I am normally a big supporter of “local business”. When it comes to cycling and bicycle shops, I am especially so. Local businesses provide something that Internet stores can’t. They provide service. Service to the local community and they bring people together. Local businesses usually can’t compete price-wise with the mega online stores that can undercut the price using bulk sales as leverage, but as cyclists, we need more than “stuff for our bikes”.
A good bicycle shop should not only sell bikes, clothing, gels, etc, but should also be a place for cyclists to congregate, hang out at the coffee bar in the shop, watch the Tour on TV, meet up for a ride, chat with the mechanics about bikes, the latest trends and news, etc. The bike shop should be a place where the cycling community can be a cycling community.
I live in an urban area. Real estate is hard to come by where I live, so all shops, even grocery stores are small and cramped for space. This is true of bike shops too. There are two in my neighborhood within about a mile of where I live. One shop is VERY small. There is an alleyway from the front door to the counter between two rows of bikes on shelves. More than 2 people can’t really stand in the store at a time without having to say “excuse me” to get past. This shop has an excellent mechanic that does great work. There is no “community” feeling from this shop. The sell a few bikes and have a few things you might need, but for the most part, they are a bicycle mechanic shop. The other bike shop is much larger and spacious in an outdoor mall type of environment. They have a large assortment of bikes and bike parts, but they aren’t really what you would think of as a community bike shop. They don’t have a lot of real experience with road cycling, per se, as they are focused on BMX bikes and scooters. The mechanics there aren’t very good, and are more concerned with up-selling you Fiz’ik gear than really talking about what is going on with the bike and how you feel.
None of the shops here do “local rides” and I have never seen anyone else in either shop wearing Lycra. In order to get the good local shop feeling, I would have to drive about 30 miles away.
Perhaps I my next career will be to open a good bike shop, and support the community in cycling.