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The legend of "the perfect LBS"

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The legend of "the perfect LBS"

Old 08-02-13, 06:06 AM
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The legend of "the perfect LBS"

I want to share a few experiences with LBS's and how they compare to a big retailer (Decathlon in this case)

LBS #1 : Went after a major accident, rear wheel completely bent after being hit by a car. The guys at the LBS are kind enough to stop whatever they're doing and help me. They diagnose the wheel is beyond repair and recommend a new wheel. They sell me a Mach 1 CFX with Shimano 2200 hubs for 70€ (retail price around 50-55€) and still charge 8€ to swap the cassette. I had no choice but to accept what they offer since I was in the middle of my commute and didn't have the choice to walk back home and decide later.

LBS #2 : Went with a wobbly fork (crown race problem) that I just bought online and installed. Waited about 15 minutes for the guy to finish his (not work related) conversation with his friend only to realize that I was not his customer, (his words) I didn't buy the fork from his shop and I should go seek a solution elsewhere. He told these with a more-than-rude voice tone that I have never witnessed in any other shop of any kind.

LBS #3 : Went with the rim problem (this post), guy's an official Trek dealer. As I started showing the video on my phone, instantly said that is a huge wobble (the first wobble appears at around 4 seconds) and the rim needs to be changed completely.

LBS #4 : Another Trek dealer (same problem) the guy saw the video and said it can probably be fixed and I should come with the bike(?) two weeks later since he's very busy this week and having a vacation the next. Said it would cost me around 20€.

Decathlon: Went around half an hour before closing time. Guy at the workshop was busy adjusting rear derailleur of a bike. I just stared without disturbing him with the rim in my hand. Stopped and greeted me with a smile (which is apparently something I've never seen in a LBS before). I told him about my problem, took the wheel and said let's have a look. Started adjusting the spokes, worked around 10 minutes. I asked where should I make the payment and he said "it's ok!". They have a huge price table clearly stating that it costs 8€.


I am a person who thinks that people should support their local small businesses. I really like the overall attitude in the forum where people support their LBS and convince others to do so. I do my best to avoid shopping from industry giants (supermarkets/fast food chains/enterprises with huge profit) but in the end as a consumer, I have the right to demand decent service. The guy at my local grocery store is amazing. The lady at the pasty shop in my town is lovely. The guys who operate my favorite local restaurants are always kind to me and others. So basically the questions I have in mind are:
  • What is the problem with these people?
  • Why on earth can't I find a decent LBS?
  • Why am I constantly being forced to overpay for things I don't really need?
  • Is it because I usually know what I want and understand the basic working principles of a bicycle?
  • Is it something related to the continent I live? (My experiences with LBS's when I used to live in Italy and Turkey were not much different from France)
  • Is it because I have green eyes?

I just want to know where are these "legendary LBS's"? Do they only exist in the US? Considering most of them are a one-man operation or a small team; how hard is it to be a good bike mechanic and a good salesman at the same time?

Last edited by uluchay; 08-02-13 at 06:10 AM.
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Old 08-02-13, 06:19 AM
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The LBS I go to is great. I've brought my bike in (a bike that they sold me) and said it needed a minor adjustment & the mechanic has thrown it on the stand & fixed it within minutes (no charge). While shopping for stuff the manager has come out with an espresso that he just made for himself & one extra and offered it to me. He fitted me for new S-Works shoes but they felt too tight so he ordered a larger pair in the color I wanted & wrote on the order that if I didn't take them they would just inventory them. The mechanics will often show me what they are doing to my bike so I can do it myself in the future. I could continue to list things that this shop has done to make me want to come back but it would bore you. The bottom line is that they get it, they know that if my experience there is good I'll keep buying from them.
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Old 08-02-13, 06:22 AM
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I think the problem is two-fold.

Some of the time I think small businesses get into the mindset that they deserve support just because they are small businesses, because they are local businesses. A good friend of mine runs a store (not bike-related) nearby and makes a point of supporting their local IT company when they need something. I tried to support the IT company when I needed something but it soon became clear to me they were just bumping their price because they could, so I left in disgust and haven't been back since (instead of paying them £90 plus taxes and them taking a week I paid £20 for the parts I needed to do the job and did it myself in an afternoon).

I suspect also some of the time small businesses get so used to people coming in to ask advice only to then make their purchases online or from the giants it's inevitable that sooner or later they start to wonder why they bother giving advice to people at all. It takes their time and resources and often doesn't get them any business at the end of it all. A guy I knew some years back ran a small IT-related business and ended up telling one person who thought of himself as "a good customer" to pretty much sod off and leave him alone. What this guy had taken to doing was calling my friend for advice, then buying stuff from somebody else, but calling my friend expecting free technical support any time he had a problem.

