Cycling is a fun and practical way to commute around town, as well as a thrilling and adventurous weekend activity. But the process of finding a great bike shop near you? Not so fun.
Many people don’t have great experiences with bike shops since they can come across as sexists, elitists, or just outright unprofessional. Much like a relationship, you don’t want to commit to someone who doesn’t make you feel like you matter.
A good bike shop, however, is like a dream come true. In your cycling career, a good bike shop is your best friend. They are the people who take care of you and your bike. They can elevate your cycling experience with great advice and insider tips. You might even find a life-long friend in them!
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How To Pick A Good Bike Shop
Although there are tons of bike shops everywhere, it’s really hard to find a place that works for you. You might need to experiment a bit on your bike shop hunt, but keep these criteria in mind, and you’ll be golden.
A Great Selection Of Bicycles And Accessories
If you’re looking to buy a new bicycle, a wide range of bikes in the shop makes for an easier buying process. From cross-country Specialized bikes to Cannondale mountain bikes or even kids bikes, it’s easier to look through the entire collection in a single shop than to going to separate shops.
Bike shops are more than just showrooms; they also house a workshop for you to bring your bike in for repairs in the future. The shop’s bicycles and accessories inventory can suggest how specialized (or not) the shop is. For example, a shop that exclusively sells gravel bikes won’t be able to help you with your Trek mountain bike.
Knowledgeable and Friendly Staff
The mechanical aspect of a bike shop is important, but so is their service. If the staff ignores you when you walk into the shop or are too busy chatting to approach you, it’s time to walk out of the door.
Unprofessional bike shops don’t care if you get the best service or not. All they want is to move their stock or sell you more things that you don’t need. They might even try to screw you over by messing up your bike during repairs for more money.
On the contrary, knowledgeable and friendly staff are people you want to commit to. Not only can they help alleviate much of the stress that comes with buying and repairs, but they can also give you insider tips about the local cycling community.
A clear indicator of great staff comes down to your gut feeling. Do you feel uncomfortable dealing with them? Do you feel pressured to buy something? You don’t want to deal with things like this if you want to make cycling a more permanent part of your life.
In-shop Bike Fitting Service
You can’t ‘get used’ to bicycles the way you do shoes. It doesn’t take too many miles to turn a slight discomfort into full-blown, agonizing pain. To avoid that from happening, you need to get your bike professionally fitted to suit you.
In-shop bike fitting services range from basic saddle adjustments in a couple of minutes to full-blown customization. It depends on the kind of bicycle you get, though, since you can only make minor adjustments with some bikes and fully adjustable parts with others.
A word of warning, though, some bike shops charge for this service, so it takes a bit of trial-and-error to find something that works with your budget. It might be a hefty investment at first, but the comfort is well worth it.
Good Mechanics And Workshop
Even the most sturdy bike needs to be tuned up every once in a while. When that happens, you’d want to bring it to a bike shop that knows what to do with it. You don’t want to settle for less when it comes to your bike.
Besides that, bike parts can be notoriously expensive, so you don’t want monkeys with hammers to tinker around your pricey Schmidt hub dyno. The problem is, a lot of mechanics are confident about their skills, sometimes misguidedly so.
So, how do you know if they’re actually good, especially if you know nothing about doing bicycle repairs?
Sometimes, quality shines through the process. A professional workshop would have checklists, documentation, and clearly-defined completion date as part of their process. In addition to that, they would also have specific tools hanging on the walls of their workshop and spare parts needed for more common repairs.
Good bike shops also repair bikes based on a formal and standardized price list. This conveys transparency, which shows that they care for both your wallet and your bike. They’re not taking you for a ride.
When bike shops take into account their customers’ schedules and convenience, they tell their customers that they care and want to do the best for them.
People lead busy lives with tons of things to do. So a good bicycle shop wants to make sure that their store hours are long enough for their customers to bring their bike in for fine-tuning. Some others compensate for better weekend hours.
It might also take longer than a couple of days to get your bike fixed, so bonus points if the bike shop provides bike rentals or, better yet, free loaner bikes. Not only do you get to go on with your daily life on these bicycles, but you can also take the bike out for a test ride if you’re looking to buy.