Finding a good local bike shop can be challenging. You hear too many stories where customer service isn’t good, prices are outrageous, or they have a poor selection of cycling gear. I see it here too and that lead me to look around when shopping for tires last weekend.

The bike shop I normally frequent is convenient. They have two stores in the area and both are close by car. I’ve experienced good customer service with them and gotten help with some mechanical issues on my bike. Everytime I go in there though I get frustrated with the equipment selection. They sell basically one brand – Bontrager. Personally, I have nothing against Bontrager but I’d like to be able to have other options and you really can’t do that in these shops.

So, after experiencing another pre-ride flat and finding some cuts on my tires last Saturday, I decided to invest in some new tires before starting my Tour de Cure training plan. I already knew the selection at the shop I normally frequented so I decided to shake things up and try another shop. Boy was I glad I did.

Journey Into the Unknown

As my wife and I were driving out towards the beach where this ‘other’ shop was, she was asking questions about my tires and why I was getting flats. You see, about three months ago she bought me a new back tire at the store I normally go to and it was a hard case tire meant to reduce flats. So you can understand her questions. We talked about tires, cuts, and so on. I told her I wanted to try this other shop because I couldn’t get what I wanted (Continental Gator Hardshell) at my normal shop. I had no idea if this other shop carried them or not but I was going to find out. About this time we arrived at Champion Cycling in Jacksonville Beach.

Upon entering I was immediately blown away by how much road bike stuff I saw. I was a little worried that being a beach shop it would cater to the beach cruiser crowd. Not so. The majority of their bike selection was road and tri bikes from Pinarello, Cervelo, Giant and Felt. Awesome stuff. I think I may have left some drool on the Cervelo on the rack next to the door. Gorgeous.

We were immediately greeted by one of the guys working (turns out it was the owner, Brian) to see what we needed. I mentioned road bike tires and he says ‘gatorskins’. I looked at my wife and just smiled. I liked the place already. A couple minutes later I had two tires and began looking around.

I headed to their clothing racks to see what kind of selection they had in the way of bibs as I need a new pair. Again, a great selection of brands and, more importantly, sizes. Yes, they actually carried sizes I could buy and wear in both bibs and jerseys. This was too good to be true. While looking at the bibs another employee came by and we talked about bibs in general, what I brands I had, the ones with a good chamois, power bands versus silicon grippers, and so on. It was a great conversation where he threw in his experience with the different brands and what he liked. More importantly, he didn’t pressure me to buy which I appreciated.

The Wife may be Hooked

Little did I know that my wife had been busy during this time. She had grabbed Brian, the owner, and started asking questions about womens bikes. He figured out what size she needed, pulled down an entry-level women’s Giant road bike, and had her riding on a trainer. She loved it and may now be hooked. We could have bought it that day for a good deal but I didn’t want her to make a decision like that based on one visit to the shop. Well, as it turns out, she hasn’t stopped talking about it a week later. I may have to get her that bike so she can start riding.

One of the things that really impressed me about the shop though was the traffic. I’m not taking about vehicular traffic either. I’m talking about the number of riders coming in and out of the door while we were there. I saw more folks stop by with their bikes (either for maintenance or they had been out riding) in the 45 minutes we were there than I have at the ‘other’ shop the entire time I’ve been going there. I was really impressed by that and my wife noticed it too. That says a lot about the shop.

There you have it. I believe I’ve found a new favorite local bike shop in Champion Cycling. It’s a little out of the way for me but I’m willing to sacrifice that for a good selection of gear, great prices, and friendly staff. They have three locations in the area and I know one of the others has some Saturday group rides. I plan on trying one of them out before long.