In Memoriam: The LBS

There was a time when I held down ‘real jobs’. Jobs with (a little) stress, with (some) responsibility, but without soul. And while dealing with the great unwashed never held much appeal, I always envied the guys who worked at my preferred LBS. They seemingly had it all–an endless supply of cheap bikes and parts, hanging out and shooting the breeze with other riders, and getting the heads-up on the latest and greatest developments and industry gossip. It was the epitome of the dream job for a bike rider.

They weren’t just the guys who fixed my bikes and sold me parts at mates’ rates; they also became my friends outside of the shop environment. We’d go to the pub, to parties, and to see bands. We had more in common than the obvious bike factor.

One of the guys had started out as a shop rat straight out of school, then eventually branched out and started his own shop with another riding mate. While I was spending my nights getting trashed and playing in a punk band, my empty daytime would be spent sitting around in the workshop, swapping tales from the road and picking up some tips from the mechanics on how to tweak my bikes. When anyone was sick or had to go away for some reason or another, I’d be asked to fill in. It was almost a real job, but one that was just as much fun as jumping around on stage at night.

With business starting to boom, necessitating a move to larger premises, I was offered a full-time position. Of course I took the opportunity. After all, I was always spending my paltry band earnings on bike bits anyway. The more successful the shop became, the more time the boss would spend away from it, buying expensive clothes, driving his fast car and chasing even faster women. His business partner must have seen the writing on the wall, and promptly sold his share.

The brother of the now sole owner was recruited to look after the financial side of things, while me and the mechanic looked after the sales and service sides. Now, the brother, being an ex-used car salesman, had the gift of the gab. But he didn’t know a lot about bikes, and not much more about business as it turned out. Most mornings he’d turn up to work looking dishevelled, reeking of cigarettes and booze, complaining of another hangover. He’d gruffly send one of the BMX groms, who hung out in the workshop, down to the takeaway to get him a bacon and egg roll and a Coke.  “Make sure the egg’s not runny,” he’d always bark at them. When the roll would inevitably contain a less-than-firm egg, the groms would hastily make their exit under a hail of abuse. One of the part-timers would gladly retrieve the discarded mess from the bin and scoff it down. The mechanic and I would get much entertainment from this.

By early afternoon, the hangover would be too much for him (and us) to endure, and the lure of the pub and its poker machines would be even greater to resist. We’d offer our helpful advice, encouraging him to take a few bucks from the till and go and enjoy the afternoon. His arm was easy to twist. We’d then be free to get the repairs done, play some music we actually liked and ride the scooters around on the concrete floor, honing our tricks and seeing who could wheelie the furthest and do the longest skids.

Thursdays were late trading nights, and usually they were pretty quiet, especially in winter. Left to our own devices, we’d invite mates and girlfriends around, grab a 6-pack or two, and have a little party before hitting the pub after we shut. The empty bottles littering the workshop combined with the aggressive music blaring probably scared any customers that ventured in, but we were usually too baked to notice, or care.

Meanwhile, the boss’s car was becoming way more pimped, his hair was falling out due to constant trips to the salon (and from the stress of his failing business, no doubt), and suppliers were reluctant to supply because they weren’t getting paid. We still were, but increasingly in cash, which was likely so they could avoid paying tax on our wages.

Not surprisingly, the shop went under only a few years after its inception, with the brothers returning to the used car game, never to be seen again in the bike industry. But looking back at those memories, I know that they were some of the best years of my working life, even if it was obvious our days were numbered and we’d soon be looking for alternative employment.

Today, the LBS is a dying breed, and only when it’s finally extinct will we realise that we helped kill something very special. I hope it doesn’t come to that, because the best memories aren’t going to come from hitting ‘Add To Cart’.

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71 Replies to “In Memoriam: The LBS”

  1. A good read Brett, I can sense the nostalgia and I have some memories of my own, but from the perspective of the pedalwan facing the daunting task of learning about the bikes.  I have had the good fortune of learning from some really excellent LBS owners and employees – their enthusiasm and passion always shines through.  I have rented bikes in a variety of places and have found that the front desk as well as the mechanics are ready to share their knowledge willingly with the most novice rider out there. 

