The Eternal Dilemma
Should you buy gear from a bike shop or an online store? The answer, it seems, is personal.
Some people say cycling is expensive. This is untrue. It's only as expensive as you make it. However, even though a bike lasts for years, eventually even the most frugal cyclist must purchase something. Thus arises the dilemma: local bike shop (LBS) or mail order?
The prospect of a bike-shop visit can be daunting. Common experiences include:
* Being told you need something that you don't
* Being told something doesn't exist when it does
* Being yelled at for trying on shorts in front of the other customers. (Admittedly, this may be specific to me.)
Then there's mail order. It's cheaper and nobody meddles. The Internet is a wonderful place where nine-speed cassettes do exist and you don't need to upgrade to 11. Even better, you can shop there naked. (This may also be specific to me.)
It might seem that mail order is the clear choice, but it's not that simple. Some bike shops are better than others. Writing them all off based on one is like quitting cycling because you test-rode a Pinarello Dogma and didn't like it. Also, while shopping in "real life" can be slightly more expensive, this is because bike shops employ people who will actually bring you stuff so that you can examine it and try it on—for hours at a time if necessary, and at no cost to you if you don't buy anything. Given this, saving a few dollars here and there by buying online makes you the retail equivalent of a weight weenie—and nobody likes a weight weenie. And if you're displeased with bike shops in general, the problem could be with you. It's one thing to dislike the Dogma, but if you hate every bike you're probably doing something wrong—like riding them without a saddle, which might be why you're so cranky.
In the end, there's room for both types of stores, and sometimes it comes down to mood. If you want to socialize, go to the LBS. If you're feeling ornery, you're better off shopping at home. Ultimately, though, bike shops have the edge. At home you can get naked, but you can't try on the shorts.