How to Pick a Bike Shop
A trendy nice looking shop with ton of bikes and accessories may not always be the best shop. Here are some common sense tips to consider when choosing a bike shop for the first time or looking for a new one.
In a nutshell…
• Friendly knowledgeable staff
• Qualified mechanics and technicians
• Proximity and convenience
• Wait time for repairs and tune-ups
For those who want some more details…
Let’s start with wait time. If you are like me and can’t be without your bike for more than a day or two then the turn around time a bike shop can provide is crucial. There is no sense finding a shop that meets all the other requirements if I have to wait 2 weeks to get a repair done.
That said, the repairs and service needs to be done well. Quick turn around time with sloppy work is definitely not worth it. So if you are scouting out a new shop remember to ask for their average wait time on repairs and services. Also ask if those times reflect the shop’s busy season (when you most likely will want your bike fixed or tuned up too!)
Friendly knowledgeable staff
This is one of those times when one or the other is not good enough. You need both, friendly and knowledgeable from a cycling store. Technology in the cycling world has exponentially increased in past few decades and it is getting harder and harder to keep up with all the science being put into bicycles. A bike shop with staff that keeps up to date with all the latest in bike tech and also personally puts the stuff to a test is worth countless hours of research to the buyer. However, if they are unfriendly and unwilling to share their experience and knowledge then all is for naught.
So when you visit potential shops of choice, spend some time ‘chatting’ and asking questions about your area of cycling interest. In other words, get a feel for the staff and what they know and what they are willing to share.
Qualified mechanics and technicians
This is a hard one to know without actually trying it out for yourself. You can ask if the technicians and mechanics are qualified but a qualified bicycle mechanics is not as quantifiable as say, auto mechanics or refrigeration mechanics. A lot of bicycle mechanics are self taught or have very little official training. Don’t get me wrong, this is NOT necessarily a bad thing. Official bicycle mechanic training does not always make a good bicycle mechanic and vise versa.
A couple of things you can look out for are cleanliness of the shop and organization of the shop area. A clean well organized shop usually indicates a well run shop. Better shops also tend to have senior mechanics doing the more sophisticated tasks, junior mechanics doing the less technical tasks and even cleaning techs doing specialized cleaning of bikes. If a larger shop has only one or two mechanics you have to ask yourself how well will they handle the load when things get busy.
Proximity and convenience
Driving across town to your ‘local’ bike store kind of defeats the point of having a ‘local’ bike store. Still, if you can not find a shop near you that meets all of your requirements it can be worth the trip. Other things that fall under the label of convenience are: close free parking and enough of it, reasonable hours of operation and competitive pricing on goods as well as services.
This was my quick guide to choosing a bicycle store or shop. Key points to remember: see if has friendly knowledgeable staff, look for qualified mechanics and technicians, see if the location is close and convenient with parking and (if you are impatient or can’t be without your ride for very long) be sure to ask about wait time for repairs and tune-ups!