A common refrain on this site and elsewhere is that many bike shops don’t serve the needs of the bike commuter or utility cyclist. Many are interested in the high end, which has been the bread and butter for most of the bike industry over the past thirty years and which continues to provide most of the income to the bike industry. While revenue for the Local Bike Shop has remained steady over the past decade, the actual number of bikes sold has actually dropped. The industry makes up for it through consolidation (fewer shops) and higher prices, but the reality is that the bike industry has shrunk since the 90s.
At the recent Bicycle Leadership Conference in San Diego and at other forums, some industry leaders have started issuing calls for change — to make the bike shop experience more user friendly and to more actively promote cycling as transportation instead of just recreation.
I know there are a few bike shops that “get it,” especially in cities where utility cycling is almost common. One of these is Rapid Transit Cycles in Chicago. On the shop blog, the owner writes:
At this shop, we want to invite, not intimidate the beginner; listen, not preach to the curious; and salute, not marginalize the commuter.
Commuting cyclists have been our bread and butter since 1994. They have told us what bikes they want to see at our store. They have come back and informed us, in no uncertain terms, which products were simply crap. They have recommended street-tested items for us to sell. They have dripped salty slush on our floor and leaned their mud-spattered bikes against our displays. With a glint of hope in their eyes, they have brought their pretzeled wheels for us to fix. The grime from their chains has clogged and corroded our drain.
They are our heroes. Rapid Transit Cycleshop is, has been, and always will be a bike shop crazy in love with commuters.
You can read the complete post here, but this is a local shop that obviously gets it. I know CBB has at least one regular reader who patronizes Rapid Transit. What about the rest of you? Is your local bike shop a hindrance or a help in your journey to utility cycling bliss?
Be sure not to miss this comic by long time bike commuter Rick Scott.