Wednesday, February 6, 2013

And Then This Happened (Why I'm Not Enthusiastic About My Local Bike Shops)

On Monday, I returned from a "healthy wellness" ride at work to see what I thought was a small pebble stuck to my rear tire. As I looked closer, it was actually my inner tube bulging out of a little rip in the sidewall of my tire.

On Tuesday, I debated the merits of ordering a new tire for my bike from the internet vs. buying one from a local bike shop, because on account of the inner tube bulging out in the hernia fashion. I looked at the websites of two local bike shops, and saw that each had suitable tires for $18.99 or $19.99. Amazon had cheaper ones with brand names I didn't recognize but had high customer reviews.

In the past, I had decided that things like tires and inner tubes ought to be bought locally, so I stopped by one of the bike shops on my way home to buy the tire.

I walked in there and there weren't any of the tires I was looking for on display. The guy asked me "what are you looking for?" and I said "a new tire for my road bike" and he took me to the display of the $38.99 and up fancy folding tires on the floor.

I told him I wanted a regular non-folding tire that wasn't as expensive. He got behind the counter and brought one out. It was also $38.99. I asked for something cheaper. He asked me why and I explained that my current one got a little rip and the tube was bulging out. He said "maybe you need a tougher tire" and brought out a GATORSKIN ARMORED TOUGH TIRE! that was $45.

I said again that I wasn't looking to spend that much on a tire because I apparently run over sharp things that cut my tire and my current tire was $25 and broke after only about 500 miles. He insisted
it was because I needed GATORSKIN ARMORED TOUGH TECHNOLOGY and that would solve my troubles.

I told him that the bike shop's website said they sold "twenty dollar tires," and that's what I was looking for. He responded that not every store carried all the things on the store's website. I FELT IT WAS A BAIT AND SWITCH and started to grow more frustrated.

I resisted. He then offered up the "boot solution" where I put a liner inside the affected area of the tire to keep the inner tube inside. I was not opposed to this solution, and actually had considered it earlier but decided against it because I wasn't sure it would work, but his confirmation that the boot solution would be adequate helped make up my mind that it was an okay solution.

He took me to a packet of Park Tools Boots for $5.99. I had heard that you could just use a dollar bill as a boot because the dollar bill is made from cotton which is strong enough for the job. Since a dollar bill costs less than $5.99 Park Tool Boots, I quickly calculated that would be the cheaper solution. So I said I'm just gonna go raid my other bike and use that tire until I make a decision here.

Then I left and the guy was still trying to sell me something.

I got home, used a dollar bill to boot the cut, and am happy to report it's still holding air and not busting out as of this morning. I'm going for a ride this afternoon and we'll see how well it performs.

Then I went on the internet and ordered a new Michelin tire for my bike from for $17.85. It'll probably be here tomorrow.

So I don't know why I really bothered with trying to go to the bike shop. Although if the local bike shop had the $18.99 or $19.99 tire, I would have bought one right then and there.

My other story that is reinforcing my annoyance with my local bike shops happened at a different bike shop in town. I needed inner tubes and better tire levers to use for field repairs. I stopped by at the end of a long ride that day, and my bike was parked outside.

The guy looked out and saw my bike (and I arrogantly assume he noticed it was an internet-brand bike that was clearly not bought at a brick-and-mortar store) and cheerfully led me to the inner tube selection. He pulled out a tube for a 700x23 tire, which is the tire size I was riding, but the stem seemed a little short, I think the stem was listed as 38mm. I have wheels that have a little deeper than normal rims (advertised as 27mm deep on the internet, I think), so I was a little concerned that my pump wouldn't have enough to grab onto.

I shared my concern and the guy assured me it would be long enough. I was mildly concerned (because I had heard this in the past) that tubes made for 23mm tires were thinner than tubes made for 25-28mm tires, and you could put the thicker tubes made for 25-38mm tires on the thinner 23mm tires and feel more secure that you had a thicker tube that would offer more puncture resistance.

After a moment, I convinced him of my choice and he switched it out for a slightly bigger tube. Still the stem was shorter.

When I got home and put on the new tube, the stem looked a little short, but indeed the tire pump fit - JUST BARELY - with a slight air leak during the pump action on account of there was just almost barely enough stem to latch onto.

And now when I add air to the tire, I must wrestle with the stem just a little more than normal because I was sold tubes with too-short stems.

To the store's credit, the tubes were the same price as tubes I could order off the internet. So in the future, I might still get tubes from there, but will be more forceful with my request for longer stems. Not only are they easier to use, I also like the look!

I know I'm supposed to support my local bike shops, but the whole feeling of "bait and switch" with the tire experience, and the whole "you don't need longer stems on your tubes" affirmation, it makes me less eager to support local stores in the future.


  1. Ugh. LBSs can sometimes make it hard alright. Unless you have developed a good relationship with a practical cyclist who won't upsell you on everything... it happens, but it can take time to find such a person.

  2. Yes I try to support my local shop too. I get my lube, tubes and gu-packs there and have bought tires in the past. Most new tire purchases I just buy online getting the last season closeouts on huge discounts. My shop also has a small selection of Park tools and they have ordered in other tools I've needed. So like Rantwick says if you cultivate a good relationship with someone at the shop it can pay off.

    "inner tube bulging out in the hernia fashion."

    I like that.