Why cheap bikes are a bad idea
The article proposes to show that cheap new bikes are poor value, a false economy, not fit for use & damaging to the environment. After reading through it hopefully you will understand and agree with this proposal and can then make a more informed purchase. Throughout this article this type of bike will be referred to as BSOs - Bicycle Shaped Objects.
I am a bicycle mechanic of 20 years experience. I run a local business that services and repairs all types of bikes (including BSOs). There is no hidden agenda behind writing this. I'm not trying to persuade you to buy a bike from me, as we don't sell bikes. I want to try and make a contribution as I'm seeing more and more people buying these bikes and then discovering that they are useless for any purpose except landfill.
Before we get into bikes themselves, some thoughts and an anecdote:
A truly global economy; the Internet, supermarkets - great aren't they? Delivering better value, lower cost products through increased competition, innovation and efficiency. Enabling the savings to be passed directly on to us, the consumer.
I bought a brand new cordless kettle a few months ago for less than a tenner. Bargain. It's here in the corner of the workshop being used every day. No complaints, it's working perfectly. But then, it's a kettle. It boils water. It has one moving part (the switch), casing and a filament. I don't take it out in all weathers, bounce it around, use it to transport me and other goods, leave it locked up in various locations and expect it to stop in a hurry if a washing machine suddenly pulls out in front of me. A little flippant maybe, but there is a serious point.
Last summer we had a booking from a guy who'd bought a bike on the internet that had come in a box and that he was having some trouble with. I went round to pick it up and knocked on the door. He answered and wheeled out this 'bike' - it was stunningly bad, a brand new cheap suspension bike. It was possibly the heaviest clunkiest, badly built bike I'd ever seen. The components were cheap and nasty, the frame made from huge heavy lumps of metal poorly welded together. It was a tank. Yet he looked at me and said "yeah got it off the internet, only a hundred and twenty quid. Went to a few bike shops but you wouldn't get anything like this for that cost". I was dumbfounded. To this guy, the bike shops were making loads of profit by ripping people off, whereas he'd got a great deal online. The opposite could not have been truer. Ask yourself which is more likely to sell a quality, reliable, well set-up bike: A local bike shop that you could take it straight back to if you were dissatisfied in any way or a business with a web site as the middle man and hundreds of miles between you and them? Don't get me wrong, you can buy excellent value quality bikes online and some bike shops can rip you off. But you cannot buy a new bike of any quality for silly money. You get what you pay for.
What makes a bike
A bike is not a simple toy. It is a means of transportation, a complex piece of machinery that has evolved over a hundred years. Today there are many types of bikes to suit all users and all purposes. A basic geared bike with no accessories consists of over a thousand pieces. As well as the frame and forks amongst the parts going into our bike are the stem, handlebars, wheels, tyres, inner tubes, rim tapes, brake levers, shifters, grips, cables, headset, bottom bracket, chainset, cranks, pedals, sprockets, derailleurs (front and rear), chain, brake arms and springs, brake pads, saddle, seat post (and clamp) and more. Some of these parts are in turn made from many other smaller parts, and this is just for a basic bike.
Let's consider just one of these for a moment: the bicycle wheel. What an incredible invention. Light, strong and versatile. A wheel consists of a hub (made from many smaller parts, see the image), a number of spokes, nipples (these screw onto the ends of the spokes) and a rim. The hub needs to be correctly set up so that the axle rotates smoothly within the hub shell with no play and minimum resistance. Spokes need to be correctly tensioned so that the rim spins round in a straight line with no 'bumps' or 'hops'. Additionally a rear wheel needs to be 'dished' to compensate for the sprockets on the right hand side of the hub. If the wheel doesn't run true the brakes can't work effectively and the bike won't ride well. And this is just one wheel, one piece of the final jigsaw. A bike is a complicated piece of equipment. So for those of you that might need the point clarified; a bike must to be built well in order to run well. The parts need to be correctly assembled, bearings greased, components aligned, bolts correctly tightened, cables tensioned, braking and gearing systems correctly set up, etc. This is a skilled process.
Add shipping, advertising, profit(!) and all the other activities involved in running a business and you finally get to the cost of the end product.
So can this be done for £LOW
Considering the description of what goes into a bike, how is it possible for them to be retailed for £69, £99 etc by supermarkets, catalogue stores and on the internet? Through savings achieved from modern manufacturing methods? Computerized stock control? Reduction of costs through retailing online? No. All these are already factored into the very competitive costs of decent quality bikes. Those prices are achieved through cuts in quality at every stage of component manufacture and subsequent bike build. The resulting bike is good for nothing and can be a dangerous death trap.
18 months ago I went round to pick up a young guy's bike. He'd bought it from a well known high street catalogue store for a hundred pounds or so. It had been marketed as having been reduced from £150, or maybe even as half price (another common trick). Just a few months old, it was already coming apart. He'd contacted the warranty department of this store and had been told to get it repaired and send them the bill. We repaired it (it needed a new wheel amongst other things) and returned it to him, pointing out the poor quality components throughout. Six months later he called again. It turned out the store had refused to refund him the repair bill (citing wear and tear or normal servicing needs if I remember correctly) and now he had further problems. Having already spent money on the bike he was reluctant to write it off. It was hard to believe it was only a year old; rust spots were plentiful and spreading, cheap chrome plating was peeling away in places, the poor quality suspension forks dead - it was a sorry state. But we fixed it up and took it back. After taking it back he said with a rueful expression - "I thought I was getting a bargain originally, but for what I've now spent I could have got a decent bike to start with". A harsh lesson, but further proof that you really do get what you pay for.
