The Price of Bikes Bridgestone PSA CartoonOne of the most heated topics of discussion in the cycling world often revolves around one of its most important elements – the local bike shop. From being a bastion of knowledge to an overpriced rip off, there are a variety of strongly held opinions, and they all share some grain of truth.

What is interesting is that while a lot had changed in the past twenty five years since this comic was printed, the economics behind bike shops have not significantly altered. This excerpt from a 1990 Bridgestone catalog offers an excellent and startlingly modern view of what goes on behind the scenes, so flip past the break for the lowdown.

Price Of BIkes PSA From BridgestoneClick the image to enlarge

Via Reddit Via Sheldon Brown



  1. Well done! Thanks for bringing this back. My RB-1 is 22 years old, and it’ll keep going another couple decades, I hope. I’m certainly expecting it to. All well-built bikes should last at least 20 years, even these hi-falootin new plastic ones. That fancy new-bike tune won’t, and maybe the parts won’t, but that’s why you keep your (hopefully friendly and competent) LBS in the picture. Also, for those of you who tip–most of us aren’t arrogant enough to expect it beyond the cost of the tune–remember that beer doesn’t pay the rent, and not all of us are alcoholics.

  2. I try to resemble this but on the other way around.
    I never ask for free stuff and I’m very straightforward and honest.

    All my good (read very expensive) bikes where purchased online. Why is that?
    Well I went to all local dealers and said, “I can get this for this much, can you match it?” Also, the price I gave them was about 500 euro (~$750) MORE than what I was paying, that was the buffer I was willing to pay as premium to help the local economy.

    All the answers till today where “HAH You can’t get that at that price, not even we do”, and after this I do not even ask them again. It really gets frustrating to try to help and even allowing some margin to pay “local premium” but no one is ever willing to even come close to the prices.

    I gave up. I prefer to get the bike cheaper and spend 100 euro on a top notch mechanic to assemble it correctly and still have money for very good shoes and helmet.

    As a note for who wants to know what is very expensive for me, the most expensive bike I have costs north of 10.000 euro

    And I ALWAYS tip the mechanic but not with money. I offer him and his gf a huge lunch AFTER paying everything. (And I still make profit on the purchase)


  3. Great post, BR! Although, as we’ve seen on other similar articles trying to illustrate the many differences of IBD vs. Online dealers, we’re going to see a lot of butthurt shortly…


    Long live the mighty IBD!

  4. While I am perfectly capable of assembling any bike that comes shipped to my door, I normally buy new bikes from my LBS. I don’t save THAT much going online, when I throw my time in assembling and tuning the bike.

    Besides, it’s great to be able to walk in and get stuff done that I don’t have the time or tools or experience for.

    But parts – that’s a different issue – few LBSs carry the range of replacement parts or accessories I want. I can get on Amazon in 10 minutes what would take me driving all over town to collect from different local shops, IF I can even find it. Not a complaint about any LBS – just the way their business has to run.

  5. One reason I’m happy to work in a shop that stocks brands who don’t allow online sales of their bikes or frame kits is exactly the reason J states. We’ll match pricing, sure. But it has to be in stock at a local brick-and-mortar competitor. In other words, not “they can order it for me” or “Amazon, wiggle, pricepoint, etc. has it for US$X.XX”, but “I can go there and buy it today.”

    That said, I also know the shops around well enough that if someone’s looking for a sub-US$300 beater, I can point them in the right direction to get a SAFE version of that. I had a guy in on Saturday who was looking at single-speeds and wanted to know what I thought of Sole, etc. I told him honestly that if he wanted to save $100 on the bike, he should either be able to build it himself or be ready to cough it right back up to a mechanic to build it for him.

    The non-sarcastically best sale I had recently in this vein was to a guy who test-rode one of our bikes and one at the shop next door (literally three doors down, but still). We were willing to match the wheel-and-deal discount package for accessories, etc., but he liked our bike better. So he bought with us, but felt that since he’d spent time testing their bike (mechanics do have to re-tune the floor bikes after all), he’d go ahead and buy the helmet, bottle cage, etc. over there. Works out for everyone.

  6. I have a LBS that does price-competitive custom builds, but they do a lot of them and they aren’t a slave to either the Trek or Specialized coteries.

  7. That is ridiculous! Somebody wrote something about “tip the mechanic”. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Tip the mechanic? TIP?! What? No way!

    I am not going to tip the mechanic. That’s absurd. Do you tip the girl working at the Burger King? Do you tip the grocery clerk? Do you tip the guy working at the gas station???? That’s what I thought!

    Whatever dude. Tip the mechanic? No. The mechanic? Please. Dude makes a living wage. He doesn’t need a tip. When the bike shop stops nickeling and diming you for every little thing, then get back to me on tipping the mechanic. Geezus! Tipping the mechanic?!

  8. I’m confused, so what do LBS’s make money on? The ones in my town usually are pretty competitive on components & accessories, so I assumed those were loss leaders to get you in the door and hopefully, one day, buy a bike. So if there is no profit margin in the bikes or components, then is it all in the service?

  9. But LBS need to move with the times or get left behind…

    Recently I went to a LBS to upgrade my road bike. I was looking to spend around $3k. The first shop (a small single indie shop) had nothing in my size, even in other models. They offered to order one in, offering 10% off retail, but I would have to pay for it first — I couldn’t ride before buying and then it’d be mine. They said they just can’t keep that kind of overhead. Makes sense, but were is their value there?

    The second shop (a larger multiple location shop) had a few models in my size. They knew next to nothing about the one was looking at. One even had loose bars! I tried a couple out and asked how soon they could get the model I wanted. I left my number, yet they never called back. I checked a week later and they said they hadn’t yet found out… I could have just ordered one myself and already had it.

    In the end I ordered from a reputable online shop. The bike came fully built up (other than needing to put on the bars/wheels) and tuned perfectly. I saved about $800.

    While I WANT to support local shops, they need to offer more value than a 30 day tune up (which everyone here should be able to perform) or a 3 day return on a truing. Complaining that consumers want value for their money is not a way to survive… and seriously, a water bottle with THEIR logo on it SHOULD come free with every bike. Its great advertising!

  10. @Marcus
    I read in BRaIN [many moons ago, numbers may have changed] that average gross margin on full bikes was ~45%, but operating costs worked out to be ~43% of bike revenues, so net margin on bikes was around 2%. Accessories and parts at MSRP have around 100% margin [“Keystone” pricing], clothing was 100% margin or higher. Shop work was in the 300% – 500% range for margin [$15/hr for the tech, $60 hourly shop rate].

    Bikes are the loss leader, and the repairs, helmets, bells, gloves, etc. allow the shop owner to stay in business.

  11. I just realized how poorly I worded that. ^^^^ Key point is the 2% net margin on bikes once operating costs are factored in.

  12. JMS-here is the problem with your line of thinking-it’s short sighted. I may be biased here due to running a shop in California where the overhead is monstrous, but when I see people using our repair shop that way, I can only hope that two more people will make up for the purchase someone made on the internet. Here’s why: a great service center does, at the most, around $12,000 a month in labor sales. In my business, if all we did were repairs and small parts to keep everyone on a closeout BMC happy, I’d go under instantly. Our rent tops $20,000, so factoring in all the other associated costs (salary, utilities, advertising, maintainance, upkeep of a massive selection in inventory to be able to satisfy the growing need of all the various disciplines of cycling,etc) we are sunk. So the next time you scoff at your local bike shop’s prices, say goodbye for good and pretend like you don’t need any help the day before every race to get that ticking sound out of your bottom bracket because they might not be there next time. The online warehouse isn’t going to help you out in a pinch. I value my mechanics as much as the next guy, but I’m not oblivious to the fact that they are only a tiny piece of the pie. When vendors sell their scraps at the end of the year to bottom feeders instead of giving their dealers a reduction in price and rebates on leftover inventory, it wounds the LBS irreversibly. The rapid turnover at the manufacturer level in design right now provides an impossible climate when everybody wants either next year’s model before it is available or the current year’s model at wholesale pricing because the remaining inventory from the vendor is already being sold to discounters. When manufacturers start working in better partnership with the IBD and absorb more of the risk, it will give IBD’s room to compete, and ensure that brick and mortar stands a better chance of competing in a online world. But until then, I’ll be scrambling to find people that appreciate how hard we are trying, how much risk is involved, and who appreciate how much our time and space is worth just to keep the lights on one more day. Please really support your LBS.

  13. Cool, thanks for the responses guys. I’ve only bought one bike in an LBS (the others I bought used or pieced together from used parts). I felt bad only using my LBS for service and components because I never bought a bike from them, but I guess I’m not such a bad customer after all 🙂

  14. As I opened my own shop I decided to take a much different approach because of these very issues.
    Small shop, focus on repairs and keeping in stock the daily items clients would need.
    When it comes to bikes, I mainly deal with brands that require custom fits and builds and that are not readily available online.
    For parts clients are recognizing me as a place to come, chat about their needs and I will order it in for them. And, if I can match online pricing or do better… I WILL. No over head, smaller space and a focus on repairs means I have the ability for a slightly decreased margin.
    Bike shop landscape is changing because of the massive online retailers and because of their access to leftover manufacture items at greater discounts.

    Here is hoping the model works… so far, so good!

  15. Bikes may be the lowest margin in the shop, but they also take up the majority of the cash required to stock the store. If your LBS has a bunch of bikes on the floor, they need to sell them, either to get their cash back or to pay their line of credit from the manufacturer.

    The cost of a bike on the floor not selling is way higher than the cost of a tube on the wall not selling. Even though the tube makes a better margin, your shop owner is much happier to see a bike leave the shop. I promise.

  16. I try to buy accessories from my LBS, but I just don’t understand why they price items like tires, for example, at $69.99 for Conti GP4000s when you can find it for half that online. If they would at least try to be somewhat competitive with price, even just a little below full-on retail, I’d be on board.

    Switching gears a bit, does anyone know what the margin is on custom bikes, e.g., Seven, Parlee, et al?

  17. Remember though, in order for your LBS to maintain those 60 dollar an hour labor rates you’re used to taking advantage of they need to be paying the other bills with bike/accessory sales. If everyone started buying bikes online and taking them to the LBS for assembly and service and the LBS lost that revenue to cover operating costs labor would go to 300 dollars an hour (or more likely the shop would close). Don’t pick and choose the services you go to your shop for. If they support your local community and are willing to work with you a little bit, support them.

    My shop sponsors clubs, organizes rides, events, has a team, participates in community events, donates time, money, goods to charities and organizations, and does our best to be a productive member of the community. When someone in town buys something online to save 50 bucks but is willing to come to our events and shop rides, that is a slap in the face.