    And now for an unvarnished plug for my local in Burlingame, CA (Summit) – a truly great bunch of guys and Dustin is an awesome mechanic – also, I have rented from Schlegel in Oklahoma City and Open Road in Jacksonville Beach, FL.  If anyone ever finds themselves in need of help or just to spend time with some good folks in these communities, each of these deserves your attention.  Open Road in the beaches even has an Italian wine bar that gets good use on the weekly rides – solid place – flattest riding on the planet.

  2. Tricky balance I feel , between LBS and  add to cart, on one hand I do support my LBS  , I get good friendly advice, banter , coffee and  a fair discount , I look forward to my visits. On the other hand , I have  some other  commitments apparently, oh yes I remember now , four kids , a house etc etc,  the discounts online are hard to ignore and there is a certain satisfaction on taking off and correctly fitting new bits although sometimes after an online purchase and a bit of down the shed mechanics I end up at the LBS to have it done properly.

  3. Sometimes when Im elbows deep in a greasy airplane or working around a hot jet engine, I daydream about how awesome it would be to work at a bike shop…

  4. I very much enjoy my trips to my LBSs,  I am quite loyal to them for all bikes, parts and accessories.  That being said I am the complete opposite with ordering any kit.  I will ship a pair of tights from half way around the world to get the exact model and size I want and love nothing more than killing some time at work to shop online for my next jersey for that specific temperature range you only see 1 week a year etc…

  5. Sounds like a good time for you and your mates there Brett – back in the day, when there was a little more meat on the bones of the retail beast. I don’t have an LBS – never really did – mainly because of symptoms from what you’ve described. Poorly managed shops with shit service. Too baked to care…

    The Australian retail scene had it pretty good for a really long time. Before online sales were an option, us punters had no choice but to pay the inflated price for goods to subsidise the rents and wages of bike shops who also offered a lottery in the quality of service provided.

    Sure, online purchasing has shut down bike shops – but not all bike shops. It has exposed what bike shops are good at and in many cases that’s been simply buying and selling goods at big margins. If these businesses want to carry on they have to adapt. Accept less margin on sales, offer better, more reliable service, use the faster, cheaper online buying power to help the punter get what they want. There’s still plenty of people willing to part with their cash – the shops just need a different model.

  6. Sounds like a shit bike shop – and we’re expected to be loyal to places like this.

  7. I go to a LBS who know me well enough to act like I’m a stranger when the situation warrants it (the VMH is in tow). No online shop is going to do that.

  8. You guy’s are getting pretty good at this writing thing, I didn’t need to feel more guilty about my ocasional online purchase, but maybe I did. I think I’ll go buy some new bar tape. 
    Cheers

  9. Very nice, Brett!

    Around three years ago we had one LBS in town, then they chose to move from the center of downtown to suburban hell. Not only was I pissed off by this decision, but the roads leading to the shop are downright death alleys. No way.

    I held on for a few months without a single LBS. This past summer we had jumped to four! One unfortunately closed, but I still live within a mile of three shops, all a bit different and serving different areas of cycling. I consider myself very, very fortunate, since my city isn’t even that big. And, we’re experiencing a nice uptick in cyclists (though many are extremely unsafe and not at all defensively aggressive).

    Just a bit of hope, as I dont’ want to see LBS’s go under either.

    Another great piece, Brett! Thanks.

  10. @Al not all bike shops are created equal, we have several in my market but only two that I trust implicitly with my ride and my hard earned cash.  Knowing who the shop belongs to and who wrenches on my bike goes along way, and in my case the owners are the wrenches.  I am not a fan of online retailers as it takes the soul out of the experience, it is simply a transaction – I enjoy going to my local shop and having a cup of coffee and chatting with my wrench (aka Dan)  Plus, it is kinda hard to bring a six pack to an online store to jump the queue when you need something yesterday.

  11. @Ccos

    I go to a LBS who know me well enough to act like I’m a stranger when the situation warrants it (the VMH is in tow). No online shop is going to do that.

    Nice! Someone buy this man a beer.

  12. @Harminator

    I don’t have an LBS – never really did –

    The Australian retail scene had it pretty good for a really long time. Before online sales were an option, us punters had no choice but to pay the inflated price for goods to subsidise the rents and wages of bike shops who also offered a lottery in the quality of service provided.

    Sure, online purchasing has shut down bike shops – but not all bike shops. It has exposed what bike shops are good at and in many cases that’s been simply buying and selling goods at big margins. If these businesses want to carry on they have to adapt. Accept less margin on sales, offer better, more reliable service, use the faster, cheaper online buying power to help the punter get what they want. There’s still plenty of people willing to part with their cash – the shops just need a different model.

    This.

    I’m not a big fan of the entirety of Rule #58.

    I buy most of my bike stuff online – the price difference here is Australia is too crazy to ignore. $15 vs $60 for armwarmers? Forget that…

    OTOH, Rule #58 does get this right: “Going into your local shop, asking myriad inane questions, tying up the staff’s time, then going online to buy  is akin to sleeping with your best friend’s wife, then having a beer with him after.

    There is at least one “bike shop” here that carries no stock at all, and specialises in fitting parts bought online (although I think they will order things for you if you like). 

    There’s another that has an attached (and pretty good!) cafe.

    One thing that surprises me is how few shops advertise and run shop rides. It seems this would be an easy way to build up loyalty to the store.

    One shop used to run one (started nearly 20 years ago), then merged and unmerged with another shop (aka “shit-went-down”). The ride still runs from the old place, but the new shop sponsors a team, and the manager basically ignores all the regulars and only talks to his team riders. Used to be 3-4 groups of 20 riders each, but now it’s down to 2-3 groups, often with less than 10 in each one.

    The original owner has a ride going from his new place, but that is pretty small still. 

  13. LBS for the internet? Not sure it’s a fair trade (stop cringing, puns are awesome), but I can live with it. I know what you mean though; I used to work at the local video store.

  14. Great article Brett. My LBS has had to switch to doing repairs and spares only, as he could not compete against the likes of Wiggle and Chain Reaction etc on their heavily discounted bikes. It was a canny decision by him, as it meant he could free up more space for repairs, and have lower over heads. We still have the likes of Halfords in the UK selling BSO’s and there will alwys be an LBS to pick up the pieces afterwards!

  15. Yeah nah bike shops aren’t going anywhere. The great unwashed are always going to need to be separated from their money, with casual insults thrown in to boot. And, for a proportion of them, the more cash they’re divorced from, and the greater the calibre of the insults, the more they like it and the more they spend. 
    Cyclists are quite frequently fucking retarded. 

  16. @minion

    Yeah nah bike shops aren’t going anywhere. The great unwashed are always going to need to be separated from their money, with casual insults thrown in to boot. And, for a proportion of them, the more cash they’re divorced from, and the greater the calibre of the insults, the more they like it and the more they spend.
    Cyclists are quite frequently fucking retarded.

    I think part of the differentiation is the L in LBS with the emphasis on Local – specifically not a large chain.  Increasingly it is LCBS vs LBS making it hard for the true independent to survive.  My LBS offers discounts to members of the local club so net is close enough to internet pricing for me to be happy to pay the difference for the service.  That latter point is really what is endemic in life these days that folk are no longer prepared to pay for service but then complain when it is gone.  Linked to this of course is waiting for delivery of non stock items vs just hitting checkout with next day delivery on the PC.

    My wistful dream is to open a cycling/sports cafe (coffee/cake/TV) and host a bike/service shop.  Though reality is probably that a cafe is as hard work as running a bike shop and location would be everything.

  17. @Teocalli Yeah the shop I work in at the moment is like that, we’re moving into a new store that opens onto a shared space with the cafe next door, the shop has been in its current spot for over 20 years. Also, the owners are happy for customers to buy online and then have us fit it up, because they realize that refusing to do so would be pissing in the proverbial (you can’t deny the economic rationality of buying online, especially with Shimano’s 2 tiered pricing). There is no denying that the lbs, or the successful lbs, these days is very closely related to a large brand (exclusively carrying one or two brands, special dealer pricing and participation in promotions) which helps them ride out the down times, but means they lose some of their freedom of operation.

