The Back Story
Sam and I (Matt) have worked in the bike industry for some years now. In our time we have seen a huge shift in bike standards, technology and in customer expectations, giving the local bike shops perhaps a near impossible challenge!
Bikes used to be simple. The riding vibe was relaxed and bike shops encouraged that feeling. Small shops learned customers names, gave stickers to kids and people were made to feel a sense of belonging whenever they walked through the door of ‘their’ local shop.
Fast forward 10 years and we’ve high street shops that are perhaps more interested in money and numbers than offering a personal experience. Then of course there are the internet shops who have superior buying power and can sell everything cheaper than any physical shop. These internet shops are bullying independents out of the game and it’s happening globally. I have friends working in Canadian shops where business is in crisis because their customers can buy online (from British shops) cheaper than the Canadian shops can buy from their suppliers. That is often true of us at Pedal Progression too.
With such high consumer demand for new products, the industry is working overtime developing technology and coming up with more and more new standards. In this modern age it’s impossible for most independents to stock all the headset sizes, wheel sizes, axle widths and various conversion kits for this brand and that. That said, many shops can order these parts for you, which takes time; something many people seem to have less and less of these days. Even waiting a couple days can seem too long in 2015.
Increasingly we see and hear about people buying bikes online and then heading to their local bike shops to get them set up as mech hangers have been bent in transit, or just that the mechanics at said online shops have done a poor job. This is fine except usually the question starts with “I was wondering if you could do me a favour”, like the industry owes them something. Unfortunately the shop that receives said bike owes said customer nothing. Mechanics in local bike shops don’t get paid a lot but are a massive help to the local riding community. If you want great service from the off, buy local. A loyal customer is priceless to an independent and most local bike shops will treat them accordingly.
Your local store can help you find the best riding spots, get your bike running sweet and can sell you something at super short notice before the weekend. They can handle warranty claims and can give you advice about pretty much anything! Those that work in good bike shops usually love riding, that’s why they are there at the centre of the riding community encouraging others with the passion that drives them.
How to make a stand…
We want to make a stand with other independents as we encourage consumers to buy local. That’s why we’ve developed a not for profit t-shirt campaign with our friends at Morvelo, perhaps the coolest independent clothing brand in the UK right now. They have made us a couple of t-shirts that set a clear challenge; Support Your Local Bike Shop. On the back, the t-shirt has the words “The internet can’t fix your bike” to drive home the point. The Morvelo Pedal Progression t-shirts are available in size small to extra large costing £15 a piece. For every t-shirt we sell, we will give one away to someone working in a local bike shop. They may be able to wear it as uniform and if not, it makes for great casual wear!
I’ve heard the argument made (a valid one too) that “where I live there are no decent bike shops”. There could be many reasons for that. Is the shop under staffed? Perhaps they are not turning enough business to employ someone. Do they not stock the 35mm, 800mm wide, red anodised bars you wanted? Perhaps that’s because they are cautious to order such things incase they are landed with massive amounts of stock they will have to make a loss on in order to shift. Are they grumpy? Well, there really is no excuse for that! Local shops can only improve if given the opportunity to do so and for that to happen the local riding community needs to show them support, not just verbally but financially too.
Remember that you vote with your wallet. Don’t wait for somebody else to make the difference. Realise that you are that somebody. If you are reading this you are part of the local riding community and can play your part.
So remember when you visit your local shop, they are up against it. Show them some love and buy something, rather than using their stock to browse what you might want to buy cheaper online later that evening. If the local shops die out, the riding scene will change forever; and not for the better.
This piece wasn’t written to offend but to make you consider where you put your money. Bristol (and the UK) is blessed with some great shops so next time you’re in town why not pop into one and grab some energy bars or a tube!
Think about buying local and ‘Support Your Local Bike Shop’.
Thanks for reading,