Not All Bike Shops are Alike

This Singapore bike shop with its jeweled interior catered to the high-end crowd. (Ray Hosler photo)


As much as I like Yelp, it leads me to a topic that calls for a discussion – choosing a bike shop. Don’t always believe what you read in Yelp, and that includes comments about bike shops.

I’m pretty sure every bike shop with a Yelp review has multiple dings (low star ratings) from upset shoppers. I’m not surprised. Bike shops run the gamut from mom and pop hole in the wall to big business, like Performance.

A big disconnect here circles back to the reviewer. For some reason they go in with blinders on. Would they do that at a car repair shop? No way. I’d never take my beat up Mazda 323 to a high-end Mercedes shop for a repair. I wouldn’t shop for an affordable car at the Jaguar dealership.

Casual cyclists who walk into any bike shop somehow expect they’ll receive the same level of service and the same products being offered. Take a look at the bikes. Do you see rows and rows of bikes that look like yours? If not, you’re in the wrong shop.

That’s not to say a high-end shop will refuse service to repair a junker (although some do), or that a low-end shop will ignore a performance cyclist, although performance cyclists are more likely to know where to go.

While the biggest oversight is between what the shop sells and what the buyer needs, next in importance is sales support. Let’s face it, bike shops don’t cater to the Saks Fifth Avenue or Nordstrom crowd.

Nobody in the bike shop business is getting rich. They can’t hire lots of sales people. On Saturdays when shops are busiest, don’t expect instant service. If that’s what you want, go on a weekday morning after the shop opens.

Most bike shops operate one step away from chaos. Handling a million different requests and trying to support the myriad bikes in the market is a big reason why shops specialize.

Remember, look around at the bikes being sold and compare them to what you ride. If they match, the shop is probably for you. Get to know the people who work in the shop by first name and you’ll get their attention. It’s human nature.

Unlike Saks or Amazon, a bike shop is still a place where you can get to know people and make a connection. It’s those customer friendships that make owning and patronizing a bike shop a worthwhile endeavor.

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