Buy locally, and you’re going to get excellent after-sales service, and you’re giving your money to a business that likely supports local trails and local events. Buy online or over the phone, and you’re giving your money to a company that doesn’t support local trails or local events. The debate over whether or not to buy bike parts locally versus online or over the phone will go on forever. Buying anything online, on the other hand, will almost always result in significant cost savings for you, in addition to providing you with access to every conceivable customization choice.

Those of us who are residents of Canada find ourselves with an even more challenging dilemma. The price difference between here and the United States may be astonishing at times, which is why it is normal practise to purchase goods in the United States and then have them sent to this country. However, this is something that the local bike stores definitely frown upon.

Bike Addicts

What is a person who is addicted to biking expected to do? It is true that in many of the instances in which I have bought bike gear online, I was faced with the choice of “buying it online or not buying it at all.” Even though the pricing at the bike store was far greater than what I could acquire it for in the United States, I made the decision that it was better to purchase it from the bike shop than to not get it at all.

When it comes to purchasing gear, my financial resources are fairly restricted, despite the fact that I would love nothing more than to be able to give back to the local bike shops in my community with each bike that I buy. If I don’t have to, I just can’t rationalise spending a considerable amount of more money if it’s not necessary.

The brand-new SRAM X.0 rear derailleur with a carbon cage is an excellent illustration of this point. The pricing before tax at local Ontario retailers is $350 Canadian dollars for the item. You can get exactly the same medium cage rear derailleur from a shop in California that is located in California and sells on eBay for $185 USD. When you include in the current conversion rate of 12% plus the company’s additional fee of $10 for shipping to Canada, the total cost comes out to $218 CAD. Therefore, even if you are subject to any duty costs, you will still be able to save around one hundred Canadian dollars. That is a statistic that is difficult to argue against.

Having said that, though, neighbourhood bike shops are an extremely significant component of what is known as “bike culture.” Consider the following as food for thought. After purchasing the rear derailleur, you discover that you are unable to get it set up correctly. Now you have to bring it into your local bicycle shop, and guess what: the likelihood is that they will charge you for even the little amount of work that they do. They have no reason not to, after all. They have to find a way to keep their company afloat in some way, and if the money is not coming in from sales, then it needs to come in through service.

The alternative, of course, is for you to spend that money on a derailleur from the neighbourhood store. In nine out of ten cases, the shop won’t charge you a dime to install or tune a high-priced item that you purchase from them.

But let’s not sugarcoat things here. How many of you have ONLY bought bike parts and accessories from a conventional store that has bricks and mortar locations? Not many.

Online Bike Shop

As the online world continues to grow, competition between the large web-based shops is heating up, which means the prices are dropping. Companies like Pricepoint.com have turned into full-service bike shops carrying not only every major manufacturer for components and accessories, but they also have a huge variety of their own house brand of Sette components. It’s made in the same factories as many of the brand names, but the price of this gear is far lower.

Even Europe is starting to catch on to the North American shopping craze. Large companies such as ProBikeKit.com are marketing to Canadians and Americans with offers like low or free shipping and fantastic pricing.

So where do you draw the line? It’s a tough question and it’s something that can only be answered by one person – yourself. Personally, I try to give my local bike shops business by buying things like tubes, lubes, pumps, gloves, helmets and other lower-priced accessories. For the most part, if I’m buying something with a size that varies from company to company (shoes, gloves, socks, helmets) I’ll buy locally so that I can try them on. But when it comes to components, where a shock is a shock is a shock no matter where you shop, I typically will look online.

Does this make me a bad person? I certainly don’t think so. One way I justify it is by looking at other industries, such as home improvement. As soon as Home Depot opened in my town I stopped shopping at the crappy local lumber store. Call it a lack of loyalty if you want, but to me it’s just being a smart consumer.

I realize this is a hot topic that will likely stir up some debate, but I think it’s something that’s been whispered about for far too long.