Monday 28 March 2011

LBS vs Chain vs Online

Carole wanted a new bike, and naturally I was asked to help. Spending other peoples' money? I am, clearly, the man for the job.

I was a little disappointed to find Carole's expectations included financially responsibility, so a Scott Scale 899 was out. But such responsibility left me on the handlebars of a dilemma - one any cyclist has had to weigh up on the purchase of a new ride. "To whom will I be handing over my cash, in exchange for a shiny two-wheeled baby?"

Local Bike Shops. Sound advice from someone who knows what they're talking about, the chance to actually sit on - or even ride - a potential purchase, and the continuing support and goodwill of the shop. But this will come at a price - in the form of higher initial purchase price.

Online giant. I have to admit, when it comes to the sheer range and availability of product, the online giants - think Wiggle - hold all the cards. And with no physical presence, and the ability to deal direct, you can expect a lower price than you'll find in your Local Bike Shop. Of course, you're buying from a description and a few pixels, and no matter how straightforward the return process is, you're still remote. Customer loyalty discounts are all very well, but when it's ten past five on a Friday and you need an new headset fitted, who ya gonna call?

And that brings us to the chain giant. You know the one. Turtle wax, indicator bulbs, air fresheners. Oh, they also sell bikes. And with buying power others can only dream of, there are savings. But customer service? Not in my experience. After failing to be served in one branch by someone who looks like he isn't old enough to have a paper round, and totally ignored in another, I was more than ready to take Carole's hard earned pennies back to the LBS.

But they were Carole's hard earned pennies. Not mine. So it was incumbent upon your loyal host, dear reader, to get the best deal that I could.

So next week we'll be picking up a £500 ride for £380. That is, if the order's processed and the bike's built.

And built properly. Preferably with some pedals.

It is pretty, though.