  18. My next bike will be bought through the internet. Why because they only sell it there. I would love to buy my next bike from my local LBS but they don’t sell what I want and their not going to order it for me of that I’m pretty sure. My clothing pretty much al comes from them, they give me discount great if not I don’t go for discount go for honesty and good help. I live in Haarlem and Bike Planet has always been good to me. If they had my bike over there I would buy from them in a heart beat.

  19. Peter –
    I always try to spend through multiple places where I live. Not only bike stuff but everything. Clothes, food, everything. That guy is a nice guy in my book!

    Your LBS –
    I totally understand you point of view on this and that is why I tip very nicely and pay premium for mechanical work. I could pay 30 euro and wait 3 days for the bike but I prefer to pay the premium service to get the bike done faster (even when I know I am NOT riding the next day).
    It’s funny (not really but you get the idea after reading), you say that story of tomorrow they might not be there…that just happened, they had to close because they invested too much and people just stopped buying high-end bikes.

    Here is an example for you:
    I got my Scott Spark 900 SL frame for 2200 euro with a Scott certificate and all that stuff for the frame.
    The “online” (it’s a physical shop with an online website), shop I bought it from had to order the frame because they do not stock it.
    The LBS best price on the frame was 3000 euro (200 discount) and they also had to order it.
    Now on this example, can you explain to me how do I justify spending 800 euro more on just the damn frame?
    I told them both how much I would be spending on the bike and one shop just made a killer deal to have me as a client while the other doesn’t really bother (maybe that is why they must be closing down…who knows).

    I spent 700 euro in gear on the shop though, and I always buy the gear there, I just cannot justify buying a d*mn bike on a LBS.


  20. John, the LBS has to charge that on tires like that in order to make money. The ones on amazon, pricepoint, et. al. are probably old stock that they bought for less than wholesale, and are making a slim margin on.

    Margin on a lot of the custom bikes is usually less, sometimes a good deal less than the major brands, but what makes these bikes awesome for the dealer is cash flow. It’s spoken for already by the time the order it, so you are less likely to have to have to make credit payments on the bike.

  21. Why people think that bike shops are any different from any other industry?

    Adapt or die. Nothing wrong with that. And if there is a need, the will adapt just fine. Everybody else does.

  22. “Switching gears a bit, does anyone know what the margin is on custom bikes, e.g., Seven, Parlee, et al?”


    Margin on these custom frames is ~30-35 points, which is right in line with higher end bikes from boutique brands. They usually require quite a bit more time from the retailer to broker the deal (fit, design, spec), but if the retailer is sharp they can do alright with the rest of the build (kit, wheels, cockpit).


  23. @Your LBS: “Please, support you LBS’? Why? Do you go out of the way support my business? Or any other one? What is so special about you?
    If you go under, and your services are actually needed to people, to the point of them willing to pay money for it, means you could not figure it out how to run a business that satisfies a need.

  24. I blew out a sidewall on the way to a ride last month. Man, was it nice that an LBS was within walking distance. Maybe when Amazon has their delivery drones, they’ll be equipped with compressed air & haul away the old tire carcass too.

  25. Some guy came into our shop looking for Shimano pedals. We had them at MSRP, $90. He wanted us to price-match online price, $68. We wouldn’t budge, he got a bit loud about it, and was asked, how much would it cost for same-day shipping service from your online source…?

    OK, that’s rare, and when people ask, why not order online if we’re just going to have to order it anyway?, it gets a bit more nuanced. We do free install on a lot of things if you buy through the shop. Got install covered and like working on your own bikes — order online.

    We pick up plenty of service from people who order stuff online, we are happy to charge for install on parts or bikes from elsewhere: we make a lot more money on the service than we do on the parts.

    Lately, there’s been a sales moratorium on negotiated pricing. Price on the tag is the price of the bike, no haggling. I like this a lot.

  26. I buy all my parts through the LBS.

    Of course, I work there and buy at employee discount — shop cost if I pre-pay — cheaper than anything I can get online.

    I don’t care where you buy your parts or bikes.

  27. @John
    The $69.99 price IS the fair price for the GP4 tire. The “fair price” is the price recommended from the supplier to keep that store operating at a margin that keeps the doors open. The “fair price” isn’t a price that is fair to YOU. While a slightly cheaper price would make it more fair to you, but it isn’t fair to the LBS. When you show your loyalty to an LBS, they will/ should show their loyalty to you. I have customers who NEVER buy online. Why? Because they know from their own experiences what it takes to keep a business going. Do I still give them a discount? Yes, but it isn’t uncommon for them to tell me “R, are you making enough at that price?” Because of this, they ALWAYS get the best deals. They don’t go around telling all their friends what they paid either.
    Secondly, I pray no one who has knowledge of Parlee or Seven’s margin tells you. I have information from 3 years ago of what Parlee’s margin were. I can tell you that when a Parlee frame is sold, the only one making money in the equation is Parlee. I used to sell Scott Bicycles, but had to give them up because I needed to sell 70-75% of the whole preseason at full margin to make a true profit. The brands we sell now have much better margins in the price range that keeps my doors open. $1,000> bikes + labor keep shops rolling. Bikes >$2,000 make very little money. If a shop discounts the bike, the shop is just moving money around. Like taking a fiver from one pocket and putting it in another…
    If every day your pay was negotiable, would you keep working their? Unfortunately, LBS are.

    Sorry, I’ve vomited enough.

  28. Great topic. I personally have my own plan.

    I buy all my bikes from the LBS and my LBS usually works with me on the price and is competitive. I do this because when I have issues, especially with a MTB, in the first couple months, I bring it in and they deal with it for free. I recently bought a new Remedy 9.9. It had some real issues including the rear and front shock having to be sent back for repair and a switching out of the brakes. If you buy on line, you know how difficult it is to deal with these type of situations.

