Having sold bikes and components for a living I have visited bike shops near and far. And despite having been in so, so many of them, I’m never not interested to see what’s inside. Most bike shops are run by bike nerds (though curiously not all of them), and so what is for sale is usually an expression of a nerd’s fantasy (albeit limited by the lines they can get access to).
I almost never check out the bikes first, except for the ones displayed in windows and over counters. Those will tell you a lot about what the shop thinks is cool. But the racks? I save those for later.
I’m probably most interested in clothing and accessories. I buy very little (other than gloves), but I like to see and touch the stuff we all see online. The fabrics, cuts and construction are interesting to me. I can tell at that point what is well and thoughtfully made, what will work for me, instead of just looking good in a 2D image online.
As an aside, when I was a travelling rep, I developed a theory that you could project a shop’s annual revenue based on the cleanliness and classiness of its bathroom. I need more data, but I swear I’m onto something there. I do not, for the record, make a beeline for the water closet in every shop, but when you’re traveling from shop to shop, well, needs must.
Finally, I look at the bikes, but I don’t look at them the way many do. The frames are less interesting to me than they once were. Instead, I’m more focused on how the manufacturers have spec’d the bikes out at each price point. What is the drivetrain? What are the wheels? The choices companies make with these critical components tell you something about how much they have sunk in the frame, and subsequently how nice the bike really is.
I also like to get a look at the service area. Do the mechanics keep their spaces neat or are they a complete mess? Like good cooks, a good mechanic cleans as they go.
So, this week’s TCI Friday asks: What’s the first thing you look at when you go in a bike shop and why?
Seeing as I am very rarely in the market for a new bike, when I go into one of my LBS, I’m looking either for an accessory or clothing. After I check out what’s on offer there, I like to checkout the bikes in the rack, just to see what’s out there.
First thing I notice is whether a shop is well organized or a jumbled mess. Then I look to see what the service area looks like, because usually it is buried in the back and one has to walk through the store to get to it.
The first thing I do is roll — or sometimes carry — my bike to service. That’s the reason for 99 percent of my visits
I’m very practical. I’m there to drop my bike off or buy one or two very specific things. However, when I start looking, I start touching and judging the clothing.
It depends what I need at that moment. I don’t like going into shops without intending to buy anything; I feel badly about wasting their time, and I already have all the tubes, lube, and bottles I can use. Once in though, I do check out the bikes. If they don’t have road bikes at middle price points then I probably won’t be back.
I always look for the shop dog(or cat). The ones without seem empty to me.