The Pinkbike Podcast: Episode 12 - What's the Future of Bike Shops?

Jun 24, 2020
by Mike Levy  
Art by Taj Mihelich

After a week away for donuting and field testing, we're back!

Maybe you spotted your first mountain bike after you happened to wander into one. Maybe you spent more time and money in one than you'd ever like to admit. Maybe, if you're lucky, you've spent a few years (or more) working in one. Whatever your history with them might be, local bikes shops have played an undeniably important role in our sport. But the thing is, that role has had to evolve with the internet and changing times.

Our dozenenth episode is all about hallowed ground: The local bike shop. With over thirty years of shop experience between us, Brian, Kazimer, Jimmy-James, and I look back at what our local shops meant to us during the grom-years, recount some of our most memorable customers and stories, and really embrace that ''back in the good ol' days'' vibe. We also make a good case for shop experience, and especially mechanical experience, as an important perspective when it comes to reviewing bikes and components. But as anyone who's found nothing but an elitist, bro-ski vibe knows, bike shops aren't always the welcoming, helpful place we wish they were...

Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever else you get your podcasts.

May 27th, 2020

"Sorry, we're gonna have to order that part..."

Hosted by Mike Levy and featuring a rotating cast of the editorial team and other guests, the Pinkbike Podcast is a weekly update on all the latest stories from around the world of mountain biking, as well as some frank discussion about tech, racing, and everything in between.

Previous Pinkbike Podcasts
Episode 1 - Why Are Bikes So Expensive?
Episode 2 - Where the Hell is the Grim Donut?
Episode 3 - Pond Beaver Tech
Episode 4 - Why is Every Bike a Trail Bike?
Episode 5 - Can You Trust Bike Reviews?
Episode 6 - Over Biked Or Under Biked?
Episode 7 - Wild Project Bikes
Episode 8 - Do We Need an Even Larger Wheel Size?
Episode 9 - Why Are We Doing a Cross-Country Field Test?
Episode 10 - Getting Nerdy About Bike Setup
Episode 11 - Are We Going Racing This Year?

Hit us in the comments with your suggestions: What do you want to hear us talk about? Would you be into watching a video version, or are our dulcet voices enough for you?

Author Info:
mikelevy avatar

Member since Oct 18, 2005
2,032 articles

  • 42 1
 Servicing, servicing, servicing.
  • 23 6
 This is it. The LBS retail model is dated. I want to support my LBS, but I don't want to be restricted to the 3-4 brands they carry. I'd rather pay a "consulting fee" for them to help me select the right part or bike that I will order elsewhere rather than do the current dance of "Thanks for the help, I'll think about it", then go order it online when I find a dramatically better price than what they offered me in shop. Keeping competitive pricing is really hard, and not something a LBS will ever be competitive at while also worrying about all the other stuff. I'd be fine if my LBS kept basically zero inventory and only provided servicing and a place to hang out.
  • 18 5
 @Lanebobane: on the competitive pricing front, brands need to help out by enforcing prices if the LBS is going to have any chance. SRAM does a good job of this, so buying a new cassette cost me the same amount at the shop or online, so I buy at that shop. Shimano has made some stride on this front but it is still very easy to buy their parts online from grey market sources for cheaper than the LBS can buy them wholesale. If thats the case how could the LBS even begin to compete?
  • 19 1
 @mtmc99: yep, Shimano did our shop dirty. You can go on Jenson and buy parts cheaper than our mechanics can on wholesale pricing, they have no interest in protecting local shops.
  • 4 4
 @mtmc99: How do the online retailers get them cheaper than the LBS? If that remains the case, then you're right, LBS will never be able to compete. The thing is that, at the end of the day, local retail models like LBS do not make sense compared to a larger operation that can take advantage of economies of scale. Anything sales related is like this. What doesn't really benefit from EoS, however, are things like servicing and providing me beer and food.
  • 21 0
 @Lanebobane: Essentially every LBS gets their stuff from Quality Bicycle Products (QBP), a wholesaler which carries nearly every brand of components. QBP and the big internet shops all buy direct from the manufacturers, so there is an extra middleman for most purchases.

There are a hundred exceptions to that rule, but in general, you're very correct in that LBS will never get product cheaper than a big internet shop. Complete bikes are the biggest exception, but bike pricing is kinda nuts, and often depends on things like what % of the shops' stock of accessories are from the same brand as the bike. That is, you'll get better pricing on a Trek if you ONLY carry Bontrager stuff than if you also carry Specialized, Castelli, Maxxis, etc. It's not just graduated price breaks based on volume, they have specific anti-competition exclusivity pricing. Again, there are a hundred exceptions to that rule, but it's the sort of thing that happens a lot.

My take... bike shops that are run by savvy business-minded individuals will always be profitable, because they are innovating and constantly assessing the needs of their community. Shop rides, a cafe on site, race/team sponsorship, a great demo program that refunds the demo fees towards a bike purchase, no-questions-asked warranty processes where the shop eats the cost up front and takes the risk of the warranty being rejected... all those things add value and are a hallmark of top-notch shops.

Bike shops who expect people to walk in and buy bikes and accessories at MSRP without any additional support or service than you can find online - they are in trouble. And the worst type of shop is mentioned in the sub-head: "I can order that and have it in a couple days." Yeah, and I can get it cheaper from an e-seller in a couple days...
  • 3 5
 @Auto-XFil: 100%. To survive, shops need to offer what I can't get elsewhere. I do most of my own work. So if I come in for service, it's going to be something pretty technical, so they need to be expert in that stuff. If I need a tire/chain/brake pads etc. to save my weekend of riding, I'll gladly pay whatever they want if its in stock. If they have to order it, well I can do that too and probably get it faster and cheaper. Shops that blame Shimano for Wiggle selling cheap are the dudes selling buggy whips.
  • 5 2
My local shop gets all the business I’m not interested in or don’t have time to do myself. Service is the key.