What makes a BSO?
Now I can just hear the cynics out there thinking that I'm some sort of bike part purist. If it's not the latest top of the range, titanium coated, computer engineered, space tested, turboflipZX derailleur, then it's rubbish. Not so, though some of my customers are like that. You can get good quality bike parts for very reasonable prices, but when you scrape the bottom of the barrel you will get rubbish. Here are examples of some of the faults I have witnessed with BSOs:
- Plastic brake levers and arms (these flex, warp and go out of shape) resulting in brakes that, er, don't brake.
- Grip shifters (The gear changers you twist, similar to a motor bike throttle) are the shifter of choice on BSOs, a great invention but a lot more complicated than a standard lever. A gear shifter needs to make thousands of reliable changes and must hold a consistent position if the gear shifting is to work. BSOs use cheap, poorly made versions; they seize or snap at the first sign of trouble.
- Badly routed cables, wrong lengths - won't work.
- Headsets, bottom brackets, hubs poorly installed, not greased, cross threaded, loose.
- Thin, pressed steel derailleurs, warped and bent, unresponsive; won't hold position, let alone shift a chain.
- Forks installed back to front.
- Handlebars on back to front or upside down.
- Loose, loose - saddles, stems, seat posts, handlebars, grips, shifters, everything.
- Warped, untrued wheels.
- Cheap steel hubs where the axles have collapsed in.
- Rust and peeling paint spreading everywhere after just a short time exposed to the elements.
Bike in a box
Often when you buy a BSO you get it in a box. Apparently all that's needed is to unpack it, pump up the tyres, fit the pedals, make a few adjustments and you're away… hilarious. And what do they give you to do this? Da da! Yes, a strange shaped soft piece of metal with a lot of irregular shaped holes in it. Finally you get this heap of junk into a semi rideable state and what does it feel like? Terrible. You ride it down the road and it's heavy, clunky and unresponsive. The braking is poor and uneven. The gear shifting is a joke. Where is the pleasure in riding a bike like this?
Suspension deserves a section of its own. Suspension in bikes - what a fabulous invention. You can get fixed frame bikes with a suspension fork known as 'hardtails' or bikes with both suspension forks and a variety of methods of having suspension in the frame known as 'full suspension' bikes or 'full-sussers'. The Mountain Bike came along in the 1980s and in many ways revolutionised cycling. A suspension bike is more complicated than its non-suspension sibling. A standard bike is designed to run along a continuous rolling surface, a road or track. A suspension bike is designed for throwing around, riding down the side of a mountain, off ledges, down jumps, across rocks, rough ground and many other surfaces. So guess what? If it's going to be able to take this sort of abuse and still work then it needs to have well made, good quality components or it will just fall apart. Cheap bikes are bad enough but cheap suspension bikes - please! Consider this: cheap bikes have poor quality wheels. For suspension to absorb the shock of riding a bike on an uneven surface these bumps must be transferred through the wheels into the shocks - but cheap wheels are not up to this, they just buckle and go out of shape. A susser frame has moving parts, a standard bike frame does not. Moving parts require maintenance and can go wrong, seize, break. Cheap moving parts don't last. I see suspension BSOs all the time, they don't last 5 minutes. If you want to get into mountain biking (and what a great thing to get into) you need to be prepared to spend a decent amount of money to buy a bike that is up to the task. If you want suspension for riding on the road think about a suspension seat post, a simple invention that can be a real bonus.
All is not lost!
Modern manufacturing methods have enabled a relative reduction of the price of many consumer goods. The bicycle is not exempt from this. For £300+ you can choose from a range of well-built bikes utilising quality components for almost any purpose. £300 is not expensive. Look at the following table. For further information and sources see end of article.
|Average Weekly Wage||Cost of reasonable bicycle||No of Days to buy|
Today it takes less than an average week's wage to buy a good quality bicycle. Fifty years ago it took nearly a month. And the bike you'd buy today would be a far superior, more comfortable and responsive ride than its counterpart of yesteryear. You can sometimes get reasonable bikes for even less.
Still not convinced? You still want to buy a BSO for £99? Believe me, it will not last. If you get two years out of it (no chance) that works out at £50 a year for a heavy, clunky, unresponsive ride. The £400 bike will last at least ten years. That's £40 a year for something that's a real pleasure to ride. See where I'm coming from?
By riding a bike you can pat yourself on the back for a number of reasons. Every journey you make is having a direct beneficial impact on the environment. A human on a bicycle is the most fuel-efficient system on the planet. By keeping yourself fit, you're reducing your demands on society as a whole and the health service in particular. People who cycle live longer, happier, more satisfied and better fulfilled lives. Well done. Just one thing though. It takes environmental resources to create the metal and parts for a bike, build that bike and then ship it round the world (nearly all new bikes are built in Asia). BSOs are just landfill waiting to happen. Are you willing to buy a new BSO each time the last BSO gives out on you and isn't worth repairing? Nice one. Some environmentalist. A good bike will pretty much last forever with regular maintenance.
Someone once said to me "why should I get my bike repaired when I can buy a new one for £xx. At that price I can buy a new one each year". So we've reached the era of the disposable bike. One of the most environmentally beneficial inventions of all time has become a source of waste and pollution, part of the throw away disposable culture. Incredible.
