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Your LBS – a response to Fatty

June 8, 2010

Fatty had a post the other day about his LBS and how they not only treated him, but the amazing way they treated everyone.  This got me thinking about my own LBS, and how (like Fatty) I’ll travel well out of my way to visit them.

How the affair started

I’m a big man, so buying a bike has always been a challenge.  When I decided to purchase my first road bike, I knew I wanted something in carbon – but that was about all I knew.  I didn’t know brands, shifters, components, anything.  All I knew was I had a $2000 budget, and that I’d loved the Cannondale I had rented for my last race.

I made the rounds in town, hitting some of the larger shops I knew – but I just wasn’t getting what I needed.  I even went so far as to visit the one shop I swore off after my last experience with them (several years before buying a mountain bike).  The conversation went something like this.

Me: I’m looking for a road bike I can use to race in the local bike club rides as well as use in triathlons.  I’d like carbon, and I’d like to spend less than 2k.
Salesman: You know, you’ll be a lot more comfortable on these hybrid bikes over here.  We’ve got some great cruisers.

Obviously I wasn’t getting myself across.  I wasn’t surprised though, as I’d gotten a similar response when I tried to purchase my first mountain bike.  Obviously I’m not the right body type or something for their shop.

Enter Bill Flemming

I’d heard about a newer small shop across town, and reaching the very end of the riding season (it was October) I decided to give them a shot.  I didn’t know anything about them, other than they sponsored some of the local tris, and sponsored some of the big road racers.  I wasn’t excited when I walked in, as they seemed to be a bit higher priced, but I gave it a go.

I’m not ashamed to admit, it was love at first meet.  Bill introduced me to a lovely Orbea Onyx, and spent several hours fitting it, and letting me ride it around.  It was easily the greatest I’ve ever felt on a bike, and it’s still my favorite bike in the stable.  I get a little giddy every time I take it out, and none of my other rides make me feel like this one.  I digress however.

Going above and beyond

Two (three?) years ago I had my first DNF due to mechanical problems, and it was my first year racing with the Orbea.  I started having flat problems, and had several frustrating training rides.  I tried different tubes, different rim tape, nothing seemed to fix the problem.  Then, I had the massive blowout that sealed the fate of one bike shop – and solidified my commitment to Chain Reaction.

During a training ride my front tire came as close to disentigrating as I think is possible, while still retaining the basic shape of a tire.  A massive chunk of the sidewall disappeared when the tube blew, and it was a big enough hit to almost dump me off the bike.  Fortunately I was a short walk from one of the big chain shops (same one I’d had problems with before, but a different branch), and hoped I could get a new tire installed so I didn’t have to try and find a friend to give me a lift home.

You’d think the sight of a shoeless (I didn’t have my cleat covers) biker with a shredded tire would evoke some sympathy from a bike shop worker, but that wasn’t the case here.  Yeah, I got there at 5:59 and they closed at 6, but come on.  The manager acted like I was putting him out by buying a new tire/tube, and was completely shocked when I asked if his mechanic could mount the tire so I didn’t have to use my only CO2 when I still had 20 miles to get home. It was worse when he found out I didn’t have cash on me, and had to use a (GASP) credit card.

Anyhow, the next week after another race that involved flat tires and changing tubes in 55 degree rain, I took the bike to Bill at Chain Reaction and regaled my tale of woe.  After giving me the friendly chiding I deserved for not bringing it in earlier, he made me an espresso and told me to come back the next morning.  I could tell he had a ton of bikes in, but he put mine at the front of the line to fix my wheel problems.

And I haven’t had another one since.

Final praise

Hopefully I’ve expressed how much I appreciate the guys at Chain, and the service I get there.  Heck, Bill came in one night at 10PM to do a bike fit for my sister (she lives in Fairbanks) because she was in town for 3 days to do some racing/testing, and he was leaving on vacation the next morning.  That’s service.

Chain has my business for life, even if it’s an extra .50 for a tube over say REI, or if it’s an extra 10 or 20 minute drive to get there.

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