When I bought my Giant NRS C2 two years ago, I did so at Performance Bike in Redmond. It was about the 5th shop I went to that day and while I was very happy with the bike (and the 10% back they gave me in store credit), I felt as if I was somehow doing a disservice to the bicycle-riding world by not shopping in a trusty family-owned LBS. That's "local-bike-shop" for those non-cyclists out there. In cycling, Performance Bike is The Man. It's Wal-Mart. It's everything that is wrong and unholy in the world, to paraphrase a quote from Office Space.
Is it though?
In the two years since I've purchased my bike there, I refused to take it in for servicing to that shop. I would stop in to take advantage of their sales if I needed more Clif Bars or Gu, or if I needed spare tubes, but I only ever let the mechanics at the LBSs work on my bike. Funny story about that actually... it turns out they all sucked. In two years of bringing my bike to different shops for service, never once did I come home happy and completely satisfied. If they weren't half-fixing things, they were overcharging, and if they weren't overcharging they would be rude and condescending and talk to you as if you don't know anything at all, let alone how to ride a bike.
I've since learned how to do a good amount of the repairs/maintenance to my bike myself, but it doesn't hurt to let the experts handle some fixes. Like a couple weeks ago, after changing the chain and cassette, it was apparent to me that my chainrings were all worn down. Time for a new crankset. Since I was recently annoyed (again) by the guys in the shop most local to me, I decided to take it to Performance Bike in Redmond. They were limited in cranksets, but it was time to start putting heavier, lower-end stuff onto my Giant as I certainly can't afford to maintain two bikes with high-end parts. The service was excellent, they were friendly, and the bike was ready to be picked up by noon the next day. And, I might add, unlike the other shops, they actually boxed up my old parts and had them waiting for me without having to be asked. Pretty cool too, since my bottom bracket that went with the old cranks was virtually brand-new.
I was impressed, but I wasn't completely sold. Maybe I just got lucky. During this past Sunday's ride at Moran State Park, it became apparent to me that my rear brake had to be bled (hydraulic disc brakes). The stopping power was nil and I had to turn the dial about 50 times to move the calipers inward enough to get any grip at all in the rear. Also, my rear derailleur cable was shot. The cable guides on the bike cut through the housing and were dicing up the cable and making for a pretty bad shifting experience. How bad? I would push the lever, nothing would happen, and I would have to use my finger to pull the lever back outward so I can push again to get it to shift. Each push would actually be equivalent to about 3 shifts. So I had to shift roughly 6 times to change 1 gear.
Monday afternoon I brought the bike to Performance Bike and was given little reason to expect good things. I was told their main service guy had quit that weekend and they literally didn't know if they had anyone in their staff that knew how to bleed brakes. Gulp. They told me I would have the bike back by Friday or Saturday *if* they found someone to hire. Double gulp. I told them I wanted it by Wednesday for my weekly group ride. As an aside, I've finally ordered the Avid bleed-kit with the syringes and oil so I can bleed my own brakes from now on.
Anyway, my phone rings on Tuesday and it's the guy from the shop telling me the bike was ready to be picked up. Oh, and since I bought the bike from them (two years ago, remember) they are only charging me for the actual cable and housing. The brake-bleed and install/tuning of the rear derailleur cable was free. When I picked it up, I was billed $7.50 +tax. And just as important, the bike shifted like it was brand new all night last night and the brakes are just the way I like them -- super grippy! Oh, and I'll get another 10% back in store credit on the parts.
While pedaling my way through our weekly 20-miler last night over the hills and dales of Redmond and past the mansions of Woodinville, I got to thinking about Performance Bike. Sure, they might send catalogs and flyers out once a week, and they might only sell a pretty limited, lower-end line of bikes (they no longer carry brands like Giant, Trek, Cannondale), and the stores all reek of corporate sanitization, but when you get down to it, they're just like the other bike shops. Not only do they need to do good service to get you back in the door, but I might even say they have to give even better service to erase the stigma of being a chain store.
I'm happy to call the Performance Bike in Redmond my new favorite LBS. I won't be buying any more bikes from them, but I also won't only go there for nutrition anymore. They can work on my Giant all they want from now on. And the cheapie Scattante road bike I bought there last winter. As for the Moots, well... we'll just have to wait and see who gets to touch that one.
PS: Don't think for one second this means I'll step foot in a Wal-Mart.