    In regards to products, I will research online and see if the bike store can get close. I will pay a premium to have it immediately from the LBS and not pay shipping. If the price is too far off, I order online. I would say this methodology leads to 70% being purchased from my LBS.

    That is all.

  29. To anyone scoffing at the idea of TIPPING YOUR MECHANIC: next time you need a tune up, a bar rewrap, or heck a flat replaced, bring a $3 tallboy to drop off with your bike or when you pick it up. 3 bucks, big can of beer. If you don’t think it had an effect, boohoo you’re out 3 bucks. If you like what it got you though, which you will, try a pizza next time.

  30. With bike prices inflating at like 10% a year, you can better bet I’m going to buy online where I can get a new bike for 30-40% off retail.

    I’ve been looking at a 105 alu road bike, and the retail prices at shops are are heading towards $2000. Why buy new when I can get the same model 2 years old and barely used on ebay or craigslist for $1000? I have no interest in throwing $1000 down the toilet just to support my local shop.

  31. I spend my money where I feel I’m being treated fairly.

    When the staff at one of my many LBS acts like a used car salesman instead of a fellow cyclist, I buy nothing more than a patch kit or water bottle…

    Example: in the past week I overheard the Manager of a shop tell a potential buyer, he “HAD to buy tubeless, HAD to buy Disc brakes, HAD to buy 29er, anything less just doesn’t work in New England and is a waste of time to ride”…

    I guess I better throw my FAT Chance, Klein, Bontrager, Jamis, Scott and my Indy in the dumpster as not to “waste my time.”

    In a different shop, the young owner asked me “Who does the work on your bike?”, which I replied, “I do, always have.”…to which he says, “with all the new stuff that changes all the time, I’m SURE you don’t have the right tools.”

    I’ve been wrenching bikes longer than he’s been alive…and when the day comes that I do need a shop for a repair, it won’t be his.

  32. @Tedman, that’s great for you, buy your 105 Alu bike from Craig’s List then don’t start the whining when a qualified mechanic points out the crack in the frame or the ground off frame number.

  33. @Christopher, et al
    On tipping your mechanic:
    Please please please, don’t assume your mechanic likes to drink. I wrenched for 8 years and constantly got handed six packs (usually Belgian Fat Tire, which customers thought appropriate, but I got sick of it). I did drink, but not much then (hardly at all now). It might seam easy to buy a beer, but try food. Donuts, candy, soda, it’s all except able.
    Try asking, very rarely was I ever asked. Ask them before they start the work and tell them you’ll be back with it by the time they’re done. They’ll remember you the next time, I guarantee, and you’ll get the return in spades.

  34. @WannaBeSTi
    No need to get upset and shout. Truth is I do pay that price (and did just last week) for tires from the LBS that I like, but think that a 100% markup is a lot to swallow. In retrospect, perhaps “fair” wasn’t the right word. Fairness can be subjective, after all. My question was targeted at finding out why the margin is as vast as it seems to be, and I think I received a number of good answers.

    As for the question about custom bikes, why pray that nobody tells me the margin? I’m not interested in haggling the price of one of these down. As it happens, I placed an order for a Seven with my LBS a few weeks ago (to arrive end of May), and am buying the components through that shop. Your response seems as if you took my question personally or as a criticism of the LBS–that’s not what I intended.

  35. “When someone in town buys something online to save 50 bucks but is willing to come to our events and shop rides, that is a slap in the face.”

    Acting like $50 is an inconsequential sum of money to most is a slap in the face of all us non-ballers like yourself. And FWIW I support my local shops as much as I can (have dropped ~$4k at three different local shops in the past 60 days) but you bet your ass if I can get something that I don’t have an immediate need for 50% off online I will.

    Anyways, I’m opening up a bar. $8 for a Coors light, $15 for a local micro. I’m sure all the bike shop owners will come in and drink vs. going to a bar across town or buying beer from Safeway.

  36. @ Granny’s Ring. I won’t, because I’m a mechanic myself. I got that way because I was sick of local shops taking weeks for basic orders and service and then charging me 50% more than estimated when the work was finally done. Why would I pay $70 for a basic tune up and lose my bike for a week when I can do it myself in 30 mins with $50 worth of tools?

    Last time I gave a LBS a chance my bike was in the shop for a month with a $150 charge for a service that was estimated at 3-4 days and $70. No explanations or discounts for delayed/poor service, just vague explanations and up charges. This year I’ll be learning to service my own suspension.

    When it’s faster and cheaper for me to dick around on my own bike, including breaking and replacing parts when I fuck up, then a LBS simply has nothing to offer me. Everyone I meet who starts cycling I teach and encourage to do their own work, rather than see local shops exploit them and charge $20+ for a flat fire. Bicycling should be accessible to everyone, not just people who can spend $2000+ on a bike and hundreds of dollars in service/parts charges.

  37. I love this debate–last time the extremes included “I wrench on my own stuff, buy online, the LBS has no value to me” guy and the “support your LBS or YOU ARE SCUM” types. But, guess what…

    We are all mostly on middle ground here.

    I’ve worked in 3 different independent shops in 3 different time zones. The one commonality? Every single one of the shops opened because of a love of the sport. No one opened a shop thinking it would be a ticket to a private island in the Caribbean someday. Comparing that to online retailers is nuts–the Amazons, Pricepoints, etc are there to make money, not to provide service, recommend local trails and routes, or share the love of the sport with you.

