Now that we are approaching the month of February, my thoughts are turning to my favorite races and rides in the spring. I am counting down the days until my first race of the season (65 days to go!) and can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can get outside on my bike. We all have our favorite events in the spring and summer and pretty much all of those events are supported by local bike shops, teams or clubs. In an age where the internet is king and you can get things at a discount through sites like Nashbar, or Competitive Cyclist or even Amazon, just to name a few, the local businesses have to fight hard to stay afloat.
Bike shops may charge a bit more than a giant like Amazon, but they are a much smaller operations which rely mostly on several hundred local customers to stay in business. Amazon can sell to millions of people locally and worldwide, while most local bike shops have a customer base of maybe five hundred to a thousand people. Bike shops usually do charge about 5-10% more depending on the item. However, going to a bike shop is also about the experience and advice of the employees at the shop. They may be able to show you a product that works better for you than the one you intended to buy, give you advice about a problem you are having with your bike or just give you a place where you can chat about the crazy ride you did last weekend. So, you may spend an extra ten dollars on those pedals or an extra six dollars on a tire at your local shop, but you are getting more than just the product for that money. That money also goes toward keeping your favorite Saturday bike shop ride going or your favorite mountain bike race of which your shop is the main sponsor. Think of the people you’ve met and the friendships you’ve forged because of attending your local bike shop’s Saturday ride every week for the past five years. Imagine if that shop hadn’t been there, you may have never met some of the people you now consider dear friends. That extra bit of money spent helps to support our community and it allowed you to form those friendships. So remember, you aren’t just paying for a bike or a tube or a jersey when you support your local shop, you are paying to keep the cycling community growing in your area. This same thing applies to running stores and other small businesses that keep our local fitness community full of great events.
In addition to bike and running shops, many local cycling, running and triathlon clubs put on the races and tours that we all love so much during the summer. Yes you have to pay to enter the race or ride, but if these clubs didn’t exist these events wouldn’t either. Most of their membership dues are low, fifty dollars or less per year, but keeping these clubs afloat also helps to increase the number of events going on in the area and the awareness of the sport. Local events like the popular Revolutionary Ramble (put on by the Morris Area Freewheelers) or races like the Jersey Man triathlon (supported by TMB Racing) are just a few of the great events in this area that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for these clubs.
I am not saying that it is terrible to order your bike cleats on Amazon from time to time. I am saying that your local clubs and shops truly rely on the support of each and every member or customer that walks through their door. Supporting them when you can does more than just keep them in business. Your support helps to keep your favorite events going on year after year. These shops give us rides or runs to go on with friends, a place to congregate with other athletes and ways to meet new training partners or inspirational athletes. They really are the foundation of the community of the sports that we all love. As a loyal customer at one of these shops you become one of the building blocks on that foundation as opposed to just another anonymous Amazon customer.