The Types of Bike Shops – Part 1

Making the leap from department store to a real bicycle dealer means having to choose a shop. During my sixteen years on a real bike I’ve had experiences with all the local players and have never found one that doesn’t come with baggage. From attitude to incompetence I present to you the types of local bike stores you may encounter as you test the waters.

The Mom & Pop Shop

A family-friendly approach to selling bicycles is actually a pretty smart idea. Since a shop pays its bills selling low-end bikes it makes sense to cater to new and growing families. The customer usually won’t have a great knowledge of what they’re buying and lucky for them the owners usually don’t have a great knowledge of what they’re selling. A mid-life career crisis and the burn of the American Dream can drive even the most mild-mannered mid-40s-something couple to risk it all and buy a bike shop. They can then hire an equally incompetent yet super excited staff, design a logo that looks like refrigerator art from the nearby daycare and charge $12 for an inner tube. They probably mean well but the inexperience shines bright when directional tires are installed backwards and brake rotors are cleaned with chain lube.

The Big Guys Shop

Proudly sporting consecutive Top-100 Bicycle Retailer stickers at every turn, these guys usually know their stuff. Unlike the Mom & Pop Shop they can afford to stock high-end parts and if you have a real problem they have real answers. However, even these shops make money by turnover and can botch an overhaul just as quickly as the next guy. Spoiler Alert: No shop will actually overhaul your bike properly. Learn to do it yourself or pay the best mechanic in your riding group to do it for you. The owners can be found wandering the sales floor preaching the gospel on why you need more inches in your suspension or why your brand just doesn’t cut it. If you bark back you may earn a little respect and your future visits will be rife with playful jabs at your respective part and trail preferences. This shop is your best bet.

The Multisport Shop

In a world where we’re all so busy who wouldn’t want a shop that sells not only bicycles but skis, snowboards, kayaks, canoes, triathlon gear and salted soft pretzels? This guy. There is already far too much to know about the bike industry that any proprietor who thinks he can keep tabs on all of it and six other sports is living a pipe dream. With almost two decades of bicycle knowledge crammed into my head I am smarter than any bicycle shop employee I have ever come across. If it is upgrade season I can likely recite the weight of parts down to the hundredth of a gram. I know racing. I know gear. I know history. Yet with all this focus I still don’t know it all. Keep that in mind the next time a powder junkie snowboarder is installing new bearings in your full suspension frame or the white water rafting guide is truing your $1000 wheelset.

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