Every day the internet becomes more important in our lives. It is our research device, our shopping center and our advice column. We depend on it to show us what is new, relevant and available. We see what we like, and we can have it dropped at our front door in every color of the rainbow. We can even shop in our underwear, and no one is any wiser.
Have you thought about what is not online? The things that are sacrificed every time you click the mouse; we are talking about the IBD—the independent bicycle dealer—the one retail entity that we never considered being endangered. But in reality, the IBD has just appeared on the endangered species list.
Here are a few things that you will have to give up if local bike shops do indeed go extinct.
1. The touch and feel of items. This is an important one. Shoe fit cannot be done from a picture, neither can gloves, helmets, jerseys, etc. Not to mention textures and how the items feel in your hands or against your skin.
2. Colors are way different in real life than on your computer screen. Photoshop enhances everything, and of course every manufacturer wants their products to look ideal. Sometimes things don’t look the same as you expected from what was on the catalog page.
3. Knowledge is king. Do you know who gave you the advice on the blog last week? So many people who have no qualifications post their opinions online. You have to pick and choose what and who you believe. Of course it is the best product in the world, it says it right on their website. When you go to the bike shop, you see a human being face to face. There is accountability and, in most cases, real-life experience. Yes, there may be bad bike shops, and there may also be awesome online stores. But, as a whole, it is nice to talk to a real person and get matter-of-fact answers while looking them in the eye.
4. The bike will not build itself. The biggest thing you will find with the extinction of bike shops is the number of tools you will need to properly build and service your bicycle. That is, if you are even mechanically inclined enough to do the work yourself. The service industry is absolutely needed, and just as electricians and plumbers have become more scarce, the price of their labor keeps increasing. If tune-ups on a bicycle average in the neighborhood of $75 today, you can expect them to be well over $100 in the very near future, and you will not have any other option than to pay the higher fee if you want the work done.
5. Test rides and demos. Can you imagine purchasing an $8000 bike without ever riding it? Would you even know what bike size to start with? Who got you started riding mountain bikes, and who put you on the right bike for the amount you could afford? That’s right, your local IBD. But now that you have some personal knowledge and experience, you feel that saving a couple of bucks and giving a stranger your money is a better choice. You soon forgot who shared their passion and professional experience with you.
6. Warranty and bike-shop quality. The local IBD deals with the players in the industry and knows who stands behind their products and who doesn’t. There are hundreds of competitors out there, but which one is there for you if the product simply fails? Your shop is important not only in facilitating the warranty claims as they happen but having products that have minimal failure and that you can comfortably depend on.
You can always find a cheaper price on the internet, but is it really cheaper? Your time is worth money, too, and the time you spent on research should be accounted for. At the bike shop, you can ask a question and get a professional opinion without having to Google hundreds of strangers’ opinions that you are gambling on. So often people drive to the IBD and do their research there, asking the shop employees questions and checking out the products in the store. Then the shoppers take that information, drive home and purchase the same product online for a couple of bucks cheaper. But was it cheaper? You were at the shop, you already spent the gas money, you wasted the poor employees’ time at your benefit and left them with nothing. Think about your own career and how you would feel about someone taking advantage of you like that. You might shop differently with that in mind.