    I can assure you that the profits at your independent LBS are slim. Very slim. “Why should I buy at my LBS when I can pay half the price online??” If you are asking that question, then you are already missing the point. This is purely a dollar and cents topic for you, and you’ll have a hard time grasping the concept of why “buying local” is important. As to the “how/why” online retailers can have it for half the price, it’s because they buy MASS quantities, sell at very slim markup, and make their profit on volume. They buy 1000s, your LBS buys 10s, maybe even singles. When we see products for sale online at *less than what we pay for them through our distributors*, trust me, we are standing there scratching our heads as well. It’s just not a sustainable model for the industry. Hopefully this is changing, I believe Shimano made some new pledges in this department for 2014.

  38. ON the topic of tipping:

    It is NEVER expected. However, if you feel like it, go for it. It’s more like if you feel that you have received excellent service, then you show your gratitude above and beyond with a few extra bucks, a 6 pack, or food of some sort. We had a guy bring in a quiche to share last weekend. Super cool! But no one wrenching is there because they think they are going to support themselves on your tips, so definitely don’t feel obligated. Tippers are the minority, but it’s still a cool gesture, and appreciated.

  39. There are very good reasons why the LBS needs to sell at MSRP to stay in business while the online retailer can sell near to wholesale and still make a buck. Here’s a generic look at a small LBS vs a huge online retailer (HOR)
    LBS – buys in small quantities from a distributor
    HOR – buys in very large quantities directly from the manufacturer
    LBS – pays rent on retail floor space
    HOR – pays rent for a warehouse or owns the building
    LBS – heats/cools for customer comfort
    HOR – minimal heating/cooling
    LBS – needs lots of floor space to properly display products
    HOR – product is densely stored on shelves requiring minimal floor space
    LBS – product is unpacked and put on expensive fixtures (e.g. racks for clothing)
    HOR – product is left in packaging and stacked on a shelf (e.g. plastic bags for clothing)
    LBS – employees are there whether customers are or not
    HOR – employees only at work as much as needed to keep up
    LBS – employees spend time answering questions, etc. to maybe sell something
    HOR – employees spend time shipping sold product
    LBS – pays an accountant/bookeeper at pay rate plus profit
    HOR – has several accountant/bookeepers on at pay rate
    I could go on, but hopefully you get the point. There are real reasons why that tire is $70 at the LBS and $40 online.
    I don’t envy the LBS, they are fighting a losing battle. They will either adapt or die.

  40. I buy nearly everything at my LBS (2 actually) because I want them to be around when I need them, and I’m always treated well when I come in, even when all I’m there for is a few Clif Shots and a tube.

    After 10 minutes discussing the merits of a variety of tires relating to what and how I ride, the shop manager recommended a tire to me, which I bought a pair of at ~$70 each. Less than a week later with less than 50 miles on the tires, I hit something (I couldn’t find what) and cut a 3/4″ gash in the tread/sidewall of the rear tire. I went back for a replacement, and halfheartedly tried to see if there was any manufacturer’s warranty coverage for such low mileage damage. There wasn’t, but he sold me a replacement at a steep discount (I think it was his cost).

    A couple of weeks later, I noticed a small bulge in the sidewall of one of the tires, and asked if I should worry about it (it was pretty small). He ran a thumb over it, grabbed a new one off the shelf and sent the wheel and new tire back to the shop for a change. No charge for anything, and it was a rush job right before the weekly shop ride.

    Oh, and the tires were exactly what I wanted and I’ve since purchased several sets with no issues. I got excellent service, and knowledgeable advice, with no shipping charges and immediate delivery.

  41. The problem with LBS’s is their value proposition is “we’re more expensive, but have better customer service”. However, I find quality online retailers like Jenson to have much superior service. They have more lenient return policies and really back you up. They want to make return customers happy and have no problems refunding used parts that don’t live up to your expectations. If you call them, they are actually very knowledgeable and even offer install help. You can tell them: I need part number 23 by date x, and you will get the part vs LBS’s which are a crap shoot of getting the right part on time. Heck, I’ve even told Jenson I need a part by x for a race, and they’ve shipped it overnight for no extra charge.

  42. @Duder
    Yes, you’re right. Jensen always does a great job when changing my flats or tuning my derailleur!

    Dat. Service. Hnnnnngh.

  43. How nice some LBS owners keep explaining why they have to sell bikes&kit at MSRP. What do I get for the extra €/$?

    Mostly nothing. No special knowledge, no extra care, no extra service, no extra advice or help on choices. No extra value means and still MSRP means no sale.

    Find a way to add value that cannot be copied by online shop: mobile bike service, quality bike mesurement, special paint, maintenance courses.

    The battle on price and assortment is already lost. The bikeshops that have adapted already have a good webshop combined with a big store on a cheap location and huge stock.

