Monday, September 16, 2013

Support your LBS or DIY?

West End Bike Shop, where I purchased my Surly Crosscheck and have repairs done that I do not do myself

When I was a young cyclist back in the '60s, one of the jobs I held was working in a Local Bike Shop (LBS). Over time, the owner of the shop (referred to here as BB) became a friend and a supporter of my bike club, the Modesto Roadmen. Thus, the oft-heard admonition to "Support your LBS" has special meaning to me. The issue of supporting your LBS seems to be an obligatory topic for cycling bloggers who are required to make a plea for that position while explaining and justifying their own personal practices, almost always some sort of compromise. I regret being part of that parade, but there were things I wanted to say which I hope are at least somewhat personal to me, so here is my version of that post.

Some of the well known and oft discussed reasons given for supporting your LBS are:
  1. If I don't support my LBS, it won't be there when I need it.
  2. Because I have less experience than the LBS, by using them, I make sure I purchase the correct products and that repairs are done properly.
  3. My LBS is a center for bike culture and, as a tax paying business, a powerful advocate for cyclists with local governments and thus deserves my support.
  4. It is better to purchase from local businesses rather than from national or international sources (e.g. most online sources) because so doing means that money spent stays in the community.

Daniel Boone Bike Shop, who restored my Bianchi Specialissima

Even while I was a LBS employee, I (and the rest of the Modesto Roadmen) often purchased our bike supplies from places other than BB's Bike Shop and rather than bringing our bikes to him, did most of our own repairs. I never got the impression that BB was unhappy about this; he knew where his money was made and it wasn't on us pre-1970 racers, it was on the neighborhood kids. He stocked what they wanted, not what we wanted, so when we went elsewhere for our tubular tires it was because he couldn't make money selling them in our relatively small town. As for our Do It Yourself (DYI) repairs, I got the very clear message that BB, who was an old school mechanic before "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" celebrated the concept, agreed that our taking responsibility for our bikes was a Good Thing.

My situation today is different than it was in the 60s. Houston, Texas, is very much a big city, cycling has gone mainstream, most of the local bike shops carry a wide selection of high end bike components, and as an adult cyclist, I am no longer a fringe rider of little economic interest but smack in the middle of of the shops' core demographic. Still, I often work on my own bike, and the reason why is the topic of this post.

My messy garage, my Park Tools bike stand, and my Surly undergoing the indignity of DYI

I don't DIY because I think I can do a better job than the shop, I am a fair handyman at best. Neither is money the deciding issue. The reasons I DIY are as follows:
  1. Being a handyman runs in my family. Many of my relatives on both sides of my family built and fixed things. My Dad, in particular, is an excellent handyman.
  2. As noted in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", there is value in having the kind of intimate relationship with your bicycle that can only come from maintaining it yourself.
  3. In many ways it is more convenient to do it myself. Taking my bike to the shop and picking it up a few days later I find much more disruptive than a few hours in the garage working on the bike. This can mean I perform time critical maintenance (like changing the chain) on time when I do it myself rather than putting it off until it has been too long when I take it to the bike shop.
  4. Sometimes I want to try something embarrassing that I don't feel like discussing with a LBS mechanic, like adding a rear cog a bit beyond the specs of my derailleur or adding a fork extender to raise my handlebars.
  5. Randonneuring is about self sufficiency. If one's bike breaks down during a brevet, one is expected to fix it. Maintaining my bike myself when I am not under pressure gives me the familiarity and practice I might need to be able to make repairs during a brevet.
I guess I am at peace with what I do with regards to bicycle repair. I try very hard to be fair to my LBS. I don't "showroom" (look at parts in the LBS and then purchase them online.) When I want a new bike, I purchase it from my LBS. Once I decide something is a job for the LBS, I listen to their recommendations and don't quibble about price. I am currently of the opinion that what I do is, on average, fair to my LBS and the Houston cycling community but I am always open to changing my mind as new arguments or experiences require.

For those new to this blog, each week I am posting an update of my training results; see my previous posts for explanations of my aerobic training program, MAF tests, and this graph. This week continues the long plateau (lack of progress) seen in recent posts. Last week, I proposed two hypotheses for explaining this lack of progress:

  1. The progress leading up to day 145 was due to the weekly long rides I was doing to prepare for my May brevet. When I resume such rides to prepare for a November brevet, a resumption of progress will be seen. 
  2. I am training while tired, preventing progress. 

In recent weeks, I have cut back on my training for a variety of reasons, so hypothesis 2 is looking less likely. I plan to increase my training in the weeks to come which should provide the final test.

1 comment:

  1. I do both. I have a little shop in my basement, but when I need some service I can't do, I take it to the bike shop. My interests generally lay outside the mainstream though (late 70s to early 80s road bikes), so the LBS often won't have what I need (vintage parts), or modern dimensions (threadless headsets, 130/135 rear spacing, etc) prevent stock parts from fitting. Still, I patronize them when I can.