As far a buying bikes. Companies suppling bike shops better start offering all models and options À la cart sooner than later. I’ve gotten to the point I won’t look at brands anymore if I can only get this model frame in carbon or that model in full build only. Change your sales model bike brands or the Commencal’s of the world will take all the bike sales business.
  • 4 0
 @Auto-XFil: One thing Shimano never did with those big online retailers is enforce MAP-Minimum Advertised Price. That's common in everything these days, and its really Shimano's fault that the small shops got screwed.

QBP doesn't really carry Shimano anymore, not sure why but I believe it's because they wanted to get rid of the distributor model. Not sure how that's going for them, clearly their oem business is strong.

As for the "we can order that" I just ask them if they'll bring it by my house on Tuesday, or have it shipped directly to me like what happens if I order it. I can understand if it's something that would be a pain to stock but there is a reasonable limit
  • 4 1
 @Lanebobane: Several years ago, I pitched to my LBS manager that he should build out a place to hang out, watch WC vids or Youtube, buy coffee and pastries (aside from energy drinks and snacks), or even team up with the liquor store next door to have some tables outside, etc. Shit, I find it therapeutic to watch the mechanics working on the bikes. But he didn't think it was a good idea. I rarely go now. I love to support them, but it's hard when it's no service-related. Most of the time, I call and they don't have the part. They can get it, in 1-2 weeks, which at times is fine but the cost can be a head-scratcher. Last time, I needed a bearings for a headset, which they had as a part of a kit. I went in, they sold me the bearing (not the rest of the kit) but at a price higher than the whole kit (online, that is). I didn't say anything, paid, but that's not sustainable. Or does it not matter. Always new people getting into the sport, new blood, new money...
  • 1 0
 @Wildeman21: to my knowledge, shimano is doing 100% MAP pricing now. Nothing is offered to online retailers at a discount. They're trying to get back into the good graces with the shops, but yeah they have an uphill battle after how long they were shafting the LBS.
  • 3 0
 @nonk: MAP is actually illegal in the EU though, so you're still competing with the likes of CRC, Bike Discount etc. There are a bunch of laws in Europe that are pro-competition to the extent that a manufacturer cutting off a dealer for undercutting retail (or any other) pricing or trying to tell the dealers who they can/can't sell to (eg a brand not letting CRC sell their parts into North America for example) can land them in court. Dealing with a global market problem in that regard.

A lot of big online stores have their own house bike brand, which allows them to purchase a significant volume of "OEM" parts. Whether they end up selling those OEM-priced parts on a bike or independently is then quite hard to control.
  • 4 0
 On Saturday, I watched a guy wait 50 minutes in line to get into one of the local shops to buy a new tube (or possibly get the tube patched) for his daughters bike. He didn't have the bike, just the tube.

As long as guys like that exist, shops will be around.

90% of the time, when I go to a shop, it's because I need a specific part or tool quick. One shop I go to has a massive retail section and I can go grab something from the wall and leave. The shop I WANT to support has a super clean floor, but everything is in the back and I need to ask for anything and I have no interest in that. Glad to have numerous quality shops in town.

The other perk that most shops around here have is discounts for riders who have memberships to the local trail societies. Fund trail building and advocacy and get deals. Win-win.
  • 2 1
 @Lanebobane: You wrote:
"The thing is that, at the end of the day, local retail models like LBS do not make sense compared to a larger operation that can take advantage of economies of scale."

What makes sense to mountain bikers is the mostly unappreciated value to local races, racers, riders, and volunteer trail workers that local shops support and that your cheap mail order companies generally don't value at all because they only care about the bottom line.

Quit selling out your soul and ours.
  • 1 0
 @Auto-XFil: This guy gets it.
  • 31 3
 I could easily live the rest of my life without going to a brick n’ mortar shop...thankfully I can do other sports if my bike needs something...

If I missed being talked down to then I could still go to a guitar shop.
  • 15 0
 The podcast, much like the current shop market seems to forget about the fact that most people with bikes are not 'bike people'. Many just want a 'non-Walmart' sub $1,500 bike to ride with their kids, for their kids, take camping, commute etc. $1,000 for a bike for most people is a lot of money! A friendly shop that treats people well and gives great service will always have a place in my opinion.
  • 4 1
 Yep, that's fair. The point I was trying to make on the podcast is that in 10 years I think a good number of those $1500 bikes are $1000 bikes bought from the internet instead. The barriers to sales online continue to drop, with more middlemen cut out.

I don't think shops should stop catering to non-endemic sales, but I think they shouldn't count on them either. Focusing on service is key to the future of a lot of shops IMO.
  • 3 0
 @brianpark: I agree that more will go online, and service is key. But many of these people can't change a flat let alone put a bike together. We have all seen the guy with the fork on backwards! So until online figures out how to ship bikes economically ready to ride (perhaps sooner than we think) the shops have a fighting chance.
  • 2 0
Disagree. I think many first time buyers will walk into a Santa Cruz dealer and buy that bike that Danny Mac rides before ordering it online. If anything it’s the competent bike owner who doesn’t have access to a truly high quality shop that is pushed to online sales besides service they either can’t manage or don’t have time for.

Recently got a Bike built up by local lbs to save myself some time and I like the guys over there. But it would’ve honestly been cheaper and less of a headache had I just done it myself. They helped me out big time with loaner parts when their suppliers f*cked up things, but most the parts that came misordered or on back order are available cheaper to me and in stock online. That shop will continue to get my service business and I order stuff thru them rather than online routinely. But from a purely retail perspective they offer little to me besides demos and their demo fleet is pretty small. Also half their staff is douchy and unreliable so I end up only ordering things only if certain staff is there. But good luck to anyone and any business to fully staff a place with competent and friendly people.