  44. I actually learned how to fix my own bike up (somewhat) because of my LBS. I’ve commuted by bike for a few years and ride most days. I sometimes go out further distances but I am sometimes a little anxious on my own as drivers in my “neck of the woods” can be a little… Antisocial towards cyclists. I contacted my LBS when I first moved into town and asked if I could bring my bike in as my gears were slipping and my rear brake needed looking at, and I was too nervous to do it myself. I telephoned and asked when I could come in with my bike, was told “well love, that depends. First of all I need to ask you some questions. Firstly, where did you buy it?”, I answered with a local chain-ish store in my area (they have a few locations in my area but are not nationwide. I live in the UK btw). “Well darlin there’s your first f*ck up. Where have you taken it before for repairs?” I said that I had bought that particular bike from there as it was the best specced that I could afford, having returned to my home to find that my previous bike had been stolen, and that I’d taken it once to an LBS in a different local town when I lived there, he asked why, i said it was as it had a sturmey archer 5-speed hub and I had a rear puncture and was concerned about ballsing the gears up. At this point he said “well I’m going to stop you there because you’re bullsh*tting me. Those 5 speed hubs don’t come on cheap bikes and you’re taking me for a f*cking idiot. The problem with people like you is you don’t come to me when you buy the bike, you just expect me to repair it”. I then informed him that I had just moved to the area which was why I’d not been to him before, and asked whether he thought that £325 constituted an expensive bike, as that was what I’d paid. I went on to tell him that his sh*tty ” boys’ club” attitude was why I wouldn’t be coming to him in future because I had no intention of bringing business to someone who spoke to me like I was a pig. He insisted he had done no such thing so I reminded him of his “well love that’s your first f*ck up” comment, his quizzing me on where I’d bought it, and the fact that he had repeatedly sworn at me. I also told him that it was people speaking like he was that makes cycling so inaccessible to women, and that I would recommend to all my friends that they don’t go to him in future. He apologised for me taking offence at his manner (“sorry not sorry”) and said if I wanted to bring it in that afternoon he would see what he could do. I told him to stick his not-apology up his arse and f*ck off while he was at it, then hung up.
    TL:DR; not all LBSs are as special lovely and wonderful as people here are making out. Some of them are dicks.

  45. These discussions in which everything gets generalized, always seem to miss one major fact, the world isn’t as black and white as all LBS suck or all LBS have great customer service. Truth is there are some great LBS around the country that are worth paying full retail when shopping there, but at the same time there are also plenty of ones that are crap and aren’t even worth shopping at with rock bottom prices.

    The same can be said of online retailers, I’ve dealt with some that are absolutely stellar. They’re more knowledgeable about what they sell and even over the phone are better at trouble shooting a problem than some LBS. At the same time there are some online dealers that are crap. They have no knowledge of what they are selling and won’t accept returns.

    The point is there are good and bad shops both in brick and mortar and online. Nobody either online or in brick and mortar deserves to be supported simply because of the type of shop they are, but rather by the value they bring to the table.

  46. Well, I haven’t bought a bike from a LBS in about 20 years – I only buy from my local builder (Hah! Take that, LBS snobs!). I also do most of my own labor, but I never got around to buying headset tools, and twice in the past few years have had the most reputable L-ish BS install new headsets that I bought from the shop. They were different brands, top quality, and both came loose within 200 miles. One came with a small set-screw that the mechanic did not bother to install, and for which I could find a replacement only with great difficulty. Maybe this particular shop is not what it was, or maybe I had particularly bad luck, or maybe no one knows how to work on threaded headsets anymore, but the lesson I learned is that I should get the tools and do it myself next time. Or just pay the shop to press the cups and do the rest myself.

  47. I’m part owner of a pretty successful shop with a good rep and I have been doing the bike shop hustle since 2001 so I speak from experience here.

    Online shoppers… more power to you. If you know what you want and know how to save a buck or fifty I don’t fault you for it. You’re not part of my business model most of the time so I generally don’t care what the street value is of any given product is or where you can get it. Really, I don’t care. All I ask is that if you are one of these guys just don’t come waste my time (most of you don’t). Don’t mine me for product knowledge. Don’t ask to price match. Don’t complain about labor rates. Don’t tell me about the deal you got. Don’t showroom me. You’re not part of the lbs business model most of the time so please don’t compete my attention or that of my staff when we should be helping actual paying customers.

    If you do need to come into the lbs for whatever your reason just try and remember all this and conduct yourself like a normal human being. Guys who bring the online shopper attitude into the lbs are setting themselves up for a bad experience. Shop guys can smell you a mile away and are typically going to get frosty. It’s usually brutally obvious when we are being showroomed so we usually just try and shut things down asap and move on to a customer.

    If you require the convenience that the lbs has to offer just suck it up and pay retail. Hear me? Suck it up. You’re under my roof, in my light, breathing my climate controlled air, talking to my staff, handling my inventory. Pay my price or move on.

    Also… to the person ranting about tipping. Cool story bro. Nobody cares how you feel about tipping. The people that tip my guys usually get their repairs fasttracked and often get extra service and attention thrown in for free. The guys working on bikes all day long take note. It’s not just about tipping with food or cash either. The regulars with a pleasant attitude usually get the same extra care that tippers get. There are few things that my wrenches like more than a pleasant customer that just wants their bike to be clean and in perfect working order and is willing to pay for it. Of course it helps that I am lucky enough to have some really great guys working for me which makes this whole thing easier.

  48. @Brandon
    I like your style. As someone who seems to have special needs (I’m XS size) and never needs anything in stock except tubes, I find it difficult to support a IBD when all they do is special order something for me and I can just do it myself from Amazon for less and not have to go back to the shop to pick it up.

    Also most of the IBDs around here are really bad, hire fixie kids or high school temps who have no idea what they are talking about and focus on high pressure sales. I’ve pretty much accepted the fact that if I can’t figure out how to do something on the bike, the mechanic definitely can’t.

    The P bike here is much friendlier, has better prices, and has more stock. There’s almost not reason to go to the IBD unless you want IBD brands versus the P bike store brands because a Scattante, Fuji or Ridley isn’t good enough for you.

