Buying a new bike can turn into Local Bike Shop vs. Big Box Super(cycle)market. It's a fight where both contestants have their strengths and weaknesses.
BikeRoar is ready with an outline of the pros and cons of buying bikes from a local bike shop (LBS), a supermarket or a cycle version of Amazon and help you figure out if you want your next bike to be built by a mechanic or built by yourself.
One of the biggest pros of buying your bike at a local bike shop is that you're going to get a more personal service, often from people who live, breathe, eat and sleep bikes.
This personal relationship and the chance to go into a shop where there's that new bike smell and talk with like-minded people is a great plus. As a user on bikeforums.net recently put it:
"I like the fact I can roll my bike into the LBS and say: 'Why the hell is it doing this?' I ain't found that button on my PC."
- bikeforums.net user
The shop people will have first-hand info on what works and how it works. Plus, in a local bike shop you most often have the option of trying the product before buying. If you're planning on spending thousands of dollars on a new bike then it'll be nice to try out how it rides before signing on the dotted line.
Another reason many people prefer shopping at a local bike shop is warranty issues. A shop can deal with them quickly, offering a loaner item or a bike if needed. Online shops can't really do this, and repairs / refunds take longer.
On the down side, the stores have a limited selection of bikes and - although they all want to help you enjoy racing and riding - they definitely have an agenda of telling you why the two brands that they sell are the best out there. And then there is, of course, the question of price.
They sell groceries, clothes, DVD's, electronics and....bikes? We've all seen the supermarket special: They're advertised as lightweight but weigh 40lbs, but by limiting the range to one size means an easy decision and none of that faffing about whether it actually fits...you can take it home in a box and it costs only $99.
There is a reason why any typical local bike shop won't sell a dual suspension mountain bike under about $1000; simply put, they are crap! Supermarket bikes fit poorly, ride worse and are cheaper to replace than to fix with any standard bike component.
It's a shame they sell more bicycles than anyone else in the market! Out of respect for oneself - steer clear.
A bike bought online will normally come in the best big cardboard box you've received as an adult. You get to assemble it, which is a pleasure in itself, and then seeing the finished product in your garage or even your living room is like having unwrapped and then built your own Christmas present.
That satisfaction is accentuated by the fact that you have probably spent less money that you would have done in a local bike shop by buying online.
You can think of the big online boys as cycling's answer to Amazon, who buy frames and parts by the container and store them in massive warehouses, meaning that no-one can really compete with their prices.
At the same time, buying online makes the whole world is your playground - you can get your fork from Germany, pedals from the UK, frame from a shop in the US and a special helmet from Australia, if you so desire.
"Our product range, in-stock availability and prices are major advantages to shopping online."
- Matt Cole from ChainReaction.com
BikeRoar's product shopping partners tool
So in short: If you're competent with an Allen wrench, own a few bike-specific tools, and don't mind doing maintenance yourself, by all means buy online.
However, the avalanche of online options can end up being completely confusing. Delivery is also an issue - you might have to take time off from work to stay home when the bike is delivered.
Then there's the issue of not being able to try the product before you buy it. You could, of course, try a couple of bikes at the local bike shop and go home and shop for it online, finding a better deal - although it's not exactly fair play towards the local bike shop and indeed a severly frowned upon practice.
BikeRoar is designed to provide an easy way of comparing prices, services and availability from the local bike shop closest to you, making it the ideal shopping partner.
NOTE: One caveat. Here at BikeRoar we believe that the importance of fair pricing, sales support and industry knowledge makes a Local Bike Shop by far the best way to purchase a full bike. That's why we only list online shopping partners for accessories, and not for any of the bikes listed on our site.