I Buy Online: Should I Feel Guilty?

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Oct 11, 2016

Dear Uncle Dave,

Am I single-handedly responsible for stunting the growth of the bike industry? It would certainly seem that way, by the bloody judgmental stares coming from my riding buddies anytime I mention getting a new bike part in the mail. 

Living Down Under, I take my life into my hands every time I pedal out the door. Hoop snakes, drop bears, and brutal terrain regularly take a toll on my noble stead, so replacement parts are frequent. The last thing I want is to travel 4hrs by kangaroo to the nearest town, only to be scrwed over by the bike shop charging double what it costs online (which is already 50% more than in North America). I normally only visit for repairs beyond my level, which are carried out half-arsed at best -and at the cost of a small sheep station. I understand they need to make some profit margin, but do I really owe them any loyalty? Is my unscrupulous online shopping only to the detriment of our beloved sport?

Sincerely,
An Aussie Battler


Dear Assbatt:

I’m really only answering your question because there are so many interesting words contained within it. What is an “Aussie Battler”? Do “Hoop Snakes” hang out with “Drop Bears” or are they usually found in different locations? How much does a small sheep station cost? You should think about starting your own Question and Answer column.

Moving along, we are a supremely curious lot, aren’t we, us mountain bikers? The codes we have to live by are almost impossible to navigate due to their contradictions. Spend too much on a bike deemed beyond your skill level and you’re written off as a “Dentist.” Save a few dollars on a bike part and you’re ruining the industry. How does one manage? Here are a few suggestions, questions and thoughts.

Give your local shop a chance

It’s easy to write off the greedy shop owners who want nothing more than to swindle us out of our money on their climb to the top. Trump got started as a bike shop owner, I heard recently somewhere. But I’m sure there’s a couple of decent blokes out there, scraping by while trying to build a community of cyclists. What if the shop down the street is one of those? Don’t they at least deserve a shot? Why not head down there sometime in the next few weeks, strike up a conversation, check out their prices, and see if the mechanics are bashing away on the bikes with ball peen hammers. Maybe they will surprise you and you will feel better about hauling your bike in there the next time something explodes. And if they turn out to be a bunch of dicks, you can sleep soundly while you take your business elsewhere. At least you will know.

If you can’t install it yourself, don’t buy it online.

I’m sitting here trying to think of any other circumstance where you would buy something in one place and then walk into another place (that sells the same item) and ask them to install it for you. Would you go online to buy a new cannuter valve for your combine harvester and ask the John Deere dealer to install it for you? Never. I mean…John Deere has decided to lock you out of your own equipment so that you can’t possibly repair it yourself and imagine what happens with all these electrical components we are strapping to our bikes when SRAM and Shimano decide that, for our own safety, only qualified dealers should be working on this equipment…but no matter…you would never do this with anything else that you own other than your bicycle. It is insane behaviour and if you do this you deserve all of the bad things that happen to you. Make this your golden rule for buying off the Internet:

If you can’t install it yourself, don’t buy it online.

Also, consider that your local shop has zero responsibility for helping you warranty said item when it explodes and you break your face. However…

Why should the business decisions of somebody else cause me to pay more for something?

I do not like the homogenization of North America. It’s sad that you can drive through a city on the other side of the continent and recognize half of the businesses. Eroding retail margins is certainly one of the leading causes of this phenomenon. But how far are we supposed to take it? How much more should we spend on something in the name of contributing to society? What percentage of local content is required for something to be “okay?” Maybe we can all decide not to shop at Wal-Mart but does that mean we should pay twice what we could just so some non-evolving jackass with “ties to the community” can keep his kids in braces and private schools?

And what about all those distributors? There must be a way to get products into stores that doesn’t involve pumping a huge chunk of the profits into a glorified box handler? And why am I paying for the local shop to have such a nice showroom? So that the Dentists can feel good about themselves? Maybe these shops should take a look at what they’re up to before they hurl all of these “you’re wrecking the industry” accusations in our faces? Here’s one thought: Why do we have to pay full retail for the part that you don’t have in stock and that won’t show up for a few weeks and really only requires you to click “order” on your computer? Why wouldn’t I just go and order that thing myself? Maybe we could all work together to figure out a way to make these sorts of things beneficial for everybody involved?

Yes, I know, the local shops are doing some great work, sponsoring trail days and yelling at the Mayor about bike share programs. But I’m also pretty sure those chowderheads standing in the blind spot at the bottom of that rock face probably didn’t buy those sparkly, reflector-clad Treks online so we really could start blaming these  local shops for making our trails too crowded, and perhaps buying online and causing the collapse of the current local-shop-retail-bicycle-model wouldn’t be an entirely bad thing?*

Sorry,
Uncle Dave

*Just to make this clear…I don’t actually believe these things. Except for the bit where you charge me full pop on the part that you don’t have in stock. That really bugs me. You should do something about this.


Uncle Dave’s Music Club

This music club thing has turned into an interesting exercise. The first installment evaporated and then showed up a few weeks later. I was actually kind of relieved when it disappeared. I thought we were all just going to pretend that it didn’t happen. But then, there it was. So I persevered. And then the second installment, once again, evaporated. So, here we go again. I think. I’m committed. But I’m not sure if that will be enough.

This week, we have a doozie. We’re going to dive back into the golden age of rap music. Now, I’m a bit nervous about this one. I always feel like a bit of a poseur if I make any sort of attempt to discuss rap…I mean really people, consider our demographic. It’s pretty ridiculous to have an old, nerdy white guy selling a rap album from 1994 to another group of old, nerdy white guys, 20+ years later. Making it worse, my upcoming description is more-or-less sacrilege. But, for me (your experience may differ), Street Level by The Beatnuts represents the intersection of The Wu-Tang Clan and A Tribe Called Quest. I know. I hate saying things like this. Just believe me that I’m not one of these guys that throws out a Tribe Called Quest reference every time they hear a trumpet. I really mean these things.

The challenge here is that it’s tough to find a video from this era so today’s experience is going to be somewhat less interactive. We’ll have to make do with lo-fi recordings that sketchy dudes have thrown up on Youtube. Full album here, if you’re desperate, but do yourself a favour and track down a hard copy.

Our song choice today is Hellraiser (or here). It could have just as easily been Ya Don’t Stop or Props Over Here or Superbad or Are You Ready? But it wasn’t.

Go find this album.


Aussie Battler – you win a one-year membership to Ryan Leech Connection (value $19 USD/month).  Ryan’s courses will make you a better rider – or you’ll get your money back. Ryan will even answer your questions personally. How sweet is that? Send us an email to collect your prize.

If you’d like to snag a juicy prize for yourself, fire a question to Uncle Dave.

Ryan-Manual-1600-nsmb
About Ryan Leech Connection Membership

An all-access pass to Ryan’s curriculum based learning courses which cover a variety of skills such as manuals, bunny hops, balance, wheelies and more. His tutorials aren’t just about entertainment, they’re designed to be engaged with step by step. Ryan is ready to answer any questions, like your own personal coach. He champions an integrated approach to skill development in this membership site by including access to a range of custom tailored physical fitness and mental fitness practices for mountain bikers.


Is it possible to support your local shop and sometimes buy online?

Trending on NSMB

Comments

dominicbruysporter
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DominicBruysPorter  - Oct. 23, 2016, 2:55 p.m.

This piece is pretty good at opening up the problem a bit.

My deepest worry crops up near the bottom where he worries that perhaps some areas will be left without an LBS, with a stress on the L. It's fine for us serious folks to an extent, but how is your aunt who's new to cycling, going to get chain replacement, and the right one?

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justincase
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justincase  - Oct. 23, 2016, 9:41 a.m.

I don"t feel guilty, I buy from my LBS cuz he runs a great shop and get's shit done, just had bike in/ out under 24hrs wheels trued spokes replaced. I also buy bikes/frames/ forks/ dropper posts from lbs just to cover my butt. I buy small items seats/grips/ bars online. To be fair if every shop had great service and huge selection online sales would be a minor concern, but alot of shops suck slow service arrogant/ignorant staff and 3x price pushy salespeople I say good riddence to shit shop's

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hbelly13
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Raymond Epstein  - Oct. 13, 2016, 8:53 a.m.

Dentists are always the scapegoat in the world of bicycling (and in general). I only know a few other dentists besides myself that ride offroad. They have nice, but not ridiculous rigs. The other dentists I know that ride are your typical well-heeled roadies with extraordinarily pricey gear with not even close to the skill set or usage to justify it. I began mountain biking long before I ever became a dentist. I buy solid stuff that works with minimal bling and maximum bang for my buck. I guess having starting working in 5th grade and paying for all of my education on my own gave me a better appreciation for a dollar. That said, I hope tons of professionals buy fancy bikes, keeping the bike biz thriving as who cares what they do with them?

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 21, 2016, 12:22 p.m.

Dentists do get given a hard time, don't they, Raymond? As a non-dentist to a dentist, let me say that (at least to me) the portrayal of dentists as people who buy expensive gear irrespective of skill is more of an abstract construct than it is a literal characterization. I always wondered why dentists get the bad rap, not docs or lawyers. Duck and cover if you're a dentist triathlete.

But as you point out, you guys are great for the industry, and everyone should be appreciative. And true enough: if you can afford it, who are we or anyone else to point fingers?

That said, the 'priced for dentists' tagline isn't going away. I'm glad you can see it from an elevated perspective.

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whatyouthink
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whatyouthink  - Oct. 11, 2016, 2:06 p.m.

See I had a funny one recently. I brought my bike in for a spiffy service (bleed brakes, change fork oil, service pivots) but I had purchased some parts online before I brought the bike in intending to install those parts myself because putting in a bb is not difficult. I let it slip I had ordered these new parts. But the shop basically wouldn't release the bike to me citing they werent sure if it was ok unless they put the bb in (charging me in the meantime). I was trying to be nice and support the local shop but the way they handled it was really awkward. Stuff like this leaves a bad taste in my mouth and makes me not care if i am being a pain in the ass to a shop (as bad as that sounds).

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tehllama42
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Tehllama42  - Oct. 11, 2016, 2:04 p.m.

I can 100% stand behind the 'if you don't have it in stock, I won't pay the overhead costs for you to stock it' approach. Conversely, if it's something a local shop is spending money to keep stocked, I'll buy if from them as long as I'm within some arbitrary figure (basically $2 + 133% of shipped online cost seems to be the line for me).
Luckily, my two local shops I frequent are either remarkable at having stuff I need in stock, or part of a larger chain with robust ship-to-store options.

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dominicbruysporter
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DominicBruysPorter  - Oct. 12, 2016, 5:21 p.m.

I don't get it? The shop needs a reason to stock it. Maybe working in small floor space shops has reduced my tolerance for people expecting everything to be in stock, but how other than basic consumables is a shop supposed to be expected to carry the wants of the very particular?
It's for that reason that I'm actually quite willing to do your installation or bike build even if we don't carry whatever it is. There's literally no use in trying to carry these things. Even as a niche shop, 90% of walk-ins don't have anything to do with our chosen niche.

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tehllama42
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Tehllama42  - Oct. 12, 2016, 5:27 p.m.

I guess the things I was thinking of, but didn't mention, are all consumables or basics. Stuff like tires, RD hangers for models they sell as complete bikes, bars and stems, cockpit touch points, and other stuff where touching it in person is way better, I think the cost/space to stock it can pay off, otherwise customers might as well buy it online.

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dominicbruysporter
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DominicBruysPorter  - Oct. 12, 2016, 5:54 p.m.

I guess if all you're doing is buying mid to high end parts?
But why would you even bother expecting to find that in a shop and then hold it against them for not doing so?

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tehllama42
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Tehllama42  - Oct. 12, 2016, 6:03 p.m.

I usually don't expect shops to carry that kind of stuff, for exactly the reasons you're thinking. Crazy part is that the two local shops I really like actually manage to stock a bunch of that stuff anyway, needless to say I'm no longer allowed to randomly peruse the shop without spousal supervision
.

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craw
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Cr4w  - Oct. 13, 2016, 10:56 a.m.

This goes doubly for wearables (helmets, shoes, gloves, packs). If trying on a thing is enabled by it being available in-store I feel it's only fair to buy that product at that shop, or wait for them to order it in for me in the right size or colour. Though if I have to call 4 times to follow up and make sure the order actually got placed then I'm a lot less likely to remain loyal.

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nat-brown
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Nat Brown  - Oct. 11, 2016, 11:28 a.m.

I don't think Uncle Dave should feel too awkward for his description of the Beatnuts. It seems to me that there are a few younger DJ/slope guys in the lower mainland and van isle who make like they come from the Marcy Projects. Some of those guys should weigh in here. I've seen comments from them here before.

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powderturns
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Mike  - Oct. 11, 2016, 11:23 a.m.

my general rules:
0) If the shop sucks, is too bro-brah and/or the people are dicks, I don't go there. I stopped going to a certain north shore shop for this reason (this was more than a decade ago - they may not suck or be superbro dicks anymore)
1) If it's within 20% of an online price, I buy local (note: this feels harder for BIG purchases - forks, complete bikes, wheelsets, etc)
2) I am willing to pay for someone's knowledge, expertise and opinion… at least the first time. If I'm not sure what new tire I want for fall/winter riding, I will pay full pop (say, $115 for a nice Maxxis tire) to chat with someone who understands my riding and local terrain to get something that works. Same goes for stuff I can't install myself.
3) I am unwilling to pay the 150% markup on "wear" items such as tires, tubes, chainrings, except as noted in 2. It's difficult to justify tires for $115 when I can get Schwalbe's delivered to my door from Germany, duty and shipping paid, for $60. That $60 price tag goes down per unit, as I order more… Same thing can be said for chainrings, and there are a lot of small, innovative companies doing cool things in this regard (ie. One-up, which, btw, aren't or weren't in many shops)

I'd like to know how Commencal, YT and the others are doing in North America. Since their offerings are often listed as unavailable, I have to thing they have exceeded their sales forecasts but who knows? Will be really interesting once Canyon comes, and if they take a bite of industry volume, how Specialized, Giant and Trek respond, let alone, Devinci, Norco, Rocky et al. Will they go direct in the USA before Canada?

Uncle Dave, you neglected to mention the sales guys, occasionally independent of the distributors and manufacturers also taking a cut.
Last thought: if people knew/understood the margins in the bike industry, particularly in Canada, they'd be choked, and many would be reluctant to pay full retail again. A high end frame retailing for $3200 USD has a landed cost into the USA of less than $950.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 11, 2016, 1:55 p.m.

Mike, your words have reason and merit, and I agree with you, except the last part. Stating that a frame that sells for 3200 has a landed cost of less than 1/3 of retail is greatly oversimplifying the way that a business measures costs - whether in the bike industry or it we're talking about electronics or any other consumer good. Landed cost doesn't account for overhead or salaries for design and engineering, marketing, admin, etc. Frames may earn higher margins than complete bikes, but the margins still aren't unreasonable, or 'choke-inducing' for the consumer. It may be possible to acquire a $950 frame, made by a factory without a public face, but what else costs money and erodes margin? The system necessary to support warranty and other after sales support.

Without profit, the only companies making bikes would be run by enthusiasts out of their garages. I'm grateful we still have bike and component companies that exist in that fashion, but if that were all we had, we wouldn't have access to, or the choice to buy, any of the greatest tech advances we have today, like suspension, disc brakes, or carbon fiber.

As far as Canyon goes, I don't think it'll have the impact everyone assumes, and I only say that because YT and Commencal have made a splash, but have hardly changed the game. Yes, there will be an impact, but clearly Canyon are taking their time for a reason. Could be they want to be sure they can keep manufacturing standards high enough to meet the demand they anticipate, could be other reasons.

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tehllama42
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Tehllama42  - Oct. 11, 2016, 2:08 p.m.

As easy as it is to balk at some of those numbers, taking one tiny peek into margins for furniture make me feel like most recreational hardware is a streamlined value delivery system by comparison.

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powderturns
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Mike  - Oct. 12, 2016, 10:01 a.m.

Your points are taken, though I never said frames should be sold to the public for $950. I would argue they could sell to the public at distribution cost of, say, $1800-2000, which is still 35% less than shop retail. Point is, there is some room to play with there - the current model is pretty far from efficient…
As for YT, Commencal etc, I guess you're arguing they haven't damaged Trek/Spesh/Giant yet, but I'm will to bet Commencal will do more business this year in North American than ever before, and next year will be better still. I never predicted an overnight revolution, but I'd bet things won't look like this in five years. Hell, even Intense being at MEC is a surprise. I have no idea what their margins were, but you can bet the Coop is doing higher volumes on lower margins, which is why Intense USA made the switch. Last thought - Canyon is, I believe, massive compared to Commencal and YT (they have 10x the models of either, and sponsor a TdF team…). I believe their launch here will be significant. I'm not saying they'll put Trek/Spesh/Giant into bankruptcy, but at some point those guys will have to reconsider their business models.

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zigak
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ZigaK  - Oct. 12, 2016, 10:57 a.m.

Canyon is sponsoring 2 TdF teams, Katusha and Movistar.

