Going to a bike shop has never been a drop off-and-pick up deal for me. I do not own a car, so ever since I started riding, going for a repair meant I’d ride/walk my bike and hang about in the shop while the mechanic took care of whatever needed attention. This developed into a habit: lurk around at bike shops every time I went to one, which was received in different ways depending on the place I’d go to, since I’d want to see and learn from what was being done while at the same time try not to annoy the person working, a balance hard to achieve.
Just a few, short years back, when people shifted their nomenclature from “bicycle touring” to include the term “bikepacking,” there weren’t many brands or shops for that matter, that catered to outings such as overnighters all the way through extensive tours. At least not compared to today’s offerings. Just about every day I read about a new product that claims to make our time on a loaded bicycle easier, or more pleasant, and as you can imagine, there is a lot of filtering that has to happen in order to cull this seemingly endless parade of new products.
That’s where the local bike shop model comes into play. My favorite part about visiting any city are the shops that make these places tick and in Portland, Oregon, there are so many shops around that specificity is the name of the game for survival in the ever-struggling retail economy.
One of the ways shops – and brands for that matter – have found the key to survival is by carefully cultivating a selection of products that have been thoroughly vetted by either the shop’s staff or close friends of the shop. The only way to determine the feasibility of a product is to actually use it, right? I’ve noticed this happening a lot, the culling down of the bike shop. In many ways, this makes for an easier retail experience, from the customer’s perspective and the owner’s.