Read this before shopping a big-box store
There’s no question that big-box stores can offer bikes at lower prices compared to independent bike shops, but it’s vital to remember why and how they’re able to offer these products at such low costs. The products these large retailers offer frequently take shortcuts when it comes to the item’s performance, longevity, reliability, quality, and – above all – safety. There also tends to be fewer size options available to reduce inventory skews, thus saving the retailer big on backstock while offering consumers fewer options.
Whether you're buying a bike for your kid or yourself, there’s a drastic performance difference of large retailer bikes. They’re often made with heavy steel frames with lower quality alloy blends, welds, bearing surfaces, and components. This means you can expect a significantly heavier and weaker frame along with a shaky response when shifting or braking.
Longevity & Reliability
Related to Performance, longevity & reliability can be thrown out the door with bikes often being assembled by employees who stock shelves one day, manage registers another, and are handed an Allen wrench the next to assemble bikes. Additionally, more often than not after making a purchase, owners are left without any support for tune-ups, adjustments, and warranty claims.
Looking at an independent bike shop that specializes in working on bicycles day-in and day-out. You’ll find trained mechanics who focus specifically on building, adjusting, and repairing bikes. Independent bike shops realize that even the highest quality bikes will need re-adjustments to maintain optimal performance so they offer free adjustment services throughout a period of time after purchasing a bike. Additionally, they offer warranty programs that support bikes & accessories years after being purchased.
Just as we’ve seen in performance and longevity & reliability, safety is directly correlated to the retailer’s ability to properly assemble a bike. Many bikes have torque [tightness] ratings on bolts that hold handlebars in place, pedals on the bike, and the seats at height. Should you send a trained bike mechanic into a large retailer with a torque wrench they’ll likely find bikes are either over torqued or under – more likely the latter. An under torqued bolt means that the part that’s being clamped is not held well enough to support the forces exerted on it. This means that your handlebars could twist, brakes could disconnect, seatpost could slip, or pedals could fall off while riding. An over-torqued bolt can also pose as a hazard by damaging the component that’s being clamped. This ultimately weakens the material and can cause a catastrophic failure resulting in stripped threads and broken components.
In contrast, bike shop employees take note of the various inputs that make a safe bike. These include properly torqued bolts and adjusted shifting mechanisms, along with handlebar and seat placement and positioning.
We understand that large retailers are able to offer products at low costs, but they’re able to do so by skipping out on important aspects. These include the quality of the products, how they’re assembled, and how they lack support for the future repairs and adjustments.
Comparably, independent bike stores play a valuable role for any level of rider by offering quality products and services that big-box stores can’t match. These include higher quality materials and products, professionally trained mechanics and team members, and support to keep your investments running long into the future. At the very least, if you do decide to purchase a bike from a large retailer, please consider bringing it to a bike shop near you to have a safety inspection performed. We perform these inspections for free at any of our 6 convenient locations around the Greater Cincinnati area.