Save Your Local Bike Shop
Small Town America, USA, 9 October 2013 – After watching this video we can reasonably conclude hydraulic road disc brakes will be the savior of the local bike shop. Currently Shimano and SRAM offer hydraulic disc and caliper brakes on their higher end group sets. The two target customers for these components are often wealthier cyclists who spend their discretionary funds on their hobbies (often named Fred) and hard-core cyclists who want the latest groupo for their Italian-heritage race frame.
The hard-core cyclist will most likely have a fully stocked shop in their garage or basement requiring the purchase of the requisite tool and accessory kits to maintain their new hydraulic systems. Hard-core guy will never watch this video. He will have a friend who served as the assistant to the assistant mechanic for SRAM at this year’s CX championship races tutoring his brake fluid bleed sessions. Off-season-Friend works at the LBS and will cut Hard-core a deal on the maintenance kits as well. He will ride carefree and bubble-filled on his newly upgraded frame.
Fred on the other hand will have little or no understanding of the function of the hydraulic system aside from the knowledge that should he be caught in a drizzling rain his trusty S-teed will stop on a dime; though he would never consider actually riding in the rain deliberately. Fred will follow the recommendations of his LBS’s chief mechanic returning regularly to the shop for the prescribed maintenance of his hydraulic system.
According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA) the number of specialty bicycle shops in America dropped from 6,195 in 2000 to 4,089 in 2012, a 34% decrease in the number of bicycle shops serving American towns in the past twelve years. The economy, big box stores and weather factors affect sales at these shops. Competition from large chains and the Internet cut into the profits of small retailers in every industry and affect the bicycle market two-fold. A bargain bicycle bought at a big box store has little intrinsic value to the buyer; the low cost of the bicycle translates into little concern for maintenance. The buyer simply discards the bicycle when it no longer serves its original purpose. The small town bicycle shop loses not only the sale, but the profits from regular maintenance visits from the customer as well.
Small mom & pop shops by necessity often charge higher prices for their goods to stay in business. This drives cost-conscious customers to larger retail chains as well. Bicycling blogs and magazines often tout the advantages of shopping local, but Internet retailers offering free shipping and deep discounts win the price wars.
Road hydraulic and disc brakes may be just what the doctor ordered to save local bicycle shops. The complexity of the system necessitates some degree of expertise with maintenance chores. And the potentially harmful nature of DOT 5.1 brake fluid used by SRAM in their hydraulic system adds another level of intricacy to their upkeep. Few home mechanics are willing to entertain the possibility the fluid will spill on their costly carbon fiber frame causing irreparable damage.
The bicycle industry may not yet understand the potential boom it’s created for the specialty bicycle retailer with the advent of this evolutionary technology mounted to a road frame. Whether a buyer orders his hydraulic brake appointed bicycle from an on-line retailer or their local bike shop, a majority of bicyclists are likely to be ill prepared to maintain these systems. Most home mechanics are able to manage clincher brakes maintenance that requires only periodic cable tightening and pad replacement. Hydraulic systems, on the other hand, require greater skill, various tools and syringes, and the handling of potentially harmful fluids thus guaranteeing visits from every Fred in a 5-mile radius to their local shop since no Internet retailer can support this end of the business. The well-prepared specialty retail bicycle shops will be the real winners in this revolutionary movement.