Department Store Bike vs. Bike Shop

Why should I buy a bike at my local bike shop for $450 instead of a bike from a department store like Wal-martTarget, or Kmart for $150? 
In this article I am going to present evidence that the person paying $150 at a department store is going to pay more then $200 to repair the bike over the next 5 years. This person will also ride the bike less and put themselves at a higher risk for serious injury while doing so.  Consumer Reports has a pretty decent article that glances over the some of the pros and cons comparing bicycle shops to department stores. What are your priorities when buying a bike? Most people I talk to want a product that functions and fits properly. They do not know a lot about bikes, so they rely on someone with expertise to help them out.
You get what You pay for.
In the bicycle world, when buying bikes that cost less then $1500, this is very true. Over that price, the differences for the average enthusiast are less significant.  Working in bike shops for the last 18 years, there has been a question I have been asked over and over again.
Spend $350 now or more than that later.
When purchasing a bicycle from a department store, there is no knowledgeable staff on hand to assist you. The bicycles are usually poorly assembled and do not function properly from the moment they are purchased. A bicycle brought to a bicycle shop will cost at least $75 to assemble properly. That is to ensure that your brakes stop, gears shift, parts are properly lubed and bolts are securely tightened. Department store assembly people get paid by the bike. The more bikes they assemble, the more money they make per hour. The store requirements for a proper assembly are minimal: all parts must be attached. I only know of one person who was able to put the bikes together at a Toys “R” Us properly and it was because he happened to be a bike guy who cared. There were exceptions (he doesn’t work there now), but those exceptions are rare. I know someone who bought a bike from Target and the rear hub broke in the 3rd month of ownership. He only rode it to get from the paint shop to the wood shop at our local union carpenters millwork facility. During that time it never shifted properly and the brakes always rubbed due to the wheel being out of true. He spent almost $100 to get it repaired. The quality of the parts used on department store bikes are highly inferior to those found on bicycles in a local bike shop. I have seen handlebars droop because they were made of such cheap steel they bent in the 1st year of riding. I have seen frame parts bend because they are thin plate steel instead of the thick machined pieces found on real bikes. Bikes bought at department stores are not able to be brought back to the store for maintenance so the owner has to bring it to a shop. Ride N Slide has free maintenance for the first — months on bikes purchased from them. That is two seasons of lubing the chain and adjusting the mechanisms. That is worth over $150 right there.
I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike……but I can’t.
Why not? Because its broke, it sucks, its heavy, it doesn’t work right. A bicycle is a vehicle. It is used for transportation and for recreation. When the bicycle makes grinding noises, has little air in the tires and is heavy, it can become almost impossible to pedal and the sound is annoying. When riding a bicycle for transportation, you want to get there faster then walking. You want to get there quietly and you want to get there without anything breaking. A local bicycle shop usually gives their customers free air. Parts that break will be covered under a warranty. A bicycle bought at a shop weighs almost 10lbs less on average. Also, a properly fit bicycle is easier to ride. Your legs fully extend giving you the most power, your body is in the proper position to breath easily, and your arms are at a comfortable width. When a bicycle works and fits well, you enjoy riding it, you enjoy looking at it, and you want to ride it again. When it doesn’t work and fit well, you ball up into the fetal position at the thought of putting it between your legs, you look at it with disgust, and you never want to ride it again.
Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!
Why are you just laying there? I’m hurt. Why are you hurt? My pedal broke; My chain slipped; My seat broke and the list went on and on and…….. These are all reasons why riding a bike with adequately well made parts is important. On a bicycle you can hit speeds in excess of 20mph pedaling on a neighborhood street. Ever hit the pavement at that speed? It sucks. Your skin falls off like a zombie with leprosy. How else can I get hurt riding my bike? An improper fit can do it rather easily. If the bike is too small, your knees are too bent when you ride. This will ruin your knees in no time. You will also hit your foot on the front wheel or bang your knee on the handlebar. Ouch. When your bike is too big, you get all stretched out. Making a quick turn to avoid a car or pothole is almost impossible and bang, you just hit the pavement and lost more skin. Your back will creek and ache and ask you to stop riding before too long. If you slip off the handlebar and smack you face on the stem you can say goodbye to a couple of teeth.
I want a bike. What do I do?
If you are around the Asheville Area -Stop in and see the staff on how they can help you to determine what kind of bike you need. They will also fit the bike to you. They may have to swap out a stem or change your seat and many times there is little or no charge for this. If you do not have enough money now, waiting a few months to save enough will result in owning a bike that is a joy to ride, safe to ride, and will last a long time. We sell Cannondale and Yeti – Two legendary brands.
This is all good, but the department store is still cheaper
Supporting your local bike shop supports your community. Many have group rides bringing people who ride bikes in your community together. The bike shop owner is able to work with you and your concerns as opposed to the department store manager who has to follow some large corporation’s rules. A local bike shop spends money in your neighborhood as opposed to sending the profits to some far off distant mother-ship. Local bike shops have people who are experts at a trade as opposed to department stores who are experts at putting blue dot stickers on stuff. Your local shop lets you take the bike for a test ride; so you get to be seen looking beautiful riding a new bike before you even spend any money. The list is endless.
Ride Hard. Ride Safe. Ride with a smile on your face.
great words by Ray Heinsman
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