|Local (French) Bike Shop comes to the rescue!
It's 10:03am in Lourdes, France, where Kevin and I were waiting for a 10:26 train to take us within riding distance of the day's Tour de France stage. This was our first riding day in France, so Kevin's adjusting the seat height on his Bike Friday travel bike. The seat clamp bolt snaps. You can't ride a bike without a seat, and there will be no bike shops, no hardware stores, where we're heading (up the Col d'Aspin after the train drops us off in Lannemazan, 60 or so miles to the east). I've got a whole lot of things racing through my head, but in a nutshell, Kevin's bike isn't going to be ridable without a way to hold the seat in place, and the train arrives in 23 minutes. Just barely, maybe, enough time to race to the only bike shop left in Lourdes.
Left the train station, arrived at the bike shop, just slightly over a mile away, 4 minutes, 22 seconds later. Spent 7 minutes, 23 seconds inside the shop while a guy looks for and finds a suitable replacement (it really does help when you have the original with you!). Ride back took 6 minutes, 18 seconds (due to weird French road construction). I have the Strava track to prove the story.
Arrived back with about 4 minutes to spare, working part in hand.
If the shop had not been there? At least one day's ride would have been scratched, while a desperate search would have begun for a kludge. There's only one shop left in Lourdes; the rest have gone the way of small businesses everywhere, battered by rising rents and suppliers who undermine them by selling cheaper to people who sell on-line. What happens when there are no more?
Aside from presumably-selfish rationalization, I hadn't realized the degree to which the local bike shop increases the value & utility of the bicycles people own. Until today that is. Cycles Arbes came through heroically for us, as part of their everyday taking-care-of-customers mantra. Thank goodness they were still in business!
People may want more, cheap, and suppliers are often willing to serve that demand by undercutting the Local Bike Shop. But wanting more, cheap, isn't as important as need, and that's what your Local Bike Shop is best at. People need solutions. What bike is going to be best for the opportunities in the area and the customer's dreams? What happens if something isn't quite right, comfort or mechanical... do you have a place that maintains a sense of ownership of that bike and will do everything in the world to keep it on the road, make sure you're having fun with it, rather than it becoming part of a dusty collection of things in the garage? Things that you wanted but really didn't serve a need. Things that might have been cheaper but might be best measured by how much they cost vs storage space, instead of how much fun they provide on a regular basis? Parts of the bicycle industry need to get a handle on how much long-term harm they're doing to cycling by favoring other channels of distribution.
Your Local Bike Shop is here for you. Not just selling bikes, but also providing a support network so your bike starts out on the right foot. Correct size, fully and properly assembled, the right type for how you're going to ride. A place to come to if something isn't quite right with it. People who know that a bicycle isn't just a thing, but something that, done right, becomes a part of you, a magical device that brings the horizon within range and will help you live better, longer.
Your Local Bike Shop is working hard to be as competitive as possible with pricing, but even when more expensive, is providing value that can't be duplicated elsewhere. We are seeking a better shake with our suppliers, looking for a level playing field. We have an organization, the NBDA (National Bicycle Dealer Association) that is working hard to make sure your Local Bike Shop doesn't go the way of Shoe, Vaccuum Cleaner and Electronics stores, where product has moved from long-term value to trendy & disposable (can't be repaired).
For me, I am so thankful that economic forces have not put Cycles Arbes out of business. Local Bike Shops both promote and enable cycling in a way that simply cannot be done on-line. There was no magic button on my iPhone that could save our trip that day. Just a friendly bicycle shop in Lourdes, France. Thank you, Cycles Arbes, from Mike Jacoubowsky, Partner, Chain Reaction Bicycles (your Local Bike Shop not to be confused with a large on-line place in Ireland with a similar name)