I know how to wrench on a bike, the only thing I have never done is build a wheel form scratch. I have broken down shocks, bearings, hubs, you name it I have been messing with it since I was a teenager. But I still need my shop, they are like my pit crew. And if I was just some dude that showed up with online parts it could be hard to get what I need as fast as I need it sometimes. That is the true beauty of the LBS. They are your friends, team, partners, in a hobby that for many, consumes much of their time, money, and lives.
The first step when you finally realize you need some people behind you is find a place you want to be. A great bike shop should be like Cheers, a bunch of friends who are always happy to see you, not just because you are going to buy something. When I was looking, my test was just to see if the shop guys treated me like I was stupid and if the sales guys tried to sell me stuff I didn't want. Next, did they stock items that I needed to race or were they bringing in items more for recreational riders. I know that the average Joe is the bread and butter of any shop, but I want people that have the same way of thinking about racing as I did. In the last city I lived in the shops in town did not look at racing that way and it was sad. Last was who was near and where did I feel more comfortable.
Mesa Cycles was the shop I ended up choosing. There were a few other great shops near me that just didn't quite stack up, but they were all very good. How lucky are we in the St Louis area to have so many great shops to cater to our sport. Mesa not only had employees that raced but the owners were BIG TIME racers, and supported Jr. Racing in the area for quite a long time. When they agreed to start helping the first version of my team it was just icing on the cake.
There are times when having a LBS that you buy everything from, pays off in ways that you cannot put a price on. I have examples where my shop stayed open late for me to re-glue tires for me so I could race again the next day. I know loyal customers like myself who have destroyed bikes in crashes or run ins with garages, or wild antelope, something like that, and have a new bike under them in 2-3 days. These are not just a new bike from the store, no, these are new frames that have to be built up, fitted, and tested. That takes time, and to turn that around so fast when it takes a day or two just to get the frame in, is amazing. It is the perks that you get when you are a loyal customer to your LBS. You might pay a little more for that cassette, but in the end the shop will bend over backwards to save the day when you are really in need.
These shops are Main Street America. They are the mom and pop shops that made this country what it is today. They have had to fight to keep this way of life alive for those cyclists left to come. With the deluge of cheep product form online retailers, the LBS has had to get really creative to keep the traffic walking in the door.
Just trust me on this, if you want to get everything possible out of riding your bike you need a shop behind you. Without them it would be like racing a NACAR race car with no pit crew.
|This place has a really nice feel, sometimes I just go and hang out.....and stare at the employees awkwardly :-)|
|They have all the goodies! They have top end bikes, pro level cycling kit, sweet Ipad thingies, and stuffed snow men. Like I said, they pretty much just rock it!|
|Mesa's staff is top notch, especially that creepy dude in the back with the goofy smile. Is that cake? Mmmmmm cake.|