LBS vs. on-line?

by Old Cranky   March 4, 2013  

Stirred by an interesting article on the BBC news website regarding insightful retailers:

What do you get from your local bike shop that you can't obtain on-line?

My LBS has the best cycle mechanic I have ever come across and they have reasonable stock of items that I can buy immediately.

10 user comments

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Well I'm inclined to use LBSs, if only because it's useful to get your hands on something before choosing to buy it. That said, if you buy on-line, you can send back in the first month due to the distance-selling laws.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3687 posts]
4th March 2013 - 13:59


I'm all for supporting local businesses if they do a good job and sell items at sensible prices but they often don't.
My LBS forced me into becoming my own mechanic after a number of poor performances when repairing my bikes, no phone calls to say the work had been done, putting off jobs to do others, I just never knew where I stood with them. TBH they did me a favour in the long run as I can do it all myself now.
I've often been gone to collect basics such as lube and inner tubes and they've had none, after this happens a few times you think what's the point in making the trip when I can get it cheaper online anyway.

posted by bike_food [154 posts]
4th March 2013 - 14:07

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I use Evans in Great Portland St if I can as they will price match and if there's an issue I can speak to someone face to face. If it's something they don't have I use Chain reaction or Planet X. Stopped using Wiggle as their customer service was shit. Planet X customer service is fine, had one order where they sent the wrong thing but sorted it our quickly and without quibbling. Never had to call Chain Reaction.

The problem with online orders from the larger companies is dealing with call centre type staff who you then have to start quoting the law too as they aren't trained sufficiently.

posted by musicalmarc [82 posts]
4th March 2013 - 14:12

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I think the gist of being an 'insight' LBS is the community aspect. In my opinion, in the UK the Look Mum No Hands business model is the closest (perhaps Rapha, but clothing specific) with their organised rides, coffee, expertise, product availability, great customer service and on-line presence.

posted by Old Cranky [278 posts]
4th March 2013 - 15:48


I'm a fully paid up fence-sitter on this one:

LBS for inner tubes, grease, bottles and the day-to-day, but confess to relying on Ribble and Wiggle for big ticket items such as wheels LBS's just acn't compete with the big boys on those things and neither do I expect them to.

I think certainly for clothing the choice online is also hard for any LBS to match.

That said, next frame / complete bike I buy will certainly be from an LBS - I bought my last bike online and I do think there's a lot of value in a proper pre-purchase test / fit.

I agree with Old Cranky that the "community" aspect of the LBS is appealing and one that I think quite a few could exploit more. Things like cakes & coffee etc also help (and probably have quite a good margin on them!)

posted by chris75018 [101 posts]
4th March 2013 - 18:11


From my LBS I get coffee and 'advise' about how all of my components/clothing/accessories are sh!t and that I want to switch to whatever they currently have in stock!


Squiggle's picture

posted by Squiggle [414 posts]
4th March 2013 - 19:19

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...that said whenever there is something that I actually want I just pull up the best online deal I've found and they price match. It's the first time I've really had a descent LBS that wasn't a chain and I do actually enjoy stopping by when I pass. I generally use them for small items that wear out although I've also bought one frame and a set of race wheels from them. Also they've just started dealing with Saddleback who distribute some of my favourite brands so I think they'll be getting a lot of my cash this year.

As for online if I need something specific in a hurry I'll usually use Wiggle.


Squiggle's picture

posted by Squiggle [414 posts]
4th March 2013 - 19:29


good lbs shops are hard to find. Luckily I have found one. Terrys cycles in Yate- very good shop.

I get wheels built there as they fab. They offer good advice. Sort me out when I need something done quickly. So I buy some stuff there even though I can get it cheaper elsewhere, and I get stuff serviced there as they are people I can trust. I still buy some stuff online.

posted by ilovemytinbred [164 posts]
4th March 2013 - 22:50

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From a good LBS you'll get expert advice, good conversation, dug out of a (possibly self inflicted) hole, something for nothing every now and again, the seemingly impossible made simple, a proper fitting, excellent service and warranty or returns made easy. Some may even match online prices for you if you ask nicely.

From a bad LBS you may get none of the above and worse, I've had spokes incorrectly laced, brake blocks aligned to tear a hole in the tyre sidewall, a worn chain replaced on a new cassette and a new chain put on a worn cassette. All of which led me to understand that there are very few, if any, people who care about your bike as much as you do yourself. The natural conclusion is that you should find someone that you really trust or learn to do as much of your own maintenance as you can. In my opinion, the only service worth taking is the total strip down and rebuild from a top level mechanic. Everything else is easily done at home, the cheaper services are generally cynical exercises designed to make money out of the ignorant or uninitiated. Do you really need to hand over £50 for someone to change your brake blocks, pump up your tyres and tweak a barrel adjuster?

Online shops certainly have their place for convenience and pricing and I have to admit to having made a considerable contribution to Wiggle's bottom line over the years. My favourites for ease of use and pricing are Wiggle and Bike Discount. For components and accessories it's hard to beat online retailers. For clothing, online works as long as you know what you want or are prepared to go through the hassle of a postal return. For a serious new bike purchase, I think an LBS gives you the best chance of being totally satisfied as they'll give you a proper fitting and allow you to decide on componentry. There are some very good online only bike retailers like Canyon, but you have to be pretty certain of what you want or prepared to wait days for an exchange if things don't turn out exactly as you'd like them to.

The workshops that I'd recommend unreservedly are Priory Marina Cycles in Bedford and Condor Cycles and Bike Fix in London. I'd give Corley Cycles in Milton Keynes an honourable mention for being well stocked and having a first class attitude to customer service.

Expert advice isn't just related to bikes either. A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I made a pit stop in Glossop in between ascents of Holme Moss and Snake Pass. We called in at High Peak Cycles for a coffee shop recommendation and Kimberley's Cafe turned out to do an excellent espresso. The quality of the coffee and cake almost redeemed the fact the the Super Six on display in the bike shop window was in the small chainring. A direct contravention of rule 26 but maybe also a pragmatic view on the practicalities of leaving Glossop on two wheels.

Ah! Condor

posted by Bedfordshire Clanger [345 posts]
4th March 2013 - 23:26

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I totally agree. I've been mugged so many times by my LBS that I took matter into my own hands; they even sawed a brand new headset in half because they couldn't get it off!. I'm lucky there's a bike workshop three times a month in my area so I do, and enjoy, maintaining my machines.
Most of my kit is bought online. There are so many forums out there who have no ulterior motive, unlike my LBS, I can make an informed, unbiased choice.
Shopping online is global. I've bought kit from New Zealand
Europe and the States, all of it rare and box fresh, my LBS cannot compete.
I do rely on their wheelbuilding as that is an art I haven't got to grips with yet.

posted by zalamanda [12 posts]
5th March 2013 - 11:55