The other Shop near me has a much better selection and probably 5x the retail space but it’s service is significantly less reliable. Also once they suggested I replace an entire drivetrain when I literally replaced the cassette myself maybe a month before and it was operating quite well. Definitely don’t dislike them and I’ll
Happily run in there to buy things in stock. I bought my mom a bike there for Christmas a couple seasons ago. (Liv tempt) But a shops service is certainly the thing they need to be top notch If they want to build and retain a clientele.
  • 15 0
 As long as there’re presta and schrader valves, we will stay open!
  • 11 0
 I'm sorry to read that apparently many of you have a sh*tty LBS or bike scene in general. There really is no excuse to be a condescending douche to a customer.

One of the things I read quite often is that the future of bike shops lies solely in servicing.
Having worked in a bike/motorcycle shop, I can assure you that this is a very difficult business model to make profitable. Just because the shop is open for, let's say 9 hours a day, doesn't mean that you're able to invoice all of those 9 hours. Quite often you have customers visiting or taking phone calls, mailing suppliers for pending orders, placing orders... In my experience, if your shop is open for 9 hours, you're lucky to bill about 5 of those at the end of the day. And that's just not gonna cut it...

So what makes up for it: the margin on sales. If you take that away, you might as well close up shop and start working from your garage by yourself. And yes, parts will have to be ordered all of the time instead of sometimes.
  • 1 0
 Truth. Especially for smaller shops, service alone won’t cut it and time to put into marketing/events/group ride Is non-existent if you’re service based and needing to crank out repairs all day every day. Not to mention trying to stock parts to cover your customers, small shops can’t be amazon. So the future of bike shops is big bike shops and places like rei in my opinion. Too bad.
  • 12 2
 Super core dudes complaining about what they expect from a bike shop is ignorant. Shops stock the business to service the customer base that they have. Comfort bikes,kids bikes,bmxbikes , basic mtb bikes and the parts to service em pay the bills in most shops. The shop is gonna be prepared to service the customer that is in front of them daily. Chasing after the sale of every widget that the hardcore customer wants this week only stacks up dead stock.. Exceptions exist of course and the shops that can stock all that stuff are cool but be nice to the family shop that is ready to fix a flat for mom.
  • 1 0
 very a kid i would think that those mom and pop shops were so boring and uninspiring. oh how my perspective has changed
  • 10 1
 Offering what online shops can't easily do.
Offering a range of built bikes you can see in person and test ride. Seeing if your kid is big enough to reach the ground on a 24" frame or if they're going to have to get a smaller frame.
Offering you a place to take your wheelchair/electricscooter/moped to ask to have the tyres pumped.

Without bike shops where would bored men in their 50's go to ask about unrelated things like crimps they can use to fix their lawnmower?
  • 1 0
 I'd like to see bike shops partner with each other to offer bike demos for all the brands they carry. $75-$100 a day for one bike gets expensive quick and you're left with data for only n=1. I need to ride them all to ensure I get the right bike.
  • 13 5
 Me - "Hey do you have this?", Shop employee - "...........*blank IDGAF stair* "Maybe...".
Me - "Hey Im in the market for a 6k bike could I demo one of these?", Shop employee "Why demo?, you're going to love it?"
Me - "Hey did my part come in I ordered 3 weeks ago?" Shop employee - "Ohhh uhhh no not yet."
  • 4 2
 or "uhhh we can order it for you..."
  • 35 2
 Customer - "Hey, there is a killer deal on some DT Swiss wheels in shop X. Would you mind coming along with me to make sure I get the right ones?" Me - blank WTF stare

Customer - "Hey, I got some XT brakes from Bike Discount, could you lend me your bleed kit so I can install them today?" Me - not sure...

Customer - "Hey, I live down the street from you. Just got a Canyon, it's awesome value for money! Would you mind swinging by and teach me how to do some basic maintenance?" - Me: contemplating the unbearable lightness of being

One more? Ok
Customer: "Hey man, you used to be a dealer of brand X. There's a new dealer now two towns away. I'm not sure if I should go for a trail bike or an enduro bike from brand X. Could you tell me the pro's and cons so I can go buy the right one for me?" - Me: performs ritual hara-kiri
  • 3 0
 @NinetySixBikes: this every single day
  • 3 0
 @NinetySixBikes: 100% agree with you !
  • 7 1
 I sometimes wonder why they still exists in the first place. What comes to my mind:
- An ordinary person wants to buy a bike. It is nice to buy something which you can see
- An ordinary person wants to service a bike
- An mtb geek needs an emergency buy

That's it. For other things like suspension service, I would go to a dedicated service guy, not to the shop. Shops are good in adjusting mechanical parts which I can to on my own.

But the first two mean that their future is bright, because the majority of customers will always prefer a shop.
  • 4 0
 @lkubica You're exactly right about number two for me. I have enough time to sneak in rides, I don't have time between family and work to mess with a broken or bike in need of service. Drop it off, get it fixed, pick it up and go ride.
  • 7 0
 Depends on who works at the shop. My local shop is small, survives on low end bikes and services as they share the parking lot with the local bike path converted from an old rail line. The main mechanic is a bigger guy that’s known locally for making strong wheels. I’m a big guy that kills rear wheels, so it works out well for me to have someone local building custom wheels that are both strong and affordable. He even will use my parts and just charge me labor. Those are things I can’t get online. It’s all about relationships for a local shop. This shop gets it, every time I go in it’s a couple minutes just talking about the kids, dog, wife etc. Sure I still buy things online, I’m beholden to my bank account too.
  • 1 0
 @WhatToBuy: And apart from that, buying all the tools to do the servicing yourself in a proper, non-hack way is quite the investment.
  • 1 0
 @WhatToBuy: Im in the same boat as you. I have only so much time to allocate to biking per week so Id prefer to drop the bike off for service and still be able to ride on the weekend.
  • 6 0
 Mike Levy, when you open that shop call me. I worked in shops for 10 years and finally left normal shop life to go run operations for a bike share. Even after 10 years of wrenching, and being the "lead" mechanic for the last 3 years, I was the point man on all high end electronic drivetrain/hydraulic brake/ suspension services and holding tons of industry certifications, I was still only making $14 an hour with out any benefits at all and was one of the highest paid mechanics in the shop. I didn't WANT to leave, I basically had to leave for another job that would pay more and have benefits. I still get calls from a lot of that shops race team members and my old regulars asking if I will do work for them.

If you guys want to dive deeper in to that subject you should get a hold of James Stanfil with the Professional Bike Mechanics Association. They've been trying to figure out ways to address a lot of those issues for the last several years.
  • 1 0
 That is messed up. Most shops charge around 60 an hour for work. The general rule is 1/3 should go to salary. But for the top mechanic they could probably squeeze out closer to 25 an hour.
  • 1 0
 @iantmcg: You're telling me... Not at all out of the ordinary. The guy who is above me at my current bike share job has basically the exact same story.
  • 1 0
 @iantmcg: Just think of all those shop owners rolling in the dough while their slave meachanics suffer on pennies. Haha Yeah right. $60 is the SHOP rate. Not the profit.
  • 1 0
 @mosierman: I’m not sure I understand your point. I didn’t say the extra was profit, I realize there are costs associated with running a business. 1/3 of the shop rate going to employees wages is pretty standard across a lot of industries. 1/2 can sometimes be pulled off but profit would be pretty minimal at that point. My overall point though is no matter the multiplier that is not a great salary to keep the really good mechanics long term, so bike shops will always struggle. I don’t want to come off as unsympathetic to shops they are in a tough spot for sure. But somethings got to give, heard way too many stories about bike shops messing stuff up. Know quite a few people that would rather pay someone to maintain their bike but they do it themselves because they are afraid the shop will mess it up.
  • 1 0
 @mosierman: you're not completely wrong, but you're definitely not completely right either. The shop owners at the shops I've worked at were definitely not hurting. The one I described above for example has done an excellent job of creating a community in our city and I respect and appreciate them for that. They have done amazing work for our cycling community. On the other hand, the thing that made me decide it was time to go was my last year there. That year the owners bought a new Mercedes sprinter van for the shop (ok fine, we needed a new vehicle for event support to replace the aging box trailer we had been using for years) but then also bought their daughter (who was just working sales in our tied in outdoor gear shop) a brand new specced out Nissan Murano as a grad present, and a brand new specced out Audi Q5 for the wife of the couple while he was driving a 2 year old Ford F250. Right after she started showing up in that q5 they cut everyone's hours or laid off some of the younger guys because we "hadn't made enough money that year". Somebody was clearly making money, but it definitely wasnt the staff.
  • 1 0
 My personal hours got cut back so far I had to go get a second job bartending just so I could make rent.
  • 1 0
 @lyfcycles: yeah at that point I would hope the top wrenches we’re getting half the shop rate back in pay.
  • 6 0
 I'm surprised @brianpark @mikekazimer @mikelevy none of you guys brought up how the big companies and manufacturers are strait up raw dogging LBS more and more each day. People always talk about how shi_!_!_y specialized *used* to be with suing the little guys left n right. They're 10x worse now with the shady moves they're pulling with shops. How about manufacturers that have such atrocious supply chain management that shops are waiting MONTHS for bikes after they were told "it'll be there next Tuesday." At that point the end user is almost forced to buy a YT or Commencal or Canyon even if those bikes were fourth or fifth down the list of what the rider wanted originally (or never wanted that bike to begin with). Or how Shimano used to whore out their stuff to CRC and Jenson (afaik they're not doing it anymore and trying to get back in the good Grace's with the LBS).

A huge amount of the issues that come up with why people are unhappy with their local shop start directly at the top with the big companies. Whether that's a massive individual entity *looking at you Sinyard* or a mega Corp *looking at you PON*.

There are 100 different reasons that shops struggle to keep parts in stock and many of those also arise from the top, standards, hardware sizes, proprietary items, special tools, brand loyalty/snobbery. And again, so much of it comes from the top/the big companies.

It seems to me that the big Companies are hell bent on ENSURING the LBS goes out of business so that their pockets get even fatter. Having stand alone bicycle service centers might not be a bad idea, but just you wait till you're only going to be able to get your new Enduro serviced at a "Specialized Premier Service Center." You wanna bitch that a full service tune up costs $200, well wait till its $1200 at the Soecialized Service Center.
  • 3 1
 Shops are getting squeezed. But they’re also adding less value to consumers who are more and more well informed.

Definitely something missing from the discussion, and worth looping back on in the future.
  • 4 0
 @brianpark: Like I said before, I don't really have an idea how the scene is in other countries or regions, so I can only speak from my own personal experience. What I've come to notice over the years is not so much a decrease in the service level of shops, but customers are getting more and more demanding.
They expect top level service at pennies on the dollar.

Customers will tell you how a certain service should be done, because they saw it from a dude that has some obscure YouTube channel. Then they will also tell you at what price that perticular service should be done, because some armchair entrepeneur on "unnamed forum X" told him so.
  • 2 3
 @NinetySixBikes: the sad thing is that the obscure YouTuber is right more often than the shop kid. It comes back to training and time.
  • 7 1
 This podcast just made me sad as a kid who just wants to learn about bikes but none of my local bike shops will hire me. Also the economy kinda sucks so it makes sense, but also like hire me pretty please
  • 16 0
 Don't get discouraged! Right now is a super weird time, I'd be persistent. I think most of us got our starts from hanging around in shops being annoying until they had us start breaking down cardboard and cleaning bathrooms. Smile
  • 2 0
 @brianpark: Hahah thanks for the advice, will keep in mind!
  • 3 0
 You don't need bike shop experience specifically to start off. When I was hiring in a shop we preferred shop experience for sure, but any kind of retail experience would be a good start. Think grocery store, hardware store, etc.
  • 1 2
 You'll be replaced by a machine soon anyway.
  • 1 0
 I think my LBS hires guys like you and throws them straight into servicing customer bikes without supervision Frown
Just before COVID-19 lockdowns hit I took my bike in to get a suspension bearing replacement to fix a little creak. Got the bike back with multiple paint chips around the pivots (looking like they 'pressed' the bearings in with a hammer), chewed up fixing bolts, bent rear hanger, and the chain running around the OUTSIDE of the lower chainguide. Unfortunately I was in a rush picking it up and just hastily put it up on the roof rack without checking. A couple of rides later something didn't feel quite right, and I stopped to find the upper shock mounting bolt was backing out, they either hadn't torqued it tight or had failed to use thread locker.
It's an old bike and I don't baby it by any means, but it's still super disappointing. In normal times I would have taken the bike back and asked the owner to have a chat with the mechanic responsible, but with Covid-19 they literally shut the doors the next day and opened by appointment only for the next 2 months. Knowing that they were doing the right thing by continuing to pay their staff while closed I'm not going to ask for any money back, but also not going to get a service there again.
  • 5 0
 Maybe this is just a Vancouver/North Vancouver thing, but I'm sometimes shocked (no pun intended) at how poor the face-to-face service is at bike shops (save a small few). Like, the sales floor employees are almost universally just not outgoing and friendly and engaging. It often feels like pulling teeth to get help with something.

I'm sure this changes once you show interest in purchasing a full bike, but god damn if it isn't shit when looking for anything else.
  • 2 0
 No it's an everywhere thing. You get a lot of unmotivated people who just want an easy minimum wage job and don't care, and just as many big ego think they know everything but typically don't. When you find those shops where the owner cares and hires great people who care it's such a different experience. I go out of my way to support places like that when I find them. FWIW it's a bit out of your way but VanCan on youtube has endless good things to say about his experiences with Kinetic Cycles in Coquitlam. You could always give them a try next time you're looking for something.
  • 5 0
 Awesome episode. Best one yet. Made me think of my shop days, like the wrench who got busted sniffing saddles or the guy who jammed a ti synchros post into a too small seat tube. Same guy also chopped off a finger tip in a spinning rotor years later. Also totally on point about disadvantaged people riding bikes too. PS totally down with the straight edge shop blaring loud music. We found Japan X and White Zombie to bolero the floor monkeys away!
  • 2 0
 I wanna build a trail called "Saddle Sniffer"...
  • 5 1
 Toxic? Well, I now work in a 'professional' field where degrees and designations abound and it is far more toxic than any bike shop I've ever had the pleasure of working at. Miss those days.
  • 1 0
 very true! ive had the same experience
  • 2 0
 “You broke your foot? Well that’s not valid because I once broke my foot and leg and back.”

There are many bad places to work In the world. We’re talking about bike shops because we’re a mountain bike website.
  • 1 0
 @brianpark: as they say, pick your poison. i think he´s referring to the bikeshop "young unprofessional syndrome" toxicity versus high budget corporate try-hard toxicity. some places are better than others, that´s for sure and PB looks great. Although i sometimes hate the consumerism that takes place, I really appreciate the podcasts and bike reviews!
  • 4 1
 I think the increase in mobile bike mechanics is what will really hurt the LBS. The LBS hires a kid that is going to the uni for mechanical engineering or something, bright kid does good work but moves on so they struggle to find another kid to pay $15 an hour to and that kid isn’t as bright so the service not as good. Got 2 mobile bike repair guys near me, they have years of experience, tons of attention to detail, I don’t have to worry if it is the sharp kid working on your bike or the new kid. They either install the parts you already bought or help you find them. Their time is billed by the hour, they don’t make more money by selling you parts that are less than ideal for your situation because it is their “brand partner” or whatever. It is just an all around better model. Not sure what the LBS can do to match or beat this.
  • 4 1
 Oof, taking on the bike shop...

Yeah, shops have their issues. Some are utter shit, some are great. The shit shops who don't treat their customer with respect shouldn't be around, they give bad rap to the good shops.

Customers don't help the situation with entitled attitudes, failing to understand how difficult things can be sometimes when they expect to so much from someone who is usually grossly underpaid.

My biggest gripe with bike shops in the 10 years I've been working at them is beer being the "go to" tip . Sure, it can be appreciated, but the based on what I've seen at the 5 different shops in different states I've worked at, it only fuels the issues with alcohol that seem to be prevalent at a lot of bike shops. Want to show appreciation? Get the guy a gift card to a grocery store, some cash etc.

With the shit I've seen in a service department, service will always be needed and it's damn time shops realize that the service department is their backbone and invest in it. Pay your guys better, expand your service department. A little work at this goes a long way to give your shop and the service department a professional look. Big thing not done enough? clean your service department.

Bike sales at shops will still be strong for a long time. Consumer direct companies still have a long way to go to have things dialed.
  • 2 0
 Alchohol isn't the issue, it's the solution.
  • 2 0
 @spaceofades: and that’s the problem
  • 1 0
 The cause and solution to life's problems.
  • 7 2
 "After a week away for donuting and field testing, we're back!"

GRIM donuting, I suppose....
  • 2 0
 My local shop is very much what Brian described. As someone who is fairly new to MTB they have been a God send. I'm also a person that spends hours online researching and reading but it's been great to just roll into the shop and bounce ideas off the more knowledgeable guys. They also have always been friendly no matter how dumb my ideas might be at times.
  • 2 0
 I love my LBS. They never charge retail prices on bikes. If you see the MSRP online, expect to pay 10-20% off tax included (high price, bigger discount). Since I bought the my current bike from them, I can get free small parts like shifter cable, ferules, crimps. Also swapping the cassette to my new wheels, the owner did not even charge me. Other shops charge $20 to swap the

