The Importance of Local bike Shops

Beginner Lessons | March 2018
By Spencer T. Smith

When I first wanted to get into riding, I spent most of my research time in local bike shops walking around shyly until someone would come talk to me. I would ask questions that I really knew nothing about. The worker would look at me and try to explain something I couldn’t fully understand. It was perfectly weird, but I came to find that all the time spent looking like a fool allowed the people at the store to eventually recognize me. I found that I wanted them to notice me and think I was cool; one of them. I wanted them to treat me as if we were equals. Just guys and girls who rode bikes in the woods. Buddies, pals, whatever.

I learned a lot while walking aimlessly through bike shops. I learned when and where community rides were taking place. I picked up linguistic tendencies; lingo, and slang so I didn't sound like too much of a greenhorn. I learned the way the mountain bike community in my town operated much in the way an anthropologist studies a new culture (ironically, I have a degree in anthropology). The only thing is that once I finally got a bike, I did the most in-anthropological thing imaginable, I threw all I learned out the window of my car on route to the first trail.

Once actually acquiring my own bike and getting out on the trails, I stopped going to local bike shops. I stopped asking questions. I found myself afraid of going into the shops because I was suddenly afraid that I would look like I didn't know what I was doing or what I was talking about. I was and still am afraid to go on local rides out of fear of not being good enough, fast enough, or whatnot. The idea paralyzed me, still paralyzes me.

I have so many questions about trials, bike upkeep, gear, and everything else in between. Just like anything else though, I don't feel as if I fit in. Whatever the hell that means.

Now my opinions aren't the only ones that matter on this subject so I sat down and talked to some local riders and one local shop to help me wrap my head around what makes the local shop so important on a beginner’s journey.

The more and more I think about it, the more I realize I should just get over my fears and talk to the shop owners and workers like I once did. But I still feel inadequate. So instead I did the next most awkward thing. I talked to some local riders about the importance of the local bike shop for this article. You know, so you could enjoy following long with those who aren’t afraid to walk through the door.

I talked to two riders. Let's call them Rider Dude and Rider Gal.

I ran into Rider Dude and Gal at the coffee shop where I work. They are regulars and, while taking their order,I was like, “Hey, after I'm done with your drinks can I ask you guys some questions?” They were instantly confused.

After making their drinks I sat down with them and asked them a few questions. Naturally they had one for me first in that they were curious about how I knew they rode. Like you may expect, this was an awkward conversation since I had to reveal that how I figured it was based on seeing them at a local bar eating tacos on a Thursday with the owners of an area bike shop. Stalker much?


I asked them questions like what do you think is the importance of the local shop, were there any initial fears/ reservations in going in and other questions of that nature. These questions got the conversation going much more fluidly than my detective work discussion and from there we just talked.

My conclusion from our conversation looks like this: Yes, it is scary when you first start to feel as if you do not belong or fit in with any facet of culture. But once you get over that hurdle, the reward is great. Not only do you gain a group of people at your disposal that share a common interest, but also you learn tricks of the trade like bike upkeep, trail information, community activities, and so much more.

We all agreed that once you make that first step in becoming more involved, the world of riding opens up and you will never look back. Fear can be paralyzing so we can’t feed it and make it stronger.

If I could say one more thing on the subject; I wish that shops would recognize that new riders are afraid to ask question and afraid to get involved. I wish that in sensing this, they would be better able to communicate with newbies to make the daunting prospect of getting involved easier for them.

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