Rather oddly I seem to have stopped buying things on-line.

Buy stuff from real shops.

I'm an heavy internet user - blog, my own t-shirt shop, plus for a few years there was the eBay book shop. For a time all of my bike purchases were made on-line; all of them, right down to stupid small things like lubricant. I was just Mr Internet. Yet at the same time here in Surrey we have any number of decent bike shops; C and N in Redhill, Finches Reigate, Cycleworks, good old Nirvana etc., etc., etc..

There was no reason not to use these places, yet I didn't.

So why when I'm now asked where to get stuff do I point to the local bike shops? All of a sudden my bike purchases have been made locally from real people. Need some lube? Pop into C & N and have a chat with Lee. My last bike, an Orange 5, was bought from Cycleworks in Leatherhead. My helmet came from Nirvana, gloves from Evans, and lots of bits from what I know as GB2 in Purley. Gosh I bought my Klein Mantra from them years back.

OK my latest jacket was from Howies, and I did buy a cassette from CRC; you can't escape the lure of the internet, no way, not these days. And I still have my own, small shop to feed.

Why has this happened? Why am I a local purchaser?

Probably because of my Muddy Ground shop that's why. In essence I've discovered that it is near impossible to build a retail business. I'm not whinging, but you get very little local support. Most people, if they know you even a little bit, expect you to give them stuff for free and take umbridge if you don't. Then there are the tyre kickers in life, who waste hours of your time and buy naff all.

In my own little way I've discovered how hard retail is, and how much effort the little guys have to put into their business. So now, out of respect for their hard work, I just appreciate having an LBS that much more. Sure they can be gruff, miserable bastards and make you feel 5 years old each time you ask for advice, but they are a valuable resource.

More to the point, and a little more realistic than any faux ideological support, I've discovered that sometimes, just sometimes, they are cheaper, quicker and better than the internet.

Cheapness wins every time my friend.

My 5, for instance, was one of the last 26" models. Brand new from Cycleworks, 12 months warranty it was only £500 more than my mate has just paid for a used 2009 model off eBay. That's cracking value in any book. I've moaned about the cost of my hand built front wheel from Lee, but a hard year on it still runs true, yet the £15 cheaper one from Superstar needed truing out of the box. Is £15 more really that bad to employ a local craftsman? I think not.

The next time you look to buy something off the internet, why not pop along to your LBS and see what they have in stock first?