This is the reason why they never expand even if they are in the business for 10 years. Small shops will always take care of you. Them doing these little things will make you come back whatever you need for your bike.
  • 3 1
 To me, direct to consumer, or the internet, can never fully replace a good shop. When I'm over my head and I need help in a pinch, the internet can't bail me out. Not to mention I've made lifelong friends out of what was supposed to be a one time purchase over 10 years ago.
  • 4 0
 Definitely hate the "biker bro" that some shops employee. They are easy enough to avoid though, simply don't go back to the shops that employee such people.
  • 1 0
 Kinda tricky when there's only one shop within 20-30 miles of you...
  • 2 0
 Bike shops are similar to when you had to go to a local computer shop to get parts and build a computer. The employees treated you like you were an idiot and they were a gift from god. However, you knew that it was a necessary evil to go into the shop. The last few experiences I've had at a LBS, there was zero customer service and without me following up I would have been without my bike for a month. Service is key and if they can't figure that out then let them go out of business.
  • 2 0
 Re: Bottles and cages

Length is the limiting factor. It's time we switch to ⌀3.5" bottles and cages - standard Nalgene bottles, until something sleeker comes along - to get double the volume for a given length. 32 oz. bottle is the length of a 16 oz. bike bottle or 48 oz. is the length of a 24 oz. bike bottle, and I don't know many bikes that will take two 24 oz. bottles.

Widefoot Litercage
Velo Orange Mojave
  • 2 0
 I have to say Brian, saying that working in a bike shop is toxic is pretty average.
It cost me $56,000 to complete a four year degree, about 12 years of paying it off through my tax, and I have never worked in my graduated field.
Not because of want, but studying what I did, I wasn’t made aware that getting a job in the field would be nearly impossible.
So now I make far less money doing something that I enjoy and makes me happy.
Not having a ‘qualification’ through some form of education isn’t the be all end all. A lot of people would be better off without their degree and learning more about life, which you probably get through working in a shop than going from a uni to a suit.
  • 2 0
 Shops need to cater to beginner cyclists too
Need a better place for everyone to feel comfortable. Those shops described as ideal cater to more high-end clientele

Bike purchase over the phone may be a great model for those mid range $1500 bikes that will likely end up being sold online in next 3-5 yrs. I work in a shop that was closed for covid. Customers could look at bikes online, pick one and have it delivered to their house. Demand was crazy. But the one thing missing was someone over the phone to explain to a customer differences in the bikes and geometry. Those entry level customers have a lot of questions. Most of which there is a gap. Info available online either lists super basic descriptions of bikes or gets way too technical for that customer stepping into a low-range hybrid/road/mtb bike for the first time and just wants to know some basics

Finally. Yes the bike shop bro needs to stop. But also some people want some of that feel to a shop. As a female x-racer and bike enthusiast it's a bit alarming when customers still come in and look for the closest "summer kob" kid In the shop to bro out about bikes, or pass me up because on looking at me as a female, what would I know about mountain biking. Or changing a flat.

Food for thought I hope!
  • 1 0
 The future of bike shop is like the past of bike shops.
Bike boom is on the down curve.
Shops owned and run by real cyclists/mechanic will stay open as usual.
Industry milked the cow, there is nothing left (ebikes for kids... really?).

Lifestyle and investor stores are going to keep closing.

Same fate as all cycling publications. In x years, only the larger ones will survive (with scale down operations).
  • 1 0
 Most of their money will be made off servicing and maintenance as others have said. They don't make a huge profit on bikes to begin with. More and more direct to consumer brands will pop up as prices get steeper and steeper and people wanting to save some money. I have a DTC bike and it's been great a year in! The warranty process might take a bit longer if needed, but it's worth it to save a few hundered, if not thousands on a bike. However, others will strongly disagree I am sure
  • 1 0
 I like going to my LBS and asking them if a part is right for me from thiere personal experience . Riding the same trails as me. An LBS will carry parts they believe in so choice will be limited. The personal experience I get and the delicate job of suspension rebuilds and custom wheel building can not be replaced by the internet. Your local LBS, and internet sales will always be there.
  • 1 0
 I love my LBS, but pretty much anything I - the super-nerd who works on their own bikes - want, they have to order. So they get maybe 25% of my parts ordering business? Used to be more but I live farther away now. I do spend a bunch more at their attached cafe.

I think the real value they and other good bike shops bring to their community is in helping folks new to cycling get on a safe bike that fits well, guiding folks who don't necessarily know what part they need to fix or upgrade their bike, service, and growing the cycling scene and keeping stoke up with group rides and community events (during normal times). Super-nerds are a relatively small component of most shops I've been to.
  • 1 0
 Product managers ripping us off is what is causing people to look to direct sales. SX and NX parts, resin only Shimano rotors, hockey puck rubber compound tires creeping their way into $4000 aluminum and $5000 carbon builds. Overall bike weight creeping upwards smh. If I'm spending that much on a bike, I want the parts to function, and last.
  • 1 0
 If you consider inflation at around 2% per year, that's a substantial year over year difference when considering 5000 dollar bikes.

On the other hand, you can now walk in to a bike store and for 2 and a bit grand walk out with a bike with solid geometry, good enough air suspension, a dropper post, hydro brakes, through axles, and 1 by drivetrain.
  • 1 0
 Direct to consumer or otherwise, bikes are better today than yesterday. And as much as I give PMs a lot of shit, many of them are doing a great job. Just, part of their job is to make money for their companies.

$4k buys you SO much bike these days.
  • 1 0
 The bike shop in my town shut down, and it was a pity because they were good mechanics.. Leaving us with Halford, who have never even seen a bike like mine. Good guys, but rarely have experienced mechanics for higher end equipment. But I'm not surprised the town bike shop closed, because they held lots of bikes in stock, some very expensive.. And presumably not all of them sold, so they were stuck with an old bike. And in todays climate of constantly changing standards, i can understand why they might be reluctant to keep a load of bikes that are like ticking time bombs.. I'm even reluctant to buy a bike for myself these days, seeing how fast things become difficult to maintain when the tech 'moves on' So I can totally see why bike shops, if they stay open at all.. Will just become mechanic stations, where you either order a part and give it to them to fit.. Or they order it for you and fit it.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevi we need a mechanic! Come over for the winter!
My main point when hiring, is similar to you. I want that person to actively ride bikes and like bikes. Specially here in Sedona, it needs to be the drive to want to live here.
  • 1 0
 I hope they can adapt and survive and I will continue to support them even if I pay a little more and it's not always convenient anymore. A bike shop that doesn't sell bikes and relies on the service model is never going to thrive, so you will never see me on a mail order brand given how much bike shops have done to build up and establish the bike community of racers, riders, send trail workers all around the world.
  • 1 0
 They are making a killing in my area, mark ups for service, parts, and bikes are through the roof!! They are also getting a PPE loan at 1% for $100k that they might not be even have to pay it back under Trump Welfare like the Farmers get!
  • 1 0
 i have zero reason to go to the shop other than service they dont carry any higher end parts unless its XC or road groups and forget about anything that isnt shimano, sram or fox as for bikes same story, unless its light xc or road you cant get anything, especially less known brands LBS has some specialized bikes but only if you order them, other than that they have 2016 carbon demo on display which i guess they cant sell because its pretty much flat for like 400km around lol
  • 1 0
 I for one think the LBS is important but my local shops where i have lived are predominantly pretentious and shop rat driven. I am not an expert but have built and rebuilt many bikes through my years and don’t need to be talked down to. I think shops need to continue to be more service oriented and keep some of those parts on hand I.e. spokes, rims, bearings, bottom brackets, chains, cassettes etc. I know it’s a big ask but it seems like the way to survive. Or the other model like my new local shop does kayaks, climbing and some skiing too which I feel makes them more desirable and a better chance of survival. I know many do bikes and skis so it just depends on your locale.
  • 1 0
 I'd love to hear ya'lls thoughts on carbon vs aluminum wheels. I switched back to alloy wheels a while back to reduce harshness when riding...but now I'm curious about riding a carbon wheelset with cushcore inserts. The weight would roughly be the same when compared to alloy, but you would get the added benefit of the stiffer wheels and tire support from the inserts.
  • 1 0
 Pretty much the golden rule I’ve seen is the bigger and stronger the bike community the better shops they will have from a retail perspective and that most but not all have at least one competent lbs for service. I think any competent businessman can find a way to make a lbs profitable from a retail side (but limitations are usually community based, can’t sell bikes or apparel there isn’t a big enough market for) as long as they offer really high quality service and give something of value to the local community.

If I were to ever open a shop i think the only way I could
Offer something in my area is to locate near a trailhead and focus on community building. Cafe or bar for people
To meet up at. Big parking lot to act as alternate trail head. Emphasis on selling apparel, accessories, and parts rather than a floor of show bikes. Small demo/rental fleet that fits the local trail rather than having one size of a bunch of different bikes.
  • 1 0
 Potential topic for we focus too much on the equipment and not enough on skills? How much of an effect does having the best bike with the best parts have on performance? Does the average middle-of-the-road ability rider gain that much from buying anything more than the average middle-of-the-road bike?
  • 1 0
 It's actually refreshing to listen to something in the bike media not just saying "support you lbs", I've never found a good, friendly bike shop. And I've really tried. I'm looking for that mythical place that has parts in stock, demo bikes (that aren't just rental bikes), and somewhere I can talk bikes. So far, I haven't found it. At the moment, I tend to try and support local shops with buying parts but, that is often a "hey, do you have an xyz?" "No, but we can order one in...", Which takes much longer, is less convenient, and costs much more than if I'd ordered online.
  • 1 0
 I actually started hitting up my shop for more parts this year. There were a few items where I knew I'd have to pay full price + tax. In those situations I definitely choose the shop. Interestingly, the last bike purchase I made was online, but it was also tied to my lbs. I got a about 30% off and free shipping. Not bad!
  • 1 0
 I love our LBS, and I would love to buy everything from them. Here's a problem with buying local that I've run into a bunch of times, maybe you've already addressed it. Most of the time the price is the same or maybe slightly higher at the LBS than online. But the delivery time to the shop is ridiculously long. I can get stuff from Amazon in 2 days, the shop has had to wait a couple weeks on some things. I can get stuff from Chain Reaction across the pond faster than that. Seems to me that the LBS are getting screwed by the distributors. I understand the shop may be partly to blame by waiting to put many items together for an order, but my impression has been that their delivery and freight charges are much slower and higher than mine as an individual ordering from an online shop. And this also seems to be a problem across the general outdoor industry.
  • 1 0
 I purchase some stuff online but if it's not a urgent need in terms of time I'll get it from my LBS. Why? One reason, good people. I truly enjoy my visits to my LBS even if it's just to pick up a little something like a CO2 cartridge or some gel shots. They most always have time to chat about the happenings in the bike industry, racing scene or get my feed back on things I've purchased there before. To me, great customer service is that which makes you feel like you're working together on an issue no matter if it's a new bike, purchasing upgrade components, fixing a problem or how something you've already purchased is working for you. IMPO, that's how to keep your customer coming back and stay in business. I'll gladly shuck out a few extra bucks for that kind of excellent personal interaction/service.
  • 1 0
 As one of the many who spent my 20"s working at local mom & pop bike shop bike shop in the 90"s. I have a few comments and call outs.
1. 90's online retailers like Supergo (RIP) and Colorado Cyclist were killing us on costs for Shimano parts. Customers would constantly as us to price match, but often the prices we had to match were our cost. I was a shop employee and I was ordering my parts from these retailers. We would refuse to exchange parts with persons who came into the shop with internet brought parts who brought the wrong size bottom bracket or chainring. There may be some historical memory of persons being told that the local shop would not trade/exchange/swap an internet brought part. I think that was a fair practice and have no regrets. We were happy to install internet brought parts, but you were going to pay a premium.
2. There are not many industries where you have 10's to 100's of thousands of dollars tied up in goods with an expiration date (when the new models come out) only to make small margins. I don;t know if the methods of shops buying inventory has changed over the years, but no one got rich in the 90's owning a bike shop. There was much better margins on clothing and accessories.
3. We also had a local character who frequented our bike shop for repairs. We called him "speedo man". Let your imagination wander and you will be correct.
4. Like Levy, those were the best years of my life.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy I’d like to hear the Pinkbike Podcast talk about this high-profile trail closure in Laguna beach:

As well as a somewhat related article-which I’d say is a strange attack on MTB:

Seems interesting to me the lengths they went to to close down a trail which had existed for decades, and that this may be starting a new trend in Laguna Beach/Aliso Viejo, which is a very popular riding area in Southern California.

