Once again, I can report that it is better to shop locally than in the big box stores in the shopping malls, at least for things that require some service like bicycles.

Once again, I can report that it is better to shop locally than in the big box stores in the shopping malls, at least for things that require some service like bicycles. I bicycle commute and on the way home the other day, I kept throwing my chain when I was shifting onto the big ring up front. That is not only annoying but it meant that I pretty much stayed in my low gear range for the rest of the ride home.

The next day I took my bike into the local bike shop in downtown Leavenworth and they repaired it for me and told me that I was putting too much stress on the derailleur. They told me to let it shift all the way onto the big ring before I hammered down. Apparently I had been bending the shifter by not shifting properly.

Now how many big box stores have that kind of staff that not only know what your problem is, but are also willing to tell you that you are doing it incorrectly and tell you the proper way to shift? As an example, my neighbor will sell you a bike at the PX on Fort Leavenworth, but I can say with some certainty that he has never ridden a bike. He's a great neighbor, but I would never trust him to sell me a bike or to help me repair it. I am pretty sure that the same can be said for all of the other big stores that also sell bikes. In a professional bike shop, everyone rides bikes.

Since I regularly shop in the local bike shop, they repaired the shifter and gave me the lesson for free. That is another benefit that you can often get from a local store. Additionally, that same bike shop created a great summer bicycling event where kids get to race in a safe environment for free. They coordinate with other commercial sponsors and the city Parks and Recreation Department and the Leavenworth Bicycle Club to provide a superb service for the entire community.
The Late Night Under the Lights kids' racing season is over for this year and they saw the largest numbers yet when 68 kids showed up to race. I really do think that having kids race their bikes teaches them riding skills that are important on their daily rides in the neighborhood and to school. It also gives them an incentive to get on a bike and ride it well enough to do well in a race, which means that they are getting some great exercise outdoors away from the computer screen.

For those kids who really like to race, the bike shop also sponsors a racing team. Up until a few years ago, there were only one or two kids racing on the team. I understand that there are now 5 or 6 youths on the team. You can be a team member by buying the team jersey and then attending training and the races, of which there are quite a few in the region. The shop even covers the entry fees for some of the races if you wear the team jersey and show up and finish the race.
That is just a small part of the service that you get from a locally owned store in downtown Leavenworth. The bike shop is not the only store to provide such friendly service, although I know of no other professional bike shop in the county that provides that kind of service.
If we supported our local businesses with our shopping before we ran off to the Legends or Kansas City we could have a vibrant downtown that not only provided great supplies and equipment but also supported the community by sponsoring family friendly events and activities on a regular basis.

One store that I would like to see downtown is a wine and beer making store which not only sells supplies and equipment but also puts on classes and other events for wine and beer makers. They have them in Kansas City. Maybe one in Leavenworth would also do well.
Matt Nowak lives in Lansing and works as a natural resources manager.