Friday, August 21, 2009

How to Find the Right Bike Shop

Eventually we all get to the point where we can’t stand the gears skipping, the brakes squeaking, or the wobbling rim a moment more. Unless you’re quick with a wrench, you’ll be knocking on a few bike shop doors. You’ll be quick to discover that just like there are good movies and bad movies, there are also good bike shops and bad bike shops.

Forming a relationship with the right bike shop is crucial to getting a speedy fix during bike season and tips on great local places to ride. Here are some tips to finding the right bike shop:

How busy are they?

How busy a bike shop is good be a good thing or a bad thing. Most of the time I consider it a good thing. It means they have a great location (which may mean it’s easier for me to get to), they have lots of customers and some are bound to be repeat customers. It could be a bad thing, if you need a quick fix or some quick advice and you have to wait a bit. Forming a relationship with a bike shop helps get you in line quicker though, even when they are busy. So when you find a shop you like, try to visit and support them as much as possible.

Are they dismissive about your problem or questions?

I moved recently and had to find a more local shop for repairs and parts, since driving an hour an half wasn’t really working anymore. At the new shop I tried, I asked if they could switch out my handlebar stem for a longer one. I didn’t like how upright I was with this shorter stem. It took close to twenty minutes of “well, a longer stem will make you more stretched out. Most people want to be more upright. Are you sure you want that?”

Umm, yes, I did want to be more upright and I couldn’t have said it more times than I did. If your bike shop won’t take your problems seriously than they can’t possibly help you find the right products.

Do they only talk about how much they’re going to charge you?

At this same bike shop, when I finally convinced them that I did want a longer stem and that I did want to be more extended, he then proceeded to tell me how he’ll have to charge labor me for each one he switched out. Then he told me he didn’t really have any in stock that he could use, but he did have this used one he could sell me for $25.

While, I completely agree that bike shops need to make money and they need to charge for their labor, they shouldn’t make it their main focus. I would have been happy to pay whatever to get the right stem and fit-no problem.

Which person do they look at?

This is a girl’s only rant here, but I’ve visited many bike shops that when I asked them a bike specific question they looked right at my boyfriend and proceeded to give him the answer. It’s one of those hard to switch-between-two-people-standing there talking things, but still when a girl asks a question- look her right in the eye and tell her the answer.

So what do you guys think about finding the right bike shop? Any advice you can offer? Have you ever run into similar problems? Do share!


Doug Brummett said...

I don't think that the lack of interest and inability to get your question is a women's specific issue. A lot of the time I get the feeling that shops really spend so much time dealing with novice riders that they don't really know how to react when someone walks in that knows what they want/need. I worked in shops for over a decade through high school and while earning my degree. All the shops I have worked for seemed to be without this problem. However I still go into shops and find it hard to get straight answers. Either the guys are too busy playing cool, think they know it all, or lastly think I am a kook. Any rate, when I see that sort of response then it is time to move on to a different shop.

bettymountaingirl said...

Nice call- I hadn't thought about how they might deal mainly with novice riders. Thanks for the insiders perspective!

I had a really great shop where I used to live- always had great advice, would shoot me to the front of the line, etc. Still on the search for a better bike shop around here though.

Laura Jane said...

Guilty as charged! I use three different shops that are all within a 2-mile radius—but for good reason.

One is my go-to for quick fixes, repairs, overhauls, etc. The owner has been called the Yoda of bike mechanics. And I'm a believer.

Another is a Trek store. While I'm not a huge fan, they have more gear, racks, baskets in stock than the others AND more accessible hours than anyone in town.

The third is a block away from my house. Never have to walk too far for at-home tire blowouts!