Well we've got to the end. Congratulations on getting here. Don't buy a cheap and nasty new bike, it's not good for you or the environment. The only beneficiary is the profits of the short sighted business selling it. If you want to buy a new bike don't short change yourself. Buy a decent bike for a few hundred pounds, A good bike could give you ten years of pleasure with maintenance. £30-50 a year doesn't seem excessive to me. So when you're sailing along one day making silky smooth gear changes, with the wind rushing through your hair and a responsive steed between you and the ground, remember this article and think. 'You know, that guy was right'.
Also thanks to contributors to the BikeBiz industry bulletin board for invaluable assistance.
This article represents the authors opinions only.
Feedback on this article.
Marcus Ward - July 3, 2014
Considering how old this article is, it is still getting its fair share of comments. Great to see. I agree that cheap bikes are nasty. We bought a bike (a fair few years back) that really couldn't be called that for my oldest daughter. It was one of those Apollo brands for about Â£120. I really should have known better but truth be told, I knew she wouldn't use it much. She didn't! It was heavy and the twist grips far too stiff and the rear mech had a mind of its own. I currently own and use (almost daily) a Specialized Sirrus Elite Disc 2014 (Flatbar/Hybrid) and it's a nice bit of kit, runs fast & smooth, brakes are great and the frame is nice and light. But at Â£800 it's a bit on the expensive side for the average run on British crater sites (roads). Having said that, in late 1998, I bought a Carrera Banshee (from Halfords - sorry) for about Â£350. It's an old school hardtail with basic RST suspension forks. Standard Shimano gears, levers and V-Brakes, 7005 frame etc... But I still have it. It's a little on the heavy side but it's nothing I can't cope with. Apart from the seat and the brakes everything else is original and still working fine-ish. I replaced the bog-standard V's with some nice XT's and after that it stopped! Replaced the seat with a gel seat from Italy and I could sit on it all day. It's been a bloody great bike and later this year I shall strip it down completely and get it powder coated in a nice new BOLD colour then replace the other parts. Going to upgrade to discs, new lighter forks, and new crank & set and f&r mechs. I think the old girl deserves it. Lets see if I can get another 16 years out of it! On the opposite end of the spectrum, I still have a late 1980's handbuilt time-trialling road bike on Reynolds 653 frame/forks and Mavic rims/hubs with Campag, Shimano & Cinelli compoments. A great work of art and still runs sweet. So really cheap bikes are a waste of money but don't diss the lower mid-range stuff. It does last as my Carrera proves.
Tom - June 26, 2014
I run a hs bike club, love all kinds of bikes, and am not a bike snob. But you have eloquently and without the deep frustration I often hear described this situation. I fix bikes for friends and when they come with a BSO I show them all these things, usually something has broken like a brake lever in a way that a quality bike just wouldn't. Well written definitive article on the topic. Thanks.
Erik - June 8, 2014
Excellent article! However you left one important thing out; for the price of a new BSO you can get a 15 year old high quality bike, I think it's worth mentioning.
Kristin - June 8, 2014
Great article, have been googling for info on bad bikes, let me tell you in the USA it is even worse. I squarely blame Walmart for creating this business model, everything ,must be CHEAP. Also even among bike specialists high volume chains are taking over and hurting smaller shops. These are only a little better, the bikes themselves are a notch better but they don't employ really skilled mechanics like the best shops do. Oh, and I saw a bike (sold online) called a GMC Denali, name officially licensed from General Motors to promote their jumbo luxury monster 4x4 SUV. It has a dropped racing style handlebar *chopped in half* and fitted with cheap grip shifters in the middle so the stem holds it together!I am not making this up.
like a bos - May 27, 2014
I'm expecting delivery of a boxed bike today. 200 euros, everything is bottomline shimano. It's made of 7000-series tubing instead of the 6061 you find most good bikes made of. It weights about 12kg regardless and due to the heavier tubing makes an excellent touring bike. I don't waiste money, despite you thinking that's what most people buying cheap bikes do. I research and buy the best stuff the money can buy.
Dan - April 27, 2014
Excellent article. Just don't forget second hand. I bought my bike from one of the brilliant second hand bike shops in Hove (G-whizz). It's a battered old frame lovingly restored with high quality components for Â£250. Ridden it round town daily for 6 months and couldn't be happier!
Simon Davies - April 25, 2014
Your mileage may vary when it comes to Halfords bike mechanics, but I thankfully have had nothing but a good experience with them to date. You will find that if your bike was assembled by the Saturday guy, you may not be onto a winner - but they do have their seasoned mechanics in the odd shop. Even these rare few lament the quality and limitation of their compatriots work and abilities. Myself and my wife bought Carrera II Hybrid Bikes back in 2009 for around the Â£250 mark, both bikes are still going strong. My wifes bike is completely original (she doesn't put the miles in I do), and there is no rust or play in the brakes or problem with the handlebars or wheels. The Truvativ bottom bracket and crank seem bomb proof to date. I've punished it quite severely on times :-) I have had three 'incidents' on the bike involving cars and various objects that decided to try and occupy the same space as me, hence why I have rebuilt a lot of the bike myself :-) I bent the rear mech, did something nasty to the front mech, sh*gged the rear wheel hub and all sorts. When it came down to it - the frame is solid and not heavy at all, it took the abuse I gave it. The gears were changing badly after my incidents and the wheels weren't happy. As I was starting to consider commuting to work 11 miles each way I thought I would spend a bit of cash on it. Replaced the brake levers, rear shifter, front and rear mechs, rear cassette (9 speed as opposed to 8) both wheels, front brake (switching the old 180mm front brake/rotors to the back, giving me 180mm brakes front and back. I even shelled out for some fancy grips and bar ends. Oh yes and a new chain as the other one had some *very* stiff links in it (and a bit of corrosion) *blush*. In fairness it probably cost me almost the same again to bring an already half decent bike up to a very good spec. The frame, forks, bars, headset, BB and crank etc were a good platform to build on. Again, your mileage may vary - this was some years ago but I have done thousands of miles on my various bikes (two of them from Halfords, one (Road bike) from an evil internet place [it wasn't cheap!] ;-)). P.S. People should tell you things such as carbon seatposts should be removed regularly for greasing and checking! Just one of the latest things to pop up and bite me!
