The festive shopping frenzy is upon us and increasingly brick and mortar shops are losing out on our sales as we scour cyberspace for gifts.
Most cyclists are not unfamiliar with the practice and the presence of large online companies, offering next day delivery make the process of ordering cycling kit online very tempting. I have sat, late in the evening adding to my basket and “wantlists” knowing that my order will often be with me the next day.
The simplicity of such transactions is so easy that I often end up buying more stuff than I need.
However, in recent years I have changed my shopping habits. I still go online to browse and make lists of cycling kit that I want or need, but then I take that list to my local, family-owned, bike shop and make the purchase with them. It is more time-consuming, but I get what I need, don’t have to deal with mountains of unnecessary packaging and as a bonus I get to indulge in some cycling chat with the person behind the counter. I would argue that it is actually a more satisfying experience too.
Instead of the hollow and vacuous experience, of trawling online shops, I get to interact with real people who have a wealth of cycling knowledge. There is also the satisfaction of knowing that you are making your spending count. Often a £50 sale to a small business owner means a huge amount, whereas it is a drop in a large ocean to many of the big retailers.
There are, however, many occasions where online shopping has a place. Lots of these small cycling retailers have online stores and the internet is their way of reaching a wider market. What I am advocating is being aware of your purchasing habits – shop small and support local businesses where possible.
It is also worth thinking about what the cyclist in your life actually needs and making your purchases more sustainable. There is a multitude of cycling themed items, from dish-towels to pizza cutters; mugs to bookmarks novelty socks and cycling-themed ties, but they are not always the most welcome gifts a cyclist will receive.
I have an ever-growing cupboard full of cycling tat and less and less space to store it. Sometimes the best presents are the ones that cost nothing. One year, I made an elaborate I.O.U. date for my wife inviting her to a day of mountain biking at Laggan Wolftrax. We hadn’t been out cycling together for a long time, so making it semi-official meant we sat down, put a date in the diary and made it happen. There are opportunities to get vouchers for coaching sessions, bike-fits or even bike-mechanic courses – many of which your local bike shop will provide, or point you in the right direction.
There is also a misconception that buying online or from large retailers will offer more choice. This is not necessarily true as large retailers on and off-line tend to push their own brand of product, or offer (despite appearances to the contrary), a set range of brands.
Using a small local bike shop also has the added bonus of offering guidance on your purchase.
For parents buying bikes and associated equipment for their children, this can be the difference between a stab in the dark, or getting the correct fitting product that will meet your needs.
Whatever gift you give to your cycling enthused loved ones this year, make it count and support your grass-roots businesses. You will miss them when they have gone.
Join the Blazing Saddles Strava Club at: www.strava.com/clubs/BlazingSaddlesWeekendCourier
Where to Ride:
Linlithgow Cross – Youth and Women Only event
Sunday 26th January 2020
Cycle Club, West Lothian Clarion have been organising this grass roots cyclocross event for women and young riders for several years now. With separate races for each category it’s a great introduction to the discipline of cycle-cross.