Questions about purchasing bicycles and parts
23 posts • Page 1 of 1
This is my first post to these forums. I'm looking into taking up cycling as a regular fitness and recreational activity. I'm looking into purchasing myself a basic, general-purpose mountain bike in order to ride around town and a few local bush tracks. I had a $150 supermarket bike in the past however it caused me many difficulties.
I have a question regarding the costs of modern bicycles. It surprises me greatly what seem to me the excessive costs of bicycles, especially when considering that the basic concepts, technologies and manufacturing techniques have been around for centuries.
I understand that the cheapest bikes have steel frames, cheap caliper brakes, thin, chrome plated rims, cheap gearing and general-purpose designs that can cause them to suffer in both robustness and efficiency, making them unsuitable for anything more that occasional, recreational road cycling. After looking around online, I came across a generic mountain bike for $280 (including 3/4 assembly for postage) which appears to come close to the specifications cited by many leading brands. At the bottom of the post is a list of the specifications, but to paraphrase it incorporates an alloy frame, 21-speed Shimano gearing system, double-walled alloy rims, disk brakes and front and rear suspension. Here is a link: View item.
I am straining my mind trying to figure out how such a cost difference is possible, considering that equivalent branded bikes cost approximately $1500. I appreciate the fact that the bike comes in only a single size (fortunately it appears to suit my measurements), I also realise that brick-and mortar bicycle shops have additional overheads and perhaps there is some quality compromise but a difference of over 500% seems incredible. One issue that I have noticed is that a lot of cyclist and retailers place great emphasis on branding. The possibility of similarity to the sportswear industry occurs to me; add a recognised label to a $20 pair of sneakers and suddenly they become a $80 pair of sneakers.
Can anybody provide me with some insight here?
Thank you very much.
Welcome to BNA
A couple of things concern me greatly about the bike in the link.
Firstly, shimano gearing =/= quality. Shimano make as much rubbish for kmart bikes as they do decent groupsets (if not more). I would highly doubt a decent branded bike will be using the same parts. This goes for wheels, bars, stem, saddle etc as well. About the only thing that will be the same is the brand on the groupset.
Second, the thing weighs as much as a WW2 tank. Whilst it's not an automatic rule, you can often picj a cheap junker by the weight. A decent dually is about 4kg less than this.
Third, if it really is a 21 inch frame there is no way it suits riders 1.6-1.8m. Frame sizes can differ b/w brands but not that much. I'm just under 180cm and I ride a 19", and coupld probably ride a 17". A 21" would be way too big for me.
Lastly, the frame/fork is a big component of the cost. Sure, brand name frames will cost extra because of the name in some circumstances, but they are also of higher quality (materials, assembly & construction).
IMO that is a kmart bike, at a target price.
For what you have stated your intentions are, I would be avoiding dual suspension bikes. You don't need it for what you are doing, and to get something thats even halfway decent you need to spend at least $1500. Try and find a hardtail in the $500 - $1k bracket instead.
I'm not an expert on MTB's, im sure there will be plenty of others happy to point out things I may have missed.
Have you read the specs of the bike you're comparing it to? Decent bikes haven't had 7 speed freewheels in more than 20 years. The use of that single part tells me that the componentry for this bike was chosen from the bottom of the barrel.
Why don't you buy one and find out?
After seeing the photo above, I don't even have to look at the specs. It is a BSO (bicycle shaped object). I have a friend who has a similar bike. We call it the pogo stick and it never gets used now. You get what you pay for to at least some degree. You are paying for a better design, better quality of components which get more durable and better to use as the price increases ($500 - $1500). As the price increases even further you also get lighter weight, but we are talking thousands of dollars now.
If you find new is too expensive, better to buy secondhand than a BSO in my opinion.
Have a look at some 29er hardtail MTBs for something that should be enjoyable to ride off road.
Firstly , welcome to the forum and also well done on consulting with others and research before you buy(if you intend to buy)
I think aspects about quality of specs and materials has pretty well been covered in previous reply posts..
Beyond that to is that these Kmart like bikes often come with warnings..not suitable for off road /jumping ...etc. which tells me that all these attributes that are being used to sell the bike are actually only something to talk about not infact use..
and if you were to test this as in this bike with dual suspension and wheels and say for example the amount of travel this bike claims to have and compare it to a $1500 reputable bike (while not cheap is by no means top shelf) that claims to have the same travel (suspension capacity) and subject the bike to the same treatment that the $1500 bike is designed to tolerate you will notice that firstly the $280 bikes wheels will prob crap themselves almost immediatly and suspension will soon follow and before long you have a bike that you have spent $280 on and you take it back to the place you brought it from and they wont want to know you and the local bike shop will talk you through your repair bill and you will soon realise it is much more affordable to buy a new $700 bike or a reasonable quality 2nd hand bike.
Personally these almost single use xmas present bikes I think are land fill in transit, and even worse than that it sets people up to have a poor experience on a bike and esp when something goes wrong the cost of fixing it is where the lesson is and then unfortunatly people will walk away from cycling as a mode of transport/sport..whatever..
for $ 280 you can get some very capable rigid front an rear 2nd hand mtb that will out perform that bike and last you for a long time..
One trick of supermarket bikes is to put a single high or top end bit on the bike to catch the newbies... and the rest is the bottom of the barrel (so low that bike shops don't stock them). For example, Shimano XT (gear lever) while the rest is junk. In the ad and description, they simply need to highlight the Shimano XT bit and if you are not in the know, you may have heard the term and know that it is good, but unfortunately it is a con.
The other trick is the packaging of the bike, the look shiny and good - they may have full suspension however it is typically substandard on supermarket bikes and not intended for actual offroad use (read the warning signs) and are usually worse than the cheapest bike at your local bike shop.
Very general however In the cycling world, like other things you have to pay for quality.
So, your options are:
a) Know your budget and visit a Local Bicycle Shop. keep in mind you may be buying an entry level bicycle with entry level components if your budget is low, however you will typically be much better off than with a supermarket bike. Eg. correct sizes bike, a reliable frame, shop staff who know their stuff and can help if there are issues.
b) Buy second hand - you can get a better specced bike that has already seen a bit of action. It is not without risk though with a reputable brand and model bike you are probably still better off than a supermarket piece of junk.
My bike probably wouldn't get more than $280 secondhand. But test riding it and the $280 BSO back-to-back, you would clearly see which one is the BSO.
Thanks very much for the responses so far. I hadn't yet encountered the term BSO, it gave me a chuckle. I can appreciate the specifications deception as I work in IT and given three similarly specced computers for three broadly different prices can tell you exactly which is good value and which shouldn't be touched with a ten foot barge pole.
My interest in this particular bike came from a combination of the cost and the fact that it was equipped with both dual suspension and disc brakes. From what I have learned so far, rear suspension is of limited value, given my intended uses, and disc brakes, while nice, only become necessary with wet weather use. As my uses are primarily fitness/recreational, I'll just stick to the typical hardtail and stay safe by purchasing an established brand. I have a few related questions in the following thread: http://www.bicycles.net.au/forums/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=48308
Cheap rear suspension is not "of limited value", it is a negative value! Rear suspension adds weight and extra maintenance, and the cheap stuff just acts like a pogo stick absorbing good energy that you are putting into pedaling.
Be careful, the link shows the bike as having 'DUEL suspension'. This is not good as it infers the front and rear suspension fight each other to the death!
A couple of sayings from my long dead grandfather:
1.Long after the price is forgotten, the quality is remembered.And,
2.Buy cheap, buy twice.
Having said that, there is a sweet spot where once you go past, you reach the law of diminishing returns.For roadies its about 2-3K$.You wont get a good bike (new) for less than $1000-$1500.Flamesuit on.Check.
Never mind pushies, what about cars? 10K$ to whatever!
The disc brakes on the cheapies are not hydraulic, rather 'cable pull', so with wires. Now some may say that cable-pull are ok, but they are entry level and you still have to spend decent money for a reasonable entry level disc brake.
V brakes are fine and you obviously adjust your speed to suit the weather so when commuting or for general riding will have good brakes. No doubt that disc brakes can offer good braking power though thats a different level.
Good bike for less that $1000, sure jpgibson, you can get a good one. It wont be a fancy or performance orientated bike, but at the LBS there will be entry level bikes for less that this that are good for their price. That being said, I agree with the general sentiment that the cost is usually related to the qualities.. and life expectancy.
Although this is good general advice for the the original poster, it still is an over simplification that may confuse some. There are high end cable discs like Avid BB7s. They are an effective option for high end touring bikes, cyclocross bikes, or anyone who wants the dependability and ease of maintenance of a simple cable brake.
My bike pictured above has a BB7 caliper with a Shimano 160mm disc and Shimano full hand brake levers. There is a certain steep grass track where I go quite fast (maybe 60 Km/h, don't have a computer on it). When braking at the end, I have to watch that I don't lock the front wheel. I have a 185mm BB7 on the CX bike, but decided 185 would be too much for the stronger hand levers of the MTB.
Ha! Our local Rivers clearance store has a few of these BSO's in their window with their branding on them for about the price suggested (perhaps even less). A quick squiz showed pogo stick suppleness in both the vertical and (worse) lateral directions, hilarious weld quality and Matchbox car grade alloy components...I laughed until I realised that it complied with the Australian Standard
Ours is not to reason why...merely to point and giggle
Just my 2c, but not long after my wife and I got married we bought a couple of BSO's from KMArt. Rode them a couple of times, and I even used it to get to the station for about 3 months. Then we both let them rust and didn't bother riding for 10 years.
Just recently (july last year), I paid about the same for a 3yo Trek hybrid on ebay. Maybe I was in a different place in my life but I just loved being on the bike. Comfortable, smooth, faster. Obviously better quality, and not just from longevity, etc, but it felt a whole lot better riding it. After it got wrecked I bought an even better bike and have done 2000km since.
My advice is quality over features, get second hand if needed. If you love riding it, you will ride it a whole lot more. (and then you'll spend a bomb upgrading it )
I will say that a super cheap bike isn't all bad news, they are a cheaper entry into the hobby/lifestyle/all consuming obsession and not everyone is not going to be suited to the lifestyle. If you live around big hills, then it can be quite annoying to try and ride. If you have bad roads, it can be hard to ride. If you aren't a decent distance from your favoured coffee shop (or don't drink coffee) then it might be a bit much as well.
My wife rode to work, I got a 300 dollar Fluid which absorbed my ultra noob fails (rode into an iPod zombie, propped in front of a car at a cross street and nerfed the RD). Both avoidable, but I'd rather have those prangs on the crap bike than my Kona. I would still ride the Fluid if the RD hanger wasn't so bent, it's currently a 6 gear bike, not a 21 gear bike. It also taught me very cheaply about cassette spreads and cranksets, because I could put some time into that bike, compare it to my wife's decent Trek, and make a much more informed decision about the experience I would get from my Kona which cost about 1600 bucks. It was quite a good decision as well because my wife's bike has big wheels, and my bike with 700x25s is smoother and easier on the bum.
You get what you pay for, but if you can afford to spend 280 bucks on learning and testing, then it can be worthwhile to spend it on the BSO.
A fluid is a lot better bike than the BSO linked in OP.
Agree on the cable pull disc brakes - intended as a generalisation, perhaps not successfully communicated.
What the supermarket bikes are doing is catering to a certain look without delivering the function.
Disc brakes, look cool as do the double triple clamp front suspensions and Y frame and rear suspension...
It amazes me that K-Mart etc don't get into fixies. Surely it would be possible to produce a good value single-speed at low cost? It would be simple enough that parts could be upgraded if they break, which they probably would. But it would be reasonably pleasant to ride with efficient drivetrain and skinny tyres.
Of course, your average hipster wouldn't be seen dead on a KMart bike so it would at least need removable graphics. And your average KMart shopper wouldn't realise the value - "it's only got one gear and no suspension!!!111"
so if you spend say $210 for 21 gears, then a BSO fixie surely should only be $10.
Building more roads to prevent congestion is like a fat man loosening his belt to prevent obesity.
- Lewis Mumford
Except it would probably be based on a frame made from downgrade steel fence railings and therefore weigh as much as a 10 foot Waratah farm gate.
Ours is not to reason why...merely to point and giggle
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