Almost a day doesn’t go by without someone asking me a question about cycling gear. The bulk of my knowledge comes from years of reviewing hundreds of products from various brands. But another source is my local bike shop.
When I was selected as a Trek Women’s Advocate, I needed to choose a shop to partner with for clinics, events, and rides. I didn’t hesitate to team up with a local independent shop that I’d patronized for years. I knew if I was going to grow a women’s cycling community, I needed a shop that embraced all levels of riders, no matter their experience or gender.
Fast forward four years, and with the support of the staff at my local bike shop, we’ve grown the Trek Bicycle Store of Highland Park Women’s Group to over 400 strong. Just last weekend, we held a Beginner’s Group Riding Meet and Greet at the shop to educate and introduce women to riding with others. New riders are hungry for information that is readily available from LBS staff.
Why am I telling you this? I get frustrated when cyclists say they only shop online because it’s cheaper or more convenient. Supporting your LBS is vital to keeping our sport alive and supporting the local economy. A LBS is more than a place to buy gear or test ride a new bike. They provide knowledge, support for new riders, advocacy assistance, professional bike maintenance, weekly shop rides, help to build local trails, and the list goes on.
I reached out to Heather Mason, President of the National Bicycle Dealers Association (NBDA), to ask her about the organization and its Buy Where You Ride campaign.
Sheri: You’ve been president of NBDA since January 2021. What is the back story that got you to this place in your career?
Heather: I came from a diverse background in the industry. In 2000 I started working at my local bicycle store. That blossomed into a 15-year career managing a 4-store multimillion dollar bike and ski operation. In 2013, I jumped to the supplier side, having a role in launching Eddy Merckx Cycles USA. As national manager, I played an integral role in revitalizing the brand in the US marketplace. I then stayed on supply side for multiple years, working with Bianchi USA as a regional sales lead as well as lead developer of a women’s ambassador program for the US Market. During the time with supply, the love of bicycle retail never left, and for a short time, led me to opening my own bicycle retail store. When the NBDA president position was advertised, it simply struck me as the greatest use of my skill set and passion.
Sheri: What is the mission of NBDA?
Heather: The NBDA has existed since 1946 to strengthen specialty bicycle retailers. We accomplish this through education, advocacy, and communication. We also work to communicate the value and need of the Independent Bicycle Retailer. We work to enhance a retailer’s profitability while promoting a passion for cycling.
Sheri: NBDA has a campaign “Buy Where You Ride.” Why should riders patronize their local bike shop?
Heather: The local bicycle retailer is at the heart of the community. Supporting the local bicycle retailer supports their local cycling community. Many Independent Bicycle Retailers work in their community beyond simply acting as a retailer. We see many local bicycle retailers also playing a role in cycling infrastructure, advocacy, safe routes, local trail development and maintenance, support of local cycling clubs, hosting cycling events, and developing and delivering cycling education to the community. Without the local retailer, the foundation for the cycling culture in the community falls away. When you support your local retailer, you support your entire community.
Sheri: If I can buy all my bike gear online for a lower price, why would I shop at a local shop?
Heather: Beyond what was mentioned above, the local retailer can provide you knowledge and expertise about the products that will work best for you. They further can ensure correct fit or installation if required and offer maintenance and troubleshooting when required.
Buy Where You Ride is more than a slogan; it’s vital for keeping our sport alive within our community and beyond. Local bike shops provide so much to those just getting into the sport to long-time avid cyclists. So before you click that mouse button and add a bike part or jersey to your Amazon cart, think about heading to your LBS and Buy Where You Ride.
Sheri Rosenbaum regularly contributes articles and reviews products for RBR. She’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Chicago area and a major advocate for women’s cycling, serving on the board of directors and volunteering with the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Click to read Sheri’s full bio or visit her web site sunflowersandpedals.com.