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Please don't do it.
The article proposes to show that cheap new bikes are poor value, a false economy, not fit for use & damaging to the environment. After reading through it hopefully you will understand and agree with this proposal and can then make a more informed purchase. Throughout this article this type of bike will be referred to as BSOs - Bicycle Shaped Objects.
I am a bicycle mechanic of 20 years experience. I run a local business that services and repairs all types of bikes (including BSOs). There is no hidden agenda behind writing this. I'm not trying to persuade you to buy a bike from me, as we don't sell bikes. I want to try and make a contribution as I'm seeing more and more people buying these bikes and then discovering that they are useless for any purpose except landfill.
Before we get into bikes themselves, some thoughts and an anecdote:
A truly global economy; the Internet, supermarkets - great aren't they? Delivering better value, lower cost products through increased competition, innovation and efficiency. Enabling the savings to be passed directly on to us, the consumer.
I bought a brand new cordless kettle a few months ago for less than a tenner. Bargain. It's here in the corner of the workshop being used every day. No complaints, it's working perfectly. But then, it's a kettle. It boils water. It has one moving part (the switch), casing and a filament. I don't take it out in all weathers, bounce it around, use it to transport me and other goods, leave it locked up in various locations and expect it to stop in a hurry if a washing machine suddenly pulls out in front of me. A little flippant maybe, but there is a serious point.
Last summer we had a booking from a guy who'd bought a bike on the internet that had come in a box and that he was having some trouble with. I went round to pick it up and knocked on the door. He answered and wheeled out this 'bike' - it was stunningly bad, a brand new cheap suspension bike. It was possibly the heaviest clunkiest, badly built bike I'd ever seen. The components were cheap and nasty, the frame made from huge heavy lumps of metal poorly welded together. It was a tank. Yet he looked at me and said "yeah got it off the internet, only a hundred and twenty quid. Went to a few bike shops but you wouldn't get anything like this for that cost". I was dumbfounded. To this guy, the bike shops were making loads of profit by ripping people off, whereas he'd got a great deal online. The opposite could not have been truer. Ask yourself which is more likely to sell a quality, reliable, well set-up bike: A local bike shop that you could take it straight back to if you were dissatisfied in any way or a business with a web site as the middle man and hundreds of miles between you and them? Don't get me wrong, you can buy excellent value quality bikes online and some bike shops can rip you off. But you cannot buy a new bike of any quality for silly money. You get what you pay for.
What makes a bike
A bike is not a simple toy. It is a means of transportation, a complex piece of machinery that has evolved over a hundred years. Today there are many types of bikes to suit all users and all purposes.
Let's consider just one of these for a moment: the bicycle wheel. What an incredible invention. Light, strong and versatile. A wheel consists of a hub (made from many smaller parts, see the image), a number of spokes, nipples (these screw onto the ends of the spokes) and a rim. The hub needs to be correctly set up so that the axle rotates smoothly within the hub shell with no play and minimum resistance. Spokes need to be correctly tensioned so that the rim spins round in a straight line with no 'bumps' or 'hops'. Additionally a rear wheel needs to be 'dished' to compensate for the sprockets on the right hand side of the hub. If the wheel doesn't run true the brakes can't work effectively and the bike won't ride well. And this is just one wheel, one piece of the final jigsaw. A bike is a complicated piece of equipment. So for those of you that might need the point clarified; a bike must to be built well in order to run well. The parts need to be correctly assembled, bearings greased, components aligned, bolts correctly tightened, cables tensioned, braking and gearing systems correctly set up, etc. This is a skilled process.
Add shipping, advertising, profit(!) and all the other activities involved in running a business and you finally get to the cost of the end product.
So can this be done for £LOW
Considering the description of what goes into a bike, how is it possible for them to be retailed for £69, £99 etc by supermarkets, catalogue stores and on the internet? Through savings achieved from modern manufacturing methods? Computerized stock control? Reduction of costs through retailing online? No. All these are already factored into the very competitive costs of decent quality bikes. Those prices are achieved through cuts in quality at every stage of component manufacture and subsequent bike build. The resulting bike is good for nothing and can be a dangerous death trap.
18 months ago I went round to pick up a young guy's bike. He'd bought it from a well known high street catalogue store for a hundred pounds or so. It had been marketed as having been reduced from £150, or maybe even as half price (another common trick). Just a few months old, it was already coming apart. He'd contacted the warranty department of this store and had been told to get it repaired and send them the bill. We repaired it (it needed a new wheel amongst other things) and returned it to him, pointing out the poor quality components throughout. Six months later he called again. It turned out the store had refused to refund him the repair bill (citing wear and tear or normal servicing needs if I remember correctly) and now he had further problems. Having already spent money on the bike he was reluctant to write it off. It was hard to believe it was only a year old; rust spots were plentiful and spreading, cheap chrome plating was peeling away in places, the poor quality suspension forks dead - it was a sorry state. But we fixed it up and took it back. After taking it back he said with a rueful expression - "I thought I was getting a bargain originally, but for what I've now spent I could have got a decent bike to start with". A harsh lesson, but further proof that you really do get what you pay for.
What makes a BSO?
Now I can just hear the cynics out there thinking that I'm some sort of bike part purist. If it's not the latest top of the range, titanium coated, computer engineered, space tested, turboflipZX derailleur, then it's rubbish. Not so, though some of my customers are like that. You can get good quality bike parts for very reasonable prices, but when you scrape the bottom of the barrel you will get rubbish. Here are examples of some of the faults I have witnessed with BSOs:
Bike in a box
Often when you buy a BSO you get it in a box. Apparently all that's needed is to unpack it, pump up the tyres, fit the pedals, make a few adjustments and you're awayÖ hilarious. And what do they give you to do this? Da da! Yes, a strange shaped soft piece of metal with a lot of irregular shaped holes in it. Finally you get this heap of junk into a semi rideable state and what does it feel like? Terrible. You ride it down the road and it's heavy, clunky and unresponsive. The braking is poor and uneven. The gear shifting is a joke. Where is the pleasure in riding a bike like this?
Suspension deserves a section of its own. Suspension in bikes - what a fabulous invention. You can get fixed frame bikes with a suspension fork known as 'hardtails' or bikes with both suspension forks and a variety of methods of having suspension in the frame known as 'full suspension' bikes or 'full-sussers'. The Mountain Bike came along in the 1980s and in many ways revolutionised cycling. A suspension bike is more complicated than its non-suspension sibling. A standard bike is designed to run along a continuous rolling surface, a road or track. A suspension bike is designed for throwing around, riding down the side of a mountain, off ledges, down jumps, across rocks, rough ground and many other surfaces. So guess what? If it's going to be able to take this sort of abuse and still work then it needs to have well made, good quality components or it will just fall apart. Cheap bikes are bad enough but cheap suspension bikes - please! Consider this: cheap bikes have poor quality wheels. For suspension to absorb the shock of riding a bike on an uneven surface these bumps must be transferred through the wheels into the shocks - but cheap wheels are not up to this, they just buckle and go out of shape. A susser frame has moving parts, a standard bike frame does not. Moving parts require maintenance and can go wrong, seize, break. Cheap moving parts don't last. I see suspension BSOs all the time, they don't last 5 minutes. If you want to get into mountain biking (and what a great thing to get into) you need to be prepared to spend a decent amount of money to buy a bike that is up to the task. If you want suspension for riding on the road think about a suspension seat post, a simple invention that can be a real bonus.
All is not lost!
Modern manufacturing methods have enabled a relative reduction of the price of many consumer goods. The bicycle is not exempt from this. For £300+ you can choose from a range of well-built bikes utilising quality components for almost any purpose. £300 is not expensive. Look at the following table. For further information and sources see end of article.
Still not convinced? You still want to buy a BSO for £99? Believe me, it will not last. If you get two years out of it (no chance) that works out at £50 a year for a heavy, clunky, unresponsive ride. The £400 bike will last at least ten years. That's £40 a year for something that's a real pleasure to ride. See where I'm coming from?
By riding a bike you can pat yourself on the back for a number of reasons. Every journey you make is having a direct beneficial impact on the environment. A human on a bicycle is the most fuel-efficient system on the planet. By keeping yourself fit, you're reducing your demands on society as a whole and the health service in particular. People who cycle live longer, happier, more satisfied and better fulfilled lives. Well done. Just one thing though. It takes environmental resources to create the metal and parts for a bike, build that bike and then ship it round the world (nearly all new bikes are built in Asia). BSOs are just landfill waiting to happen. Are you willing to buy a new BSO each time the last BSO gives out on you and isn't worth repairing? Nice one. Some environmentalist. A good bike will pretty much last forever with regular maintenance.
Someone once said to me "why should I get my bike repaired when I can buy a new one for £xx. At that price I can buy a new one each year". So we've reached the era of the disposable bike. One of the most environmentally beneficial inventions of all time has become a source of waste and pollution, part of the throw away disposable culture. Incredible.
Well we've got to the end. Congratulations on getting here. Don't buy a cheap and nasty new bike, it's not good for you or the environment. The only beneficiary is the profits of the short sighted business selling it. If you want to buy a new bike don't short change yourself. Buy a decent bike for a few hundred pounds, A good bike could give you ten years of pleasure with maintenance. £30-50 a year doesn't seem excessive to me. So when you're sailing along one day making silky smooth gear changes, with the wind rushing through your hair and a responsive steed between you and the ground, remember this article and think. 'You know, that guy was right'.
Average wage figures - thanks to Richard Hughes at the Office for National Statistics.
Price of a reasonable bike - Figures deduced from a variety of sources. Including Vintage Catalogues at Sheldon Brown and a 1981 Report by the Competition Commission
Also thanks to contributors to the BikeBiz industry bulletin board for invaluable assistance.
This article represents the authors opinions only.
Feedback on this article.
Jason - 18 April 2013
Well I was going to buy a bike from a local supermarket in Poland called Real.pl I though as long as the frame is alu and brakes are shamui you will be ok. Their is also allergo.pl bit like ebay. selling bikes. aprox price is 900zl is 180 pound. Names like Romet delta 28' frame. Its a mine field and as I am a novice and beginner thought I need to crawl before I walk. Please help. This is a great cite by the way.
Manuel - 14 April 2013
I agree with you, but it also depends on how much you're going to use it and how well you service it. Last year, coming to the UK and needing a form of transport, I got a BSO from an on-line retailer for ¬£50. Apart from a flat tyre in the first few days of using it (in its defence, the track I was riding on was lined with spiky shrubs!) and some fiddling with the brakes I had no major trouble with it (no broken chains, no issues w/ frame, nothing serious!). True, I only did about 700k in 6 months, and it does need a new set of callipers for the back brake (couldn't be bothered to fix it yet...), but for ¬£50 I got what I expected, and I believe that if I service it properly and take care of it it should last me a lot more. In addition, I had a couple of friends who bought the very same bike at the same time as me (from the same retailer!) and they had a lot of trouble with them (missing screws, things falling apart, rustiness...). One can also be lucky, perhaps in my case the blokes in the factory were actually manufacturing the bike properly! However, now I got myself a entry-range Raleigh commuter bike. Even though I only paid around ¬£180 for it, which is still in what you call the BSO range (it was last year's model, so it had quite a bit of a discount, I think originally it was closer to ¬£300) I feel already a very big difference in relation to the one I had before, the build construction is noticeably better! And, since this is a bike which is used to commute and also to get to the shops at the town centre, I really don't want to shell ¬£300+ in something that can be snatched easily (I have a sturdy-looking D-lock, but still!..).
Ed - 13 April 2013
I own a so called "BSO" and have done for 8 years. It cost me ¬£29.99 from Tesco and is top quality. I have only replaced the cables and brake pads in all that time. I average 22 MPH. Great buy - bargain!
chris - 12 April 2013
I could not agree more, I bought a bike a year ago, having not rode a bike since I was a young teenager and all I was worried about was how much it would cost! after a few months of cycling it and trying out my brothers Carrera, I realized what a piece of shit it is. Its falling apart. I'm now saving up for a mid range hybrid, LOVE CYCLING NOW BTW!!
Will (Canada) - 06 April 2013
My wife and I bought our first bikes in 1977, for a little over $100 ea new. They were 10 speed bikes. They lasted until the mid 1980's and were a great ride. Our neighbours were moving and gave us two mountain bikes. After overhauling them, we got about 7 years out of them. Wanting more gears, we bought two used bikes originally costing $300 ea. at a reputable sports shop for just under $100. I later bought my daughter a used bike there for $129. It had a $1000 frame. She rode it for 6 years to University and now rides it nearly every working day to her teaching job. I bought my son a $700 Norco for $109. It has been a joy to ride for him. He broke the forks goofing around wo we are on the hunt again. Unfortunately our used bike supplier has retired. We are not that wealthy, so I do a lot of research and buy used. We have also learned how to service and maintain our bikes. You wrote an excellent article.
Count Spokeula - 02 April 2013
I bought two 1950's British 3 speeds, one for me, one for Mrs Spokeula - and we've never looked back. They are the best cheap bike's available. Tomorrow I am taking the Hal-crap-fords bike carrier to the tip after less that a year of use - broken screw threads. Rubbish!
Ralph Down - 02 April 2013
In the USA, we can buy Huffy and Roadmaster bikes for under $100, at Walmart.These are pretty reasonable bikes, and will certainly last longer than 2 years. Maybe there are a lot worse bikes available in your country? Actually, my usual mode of getting a new bike is to pick one up that someone has left at the dumpsters. The price is right! There is definitely something to be said for buying a cheap bike like the aforementioned at Walmart. And they have their place on school campuses or around town where theft is a problem. Thieves probably prefer your type of bike to mine! So, while you may have some good points, there is a good niche for my style of bike.
Alan oakley - 28 March 2013
I have my own shop and agree with your comments 100%. I have customers that actually work at halfords and will not have their bikes repaired there.
Woody - 10 March 2013
I work for a well known bicycle and car parts retail chain that sells bicycles ranging from the excellent quality right down to BSO's. I try really hard to put people off buying these things because they are simply dreadful and if used properly will just end up back in store for countless repairs and warranty. The threads strip, the nuts round, the bearings are awful and the brakes are poor. Everything is made as cheaply as possible. I bloody hate them and I hate my company for selling them alongside very reasonably priced quality bikes. Save your money.
John Clifton - 23 February 2013
Wonderfully written & structured article! Agree with every word of it! Hope the word goes out to all the people looking for bikes - I personally think those cheap bikes should be banned for health & safety reasons! Why isn't there a government body checking standards of these things before providing companies licences to operate/produce? Its a shame, because people's lives are at stake here! I always advised my friends looking for bikes but had smaller budgets to look for good quality used bikes instead of cheap new bikes! I personally grew up riding my grandfather's Hercules when I was in school. The bike is still in our family 60 years on & will give any new expensive bike a run for their money any day!!
DONALD KIRKBRIDE - 22 January 2013
Ive repaired bikes since i was 14 and am 54 now i learned how to build bike wheels in 13 weeks built a mtb wheel using a wheel that was out of true stripped it cleaned and serviced the hub with new bearings and spindle and rebuilt the whole wheel roadtest the wheel for six months in my muddy fox silver jaguar mtb then rechecked the wheel and only two spokes needed adjusted as for bikes from halfords or supermarkets halfords mechanics are a joke they dont know the name of components one didnt know what a rear mech was and another halfords i was in three of them were trying to assemble a bike! their assembly standard is abysmill the brakes dont work properly(levers come back to the bars) and the gears arent checked and set up properly the amount of people ive had bring me a halfords bike to get the brakes sorted is now 35 thats 35 dangerous and in my opinion unrideable bikes halfords sold to members of the public putting their lives in danger i worked in a bike shop 10 years ago and if i assembled a bike and the brakes and gears didnt work properly my employer would have read me the riot act none of the bikes assembled left the shop with poor brakes or the gears not working properly i also used to roadtest the bikes personally to ensure the gears and brakes worked 101% not 98 or 99 even but 101% only then would i let someone else ride that bike on the basis that if i feel safe on the bike then its ok to ride as for supermarket bikes if you have to buy one insist in one in its box not an assembled one and get a competent mechanic to assemble it ok it may only last six months but at least you will have ridden a safely assembled bike not one assembled by someone who knows nothing about bikes personally i wouldnt let a halfords bike mechanic within 3 ft of any of my bikes and if i bought a bike in halfords (which is doubtful) i would insist it was left in its box so that i could assemble it myself if they refused this request i would just tell them to forget it and walk out. in my opinion all halfords mechanics should be made to do a compulsory cytech course to learn bike mechanics properly instead they employ under 25's who ride mtb but just about grasp the basics of bike mechanics yet when i tried for a job with halfords 12 years ago i was told because of my age i didnt fit into their corporate image ie under 25 and know damn all about how to fix bikes.
Andrew - 14 January 2013
Just messing about and found this article. I cannot agree more. I am teaching myself, with the help of a big blue book, to fix bikes. A hobby you might say. I am by profession a heavy vehicle mechanic so I am fairly handy with tools and can figure out, mostly, how things are meant to work. My one piece of advice, spend the extra money and invest in a proper bike. Those cheapies from the department stores are rubbish. They are incredibly frustrating to service and tune. The parts and components are cheap and nasty. No sooner than you tune it, it goes out of whack on the test ride! I bought a Merida Matts bike about 20 years old. The fork has a crack on the clamping section which has been welded. It was cheap. In its day, it was a very good bike and it still is despite its age. I could tune it in about 20 minutes and be certain it will run as it is meant to. The BSOs will take over an hour of fiddling around and by the end of it, I am still not satisfied. So to finish off, buying a cheap BSO is false economy. It's dubious whether it'll last more than a year and your mechanic will not thank you. Buy a quality bike, and it'll still be with you in 20 years time.
will - 31 December 2012
Sometimes I wonder... well maybe the bso's are good cos they get people into cycling who otherwise wouldn't but then I suspect they are actually detrimental to the cause cos the ride is so unpleasant it probably ends up rusting in the shed and the person just assumes 'oh well cycling is just not for me'. For me the pleasure of cycling comes from using a machine that is smooth and responsive, I'm on a low wage but I've got a road bike and an mtb both from ebay that are very good quality and were both around half their original price- it took a bit of looking around but there's some good deals out there- especially bikes that are collection only.
Alan - 24 December 2012
I bought a mtb for 150 euros from a store called decathlon , I've had 5 years and sometimes take it off road , never had a problem with it, it's still going strong. So sometimes you can be lucky
Tony Thompson - 23 December 2012
It`s just common sense really, but what i find hard is getting a decent quality bike for my kids. There only seems to be junk out there for young children or the few that are decent seem to cost as much as an adult bike would with much better specs.
Luca - 18 December 2012
Very good article and so true.
Stephen Kittoe - 06 December 2012
Wayne seems to think that most of the commentators above are, effectively, snobs. They're not: they're criticising the peddlers (Gedditt?) of the monstrous bits of rubbish that are BSOs. I sell and buy back good bikes. I have noticed an almost inverse relationship, that is, the older the bike the smoother it rides. Amongst my stock I have a 1949 Rudge, a similar year Humber and a 1952 Rudge Whitworth. They may not sparkle and glitter like all those sheds' and online offerings but they all run "sweet as a nut" as a London used car dealer might aver.
Anonymous - 18 November 2012
Thanks for hosting this valuable material. I'd like to share my experiences given that my wife and I both recently bought bikes. My wife was the first to show interest, fighting hard against my best attempts at dissuasion. My view was that most bikes are not used and end up cluttering up the shed or garage. In my wife's case, this is exactly what happened, but only after I had spent ¬£300 on a reasonable bike. Now, when we went to pick up my wife's bike, the queue was long, so inevitably I got bored. I saw (and actually bought) a Trax T700 hybrid for ¬£60, thinking 'well, there's more chance of us using the bikes if we get one each'. The last time that I had ridden a bike was some 20 years ago so I was very impressed with the 700c wheels and V brakes. I spent the smallest amount of money that I thought that I could get away with, because, after all, bikes end up the garage and are seldom used. Mistake. Determined to get some value for the investment, I used the bike regularly, clocking up over 100 miles in just a few weeks... before the inevitable trouble. The gear / drive system was awful from day one: 'Clunky' just doesn't cover it. The bike had to be strongly encouraged to step up or down, despite mechanically sympathetic behaviour, such as never moving more than one cog. The chain slipped and regularly came off, meaning that rides invariably resulted in my hands getting covered in GT85. The saddle needed to be replaced before the second outing - It was badly designed and uncomfortable as a result. The wheels were untrue by the end of the first week. I suspect that the bottom bracket has issues because the whole frame seems to creak and knock when ridden. The tyres were unbranded and performed badly in the wet. The brakes performed very well in the dry but abysmally in wet conditions. The pedals were unfit for purpose: Any vigorous riding, particularly in non-ideal conditions, would result in my feet slipping, and on one occasion, I actually came off the bike. The bike was also unreasonably heavy... which to be fair may be a positive consideration for those wishing to lose weight. The gear levers were made of plastic, as suggested here, and while I had no immediate problems, would not expect them to hold up long term. So, the bike was a BSO, and the ¬£60 investment resulted in my.... buying a better bike. It turned out that the BSO was *just* good enough to convince me that - despite it's shortfalls - I actually liked cycling. So, I returned to the shop and bought a Voodoo Marasa, this time costing ¬£350. The difference is astonishing. The bike fits me. The brakes are razor sharp. The gear system is efficient. The frame - weighing less than I do - is responsive and well balanced. My feet never slip from the pedals. The saddle is comfortable. Let's face it, ¬£350 is very little to spend on a bike, given that a gym or sports club membership can easily cost ¬£700... per year!
Felix Fiera - 03 November 2012
Very Well Said, sadly they are everywhere!
Greg Archer - 29 October 2012
I am a bicycle mechanic and everything in this article is absolutely bang on. I could write a book about the horror stories I have seen in my workshop in the shape of cheap, horrible bikes with unknown names like 'Terminator' or 'Volcano' - all skip fodder.
Chris Riding - 09 October 2012
I bought a "Trax" maountain bike from Halfords for ¬£79 last year for a 400k tour. Being completely ignorant of bike build quality and the concept of a BSO I felt incredibly annoyed at the "bike technician" who completed my transaction when he commented "yeah, this bike won't make the trip, its rubbish" when I told him about my planned tour. Having returned from said tour I concluded that he was right. The tour was awesome, the bike, wasn't. Snapped chain, painful gear changes and what felt like a foot long razor on my posterior. I have since purchased a Dawes Vantage for ¬£600, and the difference in ride quality is indescribable. I returned today from a 45k jaunt around Canterbury and Whitstable today and I am literally wetting myself at the thought of planned 500k tour in France next year. Great article.
Libercontrarian - 08 October 2012
I'm a Yank, and was nodding my head in agreement with what you've written. An item of note: Mongoose has taken up with Wal-Mart to produce a half-decent full-suspension mountain bike called the XR-Pro - it's a 29er. It is getting some rave reviews, although the folks who like it buy it at $379 US for the frame; they upgrade the suspension components and wheels shortly after buying. It's a whole lot cheaper than buying a $1,300 FS bike, which is what I just did (and my credit card is still smokin' hot, too). If you want to check out the debate on the topic, go to a website called "bigboxbikes dot com" and there's a lengthy thread.
chris railton - 10 September 2012
hi re dunlop mtbs i work part in cycle shop people bring this rubbish in all the time but dont blieve they crap c railton lincoln uk
Phillip Austin - 26 August 2012
A couple of years ago I bought cheap brand name bike from a cycle shop for occasional commuting. It's not done very many miles and things have kept coming loose. This morning, almost at walking pace, I braked sharply and bumped down a 1 inch kerb. The front wheel collapsed. At speed it would have been catastrophic. Don't buy cheap stuff! You may not live to regret it.
Brian - 26 July 2012
I'm not sure if I agree with this article. I've just knackered a cheap bike. However, I estimate I got at least 2,000 miles out of it. Not bad for ¬£64. Part of the problem for me is that bike shop owners tend to be real snobs, and out you off buying a mid-range bike. I think you underestimate the price of fixing a bike, expecially when labour is taken into consideration. Plus, not everyone can afford to spend ¬£400 on a new bike.Your environmental arguments however, are less easily dismissed, though there is nothing to stop you taking an old bike to a recycling centre, and buying a new bike every year, still creates afar smaller carbon footprint than driving. Keep cycling.
Phil - 13 July 2012
Totally agree. I had many Raleighs growing up. Totally fixable bikes. The BSO I bought for my teenage son (they lose things) from Costco is a real piece of junk. I think I only paid CAN$175. The tubes installed were oversized and when I looked for the source of the two slow leaks, I found the excess tube folded over on itself inside the tire! Also everything was quite out of wack and needed lots of tuning. Just recently after 3~4 years the rear axle snapped!!! Never seen that before. Personally, I ride used bikes. One is a Giant Yukon that a neighbour was throwing out. I have been riding that for 10+ years. What a work horse. Lately, I bought a Specialized Rockhopper for $CAN150 at a garage sale. Nice ride. If you can't afford new, buy used but keep looking to find a "real" bike
Hugh - 04 July 2012
I am a regular cyclist having spent too much money and maintenance on fantastic machines that I love to ride and tinker with. Every now and then I get to try a BSO, borrowed from a friend etc. I thought that the trickle down effect would be able to make a bike stop and go reasonably well at any price, time and again I am reminded that a BSO is not pleasant to ride. I recently bought an unused BSO for $20Aus off eBay, tried my best to assemble it correctly and grease and adjust all the parts. It was still terrible so I onsold it - I think the new owner thought he got a bargain to try out cycling but now I suspect it'll be gathering dust anyway.
David Harriman - 22 June 2012
I bought a tatty Dawes Streetwise off E-bay for 50p in 2006 (I made the first and only bid!) and have used it as my hack-bike almost daily since then, and it still rides perfectly! So you can still sometimes get quality at a bargain price, if you're lucky, but I would never expect to get such use from a cheap and nasty catalogue bike.
aj - 31 May 2012
liked your article. know u dont sell bikes, however some examples of good and reasonable bikes and companies would be welcome, for hybrids, mtbs and road bikes. seems like even well known brands have cheaper versions. also some comments on usual well known suspects would be welcome- raleigh, claud butler, falcon, carerra etc.
Darren Hayes - 30 April 2012
Well said indeed. People do not have to spend silly money to get a bike and as long as you spend at least "sensible" money it will last for years and years. My commuter today is a '96 Saracen Kili Comp. I'm the bikes 3rd owner and it is still on all original parts apart from pads, chain and sprockets/rings.
Joe Sheridan - 26 April 2012
In 1999, living in a remote part of Wales, we ordered an MTB-style bike for my wife from a well-known UK high street catalogue store. It was handy to have it delivered, as it would have been a long ride from the nearest bike shop otherwise. It cost about ¬£80, if I remember correctly. It came in a box, and the instructions said all it needed were the pedals fitting, the handlebars loosening and turning through ninety degrees, and a quick check of nuts and bolts. Had I known then what I know now, I would have stripped it down completely and rebuilt it. The factory had fitted a new chain without shortening it, and it used to slip. Even so, it was reasonable to ride, although the Shimano SIS indexed rear derailleur could never be adjusted properly. A couple of years ago, I did carry out a complete overhaul on it. The ball bearings in the wheel hubs had collapsed into a shiny powder. I fitted new, quality ball bearings (the cones and races were fine), a brand new chain which I adjusted for size, and a stem-mounted friction lever instead of the SIS indexed twistgrip. It's now a lovely bike to ride, and the paint is still like new. I should say that this particular machine was built in England, but just let down by cheap bearings and hasty setting-up. I wouldn't like to risk a sub-¬£100 bike from that same store nowadays.
embee - 20 April 2012
I think this article is quite true. i am more and more becoming a mountain bike enthusiast. I enjoy riding and wish i could do it more often. I work for a retailer that offer affordable mountain bikes to the public. it is my job to build these bikes and perform a 28 point safety check on them. I am sometimes left confused to how difficult it can be setting up these bikes due to there components being of the budget variety. i do not own one of these bikes. I am the proud owner of a scott hard-tail and just from the maintenance side of things it is so much easier to maintain and set up than a budget bike. Setting up gears and brakes on my scott tends to be something to look forward too after tinkering with non-responsive deralieurs and tension adjusters all day. These budget bikes have heavy frames, cheap materials and components but if your on a budget your on a budget. I always have and always will make sure these bikes are safe and legal before they leave the shop, with the customers satisfaction at the forefront of my mind, but these are really only good for leisurely rides and commutes (even though they have full suspension) they are much better suited to flat asphalt. if your are wanting to get 'off road' please spend a bit more money, get a reliable, durable, well known manufacturer.
TJ - 02 April 2012
Great article on the BSO. But srsly, you can still buy a good bike at about $100-$200, like a secondhand. I got a Decathlon Rockrider 5.2 for just under $300, works grest after a few months' riding.
Brad - 28 March 2012
i love this article, i used to have like 30 cheap bikes (about 5 now, i ended up giving alot away and cutting the rest up) but i now have 2 quality bikes and its awesome!!!
Shaun - 24 March 2012
I recently used to ride to work daily. It was a just under under 5 mile round trip, cycle path all the way. The route is flat (except for one moderate bridge) and well paved. In the 4 years I cycled the journey to work I got through 3 BSOs. They literally fell to pieces and they all had faults from new. I'm now investing in a quality used hybrid! Maybe it's a touch of rose tinted glasses, but when I was growing up in the 70s & 80s, we all rode British built bikes that seemed indestructible.
Charles Eck - 24 March 2012
Started riding to work a few weeks ago, using my old '73 Hercules I got as a kid. Around '79 I updated the brakes and wheels (700C aluminum rims and a 5 speed hub, center pull brakes.) and rode it another ten years. Pulled it out, adjusted the brakes and gears, new tires and tubes, and she's back on the job! Got a decent aluminum MTB frame and building it up as a commuting bike, leaving the old 'Herc' as backup. Looked at the 'bikes' at Wal-Mart: I'd rather walk!
Alice Cooper - 18 March 2012
I'm going to buy a BSO just because I have no clue whether I'll ride it or not. (Haven't been on a bike since I was eight.) I agree, ¬£300 for a mode of transport/a sport tool isn't a lot, but it's a lot for a lawn ornament if I don't use it. Am very grateful to this article for giving me a clue what to look to spend my money on if I discover a new hobby.
Ben Davies - 08 March 2012
Very interesting and amusing read - I have been riding mountain bikes for 17 years and these BSO's are a complete pile of crap in my opinion, I'm not saying that you should go out and spend ¬£5000 on a top of the range machine but just double that ¬£129.99 (BSO price) and shop about a bit online with ¬£260, maybe bump it up to ¬£300 and you will pick up a ¬£400 bike in last years colours....now that is a bargain, no one wants a rusty, heavy, over built full susser when the average person buys a bike just for commuting/getting fit - get a little hybrid/hardtail, it will make all the difference and you will want to ride it again and again rather than resenting that 'rusting waste of money' sat at the back of your shed. :-)
alan wilkinson - 29 February 2012
Not always true. I do buy my kid's bikes at Toys r us. (Kids are 7, 13 and 15) Provided I really inspect the construction and materials used and accept that I will have to totally strip the bike down and rebuild it, greasing all components as I go before it can be used, then it is all OK. However, I would never buy a toys r us bike for me to get to work every day!
Mohit - 18 February 2012
This is one of the best articles written on bikes for a newbie. I live in India and planning for a new bike. Will surely keep this in mind while purchasing. Thank you
Ahmad Kamal - 17 February 2012
Well written and very true. I see a lot of these BSOs, from where I come from, and most of them are sad and forlorn looking things, abandoned or just waiting for the landfill. I bought a 16 year old bicycle, a named brand, but it was in running condition and I paid a fraction of its original cost. Even at that vintage, it is way better than any of the BSOs, and it is reliable. I only decided to change the crankset aftre clocking close to 500km on it. After making that change, the bike's performance actually went up a notch. I actually have people expressing interest on the bicycle. I do my own servicing, only resorting to the LBS if I do not have the proper tools to carry out the repairs or servicing. The cost comparison, and the illustration of a hub brings home the point that spending a little bit more on a bicycle will save you a lot of heartaches, and the complication of what makes a bicycle.
Dave - 14 February 2012
I bought an appolo slant 17 from Halfords. I am already looking at buying a good bike from my local bike shop. My BSO works ok but it is hard going on inclines, the brakes are loose even though they had 6 wk service 9 days ago. The problem is I don't know enough to know what is a good bike for trails and road travel. I love being out on a bike though and am getting rid of my car.
Mick Wilson - 27 January 2012
My wife needs to read this article - she thinks a hundred quid BSO is enough to lay out on a weekend bike so the ¬£ 600 budget ive set myself for a decent hardtail has got her reaching for the rolling pin. BSO's - another sad indicator of how much our society sunk towards everything being 'disposable' great article , thanks.
Chris - Derby - 16 January 2012
This is a very good, well-written article. I can't agree more. Only one thing - if you're buying a decent bike, buy a decent lock to secure it with (Top category D lock, and/or motorbike chain).
Daniel - 12 December 2011
I totally agree. I have hade my Trek 4300 for 8 years and it is still doing great. I bought the bike for $310 I have kept it well maintained and have spent about $80-$100 total on keeping up with maintenance. I will never by a cheap bike.
Sami - 02 December 2011
Thanks from, Adelaide, Australia. I bought a BSO recently.. For only AU$170... Thinking 'how smart I am'.. Bikes at local bike shop start from AU$300+.... and I saved heaps!! I was so bloody wrong. Utterly disappointed with bike I bought... it is a collection of heavy junk metal on wheels. Does not brake at all (trust me). Real wheel bent shortly after purchase, some balls (bearing) in crank case break off in day 2‚Ä¶ thus getting ‚Äė kat kat kat‚Äô noise‚Ä¶.. Within weeks its all rusty and gear would not change properly... I‚Äôd be lucky to get AU$40 for it now..... ÔĀĆ Never buying a bike from a generic super mall again, N E V E R‚Ä¶‚Ä¶ And buying BSO does not only mean monetary loss but also loss of a ride and health for the time period.
tom - 02 November 2011
that's a nice, well written article. i'd add to it though: you can get a decent second hand bike for ¬£100, so why get bso? also... aluminium. damned aluminium. if you want a bike to last make sure it's steel. oh.. and derailleurs. bring back internal gear hubs for cyclists who want reliability.
Caroline - 04 August 2011
This article is so true. My last bike was awful, so I saved and bought a lovely road bike for ¬£400. Two years on and all I've replaced is one inner tube. It still looks as good as the day I bought it even though I ride it daily in all weathers. Don't buy cheap it's not worth it, you should get pleasure from your bike not worry about what will break next. If you can't afford new then do your homework to find a good one second hand. Happy cycling!
andy - 17 July 2011
I have recently completed my 2000th mile, a little over a year after having bought a ¬£70 British Eagle from Asda. Nothing has broke, I've not had any nasty mishaps and with a little routine maintenance everything has remained absolutely serviceable. I continue to ride this 'BSO' daily and have no complaint. To me and many others like me these bikes are truly bargains. It may not be as smooth or comfortable as 'proper' bikes, but as I've not ridden them to compare I wouldnt know. I have lost with this bike though. Three stone in weight. Best ¬£70 pounds I ever spent.
Ramesh velayudam - 04 July 2011
i could remember the gone good old days when i had bought ¬£40 tesco cheap throw awaya BSO way back in 2007, i can garantuee you it all happened what is narrated above ended up spending more than the actual bought price in fixing one or the other parts every week
David Tam - 03 July 2011
My BSO purchased from Costco (Infinity Huron, $180 CAD + tax) just had its front derailleur snapped with the odometer at 2,500 km (1,600 miles), resulting the front shifter becoming stuck in the granny gear unable to shift (3 speed front). As a result the rear gear should only be shifted to gear 5 at most to avoid cross chaining (7 speed rear) limiting top speed to 20.5 km/h (12.7 mph).
wv cycling - 25 June 2011
This is a list of all the BSO companies in North America. If you ever find a decrepit product of theirs... do not hesitate to contact them and let them know it is ass. http://i53.tinypic.com/25qyp2t.jpg http://wvcycling.net
David - 22 June 2011
'Buy cheap, buy twice' Rode a BSO for the first time on holiday and I bought into it with a positive attitude as it was the only bike on offer. It turned out to be the sum of all my biking fears. The saving grace was the beautiful scenery we rode through. My advice is to spend ¬£20 on MB magazines and look through the buying guides. They go from entry level to expert users. These guys do this for a living 24/7 and it will give you an insight into what your buying into.
Tim Hudson - 20 June 2011
The latest BSO to darken our doors is a Dunlop full suspension, the axle breaks in the rear wheel within weeks, we had one chap asking for a replacement, we told him to take it back to shop he got it from, they gave him another wheel, that axle snapped! He got another wheel, this one had a defective hub! We were had a donation of around 50 of these from a major retailer, a few weeks after we received them, they phoned to ask if they'd been useful, our answer was yes thanks, the reflectors were re-used and you currently get a good price for 'pig-iron'.
Abo - 15 June 2011
I knew nothing about cycling and just wanted somethign so I could go for rides out with my son. So I bought an Apollo Slant from Halfords. The bottom bracket was wonky and it sheared several teeth from the rear cassette. It was returned to the shop and they just replaced it with another bike. Within 10 miles I had bent one of the sprockets just through normal riding so I again returned it and complained. They replaced it with an Apollo Phaze. The thing rode ok so I thought but never kept it's adjustments very long, in fact I was having to adjust it daily. The rear cones came loose after 100 miles so I complained to the head office. They swapped it for a Carrera Vulcan and it is worlds apart. If I'd known at the start I'd have bought second hand. I don't see the problem with this; after all, people buy used cars every day and are happy with this. Why shouldn't it be the same with bikes?
Wayne - 01 June 2011
People like you and some of you commenters get on my nerves so bad! I'm ashamed to think some people are so high up on the pole they think they can't ride a cheaper bike! Myself, I don't buy box bikes from department stores. But I know a few that rides them and they are doing just fine, some a year old and being rode every day. What the hell happen to 'At least they are riding bicycles' ? And having fun might I add! People, don't kick someone for riding a cheaper bike than you because they're biking and having fun. And who knows, maybe a 80 dollar department store bike is the best they can do. Jeezzzz people, share cycling and stop being so above other people just because they buy a better bike.
Ian Edwards - 18 May 2011
From looking around sites like Amazon at their bikes and the amount of positive reviews BSO's get, I suspect that the vast majority of the public don't know any better. Found one BSO full suspension for ¬£300 (RRP ¬£400 apparently?) and also found the same bike for sale at Asda. It makes no sense to me when you can get an entry level hardtail from most of the big brands for the same money?? But then again, if you don't know any different, you're stuck with BSO's. I commend your article and agree. Just a shame people don't read this before adding to their basket, whether it be on Amazon or at the supermarket. Sometimes it takes a ride on a nice bike for someone born and bred on BSO's to understand why proper bikes are more expensive. A friend of mine has a Carrera Banshee, for which he paid ¬£400. I'm really surprised how good it is for such a low price. His girlfriend has a ¬£150 BSO from Toys R Us and recently borrowed his bike and described it as a dream to ride compared to her bike and is now looking for a better bike herself. Nevermind Asda and its rollback on prices, I think Sainsburys 'Taste the difference' is the most fitting slogan.
Alex - 15 May 2011
I just bought my first road bike, from Tesco direct no less... It's not a bad bike - almost all Campagnolo parts - but the sheer number of BSOs on that website were astonishing. Having ridden hack bikes and BSOs for years I can definitely feel the difference now: praise be to the clubcard :P
Oliver Thomas - 13 May 2011
I work in a bike shop and we only sell quality bicycles for cyclists. We only stock well known brands of bikes and all of our staff are cycling enthusiasts. We're genuinely here to help and don't put pressure on people to buy and discourage buying beyond their means. We try to build a rapport with a customer and like to educate and encourage people into making informed choices based upon their needs and in some cuscumstances we have reccomended that people look elsewhere, for example on eBay and classifieds etc for good quality and servicable bikes. Very often we have people comming in who just want a bike for next to nothing. We do our best to accomodate but our cheapest bike retails at just over ¬£200 which usually causes some people to walk out in disgust. One particular gentleman was pushing me to match the price on a ¬£59.99 bike he had seen in the supermarket. No amount of effort would convince him that our cheapest bike was not like-for-like. No pleasing some people, but there is definitely a market for cheap bikes there.
Christian Thornton - 10 May 2011
I bought a cheap ¬£100 catalogue bike a few years back and it arrived in a flat pack. Both wheels were buckled out of the box so I sent it back and got another one which was exactly the same!! On returning for the 2nd time, I was pretty much fobbed off and managed to walk away with my money back fortunately. I then saw an article on watchdog about cheap bikes: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/watchdog/2009/11/flat_pack_bikes.html, found this article and then decided that i'd be better off saving some money up and buying a proper bike from my local bike retailer. I've always had cheap bikes and assumed cycling wasn't for me but now I can't get enough of it when the sun is shining. Just starting cycling to work too and saving a fortune in fuel money :). You definitely get what you pay for with bikes, of course some are silly money but my arguement is that if you compare anything else, people are willing to spend the cash. A ¬£10 mobile phone from a supermarket is awful to use and made of cheap plastic and nothing like an Iphone, but spend a bit more and you can get something nearly as good. The same logic applies to bikes.
Greg from Loughborough - 04 May 2011
Cracking article and totally true. I though I was alone with my loathing of BSOs'. Wanna see a BSO? go to your local scrap metal skip at your local tip - you'll see lots!
Nathan Alexander - 18 April 2011
One thing nobody has mentioned yet; the online bike stores who are selling 2009/2010 bikes at huge savings. I have recently bought myself a rather tasty Cannondale at about 2/3rd the RRP from 2010 and about ¬£500 cheaper than a similar spec 2011 bike from my local bike shop. It came delivered ready to roll and set up by a qualified mechanic. There are bargains to be had on a decent bike if you're willing to shop around on the internet. I do feel like i've betrayed my LBS a bit, but ¬£500 is a big saving and they will still get the business servicing it.
alicej - 09 April 2011
This is great, but one thing you forgot to mention. SECOND HAND good quality bikes are much less expensive and just as good. Not everyone actually earns the average wage - it would take me a lot longer than 5.4 days to earn ¬£400! But I bought a secondhand frame and built it up with secondhand parts for less than that, and my first bike I got for ¬£90 on Ebay - it was worth more new but I didn't need a new one because it was a decent bike and so hadn't fallen apart when used previously. It's hard for beginners to know which bikes are BSOs and which are real bikes, how about keeping a list of inexpensive but "real" bikes to help people choose? I found Probike to have decent quality components etc and I don't think they're expensive even new. Ridgeback I think are recomended as cheaper but decent bikes. Got any more budget options that aren't rubbish?
Tim Blackwell - 06 April 2011
Some (hopefully) constructive criticism of your otherwise excellent article: - Risk of theft - already mentioned in other comments. - A 100 pound bike that lasts two years fits your price per year rate perfectly well. - All bikes are disposable, it's just a case of time, and where you draw the line on a reasonable working life (for practical or environmental reasons). - You mention that a 400 pound bike will last 10 years. Will it really? With no further expenditure of either money or time? I guess it might if you never ride it, but then so will a 100 pound bike. Certainly many people I know will happily lavish time and money on keeping a bike in good order - it's a labour of love and cyclists are often understandably passionate about their mode of transport, but I think to be honest about this you need to factor in 10 years of brake blocks, inner tubes, tyres, cables, etc plus the odd larger job - a new wheel or bottom bracket - plus either the time and tools, or the labour costs to sort all that out. - There's that slightly superior and condescending tone that one often seems to get from bike officianados (BSO indeed...), which makes cycling a little less accessible to those not in the club. Halfords staff may lack knowledge at times but they'll never be patronise you like a small independent bike shop. Or perhaps that's unfair because it's good of you to share your experience and good advice with the world for free in the first place. - I think it's worth adding that suspension, as well being very poor quality on a cheap bike, will also make road cycling harder work by sapping the force out of every stroke of the pedal. Despite my criticisms I agree with the article, mainly because I'm saddened by seeing anyone try something new and be put off forever by a poor choice of initial purchase. Like a disheartened guitarist with a cheap guitar gathering dust because it won't stay in tune for two minutes.
Conor - 21 March 2011
I have wanted to mtb for quite a while, and I know someone who will sell me a good quality Kona Coiler for 500euros, unfortunately my dad thinks that cheaper is better and keeps bringing me around Halfords, looking at all the sh!tty bikes for under 200euros, how would be a good way to explain to my dad that i need a good quality bike not a sh!t one, and get him to part-buy me this bike. Also on a side note, my brother is like-minded with my dad, so bought a bso, from halfords for 100euro, apparently "full suspension", i borrowed it a few times and it is a piece of sh!t, the brakes are horrible, to change gears i had to get off the bike and physically move the chain after twisting the gear shifter, the chain came off a few times as well, and despite being "full suspension" i couldn't notice it at all.
andy - 07 March 2011
your article is spot on, well done, i am an independent cycle dealer. i always say if these El-Cheapo's for ¬£50-¬£100 were any good i would sell shed loads. The big supermarket multiples and sports store multiples selling these type of junk donot have their customers at heart, or their safety as a priority. Profit, Profit, Profit, i have been offered hardtail BSO's for as little as ¬£ 12 +VAT & Full Suspension for ¬£ 15 +VAT these prices included believe it or not DELIVERY. I politley turned them down. I have a rule if it won't go together well in the workshop, it won't work well on the road. This whole El-Cheapo BSO situation needs kicking into touch by Parlaiment. Safety first not profit, some of these BSO's are ridden by kids as well as adults. Price is not always the issue, it is quality, you cannot get quality without paying some money out. The stores always blame the consumer, they call it demand. The consumer looks at the store to provide quality and safety. The REAL demand is good quality + safety, to give the consumer a reliable product with no compromise. But at ¬£ 50-¬£100 you won't get either. Independent retailers who sell quality bikes are not ripping consumers off, they are putting their reputation and investment on the line to sell good products which with maintenance will last for years to come. Bikes are a science of their own, not rocket science, but it needs specialists in their field to make them work efficiently & safely. It is the individuals choice, but it annoys me when someone buys a BSO & expects me to put it right sorry "just tweak it a bit" (customers words) for a a couple of quid, as they've only paid very little for it. Sorry i don't lower my pride to work for nowt and be expected to give them a Tour De France dream machine back for a couple of quid. Think about it, some bike shops run a "Savings Club" you can purchase a cycle for summer by saving with the shop through the winter or use the Savings Club for Xmas, Easter or Birthdays, you will be supporting your cycle local shop, who in return supports you and will help you enjoy your purchase. The "Savings Club" is an old classic way of paying for a cycle, it has been used for over 60 years. Ask at your local cycle dealer if they run a Savings Club, if so why not join it and save towards a better cycling experience.
andy - 07 March 2011
I agree with you get what you pay for, but the trouble with living in an inner-city in a 3rd floor flat with no garage, shed, indoor space or even garden is that I have to lock my bike to a lampost on the street. Here it is rusting in the sea air, made worse in winter by the salt on the roads, is a tempatation to vandals and thieves (like most bike-owners in Brighton, I have had bikes stolen). So, unfortunately, for me there is little reason to invest in a bike as I know I cannot give it the security and care it deserves. This article may be about economics, but it cannot apply to the hundreds in my position. This is why we buy crap bikes. we know they won't last, but actually we count ourselves lucky if they don't get kicked in or nicked.
Terry Nobbe - 01 March 2011
U.S. citizen, cyclist most of my life. Bike mechanic for five years now. I tell any cyclist that will listen that a used quality bike that's priced the same as a dept. store bike is a 500% better value, particularly if it's fitted properly and ridden often (at least weekly). I'm 64 and I weigh 12% more than I did in 1964!
Adam Ryah - 21 December 2010
Nice article! I have been riding for about 2 decades now, and have ridden everything from ¬£100 Halfords bike's , to my current ¬£4000~ Kona. While I was in the trade, I used to find myself telling this same old story to alarming numbers of customers, including many that had brought in their BSO's for servicing or repair. Whilst the bike I ride now is beyond the needs or means for most people, I have a need for it, in that I ride DH and freeride, and need a bike that won't fall apart doing it. But even at this end of the market, one needs to be sensible, as you can buy suspension forks for over ¬£2000, and frames for ¬£3000 etc. Madness.... The problem is, that a lot of people I have met buy a bike to use once a month, if that. They don't see the point in spending more than they have to on something they don't use. Oh well, I'll have to remain happy by watching the reactions of the uninitiated, when they climb aboard my 20Kg ''Sofa-bike'' Lol.
Gezza - 01 December 2010
Your article was spot on ref cheap bikes.Bought a cheap mountain bike for under a ¬£100 from an online sports company,and it was exactly as you stated in your descriptions.Turned out to be a pile of rubbish and the company i bought it from isn`t interested in refunding me.
Dave - 17 November 2010
I ride a 10-year-old Halfords Apollo BSO, the cheapest bike they were selling at the time - under ¬£100. It is absolutely fine. I've had it since new and I've only had to replace the tyres. So cheap bikes do have their place. Especially if you're concerned about theft.
Ben - 05 November 2010
Brilliant article. I currently have a Raleigh Redrock which must be at least 10 yrs old. Have done some refurb / servicing my self and still going fine. Am now looking to upgrade to a hard tail with either v-brakes or discs (the raleigh has cantilevers!). Was considering BSO's but am now trying to source a 2nd hand Carrera Vulcan or similar as they look like the best for my budget (¬£200 max). (Unless anyone has any other suggestions?)
Kevin Latham - 27 September 2010
I was bought up on BSO's. My first 'mountain bike' recieved as a christmas present around 1992 was a rigid, hi-tensile steel framed Townsend with 12-speed Shimano SIS, Cantilever brakes and steel rims (which didn't brake in the wet!!!). My parents weren't particularly wealthy and bought what they thought was a good buy. The bike was far too big for me so I could grow into it apparently. Needless to say, the bike was awful to ride and got worse as the wheels got buckled and various parts of the running gear siezed up. I didn't know better at the time (age 11) but a couple of years later I bought a proper bike from a friends older brother for ¬£250 used and the difference in ride quality was startling.
Tristan Welsh - 27 September 2010
The problem is that most people see ¬£100-¬£150 as the going rate for a bike and anything over that is seen as excessive or needlessly expensive. Anything under ¬£100 is a bargain to average joe on the street. Most folk consider a bike as poor mans transport and can't see why anyone would pay as much as a cheap used car for a bike. I'd say that most people think good quality bikes are all about designer labels and are largely style over substance in the same way that designer clothes are often made in the same factories as the cheap stuff but are labeled with designer logos. There seems to be a general assumption that if something looks similar then it is the same.
George - 26 September 2010
I work for Halfords and yes admittedly they do sell some cheap stuff which does often come back but you cannot fault the Carrera or boardman bikes for the kind of components that you get for the money, once set up correctly they can more than compete with an equivilant raleigh or claud butler. Yes there are other bike manufacturers but for the money and the specification you can't fault it, but it is that halfords get the reputation for cheap bikes they have becuase of the people who know nothing about bikes at all apart from how to ride one, and you can get for at the moment for ¬£203.99 a Carrera Vulcan V-spec which I personally own and I abuse on trails at Thetford forest in Norfolk and not a single thing has gone wrong with it in the year I have owned it, but for ¬£199.99 an apollo pahze which again is a hardtail but that ¬£4 difference they are a world apart.
Pete Jones - 26 September 2010
BSOs exist because of what the average people are prepared to pay for a bike. As someone who regards cycling one of my main past times and an integral part of my life, I'm usually looking for the best bike I can comfortably afford when buying a new one. Family and non-cycling friends can never understand why anyone would pay thousands for a bike when you can get a bike for ¬£99 from Asda etc usually dropping in comments like "How much? for a bike? does it have an engine for that price? you could buy a reasonable used car for that much money......" and so on.... Maybe the public at large are bone idle, fat, ignorant and narrow minded and see a bicycle as 'just a means of getting from A to B'...Fortunately one such friend is into photography and has recently spent ¬£600 on a Nikon SLR camera. I quizzed him because I can get a nice 12 megapixel Tevion compact camera from Aldi for about ¬£50. I think he got the point.
Dave Henderson - 23 September 2010
In 1990 I paid £400 for a Claud Butler mtb, including various accessories to make it more of a hybrid. 20 years later I'm still riding it and the only thing I've altered is the front forks. To put cheap suspension on the front was a waste of time, so I paid $100 for an overhauled set of Maz Bombers, and the necessary adapter bits. Now I've got an Ahead front end (curses on those who couldn't standardise things in the bike world if their life depended on it). To go with that, an inexpensive set of V-brakes transformed the stopping. It's still on the original chain and tyres, though they might get replaced soon, as the tyres are showing their age, rather than worn out. I think a total of £500 over twenty years is quite cheap - 25 quid a year - laughing, mate, just laughing.
Mike Jacobs - 22 September 2010
A good quality and well maintained used bike is a much better buy than the cheap tat you find in catalogues, TV shopping channels and supermarkets and the initial outlay is about the same. Someone mentioned Halfords bikes; I would agree that there are some awful bikes for sale there (purely a business decision to fulfill the demand I imagine) but they also stock some fantastic bikes too. The Carrera and Boardman ranges really are superb and offer great value for money.
dave lambert - 14 September 2010
A few years ago one of my colleagues bought 2 Sterlinghouse bikes. At around the same time I bought a seat post for my bike which cost more than both his bikes put together. He laughed at me but I'm still enjoying my bike every day. He and his missus gave up after one cycle of theirs cos they were so unpleasant to ride.
Joe - 13 September 2010
Based on bitter experience: never buy a BSO from Halfords. I fell for the 'half price' line a few years ago, buying my wife a run-around. The brakes didn't work, so I took it back to another, closer Halfords. The mechanic told me that that model had been quietly stored at the back of the rack with a doubled price tag for a couple of months, then launched to the front 'at half price'. As for the brakes, they had been assembled completely wrongly. That day (five years ago) was the last time I set foot in Halfords.
Finisterre - 13 September 2010
This was fascinating, and I have to say I am totally convinced. I used to buy crap second-hand bikes as they invariably got stolen, but since inheriting a good one I can really see what the fuss is about - it's so much easier and smoother to ride. I wouldn't buy a BSO now, having read this. Thank you!
PaulG - 17 August 2010
It always amazes me when you see a ¬£35,000 4x4 with 4 BSO's on the back. They would never buy a new 4x4 for ¬£3000, yet somehow fail to make the connection that a bike for 10% of the price of a decent one might perhaps be compromised...
John - 12 May 2010
Not all cheap bikes are rubbish! (Said with tongue in cheek) I work at a charity bike shop and we receive donations from the public of old bikes and make them safe and fit for use. We sell them and give the money to charity. Many of our bikes are actually good quality bikes that were hundreds of pounds when new. The BSOs (Mostly ex-supermarket bikes) are used for spares to repair the odd BSO that is worth the effort. We have a price cap of ¬£40 that is because of our aim to provide affordable transport, not to reflect the worth! I have been fixing bikes since 1963. My colleague for 15 yrs more. We are training the young ones and we provide cheap, safe, worthwhile transport for the less well-heeled in Coventry. So please pass on the concept that cheap is bad only applies to new bikes. Used bikes that have been properly prepared are ay least as good as, or better than, most BSOs. Footnote - most BSOs that meet your description above have ‚Äėbrand‚Äô labels - beware! (ie ‚Äėreebok‚Äô) But probably have nothing to do with the brand they advertise?
Neil - 21 April 2010
People who buy themselves a bike from toys r us?? If they were trying to start up in any other sport, say golf; would they be happy with Fisher Price clubs? A decent, light, functional, reliable, serviceable bike from a quality manufacturer can be had for as little as ¬£250+ and of course its possible to spend around ¬£5,000 if you get silly, a ¬£400-¬£1,000 bike will perform pretty much the same on the trail, give or take a bit more weight, less flash and less adjustability, but be just as much fun, cheaper to fix and less to worry about having to tweak. Great for beginners.
Liam O Cuinneagain - 09 April 2010
Couldn't agree more. I bought a relatively good bike from a reputable dealer in 1991 and it cost me very little in repairs in the meantime, despite using it almost every day. I still have it, although I bought a fairly similar new one two years ago, which is a pleasure to ride. "Cheap" machines are a scourge - and dangerous.
Bill - 04 April 2010
Interesting article, I've just purchased one of those BSOs with an aluminium frame and have every intention to do a few upgrades as and when I can afford them as I realise the standard components are'nt going to be upto much. I'm currently unemployed so my budget is very tight. In the past I have owned some very good mtbs including an Orange C6 until it was stolen.
Francis - 03 April 2010
Excellent resource/rant. Thanks for all the useful information and opinion.
Mike R - 01 April 2010
Nice article Paul, thanks. I agree with 'you get what you pay for': I bought a ¬£199 bike 4 years ago and have used it daily, it now needs replacing. My employer's signed up to the govt. 'cycle scheme' and I can now by a ¬£600 bike for ¬£360 (saving tax and NI) and pay for it over 1 year through my monthly salary- a great scheme! FYI - www.cyclescheme.co.uk, best wishes, Mike
Gary - 16 March 2010
This so called ¬£50 bike has a sticker on it, saying it conforms to BS 6102-1992. Suggesting it is built to a standard. There is however no build quality what so ever. The free wheel seized up then failed. The pedal crank fell off and will not tighten. The brake arms are so thin, The replacement brake blocks will not fit unless "packed out" with washers. As some were missing. The list goes on. It's now in storage, the tyres might come in hady as will some of the nuts and bolts. Expensive spares!
Gary. - 12 March 2010
Pay ¬£50 for a bike from a supermarket, and you might as well throw your money away. From prsonal experience, it got me to work twice and home once. So it covered less than 10 miles.
Ben Errington - 16 February 2010
Hi Paul. Awesome! I used to have to build BSOs (we called them that too..) and after a while my colleague and I refused to sign any paperwork claiming the bike was safe for sale, having to explain to customers why we had not signed the document. They truly are a complete waste of good metal and should be ground up to make spares for decent bikes!
James Hodson - 24 May 2006
Many congratulations on your "Dont! buy a cheap new bike" article. The big problem is, however, how does one put forward this message to the wider public who buy cycles solely by price? I dunno. James
Colin - 23 May 2006
I liked your article on cheap bikes - it put me off buying one from Sterling House.
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