    I’d also note that the gap between what the LBS is charging for parts, and the prices available online, is shrinking, which is interesting.

  18. Greta piece that touches on many points. I am always telling my students about the joys of stress free early life jobs which incorporate something you enjoy. Mine were beach cleaning and gardening – plenty of time outdoors, could surf when the waves were on and the freedom to drive a truck anywhere I wanted!! I have a dream of opening a coffee/book/bike/record shop where like minded people can just hang out but as your piece suggests I am not sure it would make much money but it would be a cool place to work/own.

    I have two LBS at different parts of the town I live – one is well stocked but run by two ex-motor cycle salesmen and the other is less well stocked but run by cyclists – I tend to split my time and money between both

  19. The one thing online doesn’t have is that rubber tire smell that I love.

  20. @click here for more not sure what your point is… Maybe the irony that this site has an online store albeit with very limited selection, yet encourages adherence to Rule #58?

    I prefer online shopping in general (it bears going to a big box store any day), but feel troubled by it overall because of its implications for jobs and smaller operations like the LBS.

  21. When I first started racing, I started hanging around our LBS owned by Hans, an old Dutch guy with a very thick accent. As time went on, I got to know the manager (became good enough friends I was a groomsman at his wedding), and the other wrenches. After a bit, I’d get to use their stands and tools to wrench on my own machine. Then a couple guys went off to college, and I was working 12hr shifts in the ER, so I would work the shop on my days off. Didn’t pay me any money, but I earned “store credit”, which meant I could work awhile, then order that fancy new set of Spinergys, or Scott Dropin bars all at cost. Need a new MTB? Work for a month or so. Learned how fix most everything, build wheels, all with Hans yelling at me with that accent. Good guy he was, and I was sad for him when the economy turned, and he had to shutter the doors on a business that had been in town for 30 years.

    Find a good shop, and treat the guys right, and who knows what you’ll learn.

  22. while waxing poetic in memoriam, here’s my memory of the LBS

    it was the late 80’s, the lights dim in the LBS, it was small, and cram packed with bikes, layered on top of one another in single file, on the walls, as you narrowly entered the front, and the shop seemed now wider than 10ft or so.  At the back is the counter and the owner, and wrench and sales dept all in one.   Greg was cool though, soft spoken, articulate, a good listener, and with panache.  His oakley reading glasses (yes, in the 80’s) automatically ran him up the food chain, and as a repeat customer, and getting to know him, he was interesting to know.  College educated, he did nothing he was really prepared to do, he ended up running a bike shop.  But he smiled at the end of the day, he understood relationships, he was a teacher really.  Query’s of all things related to the bike, were answered with a Masters level response, with the ‘schools of thought’ on the matter, the pros, the cons, and then his opinion; sometimes fixed sometimes open to mine.  He always had the projects, many of them in the back, like orphans, little bike children waiting for his attention and a brighter future than their prior plights that landed them up thus far.  Wheelbuilding, he was a journeyman builder.  Thread count, check, thread pitch…much different, to the 1/25000th, done.  He knew it and he knew where every single nut was in that shop, and never needed to do inventory.  He would introduce each year with spring classes, teaching bike tuning, wheelbuilding, truing and the like.  He was afterall the teacher, and despite whether it was to the loss of his bottom line…afterall, if you think about it, he wasn’t into that, he was into the bike, and growing his business, his clientelle, us…

    Many weeks, many nights were spent in the dimly lit shop after 8-9pm, learning lacing patterns, how to’s and…well, the Rules of cycling.  He was the consumate pro-LBS.  Having bought a frame up ride, it took 2months to consider each part on the bike, and once it was decided upon, it took a week to build up.  Try swallowing that now adays, with our instangram nation and fix it now complex, but..it was righteously built and lasted me 14 tender-loving years

    And all that changed in the blink of an eye one day, as I entered in.  ‘Hey Dan’ and he called me back, we had the customary talk, and he mentioned to me what he mentioned to others that he had an ‘opportunity’, to join in to a ‘real’ job, with benefits, insurance, retirement…you know, to support his growing family, who was in high school and all….we all have it, and we all know the balance and who can blame him. 

