The general feeling between cyclists is always support you local bike shop (LBS), in fact it is Rule #58. Whether the majority of cyclists actually do this is another matter, but the principle stands. Whilst there are a number of arguments for and against, they can be generally summarised as follows:
- LBS - More expensive, but made up for by the customer service and local support.
- Online - Cheaper due to greater buying power, but faceless and lacking in after sale support and customer service.
I have been fortunate in the past week or so to have encountered two instances of fantastic customer service. The first of these was from the LBS, whereby they stripped and cleaned out my freehub on a wheel I bought from the approx. 4 months ago, free of charge. Whilst after 3 months of riding, you wouldn't necessarily expect to need to strip a hub down, they weren't obliged to do it for free. Things like this reinforce my views that paying an extra £250 for the bike compared to online was wise.
The second instance was from an online retailer. I bought a pair of Bont Riot shoes (Review to come) and Shimano 105 Carbon pedals last Monday, only to see a tweet on Friday announcing 10% off pedals and shoes. I sent a tweet (humour intended!) Declaring how heartbroken I was, expecting no more than mild entertainment. However, a reply came that something to ease the pain was in the post to me, and lo and behold, this morning a Ribble bidon and £10 gift voucher appeared! It's things like this that make you sway to a retailer if there's a few pounds between products at a few sites. Competition may be fierce between online and LBS, but it must certainly be even fiercer between online retailers competing for rock bottom prices.
Whilst I can see why it's frowned upon to buy components online and ask a LBS to fit them, it could be argued that you're still paying them for a service. Maybe for a surcharge compared to if you had bought it from them, but no one will argue with that I would imagine. After all, the internet is never going to be able to strip a freehub or bottom bracket, could this be the main role of the future LBS? The debate goes on, and I'm sure it will for a long time yet.
The online retailer was Ribble Cycles, which I highly recommend, both because of this, a wide range of products and legendary bikes, and also next day delivery from £3.99, because we're all impatient for new goodies!
The local bike shop was Roy Pink Cycles in Newport Pagnell, whom I genuinely can't recommend enough. From help choosing a bike to fitting it, and a free initial service, to fixing the above wheel and replacing crap OEM tyres for free with brilliant Conti GP4000s. Oh, and last but not least, good coffee!