Support Your Local Bike Shop

Words and photos by Anthony Robson
Introduction by MM (Editor)

Use It or Risk Losing It

Cycling has been on an upward spiral for a number of years and the reasons are numerous and varied. There's the Hoy/Wiggins/Cavendish effect; there's an increasing uptake of government 'cycle to work' schemes; it can be argued that the recession has forced some commuters onto two wheels and others have chosen cycling 'stay-cations' over lying basting on a foreign beach as the exchange rate makes international travel more expensive.

Whatever the reason affecting individual cyclists they all have two main concerns when getting new kit: they want excellent customer service…and the best price possible for their hard-earned cash. Our retail industry is now comprised of internet/national outlets and small independent shops. The online and multi-outlet stores have enormous buying power and, in some cases, they can stack 'em high and sell 'em cheap. With another customer around every corner they can often, although not always, fall down on providing a quality customer experience and suitable technical back-up. The small shops that have survived this onslaught have done so by providing an excellent personal service and have built reputations that bring them repeat transactions from a loyal customer base. Most run or support clubs but the one area where they can struggle to compete with the giants is price or levels of stock.

All too often we see comments on social media about the need to patronise the smaller stores but these are often followed by someone posting a link to an obscure company selling cycling kit at really cheap prices. Well, that internet company won't be standing by the side of the road or putting up course markers on a Sunday morning and if your product goes wrong, it's not such a simple operation to get it fixed. Here at The Press Room, we would rather sacrifice the small price in order to keep the local shop open. They are, for our money, more approachable, have a greater understanding of technical issues and usually have a very good reason for providing a great service: it's their business and they stand to lose out if they don't. While price is important in these recession-hit times, nothing is more valuable than retaining the excellent local shops that we have here in Scotland. Think of that the next time you need something for your bike.

Our Guest Columnist Anthony Robson recently built a dream bike which saw its first race at Dig In At The Dock 2014 and he tells us of his own Damascus moment and why he'll favour local shops from now on. (Editor)

Anthony Robson
 I have a confession to make: I'm not as nice to my local bike shops as I could be. This might not seem like much of a self-flagellatory statement to make, but recently I had cause to question what I see now had become an over-reliance on the world of the internet.

You see recently I built a new bike. It was a replacement for a bike that was stolen at the end of last year, and so finding myself in possession of an insurance cheque I simply went out to buy all of the bits and pieces in one go. The desire to upgrade various parts took over, and I started price-matching from the comfort of my lunchtime desk, and soon boxes from Wiggle and ChainReaction and various other places started arriving. For a couple of weeks it was like Christmas joy following every visit by the postman or courier. But then three interconnected things happened in a short space of time that led to a sort of epiphany.

1. Two independent Local Bike Shops closed down

I can't claim the news of the loss of the first shop as a true shot to the system. It happened before I started my spending splurge, and was simply a case of the owner wanting to move onto different-yet-related things. Along with others I haven't been back since it went conglomerate (mainly because one of their other stores is closer to where I work, but, y'know, it felt like I was making a stand), but it wasn't until a shop just across the street from my work closed down that I began to wonder at my lack of loyalty. 

Truth be told it wasn't even a shop that I frequented much or liked; they never seemed to have what I wanted and there was a 'club' feel to the staff whenever I went in. But it got me thinking about what I'd do if something like The Bicycle Works ( was to close down in Edinburgh. That particular shop is on my way home, and open late. I've borrowed an 8mm allen key to tighten a loosening crank bolt, and have had my urgently-needed requirements for that evening's bike fettling fulfilled on a couple of occasions in the last 12 months. The stock list at an LBS might not be the biggest, but to get you out of a jam you simply can't beat being able to walk in and pick something up. Unfortunately not all component purchases can be meticulously planned around store delivery slots.

But I'd already got all the parts sitting in boxes at home, so the LBS is now out of the picture, right? Ah no, because...

2. I needed a headset fitted

I'm a self-taught home mechanic. Books and mistakes took me so far, with YouTube videos a remarkable resource for how to carry out those fiddly jobs. From setting up brakes, to building wheels, I've tried it all. So why did a headset defeat me? It's one of those jobs that I can do, and have done, but faced with my first carbon steerer I have to admit, I was 'feart.' I wanted it done properly, and had a crisis of confidence over my abilities. This was just over a week before the bike's 'cross debut. What on earth could I do?

It was quite easy really. It was Friday at work and I sent an email to the Tri Centre (, being one of the closest local bike shops to my house. Shortly after, I was told I could drop it off the next morning and the work would probably be done that day. Lo and behold.... a (remarkably reasonable) labour charge later and the job was one of perfection, with no personal stress involved, and an addition made to the list of places I'd trust with working on my bikes (no matter how good or bad the home mechanic, if you have a vague notion what you're doing I think it increases your standards sought in others).

The thing is, I know avid cyclists who have to take their bike to the shop if it gets a puncture, they love riding but have no desire to learn how it all works. Why should you when there are people who can do that for you? Not everyone can be a home mechanic, not everyone should be expected to want to be. Lose the LBS and you naturally lose cyclists as soon as a wheel buckles or brakes seize or a chain snaps.

Disaster averted. I had my parts, and now the bike was built. But my LBS thankfulness would hit a triumvirate. One ride in and I had hit...

3. Problem Parts

So the bike was built, the race was run, the bike survived, as did I. But there was a problem. My perch is a rather extravagant special edition Brooks that my other half treated me to for Christmas. Bought online, it was the best price (and more importantly available, given only 500 were made). Pure indulgence that brought a grin once unpacked from under the tree. And after one hour riding it was ridiculously worn at a couple of points.

Bought from a local bike shop the solution would be simple: trundle along on the bike and point out the issue, or just remove the saddle and pop in on a lunchtime or over the weekend. The only solution available to me? Well the seller is based in Swansea, so all I could do was take a few photos and email them to the retailer (who to be fair has said they'll get in touch with their supplier as they've never seen anything like it, but I'm still left sitting in the dark a bit five days after that message).

The problem parts can even go as far as an entire bike. My wife's Ridgeback Hybrid was also stolen, and there was no choice from the insurer, the replacement had to come from an online partner they have. The bike arrived 'ready to ride', with just the bars to straighten and pedals to put on. Of course the reality was a buckled rear wheel, a sticking brake, and hideously under-inflated tyres. Again you're left flying solo having the bike delivered and no ability to take it back to the store. You've got to sort it yourself, or take it to.... Yes.... The LBS. 

This trio of occurrences led to something of a 'seeing the light' moment, as I played back those times I'd needed parts. Just today I went looking for a new set of tyres for the commuter. I wound up at another local place near my work, Bike Trax (, having dodged Evans, and chatted through what might be the best option. They didn't have my favoured choice in the store, but would have in a couple of days, and would call me when they were there. Wiggle would maybe beat that by 24 hours, but if I wasn't in (which I wouldn't be as I had to work) then it would mean a 6am jaunt to the sorting office the day after that, and having the tyres at the exact same time to fit.

So the tyres are a little more expensive than online, but there's that personal touch, that point to return to in case of any problems, no great loss of time, and that feeling that I might have contributed, even in a tiny way, to that local bike shop still being there the next time I need it. Before writing this I had tweeted a simple message, "Be nice to your LBS, one day it might not be there. That is all." Possibly my most re-tweeted message, it seemed to touch a nerve, with most people agreeing. There were, of course, dissenting voices that pointed out unfriendly service at their local shop. But you know what, my shift is such that I'd even rather have that unfriendly shop than a faceless entity at the end of an email chain; somewhere bricks and mortar that I can visit on a whim or in a emergency or with a problem, rather than a screen and a post office separating us.

LBS because I LBS. Local Bike Shop, because I Love Bike Shopping. My next bike will be more personal.  

Anthony Robson at Dig In At The Dock 2014

Anthony Robson aka Blackpuddinonnabike is a writer, poet and undisputed fan of cyclocross and his photo stream can found here:

He also writes for and runs

His t-shirts designs are available here at very reasonable prices: