Internet shopping may be changing the face of the high street, but there's one area of retailing where bricks-and-mortar shops will continue to co-exist with their online counterparts: cycling. Each has its advantages. Buying a bike online can be quicker and more economical, but buying in store gives you access to services – advice, bike set-up, and repair – that digital shops don't offer. The good news is that you can use your Cyclescheme voucher in store or online. Just look for the Cyclescheme logo. The scheme works the same way whichever way you buy your bike and accessories
Customer retention is important for any business; for the high street bike shop, it's their bread and butter. They want to turn you into a cyclist and not simply sell you a bike, because that way: you'll be back to buy spares, consumables, or second or third bikes; you'll bring your bike in to be serviced; and you'll give word-of-mouth recommendations in the local area. That – and the fact that most bike shop owners are nice people! – is why they'll give you personal, one-to-one service. You don't need to know exactly what to buy before you go through the door; the staff can ask questions and guide you towards the most suitable bike at your price point. They can also suggest the accessories you'll need. For commuting this is really important, as most bikes don't come with the mudguards, luggage, lock, and lights you'll need for the journey to work. The shop can also fit these accessories for you, so tools and technical know-how are not required. As well as advice on the type and model of bike, you can also get advice on sizing and fit. Some shops will offer a free or discounted bike fit when you buy a bike, so that it can be set up just right for you. Those that don't will at least let you sit on various bikes so that you and they can get a feel for what suits you, and most will let you have a test ride too. If you want to change something on the bike you're planning to get – tyres, let's say, or the saddle – the shop will usually be happy to swap that for you at cost. Once you've got your bike, you can go back to the shop if it ever needs repairing. Shops offer annual services for bikes too, so problems can be nipped in the bud before they develop into something worse.
Buying online enables you to get a bike that your local shop doesn't stock. If you already know what you want – not just 'a road bike', let's say, but specifically a Giant Defy 3 – then buying it online might save you a trip into the next town. Similarly, if you want a bike that no one else seems to stock, either because it's an in-house brand or because it's something of a rarity, buying online might be the only practical option. Online shops often have wider ranges of accessories, and more stock of the accessories that they do carry. While bricks-and-mortar shops will be happy to order in products from ranges that they carry, the online shop is more likely to have it right there, right then. It can be quicker and, if you know what you want, easier to buy online. Click, click, click, enter your details, and you're done. You can choose your bike when it's convenient for you. Eleven thirty on a Sunday night? No problem. You don't even have to collect, squeezing it awkwardly into a car boot. Instead, the bike can be delivered to your door – often for free – in a massive cardboard box. Normally you'll only need to put the pedals on, turn the handlebar around, and pump up the tyres.
How to choose
If you're not sure what you need (or in what size), or if you want the reassurance of a face-to-face transaction, you’re better off going to your local Cyclescheme shop. The help and advice that they can give you is worth more than any difference in specification between a bike brand they stock and one they don’t. On the other hand, if you do know just want you want, your local shop doesn't have it, and you can set it up yourself, you're better off using an online Cyclescheme shop. But those are the extreme positions, and many purchasers will fall somewhere in between.
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