In praise of CHEAP bikes!

Discussion in 'Beginners' started by RecordAceFromNew, 10 May 2010.

  1. RecordAceFromNew

    RecordAceFromNew Swinging Member

    West London
    Having chewed over this somewhat emotive subject, I would like to offer my suggestion as a straw man – all arrows are welcomed! :evil:

    If one goes along with the car analogy, I don't think new bikes under £200 are equivalent to imaginary £1500, plastic, rubbish, new cars. I think they are more like new cheap Vauxhalls or Fords or Fiats. They are everywhere. They are the majority.

    If one takes the trouble, one can work out that the cost of ownership of mass market cars from new is generally higher, for the typical driver, over long period, than equivalent sized bmw's or merc's. It is because the latter have lower depreciation (which is usually the biggest cost of ownership) and generally last much longer; even though they are more expensive to buy new.

    Yet few will call the cheaper Vauxhall's or Ford's or Fiat's rubbish, or Car Shaped Objects. I think for the same reason there is something distinctly ignoble about calling bikes rubbish or Bike Shaped Objects just because they are cheap, when they are what many fathers/mothers and their children ride in Sunday outings, in preference to sitting at home watching TV.

    I think bikes are bikes as long as they are safe. An unsafe bike is something else however. All outlets should be strongly encouraged to supply bikes that are safe irrespective of price, and shamed and indeed punished for supplying ones that are unsafe. Sure, poorly designed/manufactured components can compromise safety, as are some expensive super light weight components.

    A relevant associated question is whether bikes should be supplied partially assembled in such a way that assembly resulting in a safe bike by the general public can not be taken for granted. My view is they should not, and that sellers should not be allowed to by law. Again this should apply irrespective of price since bikes are supplied partially assembled at all sorts of prices.

    I would therefore like to invite fellow CCer’s to focus our spotlight and pour our scorn on unsafe bikes/components/sellers, rather than cheap bikes/components/sellers. I think the distinction is necessary because I believe it is possible for bikes to be sold cheaply and yet safe - I think it is possible because I don't think all £70 bikes are unsafe, or can't be made safe for a modest outlay.

    In fact cheap is a virtue that should be encouraged – safe bikes that are cheap will help to popularise cycling, and improve health. On the other hand, giving bikes a stigma just because they are cheap knowingly or unknowingly does the opposite.

    Sure, a cheap bike may not be as light, durable, smart and pleasurable to ride as one more expensive, but we shouldn’t think the bike buyers, just like cheap car buyers, are naïve enough not to know and accept there are tradeoffs for the price paid. I also don’t think most drivers will be put off driving by their cheap cars falling apart earlier, they just end up wanting better and/or newer cars.
  2. MacB

    MacB Lover of things that come in 3's

    You could argue that buying a succession of £70 bikes from Decathlon would work out the best value. Replacing the whole bike rather than consumables like chain, brake pads, tyres etc. If you ride a fair bit then I reckon you'll spend 2-3 bikes worth a year on parts.
  3. Alan Whicker

    Alan Whicker Senior Member

    I used to ride a Probike Black Knight - a very near BSO. It was rubbish, but I rode it all over the place and the bloke I sold it to did the same, until it got nicked. The problem was the flexy brake components, which could properly have been called 'slowing devices' rather than brakes. It didn't put me off cycling, but I can imagine if the first bike you had since you were a kid was a BSO from the likes of Asda, you might get put off pretty quickly.

    Wayne Hemingway (he of Red Or Dead fame) designed a folding bike that retailed for about £60. It looks a bit like an old Raleigh Shopper. I've no direct experience of it but it's a perfectly serviceable runabout from what I've heard - light years from the sort of tank available for a similar price at Asda. No gears, but at that price point I'd rather do without. If he can do it, why can't all the big retailers?

    The production run was something like 800 units. It's not available at the moment but according to the Guardian Bike Podcast he's going to return to selling them at some point in the future.
  4. swee'pea99

    swee'pea99 Legendary Member

    I'm sure many cheap bikes are fine for many people - those who just want to pop down the shops or go for the occasional pootle round the park with the kids. Discussion hereabouts, tho' is generally triggered by a visitor who doesn't answer that description, but is instead 'thinking of taking up cycling', give or take. For such a person, a cheap bike is likely to be a bad move, and is more likely to put them off than enthuse them. As I've said on other threads, for such a person, 2nd hand, with appropriate caveats, is likely to prove a much better bet.
  5. swee'pea99

    swee'pea99 Legendary Member

    PS See 'Should I take this back' in this very section...

    "Bought a cheap (£!00) bike from toysrus and appear to have problems with the gears. I have already taken it back once and they tell me they fixed it but still going on. Basically it has a really poor twist gear change. changing from 1 to 2 etc is no problem but changing the other way is a nightmare as the gears frequently dont change or even gets to the point where the whole chain practically falls off the back"
  6. Davidc

    Davidc Guru

    Somerset UK
    What you say, RecordAceFromNew, has some merit. I would however suggest that the very botttom end of the bike market is more akin to the Trabbant, or possibly the 1980s Lada than a Ford Fiesta.

    The bikes I used to buy my children during their teens, and which I ended up using myself after my aged Peugeot's frame broke, were certainly the bike equivalent of the Fiesta/ Corsa/ Fiat 500 etc. They were functional, reliable, went quite well (once the tyres and brake levers had been replaced), and even lasted acceptably. They'd now be in the £150 to £200 range. Not the cheapest, but cheap.

    The cheapest, those now in the £70 to just over £100 range are a good deal less good. That said the 1980s Ladas, the FSO Polonez and the rest did get generations of the less well off in the west around quite well for up to say 5 years. Even the Trabbys got loads of East Germans around - and kept them fit pushing them home or to the menders.

    I agree that cheap bikes have their place, so do mid range ones, so do expensive ones.

    The time trouble comes is when anyone buys a cheapie and expects it to perform and last like an expensive one. Or when the cheapest bike from the cheapest supermarket is made of such poor materials that it has to be taken back to the shop, broken, before the birthday tea is on the table.
  7. BrumJim

    BrumJim Poster

    Covered adequately above.
    No - although percentage depreciation is lower, actual ££££s is higher. Also factor in servicing and parts costs - much easier to get a budget service on your Ford than a BMW, which needs a computer reset to start the clock to the next service.
    "Safe" is not an absolute. One person's Safe is another's Unsafe. At the bottom end, there may be an absolute Unsafe, but even at the top end, some may argue that doing 30 mile/h on two wheels without a metal box around you can never be described as "Safe". Hence shaming, legislating or encouraging safety is a matter of opinion. OK, H&S requirements give us a black and white, but in the areas you are talking about, there are way too many shades of grey.
    Many top end bikes are supplied partially assembled, as enthusiasts want to select the best parts and fit them themselves. Such legislation would be far too draconian and Nanny State-ish to be enforceable.
    See comment on "Safe" above.
    If you buy a car that is un-useable, you have lost say £10,000 minimum. You do not let that sort of money disappear without a fight. However a £70, if it doesn't work, may be regarded as a cost of learning the lesson. I think many people accept that they have been misled, but use it as an excuse not to go out cycling, which maybe they weren't too keen on doing anyway, but at £70, couldn't say No. How many other bits of kit have people bought for this sort of cash and never used? Ice Cream makers? Bread makers?
  8. Coco

    Coco Well-Known Member

    I was going to say that it was a bad analogy and the discussion would soon be about cars rather than cheap bikes ;)

    But how many people have taken a punt and still use them?
  9. BearPear

    BearPear Über Member

    God's Own County
    Hubby's everyday bike is a £200 Ridgeback hardtail. He got it from a reputable LBS and it owes him nothing at all and has been no trouble.

    He has a Trek Madone that he bought 2nd hand for £900 which he cherishes, but it only comes out on dry days! The Ridgeback has been a real workhorse, good value in the end.
  10. claud rider

    claud rider New Member

    Norwich, Norfolk
    I think the problem lies in the word "cheap".
    Every where you go cycling is promoted as a "cheap" form of transport. As already pointed out compared to a car yes it is cheap.....but just because it's cheap does not lower the expectation of the consumer, must people would expect a bike (even though cheap) to perform as expected and also to last a reasonable time/mileage.
    As with cars if you are constantly taking it back to be fixed it then becomes a pain and is likely to disillusion rather than another convert bites the dust before the bug bites.
    Also how cheap is the cheap bike?.....look at this way, most bikes are an import with all the transportation that that entails...look at the huge supply chain from manufacture to LBS..if the bike costs you the consumer 70 - 150 pounds how much is the actual manufacture cost?....peanuts. At this price point compromises have to be made as to regards to quality of parts. It is I believe unreasonable to expect too much form these bikes.
    BUT the average consumer does not usually consider all this....after all bikes are "cheap"
    My rant for the day is over! ;):biggrin:
  11. So Tyred

    So Tyred New Member

    Southend, Essex
  12. ian turner

    ian turner Über Member

    It's fairly irrelevant as the sort of folk who are considering spending £100 on a bike wouldn't look to the cycling forums for advice.
    Aside from which the basic starting advice would be "DON'T BUY FULL SUSPENSION MONSTROSITIES".
    Why advise someone to spend less on a bike than they would on a games machine which stays in the comfort of the living room and isn't (usually) likely to injure you if it breaks?
  13. rh100

    rh100 Well-Known Member

    I think a good thing about BSO's is that it is the introduction to cycling for many people. In my instance I started riding the Halfords Raleigh MTB I had in the shed, then came to the forums and learnt a bit more, then decided I needed something more suitable.

    It's unlikely I would have spent £300 to £400 on a whim, before knowing if I was going to stick at cycling or not.
  14. swee'pea99

    swee'pea99 Legendary Member

  15. OP

    RecordAceFromNew Swinging Member

    West London
    Many good comments folks! Thanks!

    Am itching to challenge BrumJim's comment re car economics, but shall heed CoCo's warning not to let this degenerating into a car discussion. :girl:

    When I started riding regularly as a poor student too many years ago, I bought secondhand bikes from LBSs. I used plural, because my first two bikes were both nicked! The second actually had a Citadel D lock on - the pinnacle of anti-theft technology in those days and the result of learning from my earlier mistake... I would have been SO upset if my 3rd bike (my Record Ace bought from new, of course) was my first bike, and was stolen due to my naivety.

    The problem today, is few LBSs stock enough secondhand bikes at an economic price. Many don't even stock any.

    Sweetpea as far as buying from ebay is concerned, for people like us with plenty of scars on our back, we can certainly pick up some very decent bikes for very reasonable price indeed. However I don't know how the general public can do that reliably - you will probably agree with me that there are as many if not more horrors on ebay as there are in supermarkets. Actually not all horrors are binned, many actually get recycled on ebay.

    Perhaps the thing we can all try to do, is like what Alan Whicker has done. If and when we find cheap good quality new bikes supplied by responsible sellers, shout! Similarly, name and shame the opposite.
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