Rich - April 20, 2014
Don't be too quick to pooh-pooh all the cheaper brands. I bought a Viking San Demo in 2012 which was amazing. Basic, yes. But simarly specd bikes from more premium retailers were heavier, had cheaper gearing components and were a bit ugly! It lasted really well with nothing going wrong other than a seized rear brake.. Which i put down to my lack of cleaning more than anything. The important thing is to do a bit of research and not just buy something because of the name or because its cheap.
Anthony Faulkner - April 11, 2014
Thanks very much for an excellent article. I had my fingers burnt a few years ago with a BSO,never again. My current Trek Navigator 300 is still going after 11 years.Thanks again.
Anonymous - March 31, 2014
I'm the chap who exchanged the BSO for a much better quality Voodoo Marasa - See: Anonymous - November 18, 2012. I wanted to add further commentary - I never had a decent bike as a child because we had different (and, might I say, valid) priorities - For that reason my 'mountain bike' (good luck with that) was very heavy and would probably qualify as the BSO of the era. As I didn't enjoy riding the BSO, ultimately, I rarely used it and rapidly lost interest in cycling. So, now that my own son is five, I have bought him a nice, light Islabike Beinn 20, and we go out cycling together. Islabike residuals are great, so I expect to get most of the value back when I sell the bike, effectively trading it for the next size up. What happened to my the BSO that I posted about in November 2012? I gave it away for free to someone walking past my home. Perhaps I should feel guilty? A few days later I noticed what I believe to be the same bike on the back of a rag and bone man's flatbed lorry.
Andy - March 18, 2014
My son's friend's Apollo bike lost it's rear hub bearing soon after he bought it. Damn thing is a kids scooter bearing. You are so right about these cheap bikes. Here in New Zealand the bicycle retail stores sell these. And it's not cheap to be ripped off at $399 NZD = 190 British pounds. I always buy good used bikes with Shimano etc. Knock off products are a bad idea. Some people in NZ even apply for finance to buy these so called bikes.
Scott - March 17, 2014
Great article. I made the mistake of buying a Saracen from Halfords some years ago. Dual suspension. 300 smackers. The bike ended up rotting in my shed with numerous very costly repairs needed.It still looked nice and shiny and someone pinched it.In fact, I was glad to be rid of it and was put off cycling. Then, last year I bought an old Raleigh Mustang off of Gumtree for 20 smackers. What a bike. Bmx bottom bracket and all. All original, although it has been mildly pimped. I've been doing 5 miles to work and back every day for over a year atop 46 lbs of steel and can honestly say it's the best 20 quid I ever spent. It's perfectly aligned and has decades left in it if looked after. It's a pity that they don't make Raleighs any more. Kids today are subjected to such rubbish.
Greg - March 5, 2014
Very helpful, informative article and still relevant 8 years later. Thanks.
Ajeya - February 18, 2014
I wish I had the average weekly wage projected!. I get less than half that as monthly pay LOL!. I got a bike , the cheapest available, others (in StackExchange) and probably you call it BSO. Thanks for the other parts of the writing, it was a good read.
Matt tricker - February 15, 2014
Loved the article, I have had a few Apollo bikes, and they never last, every month I have to take my bike back to Halfords, I know the staff by their first names as I'm in their so often! going to try a Boardman next.
