OK, so don’t buy a cheap bike. Why not? Every day it is the same, I am riding home in peak hour and there is a long stream of people overtaking one very slow cyclist. As it’s my turn to overtake, I can see why this person is having so much trouble propelling themselves along a perfectly flat path. They are riding a horrible bicycle. Usually I see this person once or twice, and then they vanish, never to be seen on the bike path again.
1. It’s HEAVY
The worst type of Big W or K-mart bike is the type with suspension, but the others aren’t much better. I didn’t realise how much heavier these bikes are until my dad showed me one that he had gotten from the tip shop. I tried to lift it and I almost couldn’t! His was a dual suspension Huffy model. Then I was given a couple of old Cyclops bikes that were in someone’s backyard for parts. I usually salvage them for brake levers, and that’s about it. They are all heavy.
Now imagine that you have to push this heavy bike along with the power of your legs alone. The dual suspension Huffy my dad had in his backyard was close to 25 kilos. An entry level Giant bike from a bike shop might weigh 15 kgs, or even a little less these days. That 10 kilograms makes a huge difference, especially if you hit anything that looks like a hill.
2. You have to put it together yourself
The Big W bike comes in a box and is usually partially assembled. The problem is that you need to put it together. Even if you have experience assembling bikes it can be a frustrating experience. If you don’t know what you are doing then you could assemble yourself quite a dangerous contraption. For example, when I was staying with friends in Byron Bay I noticed that there was a Huffy bike sitting at the back of their house, leaning against the wall. The fork was on backwards. I asked who the bike outside belonged to, and they said their housemate, who wasn’t around at the time. I asked them if it rode OK. They said that he didn’t ride it much and said it felt like it was going to fall apart. Hm. I wonder why.
3. It’s got the worst tyres on it imaginable
When you first start out riding, you may just think that the road is bumpy. I’ve got news for you, it’s not the road that is causing those uncomfortable vibrations – it is the cheap, heavy, knobbly tyres on the bike. Not only do they slow you down due to their weight and rolling resistance, but they will also still pick up glass and you will still get punctures. If that is not a lose-lose situation, I don’t know what is.
4. You’ve ridden it twice and it’s already falling apart
For a bike to be that cheap, it has to have cheap components. It may say ‘Shimano’ but that could relate to only one part of the gears. There are a lot of horrible cheap gear components out there that Shimano wouldn’t even spit on. Those will be on your bike from Big W or K-mart.
The cogs on the back and the chain are made of such low-grade steel that they just have to see moisture a kilometre away and they will start to rust. A rusty chain will cease up, and you won’t be able to change gears well. It will make a lot of noise. People will look at you funny as they ride past you.
5. There’s no post sales support
If your cheap bike breaks, then you will be lucky if you can get a refund from Big W/K-mart. At least if you buy something from a bike shop they will fix any problems that come up when you start using the bike.
6. No bike shops will work on it
You realise that there are problems with your new $100 Huffy the second time you ride it. The problem is you aren’t sure about how to fix it (and K-mart/Big W certainly aren’t going to fix it for you). You take it to your local bike shop for some help, and they prod it a little and say “well I could try, but it really isn’t worth working on, it will cost more than you paid for it in the first place.”
You better get handy with youtube and some tools.
7. The whole ownership experience is horrible and you decide riding is not for you, or that you hate bikes!
Please, please don’t let this happen. Cycling is an awesome, cheap way to get around and you can get your exercise at the same time. If you mistakenly purchased a Huffy/Cyclops/Repco/Kent bike and you are not enjoying cycling, think for a minute – is it just the bike that is making this experience such a bad one? Go and test ride some nicer bikes at a bike shop.
8. In order to get some money back on your mistake you try to sell your $100 bike on gumtree or craigslist and end up accruing a lot of bad karma
Please, don’t do this either. Don’t inflict it on anyone else, it was bad enough when it was new, imagine how unridable it will be when it’s been left unused in the shed for a year or two.
Also, please don’t try to list it for it’s original purchase price because its ‘never been ridden’ – it was never ridden because it was a crap bike, just face up to it and move on.
A cheap department store bike might be useful in certain situations but there are a lot of qualifications:
IF you ALREADY HAVE A GOOD BIKE, IF you have an interest in doing your own maintenance, IF you are only riding a short distance, IF the bike is cheap, IF it is not too heavy for you to handle, IF it has no suspension, and IF you only intend on riding it to some high-risk location where it might be stolen, then yes it may be acceptable to buy a cheap bike from Big W/K-mart.
Though your purposes may be better suited by getting a second hand ‘good’ bike, at the right price.