This may be a classic case of environmentalism vs. mountain biking - how are we going to keep trails while there is increasing population density in areas like Southern California?

There is also an interesting thread on this here:
  • 1 0
 I feel like you guys really underappreciate the one unbeatable advantage that bike shops have over online, which is that you can come in and actually try different frame sizes. Thats such a huge thing, especially if you're in between sizes. If I would have had the chance to try the framesize, I probably would have bought my Commencal in the right size. Online sizing tools aren't that useful usually.
  • 1 0
 The best part about a bike shop is when you're getting ready to go ride and you realize that you need a random tiny part/service and you can just stop at the shop and get it done. No need to wait for your online order to show up, no need to research which part you need, just take the 30 minutes to stop at the shop and let the mechanic do what they do best.
  • 5 2
 Where the hell is Waki these days? Have I missed a massive moment in comments?
  • 9 1
 Apparently Waki is currently on a silent retreat; doing nothing but deep reflection on wheel size and which Olympic lifts are best for getting strong for mountain biking
  • 3 0
 Someone dressed him up like a witch.
  • 4 0
 he turned me into a newt... I got better
  • 1 1
 Most bikeshops in the sports market have both a physical as well as an online branch. This even goes for the big ones like CRC. If the shop is near to you, you may typically only visit the physical shop. If it is a bit further away, their website becomes more interesting. Especially with all these changing standards, you may need to look further for your 10sp drivetrain components and 26" wheel accessories. So that's the power of offering your stuff online. There is a bigger market so it pays to stock stuff that would otherwise be too niche. With at the end of the day, helps everyone.

In the utility/commuter market, the physical shop will never die. Not everyone who needs to travel from A to B has to skill (or even cares to learn) to perform an overhaul. True wheels, service an internal geared hub etc. And because your bike/mobility is so important in this market, they can actually offer you something. If you bought the bike here, we'll try to fix the bike the same day and you can borrow a bike to keep going for the time being. This is kind of essential for most people in this market whereas in the sports/recreation market, you can usually get along just fine for the day or even a few days. Plus of course most consumers are willing to replace parts themselves (and these bikes are easier to work on too) so they may not even be that much interested in the kind of service a bike shop is willing to give.

That said, those e-bike systems (battery, motor, computer etc) seem like big black boxes that are hardly user serviceable so even in the sports/recreational market I can imagine this is where physical bike shops may still have the edge over the home mechanic.
  • 2 0
 I think key is moving brick and mortar online. Any shop that would let me schedule my service online would have all my money.
  • 2 1
 Servicing suspension without gloves is VERY TOXIC! organo-phosphates are similar to agent orange. By the time you feel sick it's too late. Always wear good rubber gloves when handling fork oils.
  • 2 2
 this is for brian park - your voice lapses into vocal fry pretty often and it is annoying, no offense to you or what you're saying, but it becomes difficult to listen to you when your already low voice lowers even more to be creaky. I bet I'm not the only person who's noticed this? If I am, well, I take it back.
  • 1 0
 I hate hearing myself talk too. Sorry! Smile
  • 2 0
 Such kind words! Oh to be 31 and an a-hole.
  • 1 0
 @wellst: I think calling me an a-hole is a bit much. You don't even know me. Vocal fry is a common podcaster's thing to avoid, was meant to be constructive, but I guess it didn't come across that way. Feedback received.
  • 1 0
 @brianpark: no need to apologize, I'm sorry I said your voice was annoying, was just trying to give you constructive feedback, but it was unnecessary.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy I have an XXL TB3 and it drives me bonkers that there is only one cage mount. They could have fit two! I need the Wizard Staff water bottle! What is it?
  • 1 0
 i've been waiting for someone to address the 'percentage' increase but just being pedantic
  • 1 0
 Compound is most important. If you don't believe it try the Magic Mary bikepark compound tire, it's so bad it's dangerous!
  • 2 0
 So did Kazimer ride this past weekend
  • 2 0
 No comment gold? :sad face:
  • 2 2
 Mechanic-run workshop with on site tool rental for self-wrenching, and preferential delivery for online ordering. No other way. And beer & coffee and a couch.
  • 1 0
 If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around, did Kazimer ride his bike?
  • 1 0
 $2k-4k is A LOT of money for most people. It is hard to be inclusive at that price point.
  • 1 1
 Sorry. I messed up my edit

Brian Park - as you pointed out a couple of weeks ago, our mountain bike community needs to be more inclusive. We are mostly white males on expensive bikes. It feels like the LBS should play an integral part in this goal, although I do not know how. Do you have any thoughts on how the LBS can further this goal?
  • 1 0
 @earache: tbh we all play a role but it’ll be tough for shops to help. On one hand they have to get rid of the bro culture that makes people feel like they don’t belong if they’re not an insider. And on the other hand they have to lower prices dramatically to increase accessibility.

I wish Walmart had taken the opportunity with Viathon to make $1000 alloy trail bikes with good geometry. That would have made a meaningful impact on accessibility to the bike industry. Maybe they still will!
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy summed up in one minute everything wrong with bike shops @ 40:00... Spot on.
  • 1 0
 Now we know why so many people follow Levy into the bathroom
  • 1 0
 You guys really hate 27.5 tires I can tell.
  • 1 0
 I go to a shop because fox won't sell me stuff directly
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