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Bike Culture SOS: Save Our Shops

Monday, September 08, 2014

 

Photo Credit: NickiMM via Compfight cc

Portland is a proud city of do-it-yourselfers. We knit, stitch, pickle, weld, bake and build.

Our yards are microfarms of arugula, peas and heirloom cucumbers, fertilized with fresh poop from the coop, where our Bearded Polish Chickens deposit fresh eggs daily. We invest ourselves in our communities.

We volunteer. We have a whole City of Books.

And we pride ourselves that we ride our bikes all over town, rain or shine. 

We’re proud of our independent nature and our community. Even our civic emergency preparedness can be managed by cargo bike, as demonstrated by last month’s Disaster Relief Trials. We think global and act local.

So why would we actively campaign to hurt local bike shops by showrooming?

Showrooming is the practice of visiting a bike shop to look at gear, bikes, clothing, or to test ride bikes, then scan the Internet or launch an app on our smart phone to look for a better price and save a few bucks purchasing the same item online. 

This practice may save you a few dollars in the short term, but in the long run hurts the local economy, and presents problems down the road.

Shops will be forced to shut down showrooms, which will make it all but impossible to test ride new bikes, or worse—close their doors completely because their overhead is so much higher than ecommerce distributors, who often have few expenses beyond warehousing costs, and sometimes not even that.

Five reasons to buy local

Don’t get me wrong: As a resource for both new and seasoned cyclists the Internet is a great informational tool, but the humble local bike shop, or LBS, is still the best place to purchase a new bike or bike parts or gear, for several reasons. Next time you’re tempted to try to find a new bike online, consider this:

1. Test riding. You can try before buying by test riding a bike to see how it feels, to see if it’s the right size, or (for example) to feel the difference in quality between hydraulic disc brakes versus mechanical brakes. An online ecommerce experience can’t provide that benefit like your LBS can.

2. Knowledge. When you buy from a LBS you’re getting years, and sometimes decades of experience from the owners, salespeople and mechanics. Contrary to popular belief, most shops do not offer commissions to their sales staff.

Most shop employees eat, sleep, breathe and dream bikes. In short, they are motivated by helping get more people’s butts on bikes, for no other reason than to enjoy the ride. They are usually fonts of information about local resources, too, such as the best trails, routes and rides.

3. Service. Many shops offer follow-up service after you buy a bike, such as free minor adjustments for one year after purchase or a free tuneup. Those services are provided by an experienced mechanic who may well be your neighbor, so purchasing from a LBS keeps your purchasing dollars local, at least in part.

4. Bike fitting. Bike fits ensure you are riding a bike that is set up to fit you for optimal comfort and efficiency. Most shops offer a basic fit with each new bike purchase. More comprehensive fits are available for an additional, often reduced fee. You won't get that ordering a bike on eBay!

5. Community. Many bike shops offer free or low-cost community events to their customers such as flat repair, bike cleaning and basic maintenance workshops. Many host organized group rides for a variety of levels. If you are new to cycling—or just new to an area—these group rides can be a great way to meet new friends who share your interest in cycling.

If all these wonderful, pro-Portland, positive qualities still aren’t striking the right chord with you, maybe showing you the money will. Because even if you find an amazing deal for a new bike or parts online, and even if the shipping is free, there may still be hidden costs you haven’t thought about.

For example, if you showroom a part at the bike shop, but then buy it online more cheaply and install it yourself incorrectly or the part fails, you may end up spending in the end having it repaired at the shop and paying normal labor rates. 

No matter what or how or why we ride, we are all looking for a good deal, but when we showroom we take money out of the local economy and line the pockets of faraway, nameless corporations who don’t share our values, our lifestyle or our wonderful city. 

As Portlandians we owe it to ourselves and each other to support our wonderful local bike shops.

In other words, if you bike local, buy local.

Enjoy the ride.

Üma on her bike

Üma Kleppinger is a Portland-based copy writer and advocate for full-contact anti-bummer living. She is a recovering sesquipedalian who writes about life in the saddle and outdoor adventure. She is also the author of BikeYoga, a yoga program for cyclists. When not writing, she can be found riding and racing her mountain bike throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Home page photo credit: Mike Gifford on Flickr. CC License. (Image cropped) 

 

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