops that sell low-end bikes in mass quantities to people who will ride them once. Only a REALLY BIG shop could take care of all types of customers well. If you need a niche shop and there isn't one near you that you like, then it's Internet and mail order.
I had a very similar experience. When I started riding I went to my local bike shop and purchased a bike and went there for everything. I kinda took them for granted I guess. I just assumed that's what bike shops were like. Then, I moved to go to college in the bay area in california. Wow, the shops around here are horrible. There's one shop where I asked about buying spokes and the guy goes off about how if I'm not going to use the same hub/rim combo as the bike had on it before he can't just use the same size spokes as were used previously so he has no idea of what size to sell me. He also declines to build wheels. Then there's the place who tried to sell me some Shimano XT disc hubs for $90 for the rear and $50 for the front. Online you can get them for like $40 and 30 respectively. Then there's the place where I had to explain to the guy what a star nut was. He said they didn't carry them (hard to believe). Now I order almost entirely online and the local stuff I buy from Performance bike. So to make a long story short: you are not alone.........
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Trail Punk said:
... If you need a niche shop and there isn't one near you that you like, then it's Internet and mail order.
Exactly! Internet and mail order. Except for the cables I need for the Enduro, my Stumpjumper and every part of my Enduro came to me in a box (including helmet and shoes). This past Saturday I walked into a shop (which I didn't know was even around) that I thought was pretty good as far as equipment goes. So, I dropped my bike off for them to put some things together. I called today and they said it's ready so I'll see what their work is like.

I hope things work out for you.
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