Bike shop vs. department store bike purchases

“Why should I buy a bike at my local bike shop for $450 instead of one from Wal-mart, Target, or Kmart for $150?” When I field this question, usually it’s from folks who’ve not experienced the benefits of a relationship with their local bike shop.

I share candidly that the $150 department store purchase will probably lead to more than $200 in bike repairs over the next 5 years. Typically, the bike owner will also ride less and put themselves at a higher risk for serious injury. There are hidden costs associated with buying a department store bike.

During this type of conversation, I’ll ask the person what’s important to him or her when buying a bike. They’d like a road bike or mountain bike that functions and fits properly, yet they don’t know a lot about bikes. I encourage them to rely on someone with expertise to help them out.

Here are a few guidelines if you feel like you’re in this boat…um, I mean on this bike!

1. Double check your bike’s assembly.

If you purchase a bicycle from a department store, often there aren’t knowledgeable staff to assist you. The bicycles are usually poorly assembled. They may not function properly. It’s important to note that department store assembly staff get paid by the bike. The more bikes assembled, the more money made. The store requirements for a proper assembly are minimal: all parts must be attached.

If you purchase a department store bike, we recommend taking it to a bike shop to ensure proper assembly. It will cost at least $75 to ensure that your brakes stop, gears shift, parts are properly lubed, and bolts are securely tightened. In my 18 years of bike shop ownership in Asheville, I only know of one person who was able to put bikes together at a Toys “R” Us properly. It was because he was a bike guy who cared. There are exceptions, however they’re rare.

2. Make sure you and your bike fit. 

A properly fitted bicycle is easier to ride. Your legs fully extend to give you the most power. Your body is in the proper position to breathe easily and your arms are at a comfortable width. When a bicycle works and fits well, you enjoy riding it. You can’t wait for your next ride.

When a bike doesn’t feel right, it can lead to lack of confidence while using it, which can also result in accidents and injuries. An un-comfy bike can make you ball up into a fetal position at the thought of putting it between your legs. You look at it with disgust. You never want to ride it again.

These experiences make the Youngblood team sad. We don’t want this to happen to you! Instead, work with a bike shop whose staff is trained and certified to help customers select bikes and make adjustments immediately. Our team is committed to their trade – and we’ll encourage you to go for a test ride!

3. Take care of repairs proactively. 

If your bike is getting banged up, repair it at your local bike shop immediately. Bikes bought at department stores are not able to be brought back to the store for maintenance. I know someone whose bike from Target had a broken rear hub within 3 months. He only rode it from the paint shop to the wood shop at our local union carpenters millwork facility. During that time, the bike never shifted properly. The brakes always rubbed due to the wheel being out of true. He spent almost $100 to get it repaired.

Also, it’s not unusual for department store bike part quality to be inferior compared to a local bike shop’s. For example, we’ve seen handlebars drooping because they were made of such cheap steel. They bent during the first year of riding. We’ve also seen frame parts bend because they are thin-plated steel instead of the thick, machined pieces found on real bikes. If these things are happening to your bike, please seek repairs from a certified professional.

4. Save up and get involved.

If you’re around the Asheville area, stop in to our bike shop. We can help you to select a bike that’s a great fit for your body and preferences. We may need to swap out a stem or change the seat. Often, there is little to no charge for this adjustment.

If you’re concerned about the cost of a new bike, wait and save up. This will result in owning a bike that is a joy to ride, safe and long-lasting. Also, supporting your local bike shop is a win for your local community. Many Asheville bike shops host events, including group rides, that bring people of all skill levels together!

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