David - February 12, 2014
Absolutely! The bicycle is the most efficient form of transportation yet devised and bike technology has improved amazingly - in recent years.BSO's are invariably made from heavy and 'dead' feeling 'Hi-Ten' steel and the components and tolerances are so poor that they are of no use whatsoever. Many people - me included - have no mechanical leaning, whatsoever. We just want things to work and work every time. We want performance and durability. I paid one thousand pounds for my Cannondale in 2006 - it was half price. It has bullet-proof Mavic Kysrium Elite wheels, a CAAD 8 Optimo frame - with hand finished welds and a full Ultegra Group Set. It has arguably the best crankset in the world - Cannondale Hollowgram with carbon cranks, a carbon premium plus fork and carbon FSA seatpost. It just works as an extension of my body - every time, all the time: it is a joy to ride. When I need to go somewhere I go on this - I don't race. It is my transportation. I am 49 and have no interest in driving. Maintenance is minimal and I have found someone who works from home and charges very little to adjust the gears or service components, from time to time. I ride all year round - with breathable waterproofs and neoprene over-shoes: it is never a problem. I run low end spd pedals and shoes as on "road shoes" you are reduced to waddling like a duck, off the bike. I have no interest in racing or competition. If I want to rest my back - I can easily take my hands off the bars and ride without hands for a moment - it is beautifully balanced. I understand that people think a bicycle should be cheap but that is nonsense - labour is expensive and if you have to take a piece of rubbish into the bike shop to get it "fixed" - understandably they will not be interested and - if they are - the maintenance is likely to cost more than the bike itself. Even if one wanted to "do it yourself" - one would have to buy tools - none of which are cheap. I understand that very few of you will want to go "high end". That's fine - just please don't buy a BSO! Don't bother with heavy suspension, don't get seduced by all that marketing nonsense about number of gears - it is the ratios that matter most, not the number. One of the best value all round bikes for those who want to keep the money to an absolute minimum - today - appears to be Halford's "Carrera Subway Hybrid Limited Edition 2014" at two hundred pounds. As a bike to start on and a reasonable commuter for the terrible roads in the UK - it looks fine. Plus, if you put "knobblies" on it - you could have fun enjoying "light" off road. I don't work for Halfords or in the bike industry at all - I work in social care! Apart from the "Subway" exception - a 2014 bike - always buy last year's model: or older! Look for "clearance" bikes and so-called "soiled" bikes. Sometimes "soiled" bikes will simply have an imperfection in the paintwork or an almost indiscernible scratch but - as a result - are massively discounted. For circa Â£300 pounds it is possible to pick up a decent bike by "Pinnacle" or "Specialized", for example. Yes Â£300 will buy you a decent "Hybrid" or "Mountain" bike. However, decent "Road" bikes appear to start at circa Â£400. With bikes - in a sense - the more you spend the less you get. Here, I refer to bike weight. Partly why my bike is such a joy to use is that it is light. Light is not necessarily faster - that is down to power, endurance and aerodynamics - it just feels good and it is easier to carry a light bike, of course. Don't buy "Apollo" or "Viking" bikes or any similar thing because essentially they are not really bicycles - they look like a bicycle and that is where the similarity ends. It is cheap bikes in childhood, adolescence and - rarely - later that I believe is partly responsible for the rush to the car. If more individuals could simply experience how enjoyable and how easy riding a modern, perfectly set-up bike - of the correct size - actually is - the world would be a better place (?) 'Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.' - H.G. Wells
Fly - February 10, 2014
I agree wholeheartedly with this article. My own recent bikes: 1. Free (with UK mobile phone) mountain bike in 2003. The claimed retail price was about 100 quid. OK bike but heavy, unresponsive and always needing adjustment. It was later stolen when being used by a friend. What a relief! 2. Free Trek hybrid road bike 2005-2007. I scored this for free after it had sat outside uncovered for at least 2 years. I cleaned and lubed everything that didn't need disassembling, installed a new chain, pumped up the tires and off I went. Gears were smooth, very light & responsive compared to the shitty mountain bike. Only other repairs needed were about 4 months before it was stolen after about 20 months of regular use - brakes and new back wheel. 3. Trek hybrid front suspension bike 2007 to now: Decent new bike from a bike store for about 350 or 400 quid. The front forks are a waste of time and needs regular cleaning to hold rust pitting at bay. That aside, the bike is still great on the road or light off-road. Like my earlier Trek, the components are very good - not top of the range mind - but decent quality. Apart from semi regular lubes (when I get round to it), I'm not constantly wasting time sorting out the brakes or gears. The wheels are still closer to true than I'd ever get them myself, blah blah. Although I get the idea of burning more calories riding a tank, given my semi-infrequent riding, I'd rather enjoy my rides feeling able to go that extra mile with the confidence that the next time I go to ride my bike it will work for me first time without wasting half the day sorting out issues that a couple of quid (or dollars for me now) spent earlier would have avoided. Same goes for motor scooters. I have a well used 1972 Honda C50 which is covered in surface rust, blows a bit of smoke when it gets really hot but rides nicely and works every time I choose to ride it. I talk to guys who have bought cheap Chinese 50cc bikes and have constant problems with threads stripping on nuts and bolts, bits constantly snapping off, falling off etc.
Lee - February 2, 2014
I fully agree with your article in some respects. But, this is a big but!! A BSO cheap Â£100 bike can suffice even for regular use if the rider learns to accept the bikes limitations and learns how to carry out the adjustments to the cheap headset. I am a regular rider with a 8 mile hilly round trip commute and use such such a bike (an old Apollo XC.26 from Halfords, I paid Â£25 second hand). I have had very expensive bikes in the past, my usual commuter is a Trek and the yes a quality bike is much nicer to ride in all respects; that does not mean however a cheap bike is not fit for general use. For a start, someone using it to try and get fit. They have to work harder and use more calories! I constantly get overtaken by fellow cyclists on my way in to the Airbase that I am currently stationed, they are usually on super slick, light roadbikes. Do I care no! they are only gaining a few minutes on me with the Apollo. This Bike has been doing this journey daily for over 5 years and has been overseas. Ensuring your bike is correctly setup both mechanically and adjusted to the rider is the most important thing to ensure if you are going to use a cheap bike, poor setup from the box or department store is not a reason to not buy a cheap bike! A bike is a bike! your legs and fitness levels are key even though the bike is heavy, yes you go up hills a bit slower but be careful with gear changes and self service checks the bike will last. Enjoy your riding if you become a regular rider get a better bike, I personally still enjoy riding this very cheap bike especially when overtaking people on very expensive Hoofin fast bicycles at times :-)
Andy Collins - January 28, 2014
The BSO is the reason why many people don't ride a bicycle. The buy a BSO reasoning that they're not 'good enough at cycling' to spend more. Go out for their 1st ride on a sunny afternoon, and return knackered. What they don't realise is, that it wasn't them, it was that heavy, cheap built crap they were trying to push along. If Â£100 is you're limit then buy second hand. I bought a second hand GT Palermo for Â£25 and even though it's 10 years old its got another 20 years of life in it. ps Ed commenting on apr 13 2013 is a liar
MJK - January 17, 2014
Excellent article. Most of the people commenting in favor of BSO most likely do not actually ride trails, or if so, probably fire road. Cheap bikes simply cannot stand up to the rigors of actual mountain biking especially freeride and all mountain.
