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A few weeks ago I made the emotional decision to change my local bike shop (my wife always says I’m too emotional… must be because I’m an artist).
I had been trying to stay very loyal to the one store and build relationships with both the owner and the crew that works there. A mate, who would arguably be the best mechanic in the whole area, works for this shop and we get on well. The shop also stocks the sweetest state-of-the-art bike bling. All the makings were there for a good long-term relationship; I was committed, there was friendship and the allure of shiny stuff.
But in the end it wasn’t enough. My LBS has to be somewhere I feel welcome even if I’m not coming in to pre-order next year’s $10k dream machine. My LBS has to be somewhere where you can just bump into your mates, share the latest stupid clip on YouTube, talk about the race from last weekend, trash talk the mechanic as he works on your bike and enjoy a beer after hours.
In many ways I’m probably a nightmare of a customer to have; I’m self-employed and often broke, I hate to pay full retail and I’m always looking to find a ‘deal’. But am I really much different from the rest of you? We all like a ‘deal’. The flip-side is that I can be a very loyal customer and advocate. And while the bones of a good relationship were there with my former LBS, the love wasn’t.
And so, I took a step into meat market of the ‘dating’ world, looking for a new LBS relationship. I’ve walked walked down the road and spent $400 in the last four weeks on a pair of knicks, a new rear wheel that was sitting in the back room and I’ve had the bike serviced. Each time has been a pleasure to be in the shop, I’ve shared a cup of coffee, watched a young kid blow up a $2000 carbon rim with the compressor (loud noise! Poor kid!) and stayed back late on a friday evening drinking beer and watching someone else work hard. Could this be the love I’ve been looking for in my LBS?
What does your LBS mean to you? Is it just a place to do business? Or is it some extension of your riding group and club? Do you always feel welcome? We’d love to hear about your relationship.