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powderturns
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Mike  - Oct. 12, 2016, 3:20 p.m.

so yeah… I can imagine that if a competitor came to your home country, and undercut your prices by 30% or more, it's going to have an impact on your business… we're also very narrowly thinking about this in terms of mtb only, but Canyon will probably do more road sales than anything.

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dominicbruysporter
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DominicBruysPorter  - Oct. 12, 2016, 5:36 p.m.

seriously. 35-40% markup on a frame or complete bike for the retailer is relatively tiny.
Landed cost to who?

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 13, 2016, 8:46 a.m.

That would be landed cost to the manufacturer. Two levels of distribution to consider: the distributor and the shop.

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poo-stance
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Poo Stance  - Oct. 13, 2016, 10:32 a.m.

Trek hasn't exactly lowered their costs going to a direct to shop model. Slash 29 Frame - $4800 Session Frame - $6400

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 13, 2016, 11:36 a.m.

I know you didn't mean $950. And we could pretty quickly just point our finger at distributors and call them an unnecessary step in the retail chain. However, it's the distributors who are (theoretically) stocking parts which enable retailers to keep inventory under control while also having access to the massive variety of spare parts needed to service road and mountain bikes (and touring, city, cross, kids', etc) but still struggle to keep pricing under control. I say theoretically because we're hearing from all over (not just NA) that shops aren't able to order the parts that we know still exist - 9 and 10 spd consumables for example but also air spring tokens for shocks, or service parts for modern stuff are also in short supply. So, we still need them even if they don't always nail it. So we're back to the same conversation about the bike retail model being outdated & broken.

But back to your point about frames: that's a tough one because not as many people want to buy frames as completes. Buying a frame and building it up isn't unusual for readers of this site and other serious riders, but that's a small slice of the overall market as far as the big brands are concerned. Eliminate those special case buyers, and you're left with a customer who looks for a frame on sale, has it shipped, then takes it to their shop and tries to drape other budget parts on it. Most shops should embrace that, but I'm guessing there aren't many buyers going through the trouble - especially right now with things changing. The flip side is the 'dentist' who doesn't care about cost - but that buyer can just buy it off the shelf and replace what they don't want on the spot. So, as a manufacturer past a certain size, there's limited incentive to offer frames to the consumer. Trek started offering the Remedy as a frame, but only because they knew some riders were building them in a way that would involve an inventory risk they weren't prepared to take on. Rocky saw the same need but rolled out 'BC edition' and 'Rally edition' bikes, but they're a much smaller company and chasing those sales has more relative value to them.

Commencal and YT set up regional offices with warehouses and sell direct. Commencal sells (some) frames, but they also have their own component line, and you can buy off-brand parts through them as well. YT has kept it simple and just sells complete bikes direct. I can't hazard a guess as to Canyon's intentions, however offering frames only is detrimental to the advantages these companies with a direct sales model can offer in terms of savings, so I'd bet they'll offer completes only.

And yeah, it'll be different in 5 years. Definitely agree with you there.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 13, 2016, 11:37 a.m.

Yes and yes.

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 13, 2016, 11:37 a.m.

Can you enlighten us on the way it works in the furniture biz?

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 13, 2016, 11:38 a.m.

Stocking frames is expensive. There's your proof. Those are crazy prices, though - where did you see them?

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powderturns
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Mike  - Oct. 13, 2016, noon

We agree probably more than we don't. Really, my overarching point is that the margins in the bike industry are still pretty healthy, and that's there's room for, dare I say it, disruption. I mention a high end frame as a single data point, but anyone who's had access to OE prices when spec'ing bikes knows there are similar margin compressions to be had on virtually all parts. Aluminum handlebars for $120 at the shop? C'mon. Let's try $20 landed cost into the USA. Maybe slightly less pronounced on forks and some other parts, but it's everywhere. DVO, for example, might find that they could do a hell of a lot more volume if they went direct instead of fighting with big producers like Fox/RS for floor/display space. For now, they've made their decision, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it switch, or to see someone else try something different with more and more parts (e.g. one-up).
Maybe the biggest thing is, we should be ready for our trails to be inundated with new users once a good 150mm travel bike weighing 28 pounds can be had for $2500 😉 - I know this won't happen - the new users part that is…

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poo-stance
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Poo Stance  - Oct. 16, 2016, 10:47 a.m.

On the Canadian Trek Website.
I do understand that Trek doesn't want to sell people frames, but I often have a large issue with complete builds.

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powderturns
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Mike  - Oct. 21, 2016, 9:21 a.m.

Landed cost into the USA, duty paid, ready for sale or assembly, in the bike co's warehouse. And markups of 35-40 are probably doable. You'll notice here we're talking about a markup of over 200% ($950 to $3200) from start to finish. It's unsustainable.

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poo-stance
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Poo Stance  - Oct. 29, 2016, 3:20 p.m.

Trek Bikes dot com Canadian site

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niels@nsmb.com
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Niels  - Oct. 11, 2016, 11:02 a.m.

Isn't a person who bought a part online but can't install it a business opportunity for a bike shop owner?

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powderturns
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Mike  - Oct. 11, 2016, 11:53 a.m.

no question. there's two shops near me that don't sell bikes - just service and some parts. one is high-end and experienced enough I would trust them with anything, and the other, I'm happy to have them press headsets and the like…

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dominicbruysporter
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DominicBruysPorter  - Oct. 12, 2016, 5:39 p.m.

looks like this is where things are inevitably headed

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david-mills
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David Mills  - Oct. 11, 2016, 10:57 a.m.

If I can't install something, I get it done at the LBS, AND buy the parts there. That said, I'm not sure if there's anything on a bike I can't install/service myself anymore. I do send my Fox suspension bits to Suspensionwerx. Also, I've been told by shops to "just order it online" for stuff like brakes, drivetrains, BBs, headsets, etc., so that's what I do.

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yvr
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YVR  - Oct. 11, 2016, 10:12 a.m.

Hasn't this been discussed ad nauseam? Customers responsibility at a shop - don't expect a deal - feel free to ask 'is this your best price?' but don't be surprised when the answer is 'yes'. Shops responsibility - acknowledge the customer, listen to the customer, show some humility when you don't know the answer/customer knows more than you. Both sides - don't be dicks. Keeping a bike running is not rocket science - Canyon can't come to NA soon enough. LBS should be getting ready for a cull of the weak.

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Dirk
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Dirk  - Oct. 11, 2016, 10:46 a.m.

Probably. Tight deadline due to being lazy yesterday. Forgiveness please.

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nat-brown
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Nat Brown  - Oct. 11, 2016, 11:03 a.m.

Not using prose as colourful as this.

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cam@nsmb.com
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Cam McRae  - Oct. 11, 2016, 11:44 a.m.

Interesting - the return of the not-so-mysterious YVR. True to form - aside from the absence of apostrophes for possessive nouns.

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yvr
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YVR  - Oct. 11, 2016, 11:58 a.m.

Nice bait. Wasn't the last Uncle Dave all about discussing the issues? Didn't last long, did it?

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cam@nsmb.com
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Cam McRae  - Oct. 11, 2016, 1:57 p.m.

Nice to have you back - now that we know who you are. Last week Uncle Dave was talking about whether Grassroots racers should be able to purchase discounted parts. Are those the issues you are talking about?

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cam@nsmb.com
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Cam McRae  - Oct. 11, 2016, 2:07 p.m.

Last UDave was about grassroots riders getting deals - or not - on parts etc. Are those the issues you mean?

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poo-stance
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Poo Stance  - Oct. 12, 2016, 10:22 p.m.

"Brand Ambassadors" seemed to be a real shit storm. Weird, as that whole segment of athlete has proven to be successful in other sports/activities.
Is it just mid pack semi-pros getting butt hurt over not being marketable?

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pete@nsmb.com
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Pete Roggeman  - Oct. 13, 2016, 11:43 a.m.

I think a big part of that shit storm was due to a really fuzzy definition of ambassador, and whether or not pro athletes are also considered ambassadors. There's also a huge miss in the argument which is that selling product to athletes at what amounts to wholesale represents no use of a brand's budget. If anyone should be pissed about that practice, it's retailers, but it's so ingrained, it's hard for them to get upset about it now - and I don't think it's widespread enough to be a major headache.

The bigger issue is where the line should be drawn as far as brands using content from unpaid reps (let's just use that word instead of ambassadors, it's too long) vs their pros. And the short answer is: "if a pro can't establish superiority in that arena, then their prowess as a competitor is on shaky ground". Whether that's the pro's mediocrity or the event's tenuous grasp on spectator attention is a different argument. And yeah, brands have a responsibility to prop up their athletes and the sports they compete in - but only to a point. And when factors make it hard to see the difference, that's when a pro in that sport has to decide whether they're like iTunes, or Blockbuster Video.

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