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  1. #1
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    Can ignorant beginners like me trust LBSs?

    First... hello. I signed up a week or two ago as I'm in the market for a FS bike. Why... probably just cause I have "Hobby ADD". I have a friend who recently purchased a Pivot, and I got very interested in getting a FS bike after hearing about the riding he is doing. I bought a road bike a year ago and have loved every minute. I have a mid-90's Scott mountain bike that I used infrequently the past decade.

    I'm sure I'll have more questions as I get closer to my buying date (at this rate, late next year, unless I get a decent bonus in teh next couple of weeks and can embezzle some for a bike like I did last year with the road bike).

    But my question is... can I as someone who really knows nothing about FS bikes trust my LBS? I have two other hobbies that the general consensus is to be very suspicious of the local stores (flyfishing and saltwater aquariums) as they are more prone to just try to sell you something rather than give you good advise.

    But after lurking for a couple of weeks here, I've never seen this skepticism with bike shops. I think my LBS is steering me right (they seem like it), but I fully admit I'm a bit starry eyed when looking at some of their bike offerings.

    And yes... I know I'm skipping the step of determining the type of bike I need, and whether a FS is appropriate for the type of riding I'll be doing. That's the next research project I'm going to be doing.

  2. #2
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    A lot of times you can trust your LBS, even if you're a beginner. A good shop will get you on the appropriate bike for your style of riding, get you fitted, and get you some accessories to go with it. Don't be afraid to ask questions since you're new to it.

    Right now, think more about where you'll be riding and what type of riding you'll be doing instead of the type of bike you want. There are so many bike choices out there it'll make your head spin...so doing this will narrow down your bike choice a lot.

  3. #3
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    The only way to know if they are feeding you a line or not is for you to know what they are talking about. You can be a beginner without being ignorant.

    It's been my experience that so long as what you need is something they have in stock or don't have to go out of their way to get... I haven't been oversold (talked into more than I wanted) I don't think ever. I have been pushed toward frames that I knew didn't fit, because I'm tall enough that 1: no shop anywhere keeps bikes my size in stock, and 2: many manufacturers don't even offer bikes that would fit.

    It's true a good shop won't steer you wrong, but identifying what is a good shop can be difficult without some background knowledge.

    What I'm trying to say is it's worth your time to become familiar with components (i.e., SLX is better than Deore, where things sit in Rockshox' lineup) and do an online fit calculator - just as a reality check of what they tell you you need (if you figure you need a 25" top tube and they say 24, ok take their advice, if they try to sell you a bike with a 22" TT, it's probably just the biggest they have in stock).

  4. #4
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    There is in the review forum here that has bike shops. Did you get your road bike from a different shop? Have you talked to other riders about what shops they like? You might find something on Yelp.

  5. #5
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    Shops can be hit or miss. Some are good about not pushing customers into something they don't want. Some can be as bad as used car salesmen. It depends on the sales techniques the owner/manager insists they use.

    I have always worked for shops that subscribe to the technique that you want to find out what the customer wants/needs/is looking for, and get them what they are after. That's easy if the shop has it on the floor, and it can involve more work and research if the shop would have to order it.

    I have been in shops that used the used car salesman technique, refusing to order because of the extra work (or whatever reason), and instead trying to convince me to buy what they had on the floor.

    You do need to do your own research before you set foot in there, though. You have to be able to train your BS meter.

    Sometimes you'll run into employees that don't know all the details. They SHOULD refer you to someone who does know the answers to your questions, but some of them don't want to hand the sale off to someone else so they'll start feeding you BS.

    One good way to feel out bike shop staff is to test how they interact with you. You're going to have some questions, so see how they react to them. Do their answers jive with your research? Do they consult product catalogs or ask other employees if they don't know an answer? Do they ask you any questions? Do they volunteer information you didn't ask about, and which is unrelated to your answers to any questions? Does it make sense?