  49. “The people that tip my guys usually get their repairs fasttracked and often get extra service and attention thrown in for free.”

    I felt like that needed to be emphasized, for various reasons.

    In the world of LBS, tips are free.

  50. It’s frustrating to constantly back up LBS’ and rave about why you should send your business there with so many service horror stories. Luckily In my area there is about 10 shops with their own niches, and a few outstanding ones. Because they are so great to me, I have no problem with dropping a few Gs a year. As long as the bike shops keep up the service, they will always a place in the market.

  51. Mindless- What makes my business special or me special is what we give and provide to a growing community: a place where we treat everyone as equals when they need help finding goods and services related to bicycles. Cycling is not just for enthusiasts and racers who have formed opinions about their needs. When you take out the human interaction that provides people with valuable information from experience and training, people can and often do make uninformed decisions and assumptions about what will work for them and they can end up having a terrible time. I have dealt with countless people over the years who took the advice of their peers, read magazine articles, got great deals and hated cycling because they got a bike that fit them and their needs poorly. I make an effort to talk with everyone, listen to their needs and make an informed recommendation that works for them and fits their budget with no pressure, and I train my staff to be the same way by paying them highly, training them professionally, and not putting pressure on them to sell by eliminating commission from the equation. I know not every shop makes that effort, and I can’t expect everyone to ignore the short comings of a small business that really doesn’t try. I shop local, buy local foods, and frequent small businesses because I value the experience I get in most privately owned businesses. The care I receive at my barber in Oakland is unparalleled and because of their outstanding service, they are being written about in the NY times. That being said, I also know a few businesses around me that I wouldn’t frequent because of the poor service provided by the staff, and lack of effort to deliver something special. When I say support your LBS, I mean support a local bike shop that genuinely earns your business and it’s place in the community.

  52. Your LBS can also try to make you buy a bike that is the wrong size because that’s what they have in stock and they want to make a sale, and tell you you need all sorts of stuff you actually don’t, and the clueless dope is none the wiser.

    I don’t need a LBS to stay in business any more than I need REI or Performance bike to stay in business.

  53. I have to say after reading the comments, I would love to recommend my LBS’s but as a newbie (2012) back to bikes I walked into a well known LBS in Glasgow to purchase a bike. I kept telling the owner I have short legs long torso, and he recommended a 52cm Synapse.. did no bike fit other than to ask is the saddle about right.. in my nievity I said yep not a problem.. I went back for its first service and although it is a little thing he re-greased and changed the top cap from a cannnondale to a rusted one, when I queried this he denied that it was changed and accused me. Also turns out that 52cm Synapse.. doesn’t actually fit me I need a 48/49 cm or a dropped top tube. I refused to ever deal with him again.. So second bike shop.. a warranty claim for my kids bike because the “glued” on tyre came off his stabalisers.. Bike shop for a bike 4 months old refused to change it and said the child was leaning on the stabilisers for too long and that caused the problem..
    It is a real shame that you get such bad service, the point of going to a LBS is for good advise and good customer service.. I actually get better service from Wiggle as they will happily take anything back and either replace or refund..
    If I could find a good lbs they would have had my £10k that I have spent on cycling gear over the last year (inc bikes) perhaps what the LBS needs to look at is matching prices but able to deliver a bike as an online does.. but then offer a service price above and beyond for fitting etc etc..
    Just going back on the originaly LBS .. it also took a week to get a bike he had in stock.. I could buy and get online quicker.. Even from Germany where I have ended up buying my bikes..

  54. It still bothers me that people who work at LBS try to blackmail you by warning against LBS disappearing and not being there when you need it. An IBD might not, but there are various chain stores that have a competitive, functioning and profitable business model worked out.

  55. I no longer support the LBS scene. Constantly dissapointed! Anywhere from incompetent mechanics, that damage high end equipment, to labor and parts prices that are outrageous. I don’t see the need to sell me the cheapest 9/10 sp. chain at a 200/300% markup.

    “We worked on your derailleur for an hour”

    Really? If you had the tech know how, you would have recognized within 5 minutes compatibility for index shifting wasn’t going to work and friction is your only option….

    It’s not just a random encounter, either. I find this ACROSS the board with LBS, in all the states I travel. Constantly trying to take you for all you have, even if you know just as much or MORE than the mechanics. I have no sympathy that your failing business model is forced to increase your prices even greater because your sales continue to stagnate. If you price fairly, even a gear head like me will bring work in that I couldn’t do on my own.

    Unfortunately, all LBS current business practices continue to reinforce my purchase for a full scale tool kit and NO LONGER PROVIDE MY BUSINESS AT ALL.

    Was it really worth it? Your single time customer exploit?

  56. Just curious, do all of you who are b*tching about the costs associated with utilizing an IBD rant and rave about car mechanics and dealership service? The business models aren’t too far off. Also, I hope none of you discover the mark up on food, clothing, gasoline, electricity and pretty much any labor and knowledge based service (plumbing, electrician). Your heads will explode under the burden of these first world problems!

    If you value a service, pay for it (or do it yourself). Somewhere along the line we as consumers have become far too price focused. Ever think how this has affected goods and service based businesses?

    You can’t Amazon everything to save some coin and then bitch when the LBS doesn’t have your doohickey in stock. Johnny dot com is part of why it’s not in stock. It’s ok for YOU to look out for yourself, but the LBS can’t look out for itself? Why is that? Oh, right, because the world is your oyster mighty consumer! So, yeah, screw the LBS. Unless they have it stock and will match whatever price YOU think is fair. I wonder if you’d be cool with someone going to your place of work and paying you whatever they feel is fair for your skillset.

