As we all know, the Internet has changed how we live and purchase items, or at least gives us another option. The bicycle industry is not excluded from this fact of modern life. If you know what you're looking for, there's numerous opportunities to save serious dough by purchasing parts or complete bicycles online.
In some bicycle culture eyes, this a bad thing, since it cuts out the local shop. I have mixed feelings about this at times, though many bicycle purchases I've made on eBay come from a brick and mortar shop also selling online. Smart shops will be a hybrid of in person and online sales - my opinion anyway. You can't fix bicycles over the Internet. The online option also doesn't work for everyone. A local knowledgeable shop will always be a good thing.
Except for a few rare exceptions - building wheels and straightening frames - I maintain all my bikes. I have a fair amount of experience and knowledge, so the online option works well for me. On top of that, I just can no longer afford to spend huge dough on bikes. Raising a family will do that. Almost all my bike related purchases are now online, including complete bikes.
Globalization has also changed everything. If you think someone at Trek, Specialized, or Cannondale is constructing your frame here in the United States, think again. Trek still makes some of the higher end Madone models in Wisconsin - otherwise, it's a pretty safe bet any bike on the shop floor is made in Asia. For sure, you're paying for the design expertise, especially for something like a suspended mountain bike. For road and hardtail mountain bikes, all the angles of various manufactures are pretty damn close.
Also when you look into it, there's a limited number of factories in Taiwan and China churning out frames by contract. With that, there will be some design knowledge transfer over to the folks actually constructing the frames - meaning their stock production frames should be nothing to scoff at - and available for a cheaper price.
Then, parts are parts - Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo - no matter what frame they're hung on. So, in sense you're paying for Paint 'N' Stickers. I'm exaggerating a bit, but you get the picture. I've joked with friends, if I ever started a bike company - would call it Paint 'N' Stickers. Imagine that on the downtube. Wise ass I am. Even so, I'm also not downplaying shops or bike companies that truly contribute something special to the world of cycling.
With that long winded introduction, there's a few companies out on the 'net I've been following, including Neuvation. Started by John Neugent, with a few decades of industry experiece, and based out of San Luis Obispo - a small operation that started off selling high end wheelsets direct online. They've since moved into carrying frames and complete bikes at big savings. He's basically the designer, manufacturer, and online bike shop - all rolled into one. An interesting concept. To blur the line a bit, they also have a showroom/shop in California. I find the whole set up interesting, since you're dealing with a small operation with a known person behind it, yet they can sell to a global audience.
Neuvation's website is pretty low key - okay, lame - I said it. Besides that fact, it works, and I dig his no nonsense approach to debunking the marketing Smoke 'N' Mirrors of the industry. It reminds me a bit of Grant Petersen and by that, compliment intended.
The Neuvation business model in his own words....
Neuvation carries numerous wheelset options - from alloy to high end carbon. I know a few folks running Neuvation wheels without issues and recommend 'em.
Complete bikes - carbon and aluminum framed - along with multiple Neuvation branded wheels, stems, saddles and other parts. All delivered to your door.
This pretty sweet 'cross model available. I dig the bare aluminum, minimal graphics look. The money savings could also allow a second set of wheels - tubulars even.
Interesting review of their FC100 model...
When it comes down to it, bikes are tools. Pretty damn cool, artistic tools at times, but you still gotta pedal the thing. If you're looking for a race quality bike at savings, places like Neuvation can't be beat. While I covet some bikes due to the race heritage, cool factor and other aspects - what Neuvation is doing interests me also. It's a bit punk rock without even trying to be, no?
If you sign up on their site, you'll receive the Neuvation "Deal of the Day" email. Worth it just for the insight and humor about the bike industry. A few examples (click to enlarge)...
No matter what side of the fence you fall on - local shop business only or the Internet - take a gander at Neuvation. I think most people straddle the fence and purchase depending on the situation. Nothing wrong with having options and developing new avenues - even for the bicycle industry.