Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Big-Box Bike

Should this bike be listed on BFTROU?
Open for comment...

I generally do not advise people to purchase bicycles from big-box or department stores. These stores generally suffer the following disadvantages, when compared to independent bicycle dealers (aka local bike shops):
  1. Poorly designed products,
  2. Poorly assembled and adjusted products,
  3. No service agreement,
  4. Poor warranty support, and
  5. No staff-people trained in bike fitting or selection,

The bike below is not poorly designed, and can be purchased at a well-known big-box store for $132. Of course, Problems (2) through (5) still apply.

The $132 bike

If you do buy one, I strongly advise you to take it immediately to a local bike shop for a tune-up. When properly adjusted, even a bike of this quality (that is, not good quality), can get you where you need to go. The tune-up will bring the total cost to about $200, but that's still less expensive than most bikes at independent bike dealers.

Be forewarned:

90+ % of buyers will pay more in the long run. Here's why: the low quality parts are harder to adjust, come out of adjustment easily, and wear out faster than nicer ones. So...

  • If things are not adjusted correctly, it's not as fun to ride, and you won't ride, and then you will still drive and pay for gas and parking, gym membership, etc.
  • If you do ride, and get into it, you'll need to replace parts sooner than you would have on a better bike, and these costs will quickly make up the difference in price between the $132 bike and a $400 bike.

12 comments:

Freewheel said...

Here's one answer:

http://spokesofawheel.blogspot.com/2009/03/bikes-from-boxes.html

Ted said...

There's nothing I can but support to all the points made as to why buying from a legitimate bike shop with a full-time mechanic is always the best way to go. That is, if you're looking to buy a bike and actually plan on riding it.

As someone who worked at a Toys'R'Us for a summer in college and saw first hand the "talent" they had assigned to assembling those bikes, I can say with complete assurance that you're better off taking the bus than spending any money on those time bombs on wheels. One shouldn't think of bicycle purchase as a one time transaction. Rather, they should see value in the relationship they start with a shop owner who's going to keep their bike maintained, which in turn would more likely keep you interested in riding.

My personal preferences towards smaller bike shops aside, the closest I'd come to buying a bicycle from a "big box" store would be from a sporting goods chain like Sport Chalet or REI that have an actual bicycle department with full time mechanic and staff.

Anonymous said...

I like the Specialized Vienna Deluxe better. When I think of Wal-Mart, I think CDs and fishing lures...not bicycles. When the old who greets you gets to work early in the morning, he builds bikes...scarry thought. Signed, Bike Snob

darren said...

post them, with the noted qualifiers. lots of us readers know enough to not need the benefits of the LBS, but still want to know about good bikes, regardless of where they come from.

though i would also add to your qualifiers that the profits of your big box purchase don't stay in your community.

2whls3spds said...

I have had my hands on one of these and it is a suprisingly decent value, but as pointed out items 2-5 still apply. Having it gone through by you local qualified bike mechanic would shove the price up close to an entry level bike from them. Only real gripes with the bike itself is the funky handlebar that makes it impossible to mount lights, very cheap pedals and it only comes in one size (typical of BBS bikes). I could not make it fit me, but then again I am over average height and typically ride 65cm frames.

IMHO this bike is an excellent value if you know what you are doing.

Aaron

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Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with the points about warranty service. Most of the LBS don't offer a warranty at all but rely on that of the bicycle manufacturer. If the LBS is an authorized dealer for that brand then you can often get a good warranty. But if it is not then you will have to wrangle with the manufacturer on your own.

In addition, for large problems like a broken frame it's not at all uncommon for the manufacturer to deny the warranty claim on the grounds that the bike was abused. This occurs with surprising regularity and your LBS guys will just shrug their shoulders and tell you that there's nothing they can do.

However, often the bigbox stores will just take any flawed bike back and refund your money. They won't fix anything but you can probably trade it in on something else. And THAT is probably not what your average LBS is going to be willing to do.

Freewheel said...

Anon 2/8/11 - Most LBS will offer free tune-ups at the 1 month / 1 year point and I think you'll find that a good LBS will take care of most problems on those occasions. Will Walmart do that?

Anonymous said...

Wrong ! You do get warranty and quite good to from the manufacturer even if you buy your Bike from a Department store. You phone their service number and quote your Receipt and they will send the parts you need and usually a second lot too with postage free.

Yep, you are right in assembly in Dept stores. Usually it isn't the Bike but the Clown that assembled it.

They get paid $4.oo per Bike and usually assemble 5 Bikes per hour without regard to dialing in Brakes, tuning gears, or wheel truing. If you buy a Dept Store Bike, assemble and tune it in yourself. If you can't, have a friend who knows a bit about Bikes do it for you or your LBS.

It's still cheaper than buying an LBS Bike. if you look after your Dept Store bike, keep it out of the weather, clean it n lube chain and brake cables regularly, and ride it within it's limits. Your Dept Store Bike will last you many many years.

I know, have just put 3000 miles on my $98 K-Mart Kodiak ( Australia)Dept Store Bike. Bought it 1 year ago and still going strong. I do my own maintenance too as I know what I'm doing, despite what people say, you can get parts for these Bikes as the bottom entry Bike Shop Bikes have the same components. People will tell you that LBS (Local Bike Shops) will refuse to work on Dept Store Bikes too. Again wrong ! They will work on your Bike as it is money to them.

Anonymous said...

I was able to just recently buy a bike from Walmart. It was regularly 180, but on clearance for 90. The specs in it are nearly identical to a Trek 7.1.. Realizing that is treks entry model, still cost about triple the price I paid. Mine has the same derailleur, front and back. The same aluminum aloy frame, and nearly identical geometry. I did need to have my lbs dial in my front derailleur, so that added 10 to the cost, so for 100 dollars and a little work myself setting everything else up, I got a bike comparable to a much more expensive trek model and like I said, it specs nearly identical. Even my lbs was shocked how close it was.

Anonymous said...

Some of this may have been true a few years ago, but in many "big box" stores bicyles are thought of as transportation and recreation for adults and not mere toys.

I am the manager of a "big box" store and will offer the following:

1) The products that we sell in bicycles for adults range in price from $150 - $1,000. Many of these products have great designs and are produced on the identical assembly lines as bikes from the local bike shop. I have been to China (where most all bikes are now made) with a corporate buying group and have seen two of the factories that produce most of the bikes for both mass merchandisers and bike shops.

2) My assemblers are contracted from an outside company and are trained and certified. We pay them between $12-$15 per hour to assemble our bikes. If a customer is not happy with their bike our assembler will readust it to their satisfaction. I have also given refunds to a few customers that requested them (I don't think many idependent shops would go that far for a customer).

3) We service and warrant that bike during the first 90 days of ownership. Any adjustments or broken parts are fixed for FREE during this time period.

4) Customers have the same warranty support from the manufacturer as in a bike shop. In addtion we sell an additional store warranty at a cost of about $25 for 3 years.

5) We do have a few store people available to advise on fit and selection, but since we are open 24 hours, they may not work all of the shifts. We try to accomodate our customers as best as we can. I find that a majority of our customers know what they are looking for as far as the type of bike that they desire and need to be guided by make, model, and price and fit to their body size and particular needs.

I try to have what the customer wants, but of course our ability to order merchandise is limited. Most of the product is pushed from the warehouse, not pulled, meaning that product is assigned to stores by corporate buyers. So, if the customer needs a special order bike, it would be a better option for them to consult a bike shop. For the average casual shopper the "big box" store could be the right choice.