I was helping register bikes1 and a kind citizen asked me the $64 question.2

“I’m looking for a new bike. Where should I go?”

I’ve researched this question for decades and I’m ready to answer:

“Your local bike shop.”

The follow-up question was inevitably asked: “Which one?”

My years in La Crosse have helped me know, with certainty, the answer: “All of them.”

Oh, I could tell her facts about brands, models and accessories. I could give my skewed opinion on recumbents, trikes, road bikes, electrics, singlespeeds, and touring bikes. But, I don’t. Frankly, the potential customer shouldn’t hear all that from me. She should get it from the dedicated professionals at her local bike shop.

I do explain that a bicycle isn’t a whim purchase. It’s not one made entirely on price point. A bicycle must be road tested, compared, contrasted, and carefully considered. Failure to do such work means that bicycle will become garage clutter. The local bicycle shop will ensure our kind citizen follows all those steps. They’ll want to take care of her, and not just give her the “blue one.” They’re not hurrying to get bikes off the racks just so they can fill the space with Halloween decorations.

But why not recommend a particular shop? Yes, I could say each shop has a different “feel,” but that highly-technical term must be experienced, never explained. The absolute truth is, while some shops carry some brands exclusively, customers such as the kind citizen aren’t looking for a brand. They’re looking for two wheels, a handlebar, seat, and (usually) some gears. All the shops carry that “brand” of bike.

It’s up to each shop to ask some questions and then explain to the kind citizen why they have the particular bike she would love. Only she will know when they’re right. And she’ll only know when she’s given each shop a chance.

So, who do I recommend?

Bikes Limited, 1001 La Crosse St, La Crosse

Blue Heron Bicycle Works, 213 Main St, Onalaska

River Trail Cycles, 106 Mason St, Onalaska

Smith’s Bike Shop, 125 7th St N, La Crosse

1) Each month the DRBC and the Beer-by-Bike-Brigade work to help La Crosse residents register their bikes with the La Crosse Police Department. Not only is it a local law, but it gives bike owners a better chance their bike will be returned if stolen. In 2015, LPD found 500 bikes, but could only identify 60 owners.

2) Ask your grandparents.

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