    And he sold the shop, its still there, and I go by…thinking of the day, but its sterilized now, like the carbon on the shelf, its as authentic as the Chinarello on aliexpress

  23. I recently had a steel frame and fork made locally , this was a labour of love by the frame builder , I treasured every moment of the Worksop visit , the measuring , the tube set choice , the colour , the change of mind on the colour , even the 5 month wait for the finished frame  was part of the experience , then the final visit for pick up and the joy of discovering it was even better than I thought it was going to be, I paid full price for this, willingly.

    Then I ordered all the parts online , it was considerably cheaper , this only works if you have the experience and confidence to be sure of your choices , then it was off to the LBS to have it all put together which they did happily , result was my dream machine , all good.

  24. I can’t understand how brick and mortar retail businesses stay above water; the margins are so low and the overheads are so high.

    But having an LBS is one of the most cherished pieces of La Vie Velominatus. Branford Bike is a perfect example; I go in there for a reason – a pesky little issue I wasn’t sure how to fix – and after 5 minutes we’re all laughing, Doug is joking that I don’t measure my seat post in mm, but in stories, and an hour later I walk out with sore cheeks from smiling and laughing. There is a camaraderie that only a bike shop can give, no online store ever will.

    And then you’ve got the bit about walking into the workshop, smelling the grease, and learning a trick or two that you’d never thought of even though you’ve been doing this for 25 years.

  25. Yep, love my LBS, Pedalero.  The guy runs a little bike courier business, too, and he just has a tiny shop-front and then a workshop with buckets and racks and walls of stuff, and he seems to love actually talking to people who aren’t there complaining their rusted up drive-train ‘isn’t shifting right for some reason’.  My wife will be in there tomorrow to see if he can help straighten a drop-out.

    The local chain-store has the shiny bikes and the big investment in electro-power (it’s the hilliest city in Germany…), but I hope he can stick around.

  26. I wouldn’t want to start a shop these days, unless the location was perfect. The two more successful shops I know of are a Trek shop and a Specialized shop. They are both independent but they have aligned themselves with those brands and seem to do well. And they run very tight ships, both Campy Pro shops, good mechanics and cater to everyone.

    Being a completely independent shop not in the ideal location would be a very tough sell. But then again I have no business sense and I would run any shop I ever owned right off the cliff.

  27. I was trying to think of other shops/stores I got into, but I think these are the only I go into. Ranked by frequency.

    1) beer store

    2) grocery store/farmer’s market

    3) LBS

    4) postal service/local independent shipper (selling off bike parts I don’t use).

    I really can’t think of any other shops I ever go into.

  28. I miss having one of the best shops in the country as my LBS. they made it very inviting to stay and hang out while working on my bikes. now in a small town I am left with going to the ” best” shop in town. They get stuff done but I dont get the impression that people hang out there.

  29. I go by a 40% rule. If it’s 40% less online, I need to look out for myself as much as the staff of an LBS. That being said, Bar tape, tires, and all the small bit always warrant a ride down to the shop.

    It’s to bad that the only shop that carries the gloss orange Fizik I have found is filled with fucktards.

  30. I really, really want to love an LBS and I really, really want one that I can call mine. But one way or another, just when I think I’m onto something, that I’ve finally found the one, a keeper, they always seem to let me down. Badly.

    One always gave me great deals on mountain bikes and the sort of protective kit I needed for falling off them a lot but when it comes to working on bikes, what a disaster zone. I’ve even come to realise that I can’t bleed hydraulic disc brakes as badly as them.

    Another can do the wrenching stuff but does such an amazing job of looking at at me in such a way that says “you’re not a proper cyclist, you’re just some sort of yuppie fuck who can’t play golf for shit” that I’ve given up and will only go there when the tool needed to fit a part is significantly more expensive that the part itself.

