THE BEST ONLINE BIKE STORES

Click here for an updated version of this post including store rankings.

More and more serious cyclists are shopping online these days.  Indeed, a survey of US cycling enthusiasts – regular riders who own nice bikes – found that while only 2% didn’t visit their local bike shop (LBS) in 2011, more than a quarter (26%) didn’t even walk through their doors in 2013.  And, a recent survey done by a UK bike retail chain that runs over 50 physical shops along with a large online store found that 27% of riders they polled purchased their latest bike online.

The best online bike stores provide you a combination of price, selection, inventory and service that is hard to beat.  I’ve bought gear at local bike shops (LBS) for years and will continue to do so, but I make most of my purchases now at a handful of online stores I know well and feel as connected to as my favorite LBS.

As the range of reviews and number of cyclists visiting In The Know Cycling has grown, I’ve also expanded the range and number of online shops I’ve gotten to know.  With so many dedicated online cycling stores, bike and outdoor chains, and LBSs or IBDs (independent bike dealers) all selling gear online, I wanted to tell you which online stores I have found are the best and why.

First, here are my top choices, the ones I check first before going anywhere else, which provide the best combination of price, selection, inventory and service.

Competitive Cyclist

Wiggle

Tweeks Cycles

ProBikeKit UK

Chain Reaction Cycles

Now, I’ll tell you how I came up with that list, which other stores are also good, and why others didn’t make it.

As background, In The Know Cycling is a site for road cycling enthusiasts who want advice on what gear to get next and where they should get it.  As an enthusiast myself, I evaluate and write about an entire category of products from a fellow rider’s perspective.  I have no past or present industry ties, don’t run any advertisements, don’t go on company paid product review trips, and I buy or demo and return everything I test.  The site (and riding) is my passion, not my job.

Yes, some of the stores I recommend pay a small commission that cover some site costs when you link to them and buy something.  However, just as many don’t.  I’m only credible if I recommend the best gear choices and find and link you to the stores with the best prices, best customer satisfaction records and current inventory on the gear I’ve evaluated.  Otherwise I’m wasting your time and mine.

Here is the ranking as of May 5, 2017.  If you don’t see a store you know or have heard of on the list, it’s likely because it didn’t make the cut and probably not because I don’t know about.  Later in this post I’ll tell you which didn’t make the rankings below, roughly 2x the number of stores that did, and why.

A full explanation of how I came up with this ‘Best’ list and what the ratings mean can be found here.

BEST ONLINE BIKE STORES FOR ROAD CYCLING ENTHUSIASTS

Click on any store name to go to it

Rank Store Price Selection Satisfaction Support Model Location
1 Wiggle 2 2 2 2 Superstore UK
2 Chain Reaction Cycles 2 2 2 2 Superstore UK
3 ProBikeKit UK 2 2 1 2 Superstore UK
4 Tweeks Cycles 2 1 2 2 Discounter UK
5 Competitive Cyclist 1 2 2 2 Service US
6 Tredz 1 2 2 2 Extension UK
7 Westbrook Cycles 2 2 2 1 Discounter UK
8 Merlin Cycles 2 2 2 1 Superstore UK
9 Mantel UK 2 2 2 0 Superstore UK/NL
10 Starbike 2 2 2 0 Superstore DE
11 Amazon 2 1 2 1 Marketplace INTL
12 eBay Cycling 2 1 2 1 Marketplace INTL
13 Ribble 2 1 1 1 Superstore UK
14 Evans Cycles 2 2 1 1 Chain UK
15 Bike24 2 2 1 0 Superstore DE
16 Pushys 1 2 2 0 Superstore AU
17 Probikeshop 1 2 2 0 Superstore FR
18 Bike-Components 1 2 2 0 Discounter DE
19 JensonUSA 1 1 2 1 Discounter US
20 Cyclestore 1 1 2 1 Discounter UK
21 Slane Cycles 1 1 2 1 Extension UK
22 Cycles UK 1 1 2 0 Chain UK
23 Sigma Sport 1 1 2 0 Extension UK
24 Winstanleys 1 1 2 0 Discounter UK
25 Leisure Lakes Bikes 1 1 1 0 Chain UK
26 Art’s Cyclery 1 2 1 0 Extension US
27 Rutland Cycling 1 1 1 1 Chain UK
28 Performance Bike 1 1 1 1 Chain US
29 Wheelies 1 1 1 1 Discounter UK
30 Planet Cyclery 1 1 1 0 Extension US
31 JeJames 1 1 1 0 Extension UK
32 BikesTiresDirect 0 1 2 0 Discounter US
33 R&A Cycles 0 1 2 0 Extension US
34 Western Bikeworks 0 1 2 0 Extension US
35 Rose 0 1 1 0 Branded DE
Source: In The Know Cycling, May 5, 2017

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Click to jump to another section of this post

Top

Both Online and Physical Stores

Types of Online Stores

Customer Service Ratings

Where to Draw the Line

My Interest in Where You Shop

Your Feedback Matters

Your Comments

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Both Online and Physical Stores

What you’ll get from a great online cycling store is different than what you can expect from a great LBS.  The best online stores provide:

  • Far better prices than you can find at your LBS,
  • A wider selection of brands, a greater selection of each brand’s products including high priced gear, extensive inventories of the brands and products the store carries,
  • A first rate customer experience including an easy-to-use website, thorough product information with online or phone support, simple ordering and checkout functionality, free and fast anywhere shipping or in store pick-up, flexible returns policies, and live, well staffed customer service.

