You can ask Madam Raven a question by dropping an email to email@example.com and she is also now in the land of Tweets, check out @MdmRaven and ask her any cycling question you dare.
* * *
I have an ethical dilemma. I really like my local bike shop, and they have fixed many things on my bike quickly and cheaply. I am now putting together a new bike for the very first time, but I have noticed that the prices online are often a lot less than my bike shop can sell me things for. Do I stay loyal to my bike shop, or make the savings online?
Craig M, Cork (Ireland)
This is a dilemma, I agree. It is more important than ever, in these financially-straitened times, to support one's local bike shop. Personally I look at it from a broader viewpoint. Is the service I get from a shop worth spending a little extra? Almost invariably, if the shop is a good one. When the cost increase is significant it is a more difficult decision. It's always worthwhile taking your costing to the shop and asking what they could do to match it. They may be able to offer you a price that is not a great deal more, then you will have avoided the conundrum altogether. In addition, should you run into trouble putting your bike together and need help, for instance to fit the headset, then it might work out cheaper to have bought from the bike shop in the first place, as they will include assembly in the overall price.
Should you decide to buy online, it is my understanding that the real profits are to be had on the accessories and consumables, rather than the big purchases, although I stand to be corrected on this in the eventuality of any bike shop owners wishing to dispute it. If you are confident in your ability to put your bike together and build it, and resolve to buy the smaller, more frequent purchases only from your LBS and not from Wiggle or CRC, I think they might forgive you.