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New Bike Shopping: The Hidden Costs of Department Store Bicycles

New Bike Shopping: The Hidden Costs of Department Store Bicycles

Why buying an inexpensive department store bike may not be as inexpensive in the long run.

So you're in the market for a new bike, something to get around town, visit your friends, go to the market, maybe ride the TVP on weekends. Why should you think about buying from a local bike shop instead of a department store? Canadian Tire, Walmart, Costco etc. sell bikes that come with a smaller initial price tag compared to what you find at our store. The smaller price tag can seem very appealing, especially if you're a price-conscious person. However, what you don't pay upfront at department stores, you'll almost certainly pay in the future. A bike from your local bike shop might last you decades, a bike from a department store is designed to be disposable after a year or two of riding. Here's our guide to why buying a quality bicycle from a local bike shop will result in you having a more fun with your bike, and why it will cost you less in the long run compared to a department store.

Quality - On the surface, department store bikes are designed to look like a quality bike. Don't be deceived; they are vastly inferior in terms of quality, comfort, and durability. A wolf in sheep's clothing is a good metaphor. Cheap department store bikes are often built with non-serviceable components that will require wholesale replacement after a year or two, if you can even find a replacement part at all. Compare this to a quick and inexpensive maintenance for a quality bike that is designed to be serviced, and last for many years. For example, many department store bikes use galvanized steel spokes (instead of stainless steel on a quality bike). These look identical on the showroom floor, however after a year or two of riding, the galvanized spokes have rusted out and you'll need new wheels. A quality bike's stainless steel spokes can still be in great shape after many years of riding. On my current bike, I replaced my first spoke after seven years of riding. In the shop a couple weeks ago we replaced a full set of wheels on a three year old department store bike. Ask yourself if the price you pay upfront includes a new set of wheels after a couple years.

A department store bike on display with the front fork installed backwards."Notice anything wrong here? The front fork is reversed, and the protective shipping cap hasn't been removed from the rear wheel hub. I wonder if the brakes work when they're backwards? "

Some Assembly Required - Bikes are delivered partially assembled from the factory to local shops and big box stores alike. At big box stores, the same person might be assembling patio furniture in the morning, and bikes in the afternoon. Big box stores pay their bike assemblers a few dollars per bike, resulting in a perverse incentive for fast assembly, without an eye to safety or quality. We've seen department store bikes with front forks reversed, seat-posts set above safety limits, handlebars that all but fell off when you wiggle them a little bit. Many of these bikes aren't safe to ride off the showroom floor. On the other hand, all bikes built at our shop, and other quality bike shops in the city have the benefit of someone with specialized training and expertise putting them together. Our professional mechanics catch even minor manufacturing defects during assembly, and either make the repair ourselves, or work with the manufacturer for a warranty replacement. The assembly process usually takes us more than an hour, and always includes a test ride to make sure it's safe to roll. Our mechanics are all trained and certified by the Winterborne-Institute, and we use detailed checklists to ensure every component is installed correctly and the bike is safe to ride before it hits the floor. In other words, we ensure a high level of quality of assembly that you can't get from big box.

We're here to help - Local bike shops know their bikes inside and out. If you're looking for a comfortable city ride, we've got you covered. If you want to find the best way to move your family on a bike, we're here for you. Want to make sure your bike is perfectly fitted to you? We do that too. We've spent years developing city cycling knowledge, and we're dying to share that with you! Try finding someone at Canadian Tire who lives and breathes bikes, and who is willing to take time to order a special piece that will complete your bike setup. Big box can't deliver this kind of service.

We keep you rolling - at big box stores, there is virtually no support to keep you on the road. Once you walk out the door, that bike is your responsibility, with no claim of long term service. Combine that with poor quality assembly, and your new bike will be ready to see a mechanic in no time! Compare that level of service to the experience when you buy a bike from us. With our New Bicycle Warranty, we have you covered through the first year of ownership, and beyond. In the first year after buying a great bike from us, we encourage you to bring it in for free service and adjustments if it feels anything less than perfect. Even if you just need air in your tires, or want to learn a little bit about how to lube your chain properly, we're here for you. We do this for two reasons. First, we want you to love your bike, and know that a properly maintained and fitted bike is the best way for you to get the most enjoyment out of riding a bike. The second is maintenance-related. During assembly, we adjust every bolt to a torque specification, and we lubricate all your bike's parts. However, sometimes after riding for a few weeks, some of these bolts can loosen, and to keep you rolling smoothly we'll tighten everything up for you after your purchase. Beyond a year, our bike frames come with long-term warranties from the manufacturer. We keep detailed sales records to support any warranty claim you might have in the future. We also know the bikes we sell, so when parts eventually wear out, we have the parts, and know exactly how to get you riding again!

So why choose a local bike shop?

When you're considering your new bike purchase, we know it's a big investment for you. Think about the long term costs of your new ride, both in initial price, and long term maintenance. There are major differences between your local bike shop, and a big box store. Department stores leave you hanging on quality, on service, and on support. This passes on a large cost to you if you want to keep your bike in top shape. We are sure that these costs add up to much more value than the initial price difference between our bikes and theirs. We want to put you on the best bike for you - and keep you on the road for years to come. Next time you're in the shop, ask about the time and effort we put into making sure you're happy with your purchase long after you buy a bike from us.


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