When was the last time your favorite online bike parts bargain discounter:
Stayed late on a Friday night or came in early on Saturday morning (skipping the group ride) to fix your bike? Stood in the pouring rain or searing heat at the local charity ride to pump up tires and work last-minute miracles so that the ride can go on (and did it for FREE)? Volunteered their time to the local Boy Scout troop to help them earn their merit badges?
Gave free clinics to teach you what you need to know to enjoy your favorite sport? Answered all your questions, about any cycling-related topic, and didn't hand you a bill afterward? Knew what size inner-tube your bike uses when you forgot? Do you need extended or standard valves? (Wait, they don't ask...)
Caught that worn out part on your bike just before catastrophic failure, overnighted the part from the supplier, split the shipping charge with you, and then installed it the next day so you wouldn't miss your ride - forsaking all the people who had brought their bikes in before you did - whom he then had to call and tell them that their bikes wouldn't be ready on time?
Spent endless hours up to their elbows in degreaser, chain lube, fork oil and who-knows-what which was on that Tri-bike to keep you rolling smoothly down the road? Happily stood and endlessly explained over-and-over the differences between those two bike shorts? (No, you weren't the first one to ask that day.) Didn't hesitate to help a child pick out their first bicycle, just to see them smile?
This is all in an average day's work at the average American bike shop.
Nobody working at your local bike shop is making a lot of money. Most of us drive beat-up old cars which are just a couple pay-checks away from getting the service done on them which they badly need. And that's when business is good like it is now. You thought we rode our bikes to work because we love cycling? That's only the first reason. The other reasons are that we'd rather not spend our hard earned cash on gas, and that if we don't drive today that's one more day some of us can keep our car out of the hands of the mechanic.
Our prices are set as low as we can set them and still be in business while paying our staff to serve you when you have a problem or question and pay rent and utilities on that store you like to hang out in. We do this because we love it. Some of us have been lucky enough to do it and make some money. But most of us do it to see children smile and our best clients lose weight, spend more time with their families, achieve a personal best on a century or win a race. And, most of us work way more hours than we should - simply because there's just too much work to do and we don't want to disappoint you.
The next time an online bicycle parts discounter shows up to do ride support for your favorite event, then you can feel good about your "bargain". Until then, support your local bike shop; they'll save your butt one day.
Oh, and you know who you are and we do too.