johnny - December 16, 2013
i really admire your word here.An era of disposable bikes, I learned this lesson the hard way. i knew it when you describe what it is, i own a bso but it's still good after a year and expect another year from it. it did not last because of its quality it lasted because i loved my bike(Always doing maintenance) it just cost me less than 80 dollars. after everyday of cycling to school i really notice how low the quality is but i adapted and took care of it. any way the bottom line is the guy who wrote this article is so RIGHT. if you are going to buy a bso be sure to know how to love a bike.
Mark Cummings - December 14, 2013
Whilst I agree with the sentiment, and agree that you do get what you pay for, my BSO has done me very well..... in 1993 I paid Â£99 for a Jumpro mountain bike (sorry BSO) from Kwik Save. I was a student at the time. 20 years later I still have it and it is fine.... What have I had to fix on it in this time? Well I bought some lights, and about 5 years ago I fitted some new tyres, and then bought some better lights last year, but cant really blame the bike for light technology moving on! oh, and I fitted a pannier rack and bought some bags a few years ago. Last year I bought some nicer bags with a quick release system. In that time, I have covered literally thousands of happy miles on that bike, including up and down mountains in Wales (on the road, i'm not into that through the trees stuff), have done the London to Brighton twice and the London Bikeathon at least 10 times and always put in a very respectable time (and I am not that fit). Yes, it is a heavy bike, and it will never win any speed trials or a fashion contest....but I love it and it has never let me down. That said, I have just bought a Carrera Zeus 2014 for the occasional sprint commute to work (mainly because I am trying to get into the top 10 on a number of segments in Strava), but I will continue to ride the Jumpro as well, and looking at it, I am pretty sure it will last another 20 years, although new bikes will probably hover by then!
Tim Burbick - December 13, 2013
There are cheap bikes that are of superb quality... ...have a pre war model! These are still given away free (I was given mine). The quality and solidity of such a bicycle is so amazing. With Steel rims, white wall tyres, sometimes rod brakes, a 'proper' Brooks saddle and a 'Lucas King-of-the-road' chrome bell what more can one require from such a steed!
Jsson - December 3, 2013
I bought a claud butler 1992, at the time I was on good wages for my age ( 20 ) so decided to treat myself, I have since passed it on to my father
Phil - December 1, 2013
Great article.May I make a very small argument in favour of a BSO? I bought a used Apollo Slant for 20 quid as an emergency back-up for my Trek.The Slant is heavy and not a great ride for the 10 mile round trip to work. So my point is I would never buy a BSO as my main bike but a used BSO as back-up is not a bad idea.
Douglas - November 10, 2013
I think this is an incredibly valuable article. I don't think everyone should buy very expensive bikes but far too many people seem to buy very cheap bikes which look good to get started cycling. Sadly, they end up thinking cycling is difficult and they get less joy from it as a result. This article gives excellent advice.
Anon - November 9, 2013
Having just spent a year working in Halfords (incidentally, the mechanics at my Halfords are great) I agree whole heartedly with the comments made. All Apollos and some of the Raleigh's are not fit to be called bicycles. Trax are just a joke. We need to have eaten our weetabix to lift the full sussers into the work stand. Trying to set up the gears on these bikes is nigh on impossible. Grip shifts are stiff on a lot and they expect kids and women to be strong enough to turn them. Wheels are always untrue. We are supposed to take 20 mins to assemble each bike out of the box which is a joke. Some can take up to an hour once you have taken wheels off to sort out hubs and re true, At Xmas we don't have time to do this so make the best of a bad job. They are an embarrassment to sell. We do our best to discourage people buying them and to spend a bit more on a Carrera which aren't bad bikes. I also personally tell them that the suspension on these bikes is a gimmick and will break if you ride it over so much as a kerb. I'd probably be sacked if the manager heard me. We are then supposed to sell bike care plans with these bikes, believe me they need it because it will break! The problem is that kids grow out of bikes, they are often thrown around and thus parents don't want to spend much money on them. They themselves know that the life expectancy is only a year and that they will throw it after a year. Thus the market is there for companies to exploit by producing cheap crap. There is no excuse for an adult to fall into the same trap though. As said, we at our branch are honest about the bike and try and explain the benefits of spending more. Unfortunately, not all Halfords staff are like this, owing to the pay, hours and lack of prospect, most mechs are straight from school using it as a fill in job whilst at uni or until something better comes along It's a shame because Halfords do sell good bikes too.
mark - November 8, 2013
Iam still amazed it is common for such piles of dangerous rubbish to be sold.I commute to work in all weathers and have had bikes brought to me at Christmas to unbox for friends in the past. Some are barely rideable and many had to have brakes replaced for ones that actualy work. Refused to do this again. These bikes were for children to ride safely.How many have been put off cycling because of the pretend bike they had as a child? Second hand good bikes work if the stigma of having an old one can be got around.I prefer to call mine classics. Many people research buying washing machines etc but spend little or no time on purchasing a bike. My next triple butted steel framed mountain bike may cost me more than the 30 pounds I paid for the last one if more people spent some time on the internet getting a little wiser. But the one I have Will outlast me I think.
Dazoo - November 5, 2013
Never a true word said to be honest. All this bollocks about cycling being elitist and for rich people is exactly that, bollocks. I'm not rich and save up for my hobby. You get what you pay for plain and simple. I have a Specialized FSRxc full susser and decided to take a family member out for an off road ride on his Apollo BSO. The thing fell apart. The supposed suspension didn't work, the gears kept jamming and spokes got bent which could have been dangerous. We only did 8 miles of a local loop which wasn't taxing at all. My "overpriced" bike just lapped it up. It's just not worth it in the long run at all.
Ben Wylie - November 2, 2013
Absolutely brilliant, I love this guy!
Tim - October 26, 2013
In reply to 'Aston Villa' - I used to think like that and so do the majority of people who ride a bike to the shops and that's about it. Even then, if Â£75 is your budget you'd have a more reliable bike that a shop will likely be prepared to repair when it needs it (and it's not likely you will), if you bought a reasonable simple second hand bike for going to the shops for the price. A Â£75 very heavy very cheap full sus will not last at all. Something fails and repairs are expensive so it sits in the shed for the next 10 years. I spent Â£300 back in 2000 on effectively a BSO and I thought that was a hell of a lot. It was heavy and a pain to ride, so not much enjoyment out of it. It was only for local shops and park etc anyway. Sat in the shed for 5 years. I then found singletrack and started riding it actually off road. It fell apart almost instantly. Then it was clear. I now own some seriously expensive kit and ride hills, mountains, even the Alps. However that doesn't mean you have to. If you just still want a bike to ride to the shops there's plenty of proper bikes you can get for a low budget or better second hand. This is not about cheap is bad, but about cheap BSOs are bad.
Eric Phillips - October 20, 2013
I repair bikes. The writers sentiments are spot on. But the biggest problem is that a lot of people who buy cheap expect skilled mechanics to fix them for a cost relative to the cost of the bike. All bikes will need maintenance. Cheap bikes have cheap parts. They don't last as long and the labor for repair is no different. If you want to buy a cheap bike, just don't expect mechanics to give you a breakjust bebecause you think it shouldn't cost more than your bike to fix it.
Nigel - October 15, 2013
This is an amazing article which should be printed and taped to the window of every Halfords shop in the UK. Sadly, I guess there are laws to prevent it being allowed. I bought what for me was an expensive bike, ( a Voodoo Bakka, which at around Â£400 quid is a solid little beast. But dear oh dear oh dear, Halfords really need to get their act together when preparing the bikes for delivery. Mine was rattly, the brakes not quite right, saddle loose and bell missing. I'm not bothered about a bell, but in exchange for Â£400 and the choosing of a reasonable brand, I got home disappointed. And this is something Halfords need to address.
Moz - September 28, 2013
Great article. Our imported Welsh mechanic introduced the term to us and it's stuck. The shop I work in charges $100 just to look at a BSO (we're in Oz). Trouble is, once we touch it every single problem with it from then on is our fault. So we try very hard not to touch them at all. If you can't afford a new bike that works, buy a second hand one. The old three speed bikes still work, my theory is that anything that's still rideable after 10 years of use will go almost forever.
Steve - September 23, 2013
Nothing like the subject of money to divide folk and get people on the defensive... The point is not about how big your wallet is, more how wisely you use it. I used a well known auction site to pick up a used Cube cyclocross bike with full Shimano 105 groupset, for just over Â£100 (I asked suitable questions to ensure it wasn't stolen). It has now replaced my Â£1000 road bike as my first choice for enjoyable riding.
Kevin - September 19, 2013
I pretty much agree with this. I recently bought a Claude Butler Hybrid for Â£350, everything works great and it flies.My wife and I share it and she commutes to work on it with ease.My bike snob friend reckoned I needed to pay twice as much. Some of these people make me laugh, they buy these incredible expensive bikes totally forgetting that they are grossly overweight and unfit. It is like fitting a 1980s Skoda engine in a Porsche! I just gave my 8 year old daughter a mountain bike I made from 2 that had been left out by somebody for the scrapman. It works great for getting to school, brakes good gears precise.I know it will need very regular maintenance but who cares it was free and serves a purpose.
Kali The Destroyer - September 16, 2013
I saved up for a LONG time (& used my redundancy chq too) to buy my Dawes Galaxy. That was 18 yrs ago, she's been hit by a car twice, and still rides as good as new. No rust, no bent bits, and she still carries up to 7 carrier bags of grocery shopping, plus dog (in the trailer). Buy good, buy only once in a lifetime.
Dave - September 13, 2013
I think I agree with the general idea that if you buy cheap you have to buy twice. However, some of us can't afford expensive bikes. My urbanlite from buybuybikes has lasted me over 2000 miles with no issues apart from having to get a service before I used it. Not a bad little bike if I don't say so myself for circa Â£200!
Andrew Carr - August 23, 2013
A succinct attempt by someone passionate about bikes to do those people thinking about buying a bike for pennies a favour. DON'T!Most other reviewers seem to agree. What I would add is that second hand bikes can be bought cheaply but allow buyers to trade up in performance compared to what they would have been able to afford buying new. Â£75 for a new complete bike? Forget it! I wouldn't use it to hang clothes from. Â£75 on ebay, now I would start to listen, with caution...NO 1 bit of advice is ASK SOMEONE WHO IS A KEEN CYCLIST THEIR ADVICE, likely they will point out a reasonable buy and not say that there's nowt worth having below Â£1000. Thing is, as with all things and all people, there are cyclists and there are cyclists; a small minority will buy cheap and only use every weekend to nip to the corner shop or ride on a flat pavement so will not reach the very limited abilities of a cheapo ride. Within reason, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR *ABOVE A CERTAIN LEVEL* Bikes, houses, cars, care homes. This is not snobbery, but a quest for functionality. Want a bike on a budget? Speak to your friendly bike shop/ask around friends and family/ebay/freecycle. Keep wheeling guys, suck it up.
Aston Villa - August 21, 2013
What a biased article that does not take into account that not everyone is a snob with cash falling out of their pockets as they walk. Everyone I know has a relatively cheap bike - i.e. cost up to Â£150 (usually far less) and none of them have any problems; some of these people have owned them for years. My kids all have bikes that cost under Â£75 each and I've saved an absolute fortune if the ridiculous prices being flaunted on this site are to be believed. So, yeah go ahead and throw your money away if you want to keep fooling yourself and want to continue acting like an elitist snob. Me and all the people I know will continue to pay peanuts in comparison and have no noticeable detrimental effect on our riding experiences and will spend the money we've saved on useful things.
steve Padmore - August 17, 2013
I am a poor man and can't afford cheap things....buy cheap and buy twice. Excellent advice in a well written article.
Keith - August 16, 2013
'Bloke' turned up on the doorstep with an 'old style' bike. Turns out to be a Raleigh Ventura from about 1985. Asked for Â£10.. deal. It has now become a restoration project given it was/is in a sorry state. Probably left in the compost heap for the last 15 years. Given I am doing it you should have some sympathy for the bike, live and learn. I did not haggle over the Â£10. It is a bike in the old mould and it will, already has, cost me more than a BSO to end up with a pile of bits in my bedroom and there will be more because I am salvaging its bits as much as I can rather than 'buying new'. Some of those will be due for a later tidy up or replacement. Why? I'm an old bloke and today bikes are just plart. Assuming I do not pop my clogs prior to riding the restoration this one will be for life. Buy good and take care of it.
grant oddy - July 17, 2013
while i agree with your article.. but i must say not everyone can afford anything more than a cheap bike.. i have a bike that cost me Â£200 and i could never afford to pay out more than that.
Terry Sullivan - July 9, 2013
When I bought my bikes (a Cannondale MTB and a Principia/Ultegra road bike) I was able to test ride them before purchase as well as knowing that they would not only be put together well but also set up for me in terms of saddle position etc. They weren't cheap (but not top of the range either) but certainly good value for money. I've had them 15 years now, kept them clean and regularly serviced and they are still a joy to ride. I often get comments from other riders about how they look and even offers to buy them. I know it's tough when budgets are tight but I would certainly recommend taking a bit longer to save up in order to get the benefits in the long term.
Adrian hook - July 6, 2013
I remember when a bike was just ... A bike.now it's some overpriced envoirenmental statement .ooooh look at me ,I spent 5 grand on a push bike and I'm saving the planet.!! Take me back to the good old days when all we needed was a purple chopper and bag of cola cubes. 5 grand on a bike, it's sounds more ridiculous the more you say it!!!! I bought my car for less it's got a heater 4 seats and a stereo.your 5grand bike gives you nothing but debt and a sore arse.
Ade Myers - July 2, 2013
I certainly agree that buying a proper bike is a better investment than a BSO. I bought a Trek Singletrak 920 (non-suspension mountain bike) in the late 1990s for about Â£350. I chose this bike because I wanted a decent quality bike that was mechanically simple. I left the bike in a zip-up nylon cover in a semi â€“derelict garage for 12 years. When I removed after all those years, it was in absolutely pristine condition and in perfect working order, it just need the tyres pumped up to be back on the road. It is a shame that the bike manufactures donâ€™t seem to do this category of model anymore, ie. Simple but good rigid MTBs. I suppose the nearest equivalent in the current market would be a cross bike. It is also shame that the BSO market is driven by impressive looking spec s and features rather than quality production and components. They could actually a produce something much closer to a proper bike is they ditched the fancy looking (but totally rubbish) suspension, disk brakes, multi gears, etc.
Matt - June 27, 2013
This was really interesting! I have bought a cheap bike two times. The first time it was a complete waste, the rear derailluers didnt move at all or change... Soo I thought I'd give it another chance and bought another bike(full suspension). The rear suspension didn't even move and you could've called it a hardtail, except I rode it A LOT forctge two weeks I had it and the front forks had started to bend. After that I decided never to buy a cheap bike again and I was serious about it
Paul - June 12, 2013
I certainly agree with this article, although not with all of the comments. I joined my employers cycle to work scheme, however I was limited to one place to purchase from- Halfords. I chose a VooDoo and picked it up fully assembled the next day, it was a pleasure to ride and I had absolutely no problems ( until it was stolen). I'm now thinking about getting a carrