THE BEST ONLINE BIKE STORE RANKINGS
This post gives you my up-to-date online bike store rankings of those with the best prices, selection, customer satisfaction, and support for cycling enthusiasts.
I shop for cycling gear. A lot. Bikes, wheels, components, bibs and jerseys, helmets, shoes, power meters, and all sorts of tires, cassettes, tools, and food are on my shopping list for new reviews and to keep me and my test bikes dialed in. And I’m regularly updating posts I’ve already done to make sure they have up-to-date store links to gear or kit I’ve already reviewed at the current best prices from the best stores.
Fortunately, most of my shopping is done at one online bike store or another. Otherwise, I’d be spending a lot of time driving to bike shops within 50 miles of where I live. I guess I could bike to them, look at all their gear, buy a few things and strap them to my bike, and then hang out at their coffee bars talking about cycling with the salespeople, mechanics, and other customers. But then I’d never have time to write up new reviews.
Wait a minute; that actually sounds pretty good!
Related: BUY BIKES ONLINE – HOW TO DO IT
Since I do have a family that I also like to spend time with and a budget that I need to keep to, shopping at an online bike store for gear and kit is usually my most time-efficient and cost-effective option. Shopping online I can usually find the best prices on the range of enthusiast-level gear I evaluate for the In The Know Cycling reviews. And if I go to the right online bike store, I’ll get the kind of shopping experience that most bike shops just can’t deliver – from detailed product information to easy ordering of the gear I want that’s already in stock to fast shipping of authorized dealer products to great after sales service.
The problem I run into, and I imagine you do too, is that there are soooo many online bikes stores out there selling cycling gear, a lot of them you may have never heard of and those you may hear of for the first time when you do a product search. It can be hard to figure out which stores are the real deal, and among those, which have the best prices, selection and most satisfied customers. Without having experience with all these online stores or spending a lot of time researching them, it’s hard to know which are the best to buy from.
Fortunately, because I shop for cycling gear a lot, I’ve been building this experience over the years as I write new reviews and update earlier ones. I follow gear prices closely across many online stores but I also get a good idea of the range of gear they carry and keep in inventory and I periodically check into what their customers say about them to independent services that rate each store’s customer satisfaction.
I previously wrote a review that sorted through and categorized the stores I tracked at the time in search of the best online bike store. I’d never seen a review like this so it seemed like we had put a “stake in the ground,” a starting point to identify the range of online bike stores to reference when you want to buy some gear. The number of times that post is read every day suggests that many have found it useful.
For this post, I’ve taken the next step. I’ve reviewed and rated nearly 100 stores and ranked the ones I recommend you shop at. The ratings are data-supported, analytically developed, and only compare stores that specifically serve road cycling enthusiasts, those of us roadies that are regular, committed riders who are serious and knowledgeable about the gear we buy. You can see at a glance where stores stand against each other when considering the factors important to you.
Here is the ranking as of October 2018. If you don’t see a store you know or have heard of on the list, it’s likely it didn’t make the cut. About 2/3rds of the stores I track didn’t. A full explanation of how I came up with this ‘Best’ list, what the ratings mean, and the names and reasons why those which didn’t make the list follows the ranking table.
ONLINE BIKE STORE RANKINGS
Click on any store name to go to it
|2||Power Meter City**||2||2||1||2||Service||US|
|4||Chain Reaction Cycles||2||2||2||1||Superstore||UK|
|20||Leisure Lakes Bikes||1||2||1||0||Chain||UK|
|Source: In The Know Cycling, October 2018
** These stores provide In The Know Cycling readers a 10% discount when you link to them from In The Know Cycling. Get the links, coupon codes and list of any exclusions in the Deals and Discounts box on our home page.
Don’t forget to use the store links you see in red for any cycling gear or kit purchases if you want to support the creation of more In The Know Cycling independent and in-depth reviews written for and by fellow road cycling enthusiasts.
Based on all I’ve learned from reading your comments and reviewing the results of an opinion poll I’ve run on the site about online stores, I developed four basic criteria about what matters to you to rate stores – Price, Satisfaction, Selection, and Support. Here’s an explanation of each and how I came up with the 0, 1 and 2 scores you see in the ratings above.
We want to buy gear at stores that have the lowest net price. The net price includes the base price of the product, additional shipping cost if the store charges them, and any taxes that are included in the price.
