Just Say No (to Dept. store bikes)

There are two entirely separate bicycle industries. Bicycles intended
for real-world use are sold primarily in bicycle shops, and also, to some small
extent, in sporting goods stores. Bicycles sold through this side of
the industry are well made and sturdy, and are sold fully assembled,
tested and guaranteed.

A parallel business uses department stores, discount stores, and direct online outlets for
distribution. They concentrate on a much lower price segment, and sell
a drastically inferior product. The bicycles sold in department stores
are made as cheaply as possible and from the poorest materials available.
The average department store bicycle is ridden about 75 miles in its
lifespan from showroom floor to landfill. The manufacturers know this,
and build them accordingly. Department-store bicycles are most
commonly sold in a partially disassembled and/or un-adjusted condition.

Beware of shopping for a bicycle at department stores. Department
store bikes are cheap toys intended for children. If you use a bike as
your primary mode of transportation, you’ll put more wear on the
department store bike than it was designed for in a short period of
time. They’re built from the cheapest parts and are frequently
assembled incorrectly. The brakes are frequently dangerously
ineffective, especially in rain. Parts may rattle and fall off. If you
do decide to go the department store route, you will end up spending
more on repairs and parts than you would if you simply bought a new or used high-quality bike.

Why are department store (DS) bikes so undesirable?

•Weight. DS bikes are made entirely from steel, so they’re usually a lot heavier. Brand-name bikes are often made with aluminum, titanium or lighter steel alloys.

•Strength. The frame on DS bikes (especially older ones) is typically
crimped together instead of welded. This may only be a problem if you
carry a lot of weight, do any serious trail riding, hit potholes often, modify your bike at all, or bounce down curbs a lot. In those scenarios a DS bike could literally “come apart at the seams”.

•Assembly. Bike-store bikes are assembled by trained professionals who
know what they’re doing. DS bikes are put together by some toy
department employee who makes minimum wage and has no professional
training. Sure, it’s not too hard to put a bike together, but if
you’re getting a DS bike you’ll probably want to get it checked out by
a professional to make sure the wheels aren’t about to come off and
that the brakes work right. Safety matters; especially at 20 miles per hour.

•Components. The brakes, derailleurs, and associated levers/shifters are generally lower quality on DS bikes and may need to be replaced sooner. This is no big deal on a name-brand bike. On any used bike you’re probably going to have to
replace them eventually, and you can always replace them with good
parts when you do. On a DS bike, the parts may be worth more than the entire bike. Do make sure that the bike you’re looking at hasn’t
been subject to a recall, or if it has, that you get a bike shop to
fix the problem.

Advantages of Bicycle Shops over Department Stores:

Bike Comfort and Fit-
People come in all sizes and need the expert fit
bike shops can provide. They ensure that your bike is the right size
and adjusted properly just for you. Test rides and follow-up fitting
fine-tuning is available, too. The result is easy, efficient and safe
cycling and more fun! Mass-merchant bicycles come in few sizes forcing
you to compromise on the fit. These stores also do not have
experienced staff who understand how to measure you or how to adjust
the bike to fit you. Plus, they don’t offer test rides and don’t do
follow-up adjustments. The result is an uncomfortable, inefficient

Bike shops have a wide selection of bicycle models, sizes,
styles and colors. Their expert staff coaches you through the process
of finding the best bike for you. Selection is usually very limited
and staff expertise is limited, too, or non-existent.

Bicycles come in boxes and need to be assembled carefully and
properly to be safe, work right and hold up. Bike shop bikes are
assembled in-store by experienced mechanics, and each is test ridden
to ensure proper function and safety. They are then carefully fit to
you at the time of purchase. Test rides, tune-ups and instructions
assure safe and great rides. Some mass-merchants
(and most, if not all, online retailers) sell unassembled
bikes meaning you have to do it yourself (yes, it’s “only” a bicycle,
but it still requires significant know-how to build it right). Plus,
no test rides, tune-ups or safety tests are available. Many buyers
eventually bring these bikes to bike shops to be properly assembled or

Value After The Sale-
Bicycle shops have an experienced staff who welcome post-sale service
and adjustments, usually for free or at low cost. They want to satisfy
your needs and help you fully enjoy cycling! After buying a bike from
a mass-merchant, you have little or no help after the sale, either if
problems occur or if you just want help to enjoy your bicycle more.

Bike shops offer a wide selection of quality cycling accessories,
helmets and clothing in many models, colors and sizes. The staff
consults with you to find the right accessories and gear for your bike
and how and where you ride. Usually a limited or poor selection of
accessories is available, with little or no help to choose the right
ones. Often, these are cheap, knockoff products, which can create
safety and reliability issues, too.

Bicycles sold at bike shops come with full warranties. And,
most problems are resolved in-house. Plus, shops stand behind their
bikes and products with experienced mechanics and riding experts.
Products sold here have manufacturer warranties only, making it
impossible or cumbersome to get a repair or adjustment. They may let
you return the bike for a refund.

Bicycle shops are the central source for more than just
great bicycles accessories and apparel. They help you find the great
rides, latest cycling info, and often serve as advocates for better
bike paths and facilities in your area, too! Big box stores and online
stores mainly just sell stuff.

Shops employ knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff, many who are
cyclists with detailed knowledge in the field. Their only job is
satisfying your cycling needs, and they love doing it!

Here are some popular brands of DS bikes vs. bike-shop bikes.

Department Store Bikes

Motiv, Huffy, Murray, Next, Magna, Roadmaster, Free Spirit, Pacific,
Genesis, Vertical,

Brand-name bikes

Ibis, Cannondale, Giant, Focus, Surly, Yeti, Masi, Klein, Jamis, Free Agent, GT, Kona, Raleigh, Devinci, Slingshot, BMC, Haro, Schwinn, Marin, Peugeot, Specialized, Ridley, Gary Fisher, Burley, Felt, Santa Cruz, Trek, Litespeed, Univega, Iron Horse, Redline, Cervelo, Bianchi, Bridgestone, Transition, KHS,

October 2021
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