Conversely, the best physical bike shops, the ones that are thriving while so many others are failing, offer:

  • A hub or “community” for local cyclists to meet, share stories, and tap into the cycling scene,
  • Experienced, knowledgeable sales and service people,
  • The ability to see and touch the product and test out some gear,
  • Custom services like bike fitting,
  • Trusted bike service and repair.

Donny Perry, the global development manager for Specialized Bicycles whose job it is to train bike shop personnel, wrote a book recently called Leading Out Retail.  The book maps the transformation LBSs and IBDs need to go through to survive alongside online cycling stores.  He explains that the shift online is more about better information and selection and not about eroding loyalty when he writes:

Some retailers suggest that with the growth of online purchasing the era of loyalty is gone.  That customers used to be loyal to their local bike shop, and now they are just shopping based on price.  I would disagree and instead suggest that customers were never as loyal as originally thought, they were just limited by selection.  The local bike shop was their only source for information and the only place they could buy the product.  Now with limitless selection, they’re spreading their dollar around and being more selective with whom they purchase from.

People who make, distribute and sell cycling gear through physical and online stores get that it’s a both/and world now rather than an either/or one.  James Browning, the CEO of Fisher Outdoor, a UK cycling distributor of SRAM, Zipp, Vittoria, Garmin, Campagnolo and a couple dozen other brands recently talked about the importance and interplay of online and physical stores when he said in BikeBiz:

The cycle sector is going to grow, but each of the sales channels will have different opportunities.  The reality is that brands, and us as distributors, need to exist in all channels.  The IBDs are the brand builders, then online retailers do a spectrum of things, from information provision and brand building – the good ones – all the way through to price fulfillment and the customers choose which they use.  Then there’s the end of life guys, like eBay – the brand has to play in each of those channels.  If you look back, brands that stop participating in that brand-building channel find they can’t exist online only.

The best online cycling stores aren’t the wild-west, buyer-beware world that characterized Internet shopping in its earliest days.  They are multi-million dollar businesses, some multi-hundred million dollar businesses run by professional management and financed by sophisticated investors who see their solid financials and a decade long growth path ahead.

Types of Online Stores

Over the past year, I’ve looked with some regularity at the product selection, pricing, stock and service records of a range of online stores now totaling about 90.  My focus has been on road bike components like wheels and groupsets and to a lesser degree on bikes, clothing or accessories.  So what follows has that bias but I generally see similar results across a given store that has multiple product categories.

Typically I’ll evaluate a group of products for a review and then look across the online stores I’m tracking to see who has each product in inventory and at what price.  Periodically, I’ve also looked at customer service and overall satisfaction feedback at these same stores (more about this later).

Generally speaking, I’ve come across eight different types of online stores.  Each type has a distinct combination of product selection, pricing, and geographical service scope along with their relative size.  The fact that all of these types of online stores are in business is further evidence to me that online cycling sales are still rapidly growing and supporting a range of consumer preferences.  Once the growth slows, only the strongest types of stores and companies will survive while the others will get acquired or fail. This is true in most any industry.

The eight types I currently see are….

  • Superstores – These online cycling stores are very large and have massive purchasing power, allowing them to sell products typically for 20-40% below the full retail price and sell all over the world.  It was really quite a shock when I first started to shop for gear online and saw a couple of wheelsets I’d had my eyes on selling for hundreds less online than what my friendly LBS manager could sell them to me for, even as a long time customer.  He would tell me the price was “below what I buy it for.”

These Superstores have a wide selection of brands and carry the high performance products from those brands in stock along side the rapid turnover items.  Carbon wheelsets, top tier mechanical and electronic groupsets, high quality clothing, and high end power meters for example are stocked and dispatched the day you order them along with popular alloy upgrade wheels, the new value line components, tires, in demand lights or every model and color helmet.

These stores ship globally and many transact business in different currencies.  This is important if you want to see the price to your location, removing the 19% VAT taxes if you live outside Europe for example.  The Superstores are dedicated and sophisticated online-only stores with fast, effective web sites that have heaps of product information and easy to use e-commerce platforms.  Many have customer service reps you can talk to directly or online, provide free shipping over an easily exceeded minimum order amount, and have flexible return policies.  WiggleProBikeKit UKChain Reaction CyclesMerlin Cycles, Ribble, PushysMantel UKProbikeshop and Bike24 make up this group of stores. They have good or excellent customer satisfaction records with 80% or more of their customers rating them at 4 or 5 stars out of 5 stars from the rating services.

  • Premium Service  – Need to talk with a gear expert? Really put a premium on speedy delivery and great customer service?  These stores set themselves apart with their service while still offering good discounts.  If you really value the kind of service you can only get at the best LBSs or IBDs and still want to get good selection and discounts, the kind you can’t get at those same shops anymore, Competitive Cyclist in the US is the best one of this type of store.
  • Discounters – These stores offer good discounts, often up to 20% but not to the same level or with as broad a selection as the Superstore.  Occasionally you’ll find gear or deals you can’t find at one of the Superstores.  Some discounters also offer very good service though not to the level of the stores in the Premium Service category.

Discounters with good customer satisfaction ratings include CyclestoreTweeks Cycles, JensonUSA, Westbrook Cycles, WheeliesBike-ComponentsBikeTiresDirect and Winstanleys.

  • Chain – Usually a well-known, large chain of cycling or outdoor stores, these sell cycling gear, often with a focus on bikes, at both their physical stores and through their online one.  This gives you an option to see, touch or even ride display models before you buy.  Customers order online and get their gear shipped to their home or to the store for pick up, what’s called “click and collect.”

These stores use the physical and online stores to give customers the benefits of both models and provide themselves the efficiency of the combination.  In addition to the physical and online store experience, you are usually working with a retailer that is well established, an assurance for some.  Selection can be pretty good though prices are not typically or significantly discounted and a lot of recreational level gear is also sold.  US stores follow minimum advertised pricing (MAP) imposed in their dealer contracts by many cycling equipment suppliers.  EU chains don’t have such agreements.  The best stores on both sides of the pond have loyalty programs that you pay a membership for to get discounts or give you credit toward future purchases or give you an end of year rebate.

Evans Cycles, a 50+ shop chain that stretches all across the UK and sells online throughout the world is an example of the modern bricks and clicks bike chain stores.  Others include Rutland Cycling with a half dozen shops in the Cambridge area, Cycles UK with a dozen shops mostly east of London, Leisure Lakes Bikes which operates stores throughout England, and the 100 plus shop Performance Bike, one of the few US chain stores dedicated to cycling gear that also has a major online arm.

  • Extension – These are typically LBSs or IBDs with a single location or a small number of stores in a concentrated geographic area that see an online storefront as a way to further extend their business to reach customers far beyond their physical location, sometimes with a unique combination of high-end or niched products.  In the US Art’s CycleryPlanet CycleryR&A Cycles, and Western Bikeworks have good reputations for customer service if not the best prices or selection.  UK IBDs TredzSlane Cycles and Sigma Sport fit a similar description.
  • House Brand  – These stores, most notably Rose in Germany, do some combination of designing, sourcing, assembly and branding of bikes they sell online under their own name at big discounts to the name brand bikes.  They also sell a fair amount of components, clothing and accessories made and branded by others, some of at discounts on par with the Discounters
  • MarketplaceAmazon and eBay Cycling also sell new cycling gear online along with just about every other type of consumer product under the sun.  Smaller cycling brands will use these online goliaths when they are looking for a large distribution channel or marketplace without having to lose profit by going through a distributor who then sells to a retailer.  You will also see online stores that only sell through Amazon and eBay that specialize in buying cycling gear from major brands in deals that smooth out the brands’ inventory.  Note, I only link you to new gear listings from stores that sell in on these sites that have Amazon’s 4* or 5* rating and eBay’s Top Rated Plus buyer ratings.
  • Direct-to-Consumer – Some companies like the Trek and their wheelset maker Bontrager only sell through physical stores in many countries.  They, along with other smaller companies with great products who don’t distribute through physical stores or online stores anywhere, also sell directly to you through their websites.

Because of the way they do business, these stores price their gear very differently, carry different levels of inventory and have wider or narrower selection of the gear road cycling enthusiasts buy.  You can see how I rank them from 1 to 35 on these and other factors here, a ranking I update regularly.

What they all have in common is a high level of customer satisfaction as reported by independent services.  Those stores that don’t or that sell cycling gear online that isn’t what we road cycling enthusiasts buy are also listed in the same post (here).  You might want to take a look at who’s on that list so you know which stores to steer clear of for risk of becoming an unhappy customer or worse.

Customer Service Ratings

A little more than a third of the 90 stores I’ve followed have very strong customer satisfaction or service records, judged by one or more of a small group of reporting services which track customer feedback for each store.  Of the eight types of online stores I described above, I’ve only listed ones that are very favorably regarded by customers according to these services.

The stores I don’t recommend and link you too aren’t as highly rated by customers, have some common issues with their service that haven’t been resolved, or they don’t show up on the reporting service sites, an indication to me that they aren’t asking their customers to give them feedback – not a good sign about where service fits among their priorities.

Who are these reporting services and how do they work?

I lean on TrustPilot, Google’s Trusted Stores ratings, and Google’s aggregation of other services as these are these are the most credible services I have found in my research.  There are other rating services like Feefo, BizRate and eTrusted Stores that I use in my evaluation but not as strongly as TrustPilot and Google because some aspects of their approach to collecting and displaying the data are not as comprehensive or independent.

With the best of these public services, you link to a store’s review page (click on TrustPilot for example), rate the store on a 1 to 5 star scale and write comments about your experience.  Before your comments are published, you need to provide your e-mail and name during a sign-in process and then verify you are indeed for real by responding to the e-mail that comes to you.  The services aggregate and publish the opinion on their sites for anyone to see.

Some of the stores will send you an invitation to rate them with the e-mail address you provided for your transaction.

The services have straightforward ways to prevent a few individuals or stores themselves from tilting the ratings one way or another – e-mail verification, IP address review, customer invoice number submittal, ongoing manual review of comments and investigations when requested.  They make money by licensing technology to stores to ask customers to review their product and purchase experience, provide feedback analysis, and use various widgets, badges and logos to promote their service ratings.

Private services like Feefo work directly with stores to help them solicit and analyze customer feedback.  The stores choose whether and how to solicit and publish the feedback, which in the case of Feefo shows more detailed information than the public services.  There is no ability for you and me to look up a store’s Feefo rating at an independent site as we can with Trustpilot.  Some stores make the feedback public on their websites but I imagine others don’t, probably because they don’t like what they see and are working to improve their ratings before publishing them.

There is nothing to prevent reviews of online cycling stores to be posted at Trustpilot while at the same time those stores use a private service like Feefo to get more detailed information and work on making improvements to their service.

A number of other private services like StellaService, who have a staff that do their own ratings, and public services like Yelp, which has limited verification also provide store ratings though I’m not wild about either of these approaches.  They don’t appear to be adopted much by the customers of the online cycling stores I’ve followed.

Others services including Bizrate and Sitejabber came up even less frequently and were a bit hard to interact with online, probably because they do customer surveys for stores in return for the opportunity to sell ancillary services (like magazines), a model that doesn’t usually get high quality or representative reviews.

Another class of services that some stores promote like eTrusted Shops and Shopper Approved provide a guarantee that you’ll get your money back from the store in case of non-delivery or non-refund for an unhappy customer.  This is more of an insurance policy than a rating of the store’s customer satisfaction.

If you Google an online cycling store, you will often see a Google ‘Trusted Stores’ star rating between 1 and 5.  Much like all things Google, they don’t tell you exactly how they come up with the rating other than to say they gather them “from reputable sources that aggregate business reviews.”

There are about two dozen independent review services they list which include many of the ones I’ve listed above.  How they combine and rationalize ratings from the different services is a mystery but it seems that the number of reviews that contributed to the Google rating is almost always higher than those that are listed with an individual service’s one.

Most of the time the Google rating is consistent with the individual service rating I have found, but not always. When it isn’t, it’s usually because the individual service has less than 100 reviews.

Where to Draw the Line

To see how the 90 stores I’ve followed performed, I looked up each them on Trustpilot and/or Google, and on the stores’ own web sites to see if they publish and promote service ratings from these or some of the other services.  A lot of fun, I know.  And to think I could have spent those hours training!

Anyway, it usually wasn’t hard to draw the line as to which stores to recommend and which to let work on their service performance with other customers.

If a store’s rating is less than 4 stars out of 5 (or 8 out of 10 as some rated them), I draw the line and won’t recommend you buy anything from that store. It’s not a store I want to shop at (or want to recommend you do), no matter whether they have the wheelset or component or anything that I can’t find anywhere else or if they have it priced lower than other stores that also carry it.  It’s just not worth the risk.  There are too many other good stores out there.

Unfortunately, there are handful of well known, online cycling stores in some of the 8 types of stores described above that fall below the line I’ve drawn.  I haven’t mentioned those in the section above, they aren’t stores I’ll be buying from anytime soon.  I recommend you don’t either.

I also drew the line with stores who don’t have customer service ratings as reported by one of the services. Typically, less than 100 customers and often less than 20 gave ratings of their experience with these stores at the public rating services.  These stores also had no Google rating and there was nothing on their web sites reporting their customer service feedback.  This was a particularly difficult problem for stores based in Australia where apparently the rating services aren’t active yet though Google recently started rolling out their Trusted Stores rating there.

Frankly, I don’t understand why stores wouldn’t ask their customers to rate them unless they know they are really underperforming.  To be a successful online store today, you really need to have customers love you and to be showing you the love in ratings and on social media.

I also don’t have any customer experience or service reports on the bike gear companies who sell through their own web stores.  I have had very good experiences with those whose products I’ve recommended (Stages and Powertap specifically) but I am just one customer.  I’d love for these companies who are selling direct to get some feedback and post it or encourage their customers to go to Trustpilot or Reseller Ratings and post reviews.

When it comes to cycling gear, eBay Cycling and Amazon are really just ginormous storefronts that take and pass orders onto independent sellers and bike gear makers who fulfill them.  I only link to sellers on eBay who have achieved their “Top Rated Seller” rating and at Amazon to those getting 4 out of 5 stars from customer reviews against a set of stated criteria.

Both of these giants have rigorous rating systems which include customer feedback that covers everything from packing to professionalism to service speed to problem resolution to defect rate to in-stock fulfillment rate to tracking data provision, etc. and do so over a large volume and value of transactions consistently over different time periods.  It’s tough to reach these rating levels and it should be.  Your satisfaction and mine is on the line.

My Interest in Where You Shop

When I chose an online store, I’m looking for one that has the gear I want, in stock, at a great price, and will give me first rate customer service.  I want the same things for you.  That is my only interest in picking which stores I recommend to you.  If I do otherwise, my credibility is shot.

I try to recommend 2 or 3 stores for a given piece of gear I’ve evaluated.  There are several reasons for this. Pricing differs depending on where you are getting the product delivered to.  One store may have the best price if you are having it delivered to you in the US while other stores may have a better price if it is coming to you in the UK or Belgium or Australia.

Secondly, selection varies.  For a wheelset that comes either with white or blacked out markings or in clincher or tubeless ready versions, I’ll try to give you enough stores with the best prices that have this range of options in inventory.  Same goes for group sets.  One store may have the lowest price but offer the set in only a few crank and cassette sizes; others may have a little higher price but have a different or broader range of sizes.

But, I’ll only recommend the shops whose customer service puts them above the line I’ve drawn above.

And, I won’t recommend shops based on whether or not they pay this site a commission.  Life’s too short for that.  I’m a rider like you, I’ll see you on the road, admire your ride, and ride with you.  I want you to be riding the best damn gear you can get for the precious money you put aside for cycling so that we can ride faster when we’re trading off pulls or in the pace line together.

I know online shoppers are a skeptical lot, toughened up by the early Internet days of sites and stores that came and went pretty fast.  So if you is still doubt my intentions, consider this.

  • 13 of the 35 online stores that came in above the line – the ones I recommend – don’t pay commissions when this site links to them.  I don’t want to bias you for or against a store but, if you are interested, you can see which support this site in the store rankings I’ve provided you a link to before.  The commissions help me buy the gear I review for you and it’s cool if you want to support that, but I don’t bias the stores I list based on that.   It’s price, selection, inventory, and customer satisfaction that drives whether or not they get listed.
  • Many of the online stores that came in below the line – the ones I don’t recommend – would pay commissions if this site linked to them.  And some of them have great pricing, selection and inventory so will probably show up if you do a Google search for what you are looking for.  But, I won’t recommend them until their customer satisfaction record goes above the line.
  • Until recently, I enthusiastically recommended the FLO 30 wheelset – 1 of 2 wheelsets I picked among 12 I evaluated in my alloy climbing wheels review and 1 of 4 picked among 13 considered for the upgrade wheels review.  The link to the FLO store was consistently one of the top two or three that readers clicked among all the stores and sites and stories I link to.  This site got no commission for any sales from the FLO store and gets none from any direct-to-consumer store.  I didn’t care.  It is the right wheel for you to own if you fit the kind of riding and budget I’ve recommended it for.  Unfortunately, I had to stop recommending the wheels because they were so difficult to get.  More about that here.
  • Similar situation with Stages.  I went against the grain and recommended one power meter, Stages, for most every road cycling enthusiast in most every situation, and extensively detailed the reasoning behind this recommendation in a two part review (Part 1 and Part 2).  With the exception of people who live in the UK, until February 2017, you could only get a Stages power meter at an LBS or through Stages’ own online shop, neither of which pay this site commissions.  Still, Stages was the way to go and I recommended it despite not gaining any commissions for the site.  With all the new power meters coming into the market, I have since updated my power meter review (here) and Stages is now selling through online stores.

My interests are your interests.  If enough people get value from what this site is doing to benefit them, it will eventually benefit the site and I can keep the site going.  But if you and others begin to believe that the site isn’t here to benefit you first and foremost, it will fail.  I won’t let that happen by playing games with which online cycling retailers I recommend to you.

Your Feedback Matters

While I believe I’ve looked at this topic more comprehensively than anyone else who has published their own list of best online cycling stores, frankly, the bar wasn’t set very high.  I want to improve the list of online stores I’m willing to recommend you buy from and the way I rate them.

For example, I know very few online cycling stores based in Australia or New Zealand which have customer service ratings.  Google Trusted Stores is just beginning to sign-up online retailers there now.  I don’t know any online cycling stores based in South America, Eastern Europe, India, Japan, Singapore or China who compete on price, selection, inventory and customer satisfaction with the Superstores I’ve listed.  There are lots of readers from those parts of the world that I’d like to recommend a more local solution to.  And, while I think I’ve identified many good customer satisfaction rating services, I’d like to know if I’ve missed any.

I’m not that interested in getting your personal view or experience with one store or another.  All of us will benefit from you sharing that, but doing so with one of the rating services I’ve mentioned above or the one that the store is using to gather feedback is a far better place for that.

If there is a store you particularly like that has yet to start using one of the third party services, I would encourage you to send them this post and ask them to sign up with a service.  If they are well rated and have good product and pricing to offer, I will include them in the next update of my online store rankings and provide links to their store when I evaluate products they carry at a competitive price.  Without a good customer satisfaction rating however, it won’t matter to me what they carry or sell it for.

Thanks for reading and please share your thoughts and suggestions with me and all your fellow cycling enthusiasts below.  If you want to keep up with updates or comments on this posts, get e-mail or RSS notifications of future InTheKnowCycling posts, or join the discussion on Facebook or Twitter, use the various tools in the sidebar to sign up.

Enjoy the ride,

Steve

32 comments

  • Reblogged this on Bike Life and commented:
    Instead of telling you all about my new favorite Cycling blog, I’ll just reblog his stuff. It’s GREAT. Please, follow him if you consider yourself a cycling enthusiast.

  • Steve, I’ve dealt with all of these and the only one that I personally have issues with is ProbikeKit. Very poor customer service and poor email communication. I also find it a bit deceptive that PBK operates with all sorts of country specific domain names (for example here in Canada it’s Probikekit.ca) trying to fool consumers into thinking they are buying locally, without significant shipping or duties/brokerage fees. I will not be buying from ever again.

  • As a follow-up to my prior message, 75% of my purchases are from my LBS. I’m quite happy to pay a bit more for 2 reasons:
    1) I want a successful vibrant LBS community, without them, in the long run shopping, selection and bike servicing will be much more difficult. I do however expect them to reply to emails and ensure the accuracy of their website. So many haven’t a clue how to deal with customers electronically, their only focus is the person who walks in off the street. Sometimes what’s on their website is months or years out of date, or they don’t even bother answering emails. These stores are typically not getting my business. Without my LBS where can I try 3 different stem lengths or 4 different saddles or 6 different floor pumps before I find the one I want. Once I’ve gone through that effort and the store has been good enough to provide loaner equipment, I’m not going to be a sleaze and buy it online to save 10%

    2) We have huge mountain biking community where I live. The LBSs all pitch in a tremendous amount for trail maintenance and other community events. While in recent years I’ve switched almost exclusively to road riding. I still appreciate the trail work and advocacy the stores do on my local mountains. An online retailer will never fulfill that need. I think in fact, for road riders, there is no particular allegiance, owing to the fact that there isn’t much that the LBS does for those groups of people.

    I find that if I’ve done my shopping homework, usually the LBS will meet somewhere in the middle between MSRP and the online price, and personally I think that’s a reasonable compromise.

    One last benefit of shopping local is the ability to see the packaging and find where a product is made. I will go out of my way to buy North American made, followed by European. I find the online retails never mention the country of origin. This is doing a great disservice to the companies who employ local works and pay a descent living wage. The online shopper only has price as their one single mode of comparison. One Canadian local/online retailer, Mountain Equipment Co-op (mec.ca) is terrific at posting the country of origin for all the products they sell. I wrote the Competitive Cyclist and they liked the idea, but haven’t made the change. I also wrote to the editor of Bicyling.com and never even got a reply.

    Thats my rant. Thanks for another good article Steve!

  • Your website is great. I used your advice and checked out Trustpilot and Reseller Ratings before purchasing from a particular website. What surprised me is that you highly recommend Probikekit, yet their ratings are low. Maybe, your article is old. I’m going to order wheels from Starbike.com. Good price, good ratings, fingers crossed.

    • Hi George. Thanks for writing. There’s a few things going on here that are worth reviewing. Note, I’m not looking for a “why I like this store” or “how that store scr*wed me” set of comments from others to follow and will not post comments that offer only this. Rather, I’ll use your post to try to further explain how I read the rating services to reach my recommendations as a way to hopefully be helpful to you when you look at them as well.

      I recommended PBK because their Trust Pilot customer satisfaction ratings for their .com (US) and .co.uk (UK) sites meet the criteria I outlined in my post above. Currently, their US site has an 8.0 overall rating with 560 reviews, with less than 15% rating it a 2* or 1*, the worst two ratings out of 5*. Their UK store rates 9.1 overall, 1684 reviews and again <15% below a 2* or 1* rating. Their US store scores per Reseller Ratings are awful, 2.0 overall based on 91 reviews and the comments are very harsh. In the Google rating here, which integrates up to 15 services (though they only refer to Trust Pilot and Reseller Ratings comments), they give PBK US is a 4* out of 5* rating overall with far more 5* and 4* ratings than the others, though they only show a graphic rather than give the actual percentages.

      Looking more closely at the Reseller Ratings for PBK US, as mentioned they have only about 90 ratings, about 1/5th of the number of Trust Pilot ones for the same US site. It seems to be a place where people come to hate on PBK but for reasons that look legitimate. Most of the negative reviews have been edited, something I only see rarely in the reviews of other sites. I don’t know what to make of that. In looking at PBK UK and PBK US in aggregate from both rating services and with Google’s input , I conclude that they meet my criteria to be a recommended store, but will continue to update their ratings as I do with the over 60 stores I track to try to recommend to you only the best stores.

      Starbike is another case where judgement is required. They don’t have as many Trustpilot ratings (54) as I’d like but they also have another 71 ratings posted to their FB site. While I’d like to see a whole lot more for a site, the ratings on both services are very strong with just a handful of 1* or 2* ratings. So I judge they are doing things right, at least with the small sample that has weighed in. I will continue to monitor them as well and when I next update this list of best online bike stores, hopefully have more ratings on them and others.

      I appreciate you writing and giving me the opportunity to explain with a couple of case examples how I try to make judgements on these stores. Whichever store you buy from, you’ll help everyone by registering your feedback with one of the ratings services.

      Thanks,
      Steve

      • Thomas A Davis, DC

        Steve, I am interested in buying a VSF Fahrradmanufaktur TX 400 or a Patria Terra. Do you know of online or LBS shops that sell these brands to the U.S.? thanks, Tom Davis. Tadavisdc@gmail.com

        • Tom, Don’t know of any stores that carry these German touring bikes. Both of their company web sites have authorized dealer lists. Suggest you start there. Steve

      • Steve,
        Thanks for the explanation. If I had looked more closely I would have seen that the Probikekit US and UK stores rated well. Their other locations not so well.
        See you on the roads!

  • I would also be interested to know more about import fees. I have heard stories about US customers being hit with fees when ordering from PBK. I understand that orders from Merlin above $200 are shipped via UPS, and include an import fee (customs, duty, tariff, whatever they are called), but orders below $200 are shipped Royal Mail, and are generally not charged an extra fee. I also do not know how much these fees are. I have heard 10%, but then I have also heard that it might be 10% plus an additional $40 that UPS collects.

  • Jamie, for the most part this is old news. True, about a year or so ago Uncle Sam did start imposing fees of about 10% (there’s a formula so it’s not quite a straight percentage) for orders above $300 and some shippers added customs fees to take your package through the gauntlet. But customs did it selectively and in short order the stores figured out how to value the shipments and work with the right shippers so that customs almost never hits you up anymore. And if you ever have a situation where customs does charge you, and it happened to me before the stores got wise, just refuse the package and have ’em do it right the second time. I’ve not heard from any of my readers who have bought through one of the recommended stores I link you to as having had a problem. I know some people just choose to buy from some of the US based online stores I recommend to ease any concern. Either way, you are often saving 20-40% from the full retail price or what it would cost you to buy at an LBS. But as I said at the top, from what I know, this is pretty much old news. You may see some horror stories whipped up on forums by people with other agendas but I don’t see this as a real issue anymore. Steve

    • An update. As of March 10, 2015 the amount free of duties and taxes on goods entering the US was raised from $200 to $800. Again, not that they check that regularly, or ever in my experience. Steve

  • Steve,
    Ordered a set of DA C35 with PBK Mid- December 2015 through your website. Since the package has not arrived yet I emailed them and was provided a Customs contact number to call to pay duties. The customs taxes were never in the ad and had it been presented I would have elected to buy local even if PBK’s cost is still better. I am thinking ahead of future aggravations in warranties and returns in case it happens with PBK being a UK merchant. Vito

    • Vito, Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I’ll inquire with PBK and get back to you. Steve

      • Vito,

        A representative from PBK got back to me this morning with the following:

        “We have two delivery providers for the US, and we have shipping rules in place to try to make the delivery process as efficient and favourable to the customer as possible, so depending upon the type/value of parcel, it will go with one or the other as is best for the customer. If US customs then choose to pick out a parcel, we unfortunately have no control over that.

        “Regarding the customers’ other concern about future warranties etc., that shouldn’t be an issue as he’ll be able to mark the goods as ‘Returned goods – failed sale’ and then he won’t incur any customs charges at either end, and we’d also cover his shipping costs were it a valid warranty claim.”

        Three other points I would add. 1) Customs does pick out a package from time to time but from my own experience and from the little I’ve heard from readers, it doesn’t happen often. It bites when it does however and with a store like PBK and the other stores I recommend, you can always return the package and get a refund if you don’t want to pay the customs charges. 2) With items like wheelsets and groupsets which are often sold at 20-40% off the full retail price, what you pay even with the customs charges is usually still going to be far less than if you would have bought it in the US because of the MAP or minimum advertised price distribution agreements US stores must sign with the product suppliers. These MAP agreements have been ruled to be legal in the US and illegal in the UK. 3) Any authorized US dealer of the company whose product you bought (e.g. any Shimano authorized dealer as in your case), including an authorized US LBS will (and is contractually obligated) to handle any warranty claim. Any authorized dealer usually just sends it back to the company directly or through their distributor so it’s not a big lift for them. Most US LBS are also more than happy to take care of it for you as it give you a reason to come into their shop where they hope to capture future sales or service work for you.

        All of this may not make you feel any better about getting stung by customs but I wanted to get you as much on your comment as I can provide so you can make your own informed choices now and going forward. Best, Steve

  • Steve,
    All went well and I picked-up my C35 wheels yesterday at my local USPS. Someone at PBK messed up by advising me to contact customs. Another PBK rep sent me a message informing me that USPS attempted to deliver the order Monday noon but nobody was home so arrangement were made for a Post Office pick-up. I am glad did not have to go to Customs because the information here https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/438/~/importers—ordered-goods-from-overseas-and-the-seller-said-they-are-being-held, that Customs provided me is not funny.

    I don’t know what happened but PBK drop the ball on this one.

    I am writing this update, however, to congratulate you on your customer service, Steve. By jumping asap on my situation shows a lot of character on your part. The same character that is clearly evident in your well-researched blogs. I feel very good for cancelling my initial C35 order with PBK. I told PBK that as soon as the initial order is cancelled, I will order it again but this time by clicking the links you provided. Also told PBK that you deserved the credit because it was through your blog that led to me to finally go with the C35.

    As for PBK, I think they are a reputable store but will probably shop from them on under $100 goods.

    Anyways, thanks for a well-researched blogs and your help on the above. I’m a fan!

    • Vito, Thanks. You are very kind. And I really appreciate it when readers like you bring questions like this one to the comment board so we can figure things out. Glad customs didn’t get involved after all. Enjoy the wheels! Steve

  • Hey Steve, Great website and very helpful info. Not sure if you or your readership is aware of the following “deal a minute” website, steepandcheap.com I find some pretty good deals, but you have to go back often as the categories changes daily/weekly. I am by no means affiliated with the website. Just a satisfied shopper. Keep up the great work ! Cheers.

  • I love Biketiresdirect. Great service. 10% credit toward next order. Good sales.

    • and they will match any one elses best price, including those that use a code. Located in Oregon, I think, super quick (and free) shipping…..

  • I recently placed a big order with Jensonusa.com. I’ve used them in the past, and I think they recently upped their game. They price match, and they have great customer service. I’ve sent them a number of questions about very specific details, and they always got back to me quickly, with a clear answer. They don’t have many promo codes, but shipping is free if you spend $50.

    The big exception is Shimano items. I buy those from Merlincycles.com. They’re in the UK, so they can offer better prices on those. I also get tires from them because they also seem to have the best prices on Contis.

  • I tried to order from probikekit and they were not honoring your discount code.

    • Jason, your last click to them has to be through a link from this site for the code to be accepted. Apparently, there have been some discount code sites that are promoting the code. The code is for the benefit of ITKC readers and supporters rather than code shoppers, Steve

      • ” The discount code you entered is invalid or not applicable to the contents of your basket “. Linked from your site. I have never seen this before. Maybe I wrongly presumed the code applied to all stock. Thanks.

  • OK. I’ll get with PBK in the AM and see what’s going on. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Jason, the code is up an running again. Thanks for your patience. Steve

  • Hi Steve, do you know the largest on line provider of cycling acc. in Australia?
    Thank you
    Br.
    Martin

    • Martin, There are a number of online cycling stores in Australia including Pushys, the only one that I have seen enough good customer satisfaction ratings about to recommend. Most of the Aussie stores, like many in other countries, aren’t competitive however on price, selection and service with stores based in Europe and especially those in the UK. For a complete listing or store ratings along those criteria, you can go here. Steve

      • Aust sites need to add 10% GST (state tax imposed by the federal govt) to anything sold.
        Most UK sites remove the 17% VAT (Euro Union TAX) for sales outside the Euro Union countries.
        Also UK sites have the best and cheapest shipping in the world because of the UK Post Office.
        Therefore UK sites can sell an item for 27% less than an Aust site then ship it as cheap and as quick to Australia.
        Aust sites are only good for items no-one else has or is allowed to sell. For example Ortlieb will not allow overseas online sites to sell into Aust. Ortlieb merchandise can only be bought in Aust from Aust sites.
        Lastly any import into Aust over $1000 AD attracts a GST tax of 10% , import fees and agency delivery fees.
        An item that costs 1000 AD (including shipping) will cost at least $1250 AD. So make two orders a week apart.

        If you want to buy a bike from oversea? Go there for a holiday and bring it back with you as a “used item”.
        A $4000 AD bike in Aust will cost you $2000 AD in the UK or USA.

        • Ray, Thanks for sharing your experience buying from Australia.

          None of the stores shipping from the UK or EU should add VAT on shipments to countries that don’t charge VAT, such as Australia.

          Store shipping charges should always be checked at the shopping basket to get an accurate price. Some stores charge shipping, some don’t depending on the item or amount you are buying. Ribble is a good example of this.

          Local taxes are tacked on by the country/state rather than the stores.

          Many brands (e.g. SRAM, Zipp, Mavic, ENVE) will only allow stores to ship within their geographic reason. For those brands I list the region followed by the store. Pushys is listed when that is the case in Australia as they are often the only store from my list selling that brand. I don’t get anything from them. They are one of many stores I list that don’t support the site but have a good selection and good customer satisfaction ratings so they make the list. I wish there were other Australian online stores with good customer satisfaction ratings and selection to give price competition to Pushys for those geo-limited brands but I haven’t found them.

          Steve

          • Ive used Cell Bike (Sydney Aust) and Cycling Deal (Melbourne Aust) without any problem. I used another site that appeared to be an Aust site but was shipping from Singapore? There is no way any site in Aust, Japan or Germany can compete with any UK site – because they have the UK Post Office. Which is why UK online sites dominate the world. Also Ive used Evans Cycles UK for hubs for whheelbuilding. They are not mentioned on your list but they would have the best selection of hubs.

  • I like the idea of your list. I live in Australia and my first pick is Ribble then Wiggle. I have never had a problem with Probikekit. I use Starbike because they stock the rims I want and remove the VAT for Australian customers. I bought from Bike24 and they do not remove the 17% VAT for European Union countries. I do not buy from USA sites because the shipping can double or triple the purchase price. I think it is unbelievable that an Aust site was on this list. I would never buy from Pushys because of their association with Stev Hogg a con artist who promotes himself on you tube. Sites are good for some things and not for others.
    My list – Ribble, Wiggle, Chain Reaction Cycles (which is owned by Wiggle), Probikekit and Starbike. My favourites from Japan are Track Supermarket and Alex Cycles.
    Never any USA site or Pushys from Aust.
    What are you getting to push them?

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