It's the modern age. The internet rules the world. You can shop safely for pretty much anything these days from the comfort of your sofa. I am a self-confessed shopaholic when it comes to bike stuff – always looking for a bargain or a new piece of equipment that will help me go faster. It's addictive. It might explain my 700+ positive feedbacks on eBay (mostly from buying!) and my Platinum membership status at Wiggle.
Shopping online for bike parts is easy for me. I usually know what I want and the internet makes it easy to quickly shop around for the best price. No one source always offers the best price so I spread my purchases out across a wide variety of retailers. The process gets harder when you get to big-ticket items (like frames) as there is less differences in prices sometimes. Even with all the various sponsors I have, I still end up having to buy quite a bit of kit.
Initially it was an online search that lead me to Global Bikes (www.globalbike.co.uk). I was in search of a new time trial frame and they had what I was after. Global aren't in the typical list of your 'big' online bike shops (like CRC, Wiggle, Evans, etc) so I hadn't heard of them. But I sent them an email nevertheless and our relationship began.
I asked if they would be interested in 'sponsoring' me - with a deal on the frame I was after. They politely replied that (like many bike shops) they get loads of these types of requests. They don't normally agree to help, especially as the requests come from people that are at the other end of the country and/or once they get what they want are never heard from again. However, after looking into my background and also seeing that I was somewhat local to them (they are based near Chester), they agreed to help me out.
It was a simple thing – they got me the frame I was after (my Felt DA TT bike) at a fair price. It wasn't free but they managed to get the supplier to drop the price a bit. It was a great help to me. When it was delivered to the shop, I drove over to collect in person. I met their main man, Jim and it was a pleasure. I paid and left with my bike. That could have been the end of it. But true to my promise, I kept in touch with them.
I ended up winning my TT World Title on that bike. Without the bike I can't say for sure I would have won. It was a close margin of victory (12 seconds) and I needed every advantage. I am grateful to them for the help! A few months later, I met up with Jim again at a bike show in Birmingham - and he introduced me to the main Felt rep for Europe. Once again, I was able to upgrade my equipment for the following race season. I got a new bike (again at a reduced cost) that took me to London.
Furthermore, when I was preparing my road bike to race in London, I took it into Global to have a custom build done. Dave in the shop spent a considerable amount of time wiring up my Cervelo S3 with Di2 parts – not a simple task as that particular bike was not designed for it! I'm still using the bike and it works like a dream.
Lastly, and most recently, the folks at Global invited me to join them at the Velodrome in Manchester to watch the track racing (Revolution) with them. It was nice to get out with the whole gang and enjoy watching bikes - something we all love!
If I had simply ordered a bike frame online and gone for the cheapest price, I may never have met the folks at Global. I wouldn't have experienced the top-notch customer service they offer and wouldn't have made new friends. My point is that sometimes... it pays to go to your local bike shop. Price isn't always the deciding factor – sometimes people and service matter more. And you may find yourself surprised at what you can get when you deal face-to-face instead of simply across a keyboard.
So – even if you can't visit Global in person, it's worth checking out their website! Especially if in the market for a new bike. The offer some really great deals. And I look forward to the next time I can drop into the shop. We have some plans for a new build for 2013!