  57. JMS – I don’t understand the offense you’re taking to what Carystown has said.
    I agree, perhaps, that it could’ve been stated better, and that it seems hypocritical to have marketing that is welcoming of everyone, and an opinion that maybe not all are welcome.
    However, I think what he’s saying is actually incredibly reasonable, and one of the few rational statements that will come out of the debate.

    As a LBS mech, I agree 100% with what he’s saying – if you KNOW what parts you need, what bike fits you, clothing size, etc. – buy it online! Why not? It doesn’t bother me or my boss if you shop online for great deals. And, if you want to bring it to me for assembly, I’ll happily do so, and if there’s an issue pertaining to my work, I will absolutely take care of you.

    What is frustrating to me, and I think what Carystown is getting at, is people who are not so self-sufficient, and really want help, guidance, need to be explained what parts are required, etc. – and then buy things online. Taking advantage of my time, and distracting me from customers who eventually spend money with me is unfair – you’re asking for my services for free, and moreover, preventing me from making money with other customers – in turn creating a loss for me.

    I have no objection to offering my advice and insight regardless of where you’re going to shop, but I do strongly object to coming in to the shop and then blankly getting upset (note, being upset is quite different from politely asking “can you give me any kind of deal”) when our price isn’t what is found on Amazon e.g. – I have had people heatedly and aggressively try to “bargain” – an interaction between customer and store should never be an argument, and it’s frustrating for everyone when this happens.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with shopping online. Truly.

    But there is something very wrong with using a local shop to enable you to do so; if you’re going to be self-sufficient, be self-sufficient. When you need my help and haven’t ever been in the shop before, don’t expect a deal – we’re building a relationship and part of that is you respecting my labor prices as what I need to survive. In return, you will get my attention, support, and that deal down the road when we know eachother.

    I think the reason this argument is so hard to have is because of a mistake in the way people are viewing the whole thing. And this is true of any local business (not just bikes) vs online retailers. There will ALWAYS be good and bad local merchants. The same is true online (who hasn’t been ripped off on ebay?). Don’t generalize your experience at one, or even 5 places, to the industry. This would be like having a few bad dates and going “man, ALL people are awful.” Further, learn that the experience of shopping locally is about building a relationship.

    Yes, a relationship. You are allowing us to continue being involved in something we love (bike stores are not designed to be profitable, they’re designed to allow those of us that love bikes to make a living being around them), and in exchange we’re helping you be involved in something you love! This isn’t just an exchange of money, it’s a partnership – great customers support great shops, and great shops support their customers; I’m here for you a day before your race, squeezing you into my 1-week turnaround because you are here buying the Gu, clothing, and spare tubes.

    We don’t exist without eachother. It would be really helpful if there was some respect of this on both sides.

    Stop being a bunch of surly shop-rats, who complain that customers don’t tip enough (btw, if you receive good service, and want to be remembered, tip!), and resent everyone who buys stuff online or fixes their own stuff. There’s nothing wrong with beign self-sufficient, and it’s a very humbling experience to try something, fail, get frustrated, and have to ask a stranger for help. Charge the online-shopper full price, sure, but HELP THEM! That’s your one and only chance to show why they should build a relationship with you.

    And stop being a bunch of show-roomers who expect that the price on everything is negotiable. It’s not. If you’re buying just a bike, and getting a discount, we’re losing money. That’s not your fault. It’s a fault of the business we’re in. But, you must understand it’s quite frustrating to have your time tied up by someone who isn’t serious when there are customers in the store who are. And it’s a catch-22, I won’t give you amazing deals so you won’t shop with me, but if you did I would…

    Take a leap of faith, online shoppers – not every LBS sucks, just like not all girls/boys are assholes. If you find one that you like, support them. And remember that whatever bike they’re riding, they’re only riding it because it was heavily subsidized. We’re not rich. I can barely afford to pay rent and own a car, and eat lunch. But I love it. Wouldn’t change jobs for double the salary.

    We all love riding bikes, so keep in mind that that’s why we’re here. Not for money.

  58. It’s like the movies. The theater doesn’t make a dime on the ticket sales. They need you to buy popcorn and a huge soda in order to profit off the experience. LBS make no real money on the bicycle itself, which is why every shop is crammed full of accessories.

    When everything in the LBS is made in China anyway, I cannot morally support it. LBS should start specializing in American-made products, demanding them from distributors, and letting the online shops price match each other.

  59. @Brendan
    Yes, I do my own auto maintenance whenever possible, especially since auto mechanics are unethical and will tell you you need a filter replacement or cut your timing belt when it was working fine before. Same with plumbing.

    As far as food, clothing and gas go, I shop at places with competative pricing and that doesn’t mean Walmart. It just means I don’t shop at Whole Foods, designer stores or go buy gas at major intersections. We’re not talking about the size of the markup. We’re talking about the disparity in prices between a LBS and other sources.

    The LBS never has anything in stock for me, so I have to buy from Amazon. I do get to blame them, you don’t get to argue some sort of crazy chicken and egg thing and say it is my fault they don’t stock things because I buy from Amazon.

  60. @Brendan
    It is also the job of a good merchant to develop a business model that leaves everyone satisfied. If the customer is left with an unfair deal and loses business, or the business feels forced to make deals it feels are unfair, the owner is a failure as a merchant.

What do you think?