The stores are rated on Net Price as follows:
0 – Limited discount. Net prices are normally the same or within 10% of the price recommended by the company that sells the product. This price is often called the MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) or RRP (recommended retail price). In the US, this is often also called the MAP, or minimum advertised price, the price at which stores agree to advertise the product or risk voiding the agreement to sell the companies line of products. MAP is legal in the US but not in Europe and most other countries.
1 – Modest discount. Net prices across current model year products are typically 10% to 20% off the MSRP/RRP
2 – Deep discount. Net prices across current model year products are typically 15% to 40% off the MSRP/RRP
Sales and value-added taxes are added depending on where you are having the product shipped to so while they add to the net price, they aren’t different from one store to the next.
Many readers also ask about the import costs when they buy at a UK and EU based online store and have it shipped to the US, Canada or another non-EU country. You want to know what the net price would be of something you buy at the EU based online store versus what it would cost you if you bought it at an online or physical store in your own country.
First, because import fees are imposed by customs rather than stores, it’s not something I can use to compare stores. Second, because each country imposes import duties and taxes differently, at different rates, only above a certain declared product value, and irregularly or infrequently, it is difficult to include import charges in a rating system even when comparing stores based in one country versus another.
However, importing gear can be part of what it costs you to buy from a certain store so it’s worth digging into it so you know what it might cost you.
First, the better stores work with shippers who have figured out how to work with customs to minimize or avoid charges. For example, some stores will break up sales and shipments of high priced items (like your front and rear wheels) or declare shipment values that are below the level that triggers customs involvement. You can do this too by keeping the total invoice on the items you purchase on any order below the amount that will trigger import charges.
Also, some stores use shippers that have processes which move their packages through the system with little interruption. Living in the US, I have only ever had one package coming from overseas charged by customs. I stopped using that store!
Second, if you are concerned that you’ll end up paying more online if your package does get stopped and charged, you can do a basic calculation to determine if you are better off buying from a store in your home country. Simply add the cost of getting charged by customs to the net price of the product and compare it to the net price of buying that product either at an online store or bike shop in your home country.
Here’s an example. Say you live in the United States like I do and want to buy a wheelset that retails for $1200 at a local bike shop in the US. Let’s say the same wheelset sells for $1000 including delivery from an online store in the UK, a discount level that is typical of the difference between a local bike shop in the US and a good online store in the UK.
If the wheelset from the UK store were to be stopped by customs, it will run about 11% more when you figure in the import duty and handling fee. My net cost then comes to $1110 from the UK store. At the bike shop, I’d pay $1260 which includes a 5% state sales tax.
Depending on the state you live in, US online stores may or may not charge sales tax for goods delivered to you. Their pricing, selection, and service are also often better than local bike shops. So for this same wheelset, it is worth comparing the cost of buying the wheelset from a US online store versus the customs imposed charges of a UK store.
Effective March 10, 2016, US Customs raised the value of goods you can import into the country without being subject to charges to $800. Now you won’t have to worry at all about import charges for anything you buy below that amount.
At a minimum, we want online stores that we can trust and aren’t taking a risk buying from. Ideally, we want stores that will provide an excellent customer experience from the moment we click onto their site and through every step in the buying experience – learn about, order, deliver, and stand behind a product.
Simply stated: Treat us the way we would expect to treat ourselves. Nothing less. We’ve got our riding to focus on and want an outstanding, hassle-free store experience.
The stores are rated on Customer Satisfaction as follows:
0 – Unacceptable/Unknown. Despite price or other factors that may initially attract you to a store, you run too high a risk of being dissatisfied shopping at a store with this rating. Customers have rated the experience as poor or average or there is not enough customer satisfaction data available on this store to reach any conclusion about it.
1 – Very Satisfied. While there may be a few aspects of the shopping experience which didn’t thrill some customers, most customers rate the shopping experience very highly.
2 – Overwhelmingly Satisfied. These are stores that the overwhelming number of customers rate very highly and would have no reservations recommending to anyone.
If the store rates a 0, they don’t show up in the rankings above, I haven’t recommended, and I won’t link to it on the site. You may think I’m setting the bar high for customer satisfaction. I am. There are too many online stores with great prices and very satisfied customers to mess with those that are only average or good at best.
Several of the stores that rate 0 just don’t poll their customers in a systematic way, don’t use one of the independent services to do so or don’t have enough feedback to conclude you should or shouldn’t shop there. That says to me that customer satisfaction or transparency isn’t high on their list of what’s important to them and that crosses them off my list of a store I want to shop at.
Here are the stores I’ve rated 0 because there’s no or too little feedback about them from independent services: 4theBike, BicycleBuys, BicycleWarehouse, BikeBling, BikeExchange, BikeSomewhere, BikePartsExpress, Bikesale.com, Bob’s Bicycles, Canada Bicycle Parts, Cambria, Cycledivision, CyclingExpress, Excel Sports, Glory Cycles, Gotta Ride Bikes, La Bicicletta, ProBike Supply, TBSM, Torpedo7, Total Cycling, TourCycling, Universal, and Wheelies.
Here are the stores I’ve rated 0 because there is sufficient feedback to reach a conclusion that their customer satisfaction level is average or worse: bike-discount.de, BikeInn, Bikester, Cycle Surgery, Evans Cycles, ProBikeKit, Performance Bike, Planet X, Race View Cycles and Rose.
There are several rating services that collect customer satisfaction data and publish the results. I lean on TrustPilot and Google Customer Reviews (enter the store url followed by &c=GLOBAL&v=1) as these are these are the most credible services I have found in my research. Occasionally they disagree; when they do I put a premium on what customers have told TrustPilot because of the quality of their feedback.
There are other rating services like Feefo and BizRate that I no longer consider in my evaluation because some aspects of their approach to collecting and displaying the data are not as comprehensive or independent as those done by TrustPilot and Google. When those or other similar services make up the bulk of the Google rating, I disregard that as well.
There are also services like eTrusted Shops that provide a money-back guaranteed for consumers under a specific policy. That’s nice if you have a problem but having this service says nothing about how satisfied customers are with the store. Others like GeoTrust or Trustwave tell you a site complies with certain procedures for secure credit card use but nothing about how happy customers are doing business with the site.
I’ve looked into these services and others, written about how they work and which ones I think are more credible than others. You can review that discussion in Customer Service Rating section (here) of my earlier post on online bike stores.
I don’t consider Facebook, Yelp or other social media ratings of stores. These are not collected independently of the store or have any kind of validation process.
I look at all of this customer satisfaction rating data for the stores to come up with the 0, 1 and 2 ratings you see above.
We want to buy from online stores that have a good range of the products, brands, and models we road cycling enthusiasts ride, wear, and use. There are many other stores that cater mostly to recreational or mountain bike cyclists, triathlete, hikers, runners, etc., but carry a few lines or products that enthusiasts might buy as well. Finding what most enthusiasts look for at these stores is a bit like finding needles in a haystack. Your time is better spent going to stores that specialize in selling needles and very little if any hay.
We also want to shop at stores that have the enthusiast select of products in inventory when we want to buy them rather than having to order them and wait for the dealer to deliver them to the store and then to you. We can all do that at locally.
The stores are rated on Selection as follows:
0 – Poor Selection. Very few brands and models used by road cycling enthusiasts
1 – Limited Selection. A few of the major brands (3-4 or less) enthusiasts favor in each of the major categories (bikes, wheelsets, components, apparel) or many major brands but a limited model range or inventory in those brands.
2 – Broad Selection. Many (>4) of the major brands that enthusiasts favor in each category with a good range of models and a good inventory ready to ship.
How do I determine these selection ratings? First, stores that sell mostly recreational level cycling gear, close-out or older goods, sell just one category like bikes or vintage bike clothing, or cater primarily to triathletes are ranked 0. They just aren’t stores we’ll find a lot at and aren’t worth spending time at searching for gear. I haven’t listed these in the table above.
In case you were wondering where some stores went to that you might have heard of or showed up in your Google searches, here are the stores I rated 0 for selection for the reasons I just mentioned: 99 Bikes, Bikesdirect.com, BikesDirect365, Bikewagon, BobShop, Nashbar, Niagra Cycle, REI, Sun & Ski, and Trisports.
Stores are rated 1 or “Limited Selection” if they have only a few of brands enthusiasts ride, carry only a few models of a large number of enthusiast brands, or carry only a limited number of a larger range of brands or models in inventory.
For example, stores that carry an Ultegra groupset but only in one or two combinations of crank lengths, chainset and cassette ratios would rate 1 for selection. If they only carry a couple of the major wheelset brands and a lot of less widely distributed, often national brands, I would rate them 1. If they sell a wider selection of brands and/or models but you usually need to special order many of these, what they really have is limited and rate a 1 in my book.
There are undoubtedly a number of financial and marketing reasons that some online stores use these strategies, but if you don’t look closely you might think they have a better selection than they actually do.
If the store has exactly what you are looking for in stock at a good price and have good customer satisfaction ratings, perfect. That’s the store for you for the product you are looking for. It doesn’t matter to you at the time you are looking for that specific item that it is one of only a few in the sizes, ratios, standards, colors etc. made in that model. It’s just that the stores I’m ranking 1 are limited in what they have compared to those that carry much more stock and sell a normal range of options in a given model.
The “Broad Selection” stores I rank 2 carry typically at least a third to a half of the brands that make the range of products which show up in my reviews, the models within those brands that we enthusiasts ride, a good range of options in those models, and carry a lot of it in their inventory rather than having to go back to their distributor to get it when you want to order it. They also often carry smaller brands that are especially well regarded and for which the manufacturer limits their distribution to stores they have found will service their products very well.
According to polls I’ve run on the site over the years, readers have said they read cycling gear reviews at In The Know Cycling principally to “get in-depth reviews and recommendations on gear I’m planning to buy”.
A smaller group of you read the site either to do some initial research or confirm what you’ve decided to buy is the right choice. Very few read the site to keep up on what’s happening in cycling gear.
Knowing the overwhelming number of you are here on your way to buying something rather than merely browsing with no intention to buy in the near term, I work hard to provide you regularly updated links to the lowest net price, in-stock listings for each product in my reviews after looking at all the stores in the rankings above that sell online and have high customer satisfaction ratings.
I also make sure to link you to those stores that give you exclusive price discounts and codes as readers of this site or that provide the site a commission when you buy through the red links on the site that go directly to the stores and their product listing pages for the gear we’ve reviewed. Those commissions get plowed back into the cost of running the site and buying gear that we review. This enables us to keep the reviews independent from industry influences and free of advertisers and the potential bias that can come with them.
None of this may matter to you. That’s fine. I will always list and link you to the lowest priced stores selling the product regardless of how well they support this site as long as their customer satisfaction level is good enough for them to make the ranked/recommended store list.
Quite a few readers, on the other hand, have commented that they want to buy from those online stores that will give them the best deals and that support In The Know Cycling’s unique and independent approach to cycling reviews. So I’ve come up with the Support rating aligned with those objectives.
The stores are rated on Support as follows:
0 – No Support. The store offers no discount to In The Know Cycling readers and provides no commission to the site for sales that it makes through links from this site. Those links are in black.
1 – Average Support. The store offers no unique discount to readers but it supports this site at the same level it supports others sites. Those links are in red.
2 – Strong Support. The store provides this site’s readers with exclusive deals and/or provides more support to this site than others. Those links are also in red.
For context, I’ve also listed one of a half-dozen categories describing the kind of business model the store uses to run its business. This is an informational description only and doesn’t figure in the store rating or ranking.
The good news is that there are many business models that online bikes stores are using to be successful and provide you the combination of price, service, selection, and support you want these days. Some of these models may suit you better than others and can help you choose between them in addition to the ratings.
Here’s are brief descriptions of the model designations you’ll see in the chart above.
Superstore – 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.
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.
Discounter – These stores offer good discounts, some as much or more than the Superstores though many only in the 20% range. Some discounters also offer very good service though not to the level of the stores in the Premium Service category.
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.”
Extension – These are typically stores with a single location or a small number of stores in a concentrated geographical 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 niche products.
Marketplace – Amazon and eBay 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 with Amazon’s 4* or 5* rating and eBay’s Top Rated Plus buyer ratings.
There are also many large cycling brands like Specialized, Trek, Giant and Cannondale and some of the smaller ones that sell direct to consumers online and through their own branded physical stores and bike shop dealers. Most sell just their own gear online and at full retail price but occasionally they will discount a line of theirs that is being discontinued and sell it through their online ‘outlet store’ at a discounted price. I have found no customer satisfaction data on these stores and have not included them in the lists above.
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If there’s an online store you have used or are curious about that isn’t one of the nearly 100 that’s either in the table or mentioned elsewhere in this post, please let me know in the comment section below and I’ll check it out.
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