Congratulations, you’re in the market for a new road bike! It’s an exciting, but sometimes overwhelming time. There is a plethora of information out there and you don’t even know where to begin. Up until the last decade, you never had to figure out where you were going to buy your new bicycle. You would always go to your local bike shop (LBS), but with the luxury of the internet, the power has shifted. The power is in your hands. You’re able to assess all of your options. Thus, you, as the consumer, are in a spectacular position. This position though is open to heated debate — Do you buy your next bike online or at your local bike shop?
Money, as we all know, does not grow on trees. Thus, maximizing our investment, finding the best fitting bike, having a sweet looking steed, and enjoying spending thousands of hours riding the bike are what we all strive for. You want to support your bike shop, but you don’t want to limit your options and this turmoil goes back and forth. Well, at some point, something has to give and at the end of the day, it is your bike. It’s a personal decision that should bring you joy, so the following post, which is broken up into two parts will allow you to make an informed decision on how YOUR dollars are spent. Finally, you’ll see how you can have the best of both worlds.
First and foremost, how we purchase items is constantly transforming. The businesses where we shop can either evolve or perish. As a consumer, you work hard for your money. It is your disposable income. You have the control. In our free economy, we reward businesses with our money.
Let’s dig in.
Why People are Cautious or Reluctant about Buying Bicycles online
- Inexperience – There is too much information on the internet and a lot of it is wrong. We had a customer tell us he read a blog about the Cannondale Super Six EVO having too much flex. Peter Sagan’s sprints wouldn’t have dominated this year’s Tour de France on a flimsy bike. Be careful where you read your information.
Bicycle companies are also adding to the confusion. They have a penchant for making things complicated. Just look at bottom bracket standards: BB90, BB30, BBRight, English BB, BB86, etc. Thus, a lot of people don’t know what to look for or what’s best for them. There is nothing wrong with that. No one truly has a firm understanding right away. It takes time. Unless you have been riding for awhile and are a student of the industry, it’s confusing.
- Options — You don’t know what you want. You like XYZ bike, but what about the head tube height, top tube length, wheel base? Why does bottom bracket height matter? We haven’t even begun discussing what cassette ratio, crank length, handlebar width, or the tons of other sizing selections that are available to you.
- Ridicule — After you buy your bike online and take it to your bike shop for the first time, there could be a sense of being looked down upon. However, a bike shop that degrades your decision about not purchasing a brand they sell or tries casting doubt about your purchase should look in the mirror and analyze why you didn’t buy from them. (I’m discussing upper level bicycles, not lower tier where you’re competing against department stores.) One of two things occurred: You didn’t like their service. Or, you preferred a brand over what the shop had, which is out of their control.
- Support — You have all these questions, who do you turn to?
- Emotion — Not being able to touch / feel / or ride the bike can be frustrating.
- Relationship — People like building relationships with salesmen face to face; it builds trust. They want to be able to ask questions and have conversations with the same person. Online, you typically have no one or a different person every time.
- Immediate Satisfaction — It can be hard to spend thousands of dollars and then have to wait a few days or weeks for it to arrive at your door step.
- Safety — Who is building the bike? Cheap labor? Mechanics? High school kids? Do they know what they’re doing?
- Damage — What happens if the bike is damaged in transit? How quickly is your bike replaced? Who do you contact?
Misconception | Sizing
- Just because an employee can physically see you doesn’t mean they know how to size or fit a bike to you. (The Holiday Inn commercials come to mind). The same goes for online retailers. Just because they have fitting charts and data sheets for you to fill out, doesn’t mean they’re always correct. How does an online fitting chart deal with your lower back problems or how your hands go numb during rides? It can’t. If you have to go to an internet forum about a company’s bike sizing, that should be a major red flag. The best people to size a company’s bike should be them. Finally, a small number of shops may guide you to a certain size because it’s what they have in stock. Therefore, talking with professionals who ask questions about height, flexibility, riding goals, riding issues, etc is critical.
Why Some Online Retailers are Bad
- One Way Communication — You can only read their ad copy which is generic.
- Take it or Leave it — You may be able to select which gruppo you want, but you cannot select every component. For example, they will send the same stem out with every bike that is sold…probably the one they received the best deal on.
- Brick & Mortar / Virtual — Do they have a physical location or are they a virtual being? Some company’s offices are storage rentals.
- Bike Assembly — Who is assembling their bikes? Professional mechanics? Cheap labor?
- Too Good to be True — You may find a carbon bike with SRAM Red or Shimano Dura-Ace gruppo at a ridiculous price, but the frame could be twenty dollars. The bearings could be trash and the frame could be a fiber glass / carbon blend. Aluminum frames may have poorly done welds.
- Sell Your Info? Is your email going to be safe? How about your credit card information?
In my next post, I’ll tell you how to find the appropriate size when it comes to purchasing a bike online, tips for shopping online, and what you may lose buying online. Plus, why you don’t need to test ride a bike and how you can have the best of both worlds.