    So fuck it. I won’t apologise; I’m staying single and I’ll go where I please for my satisfaction, whether it be the internet for instant gratification or a spot of DIY when I really need to get to those hard to reach spots.

  31. For me Rule #58 is, by far, the hardest to abide by. I have a very hard time choking down double the cost of a part in service of supporting the LBS. It’s also very annoying to try to talk to some kid half my age who only cares about MTB or FGFS who I’ve forgotten more about bikes & cycling than he knows. I realize the pay is shite & they generally loves bikes, just not the ones I love. I get far more satisfaction out of a screaming online deal & performing my own installation & maintenance. Not everyone can be a true Cognescenti rule holist. The best thing about the LBS is they usually carry every cycling magazine I could ever want

  32. @Chris

    I really, really want to love an LBS and I really, really want one that I can call mine. But one way or another, just when I think I’m onto something, that I’ve finally found the one, a keeper, they always seem to let me down. Badly.

    One always gave me great deals on mountain bikes and the sort of protective kit I needed for falling off them a lot but when it comes to working on bikes, what a disaster zone. I’ve even come to realise that I can’t bleed hydraulic disc brakes as badly as them.

    Another can do the wrenching stuff but does such an amazing job of looking at at me in such a way that says “you’re not a proper cyclist, you’re just some sort of yuppie fuck who can’t play golf for shit” that I’ve given up and will only go there when the tool needed to fit a part is significantly more expensive that the part itself.

    So fuck it. I won’t apologise; I’m staying single and I’ll go where I please for my satisfaction, whether it be the internet for instant gratification or a spot of DIY when I really need to get to those hard to reach spots.

    I don’t know if you intended it to be, but that is fucking funny!  ….and quite true as well.

  33. In any large town there are 2 types of shops: 1.) the Pro Shop 2.) the Joe Schmoe Shop.  The Pro Shop is staffed by those who live breath and eat cycling, and usually do not have outstanding business acumen. Because of this, they are usually more skilled with a wrench but less motivated to assist a customer. The Joe Schmoe Shop, however, is run by businessman or woman with a mere interest in bicycles.  It is he or she who understands business, and therefore knows that all customers drive the business and welcomes all to the shop.  Of course, the Pro Shop will go out of business as they don’t know how to run a business, and the Joe Schmoe Shop will be chugging along merrily, servicing the 96% of cyclists who do not live, breath, or sleep cycling.

  34. @Gianni

    I wouldn’t want to start a shop these days, unless the location was perfect. The two more successful shops I know of are a Trek shop and a Specialized shop. They are both independent but they have aligned themselves with those brands and seem to do well. And they run very tight ships, both Campy Pro shops, good mechanics and cater to everyone.

    Quite the same here, the two largest (and currently both expanding shops) in my area are Trek and Specialized.

    However, it hasn’t deterred the opening of a few new shops around here (and word of even two more).  I can only hope this is a signal of the growth of the sport in my area.

    I would like to see these guys come off this full MSRP crap though, and get competitive with their pricing….

  35. @Cogfather

    For me Rule #58 is, by far, the hardest to abide by. I have a very hard time choking down double the cost of a part in service of supporting the LBS. It’s also very annoying to try to talk to some kid half my age who only cares about MTB or FGFS who I’ve forgotten more about bikes & cycling than he knows. I realize the pay is shite & they generally loves bikes, just not the ones I love. I get far more satisfaction out of a screaming online deal & performing my own installation & maintenance. Not everyone can be a true Cognescenti rule holist. The best thing about the LBS is they usually carry every cycling magazine I could ever want

    Sometimes it is best to purchase parts thru LBS that say “need protection” and no issues. I recently had Campagnolo Centaur controls that were 2 months beyond the 2 year date of purchase. The left shifter was not engaging correctly near the front end of the cassette — could not hold the tension. The Cycle Center along with Hawleys USA replaced the entire control lever hood and all within 2 days — no cost.

    Have also had my wheels built at Cycle Center to avoid “issues” down the road (pun).

  36. @Al

    Sounds like a shit bike shop – and we’re expected to be loyal to places like this.

    You need to learn to find the good within the shit — and sometimes its piss!

  37. @unversio

    @Cogfather

    For me Rule #58 is, by far, the hardest to abide by. I have a very hard time choking down double the cost of a part in service of supporting the LBS. It’s also very annoying to try to talk to some kid half my age who only cares about MTB or FGFS who I’ve forgotten more about bikes & cycling than he knows. I realize the pay is shite & they generally loves bikes, just not the ones I love. I get far more satisfaction out of a screaming online deal & performing my own installation & maintenance. Not everyone can be a true Cognescenti rule holist. The best thing about the LBS is they usually carry every cycling magazine I could ever want

    Sometimes it is best to purchase parts thru LBS that say “need protection” and no issues. I recently had Campagnolo Centaur controls that were 2 months beyond the 2 year date of purchase. The left shifter was not engaging correctly near the front end of the cassette “” could not hold the tension. The Cycle Center along with Hawleys USA replaced the entire control lever hood and all within 2 days “” no cost.

    Have also had my wheels built at Cycle Center to avoid “issues” down the road (pun).

    The right shifter. Dang!

  38. Check all the phonographs, records and cylinders in the lead photo. Apparently even in 1912 a LBS had to diversify and sell the hipsters some vinyl with their fixed gears.

  39. @RedRanger I have the same feelings every night.  After the LBS ride I have a 10 hour overnight shift to look forward to.  I sometimes wish I could work on bikes, but then the bike mechanics say they wish they could work on planes.

  40. @unversio

    @minion

    Cyclists are quite frequently fucking reminion.

    We usually avoid using that word dumb ass.

    We do, don’t we. Apologies all round, that was mental laziness on my part.

  41. @infinity87

    @RedRanger I have the same feelings every night. After the LBS ride I have a 10 hour overnight shift to look forward to. I sometimes wish I could work on bikes, but then the bike mechanics say they wish they could work on planes.

    If you saw the state of some of the bikes that come into the shop, you’d probably be pretty stoked to be working on planes that haven’t been either pissed/bled on, ridden through dogcrap, or doused in a litre of wd40 then cleaned with a pressure hose and the customer wonders why his wheels stop going round.

    I do think the death of the bike shop, like the death of newspapers are somewhat overstated. Cycling is ludicrously expensive, even for the frugal cyclist and much of what we deal with is people who are time poor and asset rich who don’t want to learn how to fix a bike when they can pay someone to fix it. And, some companies are becoming aggressively anti-online discounting, basically by setting their wholesale very high for the product they sell – so the LBS doesn’t make much on it, but they pay the same price as the internet store for the product. Saving 20 bucks for a Garmin online isn’t worth the wait and inconvenience.

  42. Great read, Bretto. I like how every LBS in the world smells the same. Such a great smell. The Twin Cities are full of great shops. From large chains, to sole owner shops with incredible knowledge and expertise, to co-ops that appeal to gauged-ear, single speed riding hipsters. There’s a good scene in the cities that doesn’t show much sign of dying, thank Merckx. Where I live though the LBS is about the size of a moderate living room and only stocks what “bike riders” need to keep their steeds on the road. I get that and don’t expect anything else from it. I try to shop there as much as I can. I  use it for tubes, cables, lube, SPD cleats, and Gatorskins as she gives me a good price on those. Unfortunately, she’s not open this summer as her hubby is gravely ill. It’s a good little shop and the owner has done a lot for cycling in our non-cycling town.

  43. @unversio

    @unversio

    @Cogfather

    For me Rule #58 is, by far, the hardest to abide by. I have a very hard time choking down double the cost of a part in service of supporting the LBS. It’s also very annoying to try to talk to some kid half my age who only cares about MTB or FGFS who I’ve forgotten more about bikes & cycling than he knows. I realize the pay is shite & they generally loves bikes, just not the ones I love. I get far more satisfaction out of a screaming online deal & performing my own installation & maintenance. Not everyone can be a true Cognescenti rule holist. The best thing about the LBS is they usually carry every cycling magazine I could ever want

    Sometimes it is best to purchase parts thru LBS that say “need protection” and no issues. I recently had Campagnolo Centaur controls that were 2 months beyond the 2 year date of purchase. The left shifter was not engaging correctly near the front end of the cassette “” could not hold the tension. The Cycle Center along with Hawleys USA replaced the entire control lever hood and all within 2 days “” no cost.

    Have also had my wheels built at Cycle Center to avoid “issues” down the road (pun).

    The right shifter. Dang!

    I do have to say, my LBS did take great care of me when I came in to bitch about my Mavic shoes coming apart.  I pointed out that a high dollar shoe was about to be rendered useless on account of the $0.02 thread, and no shoe smith would attempt to repair it.

    I got a brand new pair, (and now a Rule #9 pair)  So the full MSRP game paid off for me on that transaction!

  44. @Marko

    Great read, Bretto. I like how every LBS in the world smells the same. Such a great smell. The Twin Cities are full of great shops. From large chains, to sole owner shops with incredible knowledge and expertise, to co-ops that appeal to gauged-ear, single speed riding hipsters. There’s a good scene in the cities that doesn’t show much sign of dying, thank Merckx. Where I live though the LBS is about the size of a moderate living room and only stocks what “bike riders” need to keep their steeds on the road. I get that and don’t expect anything else from it. I try to shop there as much as I can. I use it for tubes, cables, lube, SPD cleats, and Gatorskins as she gives me a good price on those. Unfortunately, she’s not open this summer as her hubby is gravely ill. It’s a good little shop and the owner has done a lot for cycling in our non-cycling town.

    Good post. Maybe LBS’s should be judged on smell. My formative cycling years were spent engaged with Dooley’s Cycles in Paisley. A dark wee place in the lee of a railway viaduct. Most of the stock was hidden away in the back. You asked for it, the staff (Willie or “the old man” –  his father) would disappear and retrieve said item. There was a door to the right of the counter that led to the back shop. It was like a door to another world and you knew you were special if you got to got “through the back.”

    The shop’s gloom was suffused with an intoxicating smell of oil, rubber, plastic, and lubricant. The outside windows (often covered in condensation) were filled with an assortment of bikes and bike related stuff. Most of the serious expensive stuff was in the left hand window, the “regular” items in the right hand window. To me, the left hand window was like looking at the crown jewels. Campag parts, the odd Italian frame, posters featuring foreign riders. Most modern shops just lack character IMHO.

    I know it was the dark ages of retailing, but I just can’t connect with a modern bike shop that has no smell. It’s that indefinable cycling miasma that I remember and cherish.

    The shop is still there, run by Ian, nephew of Willie. It’s brighter, a bit more spacious, but still has “that” smell.

  45. @wiscot

    The shop’s gloom was suffused with an intoxicating smell of oil, rubber, plastic, and lubricant. 

    It’s probably a surprise that those of us above a certain age actually survived childhood with all the smells we had to sniff (in the nicest possible way) that are now banned or available only behind the poisons counter – plastic glues that were probably chloroform based, dope from shrinking tissue on balsa aeroplanes, solvents that used to be in things like evostik, overhead projector cleaner that was actually carbon tetrachloride etc……..or maybe that’s why we of a certain age are all a bit loopy…..

  46. @frank

    I can’t understand how brick and mortar retail businesses stay above water; the margins are so low and the overheads are so high.

    But having an LBS is one of the most cherished pieces of La Vie Velominatus. Branford Bike is a perfect example; I go in there for a reason – a pesky little issue I wasn’t sure how to fix – and after 5 minutes we’re all laughing, Doug is joking that I don’t measure my seat post in mm, but in stories, and an hour later I walk out with sore cheeks from smiling and laughing. There is a camaraderie that only a bike shop can give, no online store ever will.

    And then you’ve got the bit about walking into the workshop, smelling the grease, and learning a trick or two that you’d never thought of even though you’ve been doing this for 25 years.

    I bought my first pair of cycling shoes, Diadora’s, at Branford Bike, when they were in Branford, CT in the early 80s.

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