I am probably guiltier than most when it comes to buying bike stuff online. I bought most of my upgrades that way last year then had the gall to ask my LBS to put them all together on the bike. They did it with a smile and not even the hint of a sideways glance (in my defense, I had spent lots there, too. Just not real big-ticket items).
I don’t mind buying books from Amazon, mainly because I live in a small French city with no English bookshops. I buy jeans online, and don’t usually feel the guilt till I read about the 12 yr old in Bangladesh who probably made them (but that’s not an internet problem, I guess).
In my town here in France we really only have one bike shop left. VeloLand just closed down last month, which leaves my LBS, Cycles Passieu, the last of a hopefully-not-dying breed. This place specializes in high-end gear and bikes and has a loyal following of old men with good pensions. Alain Prost buys all his bikes here and I’ve heard that there are a few others who come from far and wide to buy their toys.
I don’t know what’s so special about my bike shop. They are a great bunch of guys and they always make time for my stupid questions. That helps. I don’t know if they are more informative than Google or whether they’d do back flips to keep a customer (I am not very demanding), but I do know this – they are the last bike shop in Nîmes.
I think we could all live without a Gap or WH Smith in town. But how the hell will we get rid of that clicking sound ‘down there’ if the LBS is gone!? I shudder to think about it.
It is for this reason that I bought my Garmins from David the other day. He gets my Colnago cash, too, whenever I get it myself. Giving money to him might (but might not – see below) hurt a little more in the beginning, but the savings in future pain is probably priceless.
Postscript: I actually got the Vector for €50 under the recommended price put out by Garmin. That was a weird surprise.