If you've been riding for any amount of time you've probably heard the term "LBS". I had no idea what this meant at first, but soon learned it referred to my Local Bike Shop. Just like McDonald's, Subway or even gas stations there are bike shops and/or bike departments at larger chain stores all over. But there is a vast difference in hitting the bike department at Walmart vs. your trusty LBS.
First off - most people working in a department store are hardly qualified to advise on bike parts and these same people are the ones who probably assembled the bikes for sale there. And then there is just such a limited selection of parts available. In a pinch you might get a new tube or a bike lock or something else fairly common, but that is about the limit of usefulness a department bike store offers. I've even found that sports and fitness stores have limits when it comes to the cycling departments they contain.
Then there is the LBS. My LBS is Bike America at 95th and Nall in Overland Park, Kansas. I bought my Cannondale there and I can't say enough about how awesome these guys are! They offer great and knowledgeable sales support and as far as bike mechanics go they are tops! I pop in there frequently and have gotten to know several of the mechanics pretty well. They are always ready to help me out with any problem. Often times they teach me how to do something for myself in the future, and they always let me hang out while they work on my bike.
Well the other day was another day for my LBS to shine. I was planning to ride and went to reach down my 29er and found a totally flat rear tire. I kinda thought it was going soft on my ride the day before so I wasn't completely surprised, but it changed my plans. I jumped on the fat bike for a quick 3 mile ride, but it is just not ready for much longer riding yet.
When I got back I thought about tackling the flat so I'd be ready for a longer ride the next day. I kinda started at it half-assed and then decided to just run it to my LBS. They would fix it in a quarter of the time so the repair fee was worth it. Well I got there and sure enough they fixed it lickity split! It turned out that as I had installed flat prevention strips earlier in the year, the repair was free of charge! My long Thanksgiving Day ride was back on schedule thanks to my LBS!
I've walked in to larger bike shops - like Bike USA and I've found them very impersonal and in fact I recall twice shopping there only to find myself completely ignored. I since decided to avoid them all together. (I apologize if anyone reading this is a Bike USA fan - this is just my experience with them).
So here I am the day after, the day after Thanksgiving finally getting around to finishing this post and come to find that this is "Shop Small" day. So this is a fitting day to say Thanks to my LBS and remind people to shop small and support local shops vs. big chain stores as much as possible.