My experience (London, UK) is that my LBS is mostly very good. Some of their prices are a little on the heavy side and they can't always get just what I want so I don't buy exclusively from there but I really can't fault the way they've looked after me over the years. My most recent significant dealings with them (excluding small stuff like spare tubes, gear cables etc) was when I cracked a rim on a pothole during a fast descent. The owner lent me a wheel to keep me on the road and because I wanted to build myself a wheel he lent me a spare truing stand and a couple of wheels with damaged rims so I could get some practise. In return I gave him first dibs on the business once I decided what I wanted to buy (I also gave him a case of beer as a thankyou for helping me out so much). When I get service like that I'm more inclined to pay a slightly higher premium to make sure the guy stays in business - having a bike shop like that close to home has a value. Even if his prices are a little heavy sometimes, if I need a part right now and he's got one in stock it's worth paying a little more for it for the convenience of walking out with it and getting my bike back on the road. The online retailers that sell it for half the price are all well and good but if it takes a couple of days to arrive that's two days my bike is off the road. Personally I can usually deal with that situation but for others it's not an option.

I don't think it's much about being a good salesman as much as just listening to the customer and looking to solve their problem in the way that's best for them. It's far from rare that I've talked to the owner of my LBS and asked about some product or other and he's told me straight that if I want one he'll get one in for me but he thinks I'd be wasting my money, and explained why.
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Old 08-02-13, 06:26 AM
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Originally Posted by DaveWC
they know that if my experience there is good I'll keep buying from them.
Reminds me one other thing about my LBS.

When I first got my bike I was talking to the owner about cleaning it. He showed me a wide range of cleaning products that were available but said that unless I really wanted something specific I could clean the bike with a bucket and a sponge. So that's what I did. When I wanted to clean the cassette I went back, by which time they had a new guy in there. His approach was one of endlessly trying to upsell, when what I needed was a simple toothed comb for about £5 he was trying to sell me a monster cleaning kit for £59.99 that included a bucket and a bucketload of other stuff I didn't need. For a time I thought he was the new owner and stopped buying anything there at all because dealing with him was such a PITA, so it was a great relief when I went in one day because I needed something there and then (and knew what I wanted, so didn't need to deal with his "advice") and found he had been let go.
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Old 08-02-13, 06:28 AM
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Old 08-02-13, 06:42 AM
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Originally Posted by danmc
I don't think that this subject has been covered before, has it?
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Old 08-02-13, 06:53 AM
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I find that a high percentage of road cyclist arent exactly social butterflies and tend to be a little socially awkward. I don't know why this is. Maybe that's related to the service at LBS's. I go to the LBS that has a bunch of stoner MTBers here, b/c they are friendly and i like to BS with them.
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Old 08-02-13, 06:55 AM
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Originally Posted by WhyFi
I don't think that this subject has been covered before, has it?
It's been covered 1% less than bibs vs. shorts.
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Old 08-02-13, 07:04 AM
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You cant please all the people all the time ...
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Old 08-02-13, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by danmc
It's been covered 1% less than bibs vs. shorts.
Oh, has bibs vs shorts been discussed a bit, too?
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Old 08-02-13, 08:48 AM
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I managed to put a hole in the sidewall of a tire, and needed a new one. Had a dollar in it to keep the tube from pushing out and flatting, but it wasn't a reliable fix, I felt like it was a time bomb just waiting for a chance to flat again. They didn't have the tire I wanted in stock, so they ordered one and lent me a new wheel with a tire on it until mine came in.

The other night I was out for a ride, and as I passed the LBS in my neighborhood, which I haven't been to in a couple months, one of the guys (who was outside dealing with their rental bikes) yelled out "Hi, Forrest!"

Third story isn't exactly a bike shop, it's the local outdoor gear shop, but they sell bikes and do mechanical work, too. I bought a climbing rope, they threw in a free tent foot print to use as a tarp, free rope bag, and a free sling.
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Old 08-02-13, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by DaveWC
The LBS I go to is great. I've brought my bike in (a bike that they sold me) and said it needed a minor adjustment & the mechanic has thrown it on the stand & fixed it within minutes (no charge). While shopping for stuff the manager has come out with an espresso that he just made for himself & one extra and offered it to me. He fitted me for new S-Works shoes but they felt too tight so he ordered a larger pair in the color I wanted & wrote on the order that if I didn't take them they would just inventory them. The mechanics will often show me what they are doing to my bike so I can do it myself in the future. I could continue to list things that this shop has done to make me want to come back but it would bore you. The bottom line is that they get it, they know that if my experience there is good I'll keep buying from them.
do they have a branch in the denver area?
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Old 08-02-13, 09:13 AM
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My LBS:

1. Didn't charge me for a quick true on a set of carbon wheels I own. My wife took them in without calling ahead (I was at work), the friendly guy did the true immediately (despite the fact that he had a queue of bikes to work on) and told her no charge. She tipped him $10. Wheels have run dead true for 500 miles now.
2. Cut my steerer and installed my headset for $20. Work done on the weekend in one day (as promised) as they were swarmed with customers. They called me, I went and picked it up. Work done perfectly and cashier was extremely polite. I tried to tip, she wouldn't take it. Tipped anyway.
3. Always have the random bolt or nut (caliper bolt, cage bolt, seatpost bolt etc) I need and usually charge me $0.50 or something to get it. Or they just try to give it to me.
4. Don't try to upsell to crap I know I don't need. They are practical.
5. Has zero snobbery. They gladly fixed up a friend's department store bike for cheap.

These guys are awesome and I would gladly pimp their name if it didn't lift the veil on my anonymity here. Great LBSs do exist and can be hugely valuable.
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Old 08-02-13, 09:16 AM
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Did you speak perfect un-accented Parisian French?
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Old 08-02-13, 09:21 AM
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The LBS differs greatly from the bakery or the grocery, in that you would almost never buy your food from the internet. You want the freshest loaf of bread and the choicest cut of meat you can afford, and you want to be able to touch the fruit and veg before you buy it, or at least I do.

The same cannot be said for non perishable goods, so one of the major deciders here is price. The internet is full of low priced goods of uncertain origin and quality and the owners of bike shops have to deal with this constanly. I would not want to always hear "I can get that online for X, can you match it?" etc. You pay for quality service and knowledge. You pay for convenience. Sure every now and then a shop will give you a freebie or put your simple 5 minute repair in front of one that does not have to go out until tomorrow.

I do not understand the disdain for the LBS. We create the problem with our price hammering and demand for immediate service on goods we may have bougth on the internet and yet we are surprised when the LBS seems surly or reluctant to help us internet shoppers?

I have absolutely no problem paying my LBS their price for goods and services. I even buy parts there for bikes I fix up and give away through a ministry at the church I attend. And you know what, the LBS offers me a discount on the stuff that I buy for that purpose. I did not ask for the discount, just told the counter guy why I was buying the parts and he offered the discount.

I have gone into that same shop with a single mother whose son is a friend of my son. Told the owner her budget and that her son needed a good bike to ride to school, etc. He sold us a used Specialized MTB at a substantial discount. Told me it was what he had in the bike. Perhaps it helps that I do not do this often and that I have been a customer of his since the 1980s. Not sure.

My point is, the bike shop is no different than any other service business. Do you go to your pub and tell them what you can get beer for online? Do you go to the corner shop and tell them what you can order a bag of chips for online? If not, then why do it at the bike store?
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Originally Posted by colorider
Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.

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Old 08-02-13, 09:26 AM
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Originally Posted by jsharr
Do you go to your pub and tell them what you can get beer for online? Do you go to the corner and tell them what you can order a bag of chips for online? If not, the why do it at the bike store.
Do you know any good beer and chip sites?
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Old 08-02-13, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by jsharr
The LBS differs greatly from the bakery or the grocery, in that you would almost never buy your food from the internet. You want the freshest loaf of bread and the choicest cut of meat you can afford, and you want to be able to touch the fruit and veg before you buy it, or at least I do.
I definitely like to run my hands over the melons.
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Old 08-02-13, 09:43 AM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest
I definitely like to run my hands over my moobs.
Nice. Thanks for sharing.
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Originally Posted by colorider
Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 08-02-13, 09:46 AM
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If they don't have a part I need in stock and have to order it in and I can get the same part online for less in the same amount of time what exactly am I paying the premium for?

Also....
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Old 08-02-13, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by jsharr
Nice. Thanks for sharing.
You're very welcome!
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Old 08-02-13, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest
I definitely like to run my hands over the melons.
Whatever you do stay away from the cucumbers
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Old 08-02-13, 10:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Elduderino2412
I find that a high percentage of road cyclist arent exactly social butterflies and tend to be a little socially awkward. I don't know why this is.
Good observation. Yes and very true.
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Old 08-02-13, 10:38 AM
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If it weren't for OPs resurrecting zombie subjects the entirety of BF would consist of idiotic, albeit entertaining, addiction threads.
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Old 08-02-13, 11:03 AM
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Better than zombie threads five years old. The only thing worse is when you are an old time member and posts a reply to someone that hasn't been around for years.
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Old 08-02-13, 11:14 AM
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I never had anyone be rude to me at a LBS, but I can say that my shopping experiences make me want to learn how to do repairs on my own.

Last edited by Randolfo; 08-02-13 at 12:01 PM.
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