24 March 2010

What makes a good bike shop?

What makes a good, no, great bike shop?

Like many cyclists, I've been in my fair share of bike shops. I'll usually search out shops when we are on vacation - even if we aren't there for anything bicycle-related. Sometimes I go into shops for something specific, other times I just want to soak up the "ambiance".

The shops run the spectrum from small, hole-in-the wall shops, to large, shiny flagship stores for a particular brand of bicycle. Some shops aren't just "bike shops", they carry skis, kayaks, and other outdoor equipment. Some shops I have been in offer spin classes, or roller sprints, others have a coffee shop where you can relax with a muffin and an espresso while shopping, or waiting for your bike to be repaired.

So, back to the original question: What makes a great bike shop?

The people, of course!

This past weekend my wife and I were on our annual "Anniversary getaway". Even though I didn't bring the bike (this is the last time I believe a weather report), I had to check out the local bike shop. They had a t-shirt for sale that said "get to know your mechanic" on the front (wished that I would have bought it, cool t-shirt!) That simple statement is what prompted this post.

I've been wanting to write a post about bike shops, and my favorite shops for quite a while, but I haven't been able to figure out the angle. I have several shops I enjoy going into, and it would be a disservice to them to compare them to each other. They are all so different; one has been open for well over 100 years, one has that cluttered "just on the edge of chaos" feel to it, and others are new, shiny flagship stores that everything is precisely organized and displayed based on market and consumer research. The thing that they have that is the same is the people. The mechanics and staff make you feel welcome! They make you feel like you belong in their store. They'll come over and talk to you about the latest ride, the race that was just on versus, or what the conditions are out on the local trails. All without making you feel pressured to make a purchase.

On the flip side, there are shops that make you feel like you aren't part of "the club". If you don't meet their criteria, you aren't acknowledged or engaged. They size you up, and if they feel like you are just "looking around" or there to make a small purchase, they will spend the minimal time possible helping you. They make you feel like you need to be a member of their club before they will share the directions to "their" trails.

So, back to that t-shirt: Get to know your mechanic. Support those shops that make you feel valued, wether you are buying a tube, or a high-end bike. Take the time to become friends with the staff. You won't regret it.

No comments: