Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bike Shop's - The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

First off, I love bike shops, it is all I can do to make myself drive by one and not stop in for a look.  In Corvallis there are seven that I know of and OSU probably has something on campus, and there is a co-Op. In general, I've had great experiences and sadly I've had some had negative ones.  It is the negative ones that frustrate and surprise me. While there are some full-time bikers (and quite a few in a small town like Corvallis), it is still mainly a discretionary sport, as such you would think that building a relationship with customers would be very important, but I have not found that to be universally true.Let me give you to four examples:

I walk into one of the Corvallis shops (Peak Sports) and they know my name, ask about my rides, want to know how I'm doing.  When I've come in with an issue, even if the shop is backed up, they take care of me.  That kind of service and attention makes me loyal.  They know I'll come back if I need something and that relationship makes me want to come back (like going to Les Schwab). 

I have the exact same experience at my other favorite shop Corvallis Cyclery.  They also know my name and I trust them, so much so, that I'll stop in even if I don't have a repair to do and talk for a few minutes about rides, parts, etc.  They even do shop rides and they have some very good mountain bikers (and some bike polo players), so they can relate to me and my year-round riding.  They know what products will work for the type of riding I do.  What I like the most, is that they'll help me to do my own maintenance and give me advice on the little things, knowing that I'll bring it in for the big things. That gives me more confidence when I'm out on the trail and something happens.  Because of them, I know I can "MacGyver" it back.

Contrast that with my experience in Salem at the Bike Pedler.  This is a great little shop, but I've never felt very welcome.  It never feels "about me" when I walk in. It has been my experience that they don't really take an interest. I feel they don't really cater to mountain bikers (more road and commute) and when I was in a jam and wanted them to look at something specific to my Specialized (they are the local dealer) and give me an opinion they said they were to busy (that has happened more than once).  Way way different than when I walk into Santiam Cycle (also in Salem).  Even though they don't know me (since I live in Corvallis), they take an interest when I walk in. Talk to me and have given me some great advice about local rides, and Hammer products.

My final example is with "Over the Edge" bike shop in Hurricane, Utah. I was in Hurricane for my son's wedding last fall.  I wanted to ride, but didn't have a bike, so I "cold called" a few places over the phone and was discouraged with how I was treated.  That changed when I talked with the guys at "Over the Edge" about renting a bike.  This was confirmed with I went to this great little house that is the bike shop.  It was last minute and their was the "St. George 100" road ride going on, yet they took the time to outfit us with two full-suspension bikes, trail map, and gave us (Darin and I) advice on the best ride to do (the 20-mile J.E.M that starts almost ride outside their front door).  If you are ever there, go see them.
Over the Edge
76 East 100 South
Hurricane, Utah 84737

So what does this all mean?  Like any business, treat everyone with respect and interest as a service provider is a key to success and loyalty.  If a bike shop takes as much interest in making sure I find the best ride or in selling me a brake pads (or even when I don't spend any money). It will be rewarded when I want to not just buy a bike, but when I need to spend the $200 to $300 a year I spend on maintenance and parts.  Plus, riders talk to riders and the word gets around, both positive and negative.  HP sells printers, but they really make money in supplies.  Les Schwab fixes flats for free and only ask that you come back when you need tires (I never go any where else, even if it might be a few dollars cheaper).  It think it is sad when Bike shops forget this philosophy also.  They'll do more than just sell bikes, but build a loyal community.  Luckily for me (and everyone else) that only happens on rare occasions, because the vast majority of bike shops are the 2nd best place to be when you are not on the trail.  Now, go ride!

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