  6. #6
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    There are a few LBS in my area that I just don't trust. Unfortunately, some are just into getting you into their most expensive bike. Every bike shop is only going to carry certain brands and there aren't many that carry a selection beyond 5 brands, so its tough to go into one and expect an unbias recommendation. But the truth is, every manufacturer makes a great bike that will handle any kind of riding you'll be doing. Whether its a big named one like Giant or Specialized, to the smaller ones like Yeti and Intense. All of them have their XC, All Mountain or Gravity bikes. Its all about preference.

    I suggest you do a little research on your own before heading out to one. Determine what kind of riding you'll be doing the majority of the time and gather as much information as you can. The web, as well as this forum, are filled with tons of advice and purchasing guidelines.

  7. #7
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    You're an adult. Go to a bunch of shops and ride a bunch of bikes. You should get a sense of which shops are better, and which are just trying to get you onto something in stock and to the register.

    Anything wrong with your Scott? I'm not suggesting that you not buy a new bike - things have changed in the last twenty years, many for the better - but you can ride your Scott this afternoon, and I wouldn't recommend rushing the shopping process enough to be on a new bike that soon. Anyway, it can give you some time.

    As a starting point, something with the same suspension travel as your friend's bike wouldn't be too bad. If they all feel mushy, look at things with less.

    What do you want to spend?
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk View Post
    Sometimes you'll run into employees that don't know all the details. They SHOULD refer you to someone who does know the answers to your questions, but some of them don't want to hand the sale off to someone else so they'll start feeding you BS.
    this. if they keep talking and never admit that they don't know something or let you decide what you want, they have already decided what they are going to sell you whether you need it or not. there is also a chance that the particular salesperson you have met is the "the roadie guy" and you want to talk to "the mtb guy" so try to find a way to politely ask right off the bat if the salesperson is the best person to ask about the kind of bike you are looking for, or if there is someone with more expertise in that area available.

  9. #9
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    In my experience, most shop employees try their best to give honest, sound advice. When they occasionally steer you wrong, it's usually because they are new to the business, and don't know any better (if you like vintage bikes, 10+ years experience can still be new!). But most of the time, these folks know what they're talking about, and they should be your jumping off point for information. Listen to what they say, then do your own research. Go to a few shops and ask the same questions. You will quickly see where the responses converge, and potentially identify a select few LBS employees who you trust, as well as a few you will avoid.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joules View Post
    The only way to know if they are feeding you a line or not is for you to know what they are talking about. You can be a beginner without being ignorant.
    This. Also, depending on where you live, you likely have a few LBSs that are going to carry bikes you're interested in and are within a reasonable distance. Visit them and talk to someone who works there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hextall View Post
    I've never seen this skepticism with bike shops. I think my LBS is steering me right (they seem like it), but I fully admit I'm a bit starry eyed when looking at some of their bike offerings.
    In my personal experience, I've been more likely to have an issue with the way I was treated in some stores because I'm not spending +$2K than to have shops feed me a line.

    Quote Originally Posted by lyra View Post
    In my experience, most shop employees try their best to give honest, sound advice.
    I think this is true. And the two LBSs that I like and would go back to are places where I've dealt directly with an owner, and if you're dealing with a small LBS, odds are you'll speak with one of the owners if you simply visit a few times.

  11. #11
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    Thanks everyone for the comments.

  12. #12
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    Your friend has a Pivot. Which is generally looked at by riders with a good knowledge level.
    Why not trust him to help you get into the hobby. You'll spend more initially, save lots over time and have the best chance of a positive developmental experience.

  13. #13
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    A bunch of great questions were asked... here's my attempt to answer them:

    As my finances stand right now, I'm not buying a bike anytime soon. As my budget is $2k, I'm still about 25% short of that (and as a financially conservative person, I want to save about 150% of my MTB budget before pulling the trigger.... that's just how I am). The comment about a bonus and buying in a week was tongue in cheek. There are other factors that I don't think are really pertinent why I'm not going to be getting a bike soon. I'm not rushing this.

    I've only gone into the shop where I bought my road bike to look at MTBs, but have plans to branch out to the other local shops. I've been conditioned to be skeptical of salespeople, so as I begin my research (and I will over-research, as that's in my DNA), I was just wanting to know if the data I get from LBS can be considered trustworthy (due to some poor experiences I've had and witnessed in other hobbies). I certainly won't use LBSs' advice exclusively and certainly talk with my friend with the Pivot about his search and experiences.

    Yesterday, playing a little hooky from work in the afternoon, I did go to the LBS I'm familiar with and was able to spend some time talking with the owner about my local trails, what types of bikes would fit that (trail), and the options they had in stock that fit my budget. After telling him $2k was my budget, he even shoo'd me away from a $2.1k bike. Skepticism falling. I also told him that I might plan on getting a 2014 at a reduced price at the end of next year as I build my biking bankroll... and he kind of poo-poo'd that idea, saying that it's unlikely he'll have any 2014's at the end of next year to reduce... while we were standing over about a half dozen 2013's at reduced price. Skepticism rising!

    Yes, I can and will use my current Scott bike. At the very least, it'll get me onto my local trains and to the parking lots where I can pick other people's brains and see what they are riding around here.

    Also... I looked around here, and couldn't find a forum rating LBSs. Would these be threads in the regional forums? Mine would be the VT,NH and ME one, which I didn't see any LBS experience threads.

  14. #14
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    At the top of the page on the right side is a header, bike shops look there. There are a number shops rated.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hextall View Post
    Mine would be the VT,NH and ME one, which I didn't see any LBS experience threads.
    Where are you located?
    Might be able to help you out with some local 411.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by rangeriderdave View Post
    At the top of the page on the right side is a header, bike shops look there. There are a number shops rated.
    Thanks. Of course it was hidden there in plain sight.

    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Where are you located?
    Might be able to help you out with some local 411.
    I live in Seacoast NH.

  17. #17
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    Sweet. You've got some great riding around you. Lots and lots of rocks'n'roots - I think an FS would be a great choice, specially for Ft Rock, Mt Aggy, Pawtuckaway, as well as a lot of other good stuff in easy striking distance to you in MA (Harold Parker and all the other great riding around Cape Ann, etc.)

    I would also strongly suggest hitting some of the local boards and looking at used rides.
    Your money will go much farther.
    Here's a couple good examples:

    2012 scott spark expert 29er

    Santa Cruz Blur LT for sale. Size L. $2300

  18. #18
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    most sales type dudes do not trust other sales type dudes...just an observation
    2014 Nail Trail 29...

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by time229er View Post
    most sales type dudes do not trust other sales type dudes...just an observation
    Why are you saying that? What is your angle?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by rangeriderdave View Post
    At the top of the page on the right side is a header, bike shops look there. There are a number shops rated.
    How long has that been there? I have never seen that, and have thought, more than once, "There should be a sub-forum for local bike stores."

    Thanks for pointing that out. I added two LBSes and reviewed another that was already there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hextall View Post
    Thanks. Of course it was hidden there in plain sight.
    You are not the only one who missed it. (Repeatedly.)

  21. #21
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    As far as shops, I know you've got a few in your area with good reputations - I've heard good things about Papa Wheelies in Exeter and Gus' in N Hampton comes to mind. See if they do demos and try out some different rides on your local trails. If they don't, you could check out JRA in Medford MA or Cycle Loft in Burlington, both excellent larger shops with good selections. Dave at the Topsfield Bike Shop is a really good guy also, though it's a smaller shop.

    You're planning to spend a good chunk of change, so try to demo or at least parking lot test a good handful of different bikes. HT, FS, 26, 29. Ride a couple that are out of your price range also, so you can get an idea of what the extra money gets you as far as ride quality, etc.

    In your area, I personally would be looking at bikes that fall into what these days they call the 'Trail' or possibly 'All Mountain' categories, depending on your riding style. You have a lot of granite laying around your trails, and a bike with a little extra squish and somewhat burlier parts can be a lot of fun. Totally personal preference though. Also, to get a really good quality FS, I think you would have to go used. In your favor though, bikes depreciate pretty much instantly to about half their MSRP. Best way to get in with some nice equipment IMO.

  22. #22
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    Hextall - build up your post count and start asking questions about everything MTB. I started here, knowing absolutely nothing but the brothers on here each shared their experience, pitfalls and passion with great intentions.

    Start by learning about bike components. Build your own dream bike with all the parts you select and install yourself. I tell you - it's one of the MOST gratifying experiences about riding and owning a MTB ever. Soon, you'll learn the best prices are online....as online retailers keep very little inventory and source stuff from huge off-site warehouses or direct from regional distributors.
    "The ONLY person who needs to race.....is the entrant"

  23. #23
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    I spent a lot of time looking, researching and talking to friends. I went to 4 different shops and was treated differently in each one. Out of the 4 shops I went to I would only purchase from two of them. I have a friend that is in the bike business and recommended one of the shops I liked I gave me a name of someone to talk to that he trusted. So I went back to the shop asked for the guy and we hit it off like old buddies.
    In the end do your research pick up some lingo and find a person in the shop that you like or that will spend time to answer all of your questions. Find a bike that is in your budget and ride.

  24. #24
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    No, read more.

    LBS are usually not dishonest but are biased.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zachariah View Post
    Build your own dream bike with all the parts you select and install yourself.
    This is on my mind as a possibility.

    I searched here for some advise about putting together my own bike, and I saw repeated mentions that there are some parts that really need specialty tools. So the other day while playing hooky at the bike shop, I specifically asked about the potential for workshops where I would build my own bike under the supervision of a shop person... and the guy (who I believe is an owner) really put a damper on that idea. He basically said that he'll get partially built bikes that people will ask him to finish and he really doesn't like doing this because he'll find put-together stuff that he'll have to go back and finish. I can understand this, and it's given me a bit of pause.

    Granted this was just one out of a half-dozen shops in my area, but I will check around other shops to see how accommodating they'd be. I'd have to assume they wouldn't be too enamored with helping me put together a bike I didn't buy the components through them.

    but thanks.. this is definitely in my thought process.

    as an aside... They had a 2013 Scott Genius 740 for $2500. I didn't even sit on it or ride it, but as I develop my potential bike list, this was the first one on it. And yes... it's $500 above my budget. I hate budgets.
    Last edited by Hextall; 12-06-2013 at 01:37 PM.

  26. #26
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    What's your current bike? Does it have a 1 1/8" headset? Sometimes, it's worth it to spend a few bucks to update, especially a new fork and front wheel with disc brakes.

    As a side note; I took a bike completely apart over thanksgiving weekend, painted the frame, regreased all the bearings, and put it back together. Rode it 20 miles on Sunday. This was all done with a $50 bike tool kit and some basic hand tools. It's not rocket science, you just have to be willing to do it.

  27. #27
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    I would shy away from doing a build yourself right out of the gate. It will take a lot longer and cost more. Full builds are the best bang for the buck, and will get you out on the trails a helluva lot sooner.

    As you replace/upgrade parts over some time, you'll pick up a lot of knowledge as to how things work and what you want out of your bike. You can put this to use on a bike build in the future, when you'll have a better idea of what you're doing and will have likely picked up more of the tools, etc that you'll need.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by watts888 View Post
    What's your current bike?
    Scott Yecora, purchased in 1996 or '97. Same as this bike:



    It's been a fine mountain bike for me over the years, but I'm going to get a new bike over upgrading this one.

  29. #29
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    Agree, good bike for what it is, but it's only got a 1" headset. You'd have almost no luck finding a fork for it. In the meantime, and as weather permits, ride the snot out of it. You'll quickly find what you don't like about it.
    I like the concept of full suspension, and I have both a full suspension 26" and a 29er, but I just don't use it very often. I don't ride fast and like the feedback from the trail, so I prefer my hardtail 29er. I will admit, taking jumps is much more fun with the full suspension though. Landings are smooth.

  30. #30
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    For the most part yes but they are hit or miss.
    I have a few LBS that I like and will go to and their are some I do not and will not talk with the employees any more than just to get what I need.

    My main LBS I think are great. The one I bought my road bike from for example would not push a newbie to get a high end. Heck even if you went in with a massive budget they would still encourage you to get an entry level bike for the reason you do not know exactly what you want and lack the experience to know that. They answer question honestly and will work with you.

    When I bought my first road bike I found out later I was an exception to their normal rule because I came in experienced from mountain biking so I had a good idea of things i wanted so they took my budget and ran with it. Follow by something I think all good shops should do is they dug around to find me the best deal and even gave me a sale price on a bike they had to custom order for me. I though it was great and is honestly the only reason I have a carbon frame road bike was I got a great deal on it.

  31. #31
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    I tend to favor the small shops with only a couple of employees. They know me and my rides. Always help me out of jams and I repay with my business. Check out some mountain bike magazines to gain more knowledge, but be warned that they can give negative reviews on even the best of bikes. Amazing that really great bikes get less than stellar reviews in most mags. Post questions here, if you get bad advise someone else will step in.

  32. #32
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    I am a tech/salesman at a local shop here in the DC area. I can agree with the OP about some shops, but they are not all like that. From my experience the pushy nature of the salespeople is usually coming from the management/owners. If it is a laid back shop you will not have that type of attitude, usually. I used to work at a very small "laid back" shop with the mentality that the customer knows what they want. I only guide you on your choice and provide feedback. I now work at a larger "corporate" shop and things are all about $$$. All they care about is making "plan" for the day in sales. I still have the same mentality with customers as before. I like to take my time with customers and give them lots of options.

    So, all in all I guess I am saying it really depends on the shop and the person your talking to. Ask some local riders about the shop they prefer and why. Good luck!
    "We can always find excuses if we want to find them, but if we really want to do something, we have to just go."

  33. #33
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    Can ignorant beginners like me trust LBSs?

    I'm the buddy with the Pivot and the OP bent my ear for three hours over dinner the other night I plan on making the rounds with him, when the time comes to start demoing bikes.

    The OP has expressed interest in joining me at Highland next summer and for this reason I told him if he only wants one bike to focus on 26 or 27.5 bikes with about 6" of squish. That way we can still go trail riding but have something relaxed enough for highland. Plus, as someone mentioned, the extra squish for all the granite is highly appreciated.

    I also told him whenever he wants to demo my bike he is more than welcome, we are the same height, so all I'd have to do is adjust the suspension pressure and seat. Although the OP is apprehensive about riding something outside his budget, which I completely get because that is how I ended up with my pivot.

    I also suggested looking for something used because of the bang for the buck. But it's tough to do that until he is ready to buy because once it's gone, it's gone and that can be torture.

    You guys have been great and are the main reason why I love this forum, helping out the noobs and not giving them too much crap
    2013 Pivot Mach 5.7 Custom Build
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  34. #34
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    On trail demo time is the most valuable information you can get. Having someone to explain what's happening while you ride a demo bike can shorten your learning curve a lot.
    A budget moves when you look at your costs long term and when you re-evaluate priorities based on how much fun you're having and time you want to spend instead of doing other things.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hextall View Post
    This is on my mind as a possibility.

    I searched here for some advise about putting together my own bike, and I saw repeated mentions that there are some parts that really need specialty tools. So the other day while playing hooky at the bike shop, I specifically asked about the potential for workshops where I would build my own bike under the supervision of a shop person... and the guy (who I believe is an owner) really put a damper on that idea. He basically said that he'll get partially built bikes that people will ask him to finish and he really doesn't like doing this because he'll find put-together stuff that he'll have to go back and finish. I can understand this, and it's given me a bit of pause.
    Building your bike is a great way to get exactly what you want, but a lot of newcomers can quickly get in over their head if they're not well versed on parts compatibility or have the specialty tools to get the job done. Most shops will have different policies, but I know we don't allow customers to build their own bikes under our supervision with our tools. One of the biggest reasons is we wouldn't be getting the labor dollars and our tools could potentially be damaged during the build, and this would be especially true if someone bought everything online and wanted to use our tools and resources for the build.

    I have, however, built bikes for customers and allowed them to watch the entire build and ask questions. We have a set labor rate for any bike build we do, so even if we get a partial build or someone wanting us to finish a build they started...the price is the same as it would be for someone bringing us a brand new boxed bike for a build. It's weird that the guy you went to doesn't like finishing bike builds...it's labor dollars in his pocket.

  36. #36
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    Strongly agree with building a bike, just because it's fun and it's "you're" bike, not an LBS bike. I wouldn't start with a carbon fiber bike though.

    Quote Originally Posted by owensjs View Post
    It's weird that the guy you went to doesn't like finishing bike builds...it's labor dollars in his pocket.
    I'd bet some of it is the uncertainty of what the original assembler did vs. what the shop would do from a liability standpoint. If someone brought me a vehicle engine partly assembled, I'd want to tear it down all the way to make sure it was assembled properly from a torque spec standpoint and that it was actually assembled properly. It's much easier to do this with a bike, but it still takes time. Hourly labor vs. a flat "assembly" rate.

  37. #37
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    My lbs is awesome. They didn't push the more expensive bike on me when I was buying because the one I was looking at was more than suitable for my riding style and trails. They're also pretty easy to approach and answer honestly. It depends on your shop. I suppose you could go in there armed with information/answers and ask them to see how they respond. Might help you get a guage if they're telling you the truth or not.

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by GelatiCruiser View Post
    My lbs is awesome. They didn't push the more expensive bike on me when I was buying because the one I was looking at was more than suitable for my riding style and trails. They're also pretty easy to approach and answer honestly. It depends on your shop. I suppose you could go in there armed with information/answers and ask them to see how they respond. Might help you get a guage if they're telling you the truth or not.
    Luckily my LBS is also very good with advice and service. The advice about asking them a few questions you know the answers to is very good. It gives you a good feel for the place and if you can trust them.

  39. #39
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    your LBS is only as good as the mechanics. I'd start with them first and ask what lasts in your area. they can tell you much more about any given bike better than the salesman.
    Bike shops are in the business to sell bikes.
    You can often get the same bike on ebay for 20-50% less if you're patient.
    You can also save lots of money by building your own bike from parts on CL or the Bay.
    You'll need some basic tools, a Park repair manual, and a bike stand if you're an apartment dweller.
    I bought a 2008 Ventana El Saltamontes frame for $247 and spent $500 more to build it up with high quality components. If I bought the same bike in the store, it would have cost me double and the component quality would be considerably lower.

    Check out what you can buy for $1000 on the bay and as the bikes get older, you'll see that the quality of components rises.

  40. #40
    I like turtles
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    This is a bike, not a car, don't overthink it, go to the LBS, ride some bikes they have, talk to the folks there. If you get a weird vibe or feel like they are being condescending etc., go somewhere else. You will probably end up with a short list of bikes in your budget that you liked. Come back here and post them up and see what folks say if you are interested in getting some opinions to help finalize the deal. Building your own bike from scratch seems to be poor advice for someone that comes onto the beginner board of mtbr and asks for some help.
    Geologist by trade...bicycle mechanic (former) by the grace of God!

    2012 Specialized Stumpy EVO 29 HT

  41. #41
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    Over time I have come to know the owners/operators/wrenches at our 3 and now the 4th lbs in our area. Without exception they are all good sheeple and seem to have done right by riders in the area consistently. Make sure you ask specific questions and you will get pretty good answers. I have yet to ask a mechanic about something technical and get a short answer. They love to talk about their work and don't seem bothered by the inquiry.

    Just a thought,

    Brevity

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