Find information on events and services at bicycle shops.
Bicycle shops are the backbone of cycling communities across the country. Not only do they offer customers a great selection of bikes, accessories and top-of-the-line components, but they are a tremendous source of information about biking in the community. Bike shop employees are extremely knowledgeable about bicycles, and shop technicians can complete the various upgrades, repairs and tune-ups cyclists may need. Many local bicycle shops organize group rides, racing clubs and social gatherings that keep local biking enthusiasts entertained and in shape. These shops also disseminate information about biking routes and upcoming area competitions.
As their name implies, bicycle shops are first and foremost places where customers can buy new bikes. Unlike online dealers and sports megastores, who may stock more bikes than a local retailer, bicycle shops hire expert staff who help ensure that customers get the bike that best fits their physical size, riding style and fitness level. Some shops even use hi-tech instruments to analyze customer biomechanics and find the best-fitting bike possible. Because choosing a bike can be such a subjective and personal experience, it often helps new riders to have this kind of support during the buying process.
The other main service bicycle shops provide is bicycle repair. Shops often have at least two or three technicians who can easily fix the most common problems with bikes, such as flat tires, bent rims and rusty gears. Depending on their certifications and experience, some technicians can fix more serious problems, and they may even be able to build custom bikes using frames, wheels and components chosen by the customer. These shops stock an extensive catalog of framesets, wheels, saddles, forks and drivetrain components from which to build bikes from scratch.
Some bicycle shops organize group rides for their customers, starting in spring or even year-round in warmer climates. These rides are planned in the evenings or on weekends so local cyclists can get together and train for upcoming events. Like running clubs, these training rides are often divided by pace or fitness level: one group may ride at an easy recovery pace, while another may ride at a hard race pace. This tiered system lets riders tailor their training schedules to match their goals, whether recreational or competitive.
Bicycle shops may partner with a local triathlon club or personal trainers as an added service to customers who want to improve their riding technique. While professional riders may not need these services to perform their best, enthusiasts and serious amateurs looking to improve their performance may benefit from the private instruction and analysis.
Bicycle shops in areas with strong biking communities often run a variety of special events beyond basic group training rides. For example, Chainwheel Drive annually organizes a fundraising ride for diabetes, a six-day bike trip across Florida, and a springtime barbecue and cycling festival. The shop also posts information about upcoming road races and triathlons to the events calendar on its Web site.
Many bicycle shops also sponsor teams for multiday charity days, like the series of great events organized by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The Society holds 100 races across the country each year, in which riders can raise money to fund research and improve the quality of life for people with MS. Most of the rides are easy enough for beginning cyclists to complete, but intermediate and advanced riders are welcome to participate as well. Additionally, the races have food, water and medical support for riders along the route.
Bicycle shops can also be good places to go for information about nearby state parks and trail systems. They often carry maps and guidebooks for these trails, and employees are usually familiar enough with local rides to point customers in the right direction. In areas where lots of people ride year-round or commute to work on bikes, the shop may also encourage state and local departments of transportation to keep their roads, sidewalks and intersections in bike-friendly condition. A great example of this is the Southwest Florida Bicycle United Dealers (SWFBUD). Alan Snel, the group's coordinator, has contacted various transportation authorities about clearing debris from bike lanes and opening new pathways to cyclists.