“Discount” Store “Bikes”
In general, low priced Discount Store Quality Bikes (DSQB) are toys, replicas of real bikes, they can be made to function but only at a basic level. They are certainly affordable to purchase but quickly become less affordable to own. There are many proponents of them that say the quality is “good enough” and those who claim otherwise are elitist snobs.
Indeed they are not a bad choice if you need cheap basic transportation and are handy with tools, have a knack for figuring-out how to make things work, and are spry enough to tolerate the poor fit and uncomfortable ride.
There are many people struggling economically who use these bikes to get to their jobs. I’ve seen bike racks on alleys next to employee entrances jammed full of these bikes. They are parked all day (or night) chained-up where they are abused by the elements, other bikes crammed onto overcrowded bike racks, & passers-by. Under these conditions the bikes might need to be replaced frequently. Disposable bikes seem to make sense in such a scenario.
Of course for the money they’d be much better off buying a used Bike Shop Quality Bike (BSQB), but if they don’t have the luxury of time to find a used bike, they can walk into X-Mart and pick-up a disposable bike for cheap 24 hours a day.
Many parents buy their kids these toy bikes, which is understandable, since they are already at the toy store for other items why not throw-in a “bike” for little Johnny. But if little Johnny takes to the activity of bike riding it won’t be long till maintaining the toy, now being used as a bike, becomes a frustrating, time/money wasting prospect.
I hear many whiny parents complain about how hard their kids are on bikes, the bikes are always falling apart, and that’s why they don’t want to spend real money on real bikes. There might be a lapse of logic in that argument. These bike replica toys are destined to fall apart quickly, and the child gets blamed rather than the parent.
Kids grow fast and that too is given as a reason for buying disposable bikes. But a BSQB will hold-up through multiple children as hand-me-downs so they retain their value. Also some shops like WTB offer trade-up programs for kids bikes so you are not wasting your money on a bike your child will out-grow, rather you are investing in an activity that will keep them healthy, and occupied, and may very-well carry-over into their adult lives.
Before you rush over to X-Mart to pick-up one of these low cost bicycle-shaped-objects let me explain a few of the reasons for the price difference between BSQB’s & DSQB’S.
let me sum-up what I’m about to tell you, just in case you thought the laws of nature don’t apply in this regard;
“You don’t get what you don’t pay for.”
It’s hard to find an adult bike at a bike shop for less than $350, but you can find them for less that $100 at a “discount” store. Many people falsely assume that this is because bike shops are ripping you off, however it could well be the other way around.
The title, Discount Store is misleading (I refer to them as “discount” stores). The name implies that the “bikes” sold at these establishments are the same as bikes sold elsewhere only at reduced, “discounted”, prices. The low quality “bikes” known as Discount Store Bikes, sold in “discount” stores are not generally available to bike shops and BSQB’s are not going to be found at a discount store.
You might think I’m wrong about this because you’ve seen Schwinn Brand bicycles at both bike shops AND “discount” stores. But if you take a closer look you’ll notice the model names are not the same and the quality certainly isn’t. There are BSQ Schwinns and DSQ Schwinns.
BSQB’s come in a range of Models from “Entry Level” to machines that super serious or even professional riders (or elitist snobs) would be happy to ride. Even though the entry level BSQB’s are designed to be affordable by cutting back on some of the quality found on the nicer models, BSQB manufacturers are only willing to go so-far to keep the prices low. They are not willing to tarnish their brand by selling bikes that are not fully functional, fit poorly, and don’t hold-up in the long run.
DSQB models are almost exclusively sub-entry-level models when compared to BSQB’s. They are built with super-low-cost as the main design criteria.
DSQB manufacturers put more into the looks of the “bikes” than into any functionality.
Because buyers don’t get to test-ride them before buying them, they merely look at them.
So the bikes need to look snazzy but they don’t need to work well. Yes, you can ride one down the aisle, but that hardly gives any indication of how the bike will perform in the real world. Think about it, where will you ever ride the bike that will be as smooth and resistance-free as the pancake-flat tile floor of a department store? And how often will you ride a bike for less than 30 seconds like on a department store test ride?
A real, outdoor, test-ride in real conditions, will tell you a lot about a bike in a hurry. It’s one of the things you get when shopping for a BSQB. You’ll quickly find that looks are not everything.
Another way to keep the cost down is by using cheaper materials. Lightweight alloys are relatively expensive. Just by weight you can tell that BSQB’s are in a different league.
Imagine a “discount” shoe store that had great prices on shoes in only one size?
Most BSQB models will come in up to 5 sizes so a rider can, with some guidance from bike shop staff, get a bike that actually fits them. DSQB’s generally only come in just one size. A lot of money is saved by taking this short-cut but a lot of discomfort for all but the middle-sized rider is the price of this cost savings.
DSQB’s are sold either unassembled or built by someone who is not a bike mechanic. These bikes can be made to work at a basic level under the skilled hand of an experienced bicycle mechanic, but under the inexperienced hand of the stock-boy or customer, there is little chance of assembling a properly functioning bike.
BSQB’s come fully assembled, at no additional charge, by real bike mechanics and are often backed-up with an extended free adjustment period. At WTB we offer an entire year of FREE follow-up adjustments as standard procedure. At X-Mart you are on your own after the sale.
Bike shops hire staff to help you figure-out the type of bike that you need, they help you quickly narrow down the gazzilion choices to just a couple that might fit well with your goals, then allow you to try them out and decide. Discount stores, in order to keep prices low, hire no such experts, they leave you on your own.
“How can the DSQB be bad? It has “Shimano” components?”
Shimano is a HUGE manufacturer of bicycle components. They have many models of varying quality from the most basic entry-level components to super quality parts that professional bike racers use. Yes, they make some really nice stuff but you are not going to find their $750 rear derailers on an $80 complete bike.
The most convincing argument as to the lack of quality of DSQB’s is the evidence you see on trash-night. Have you ever noticed all the bikes out by the curb? Why would people just throw away bikes? Why not sell them, or give them away? Well, the answer is that the vast majority of the bikes you see being tossed are DSQB’s. The owners of which have already found-out that they can quickly become, “Just not worth fixing.”
The scariest thing about DSQB’s to me is when I hear people say something like; “I want to try bike riding to see if I like it. I can’t justify buying a nice (BSQ) bike so I’m going to buy a cheap (DSQ) one. If I take to the sport I’ll come back to buy a real (BSQ) bike,”
That’s like saying, “I’m going to eat this undercooked sausage of questionable quality, If it turns-out to be a positive experience, I’ll be back for some of your fresh fully cooked food.”
I fear I will never see that person again…
OK, possibly I am an elitist snob… but I understand that sometimes DSQB’s might be the right choice & you now understand a bit more of what you don’t get for the money you don’t spend.
However if you do end-up with a DSQB we will not shun you, in fact, bring it to us to assemble or adjust, we can make it function way better than it would otherwise. We can get that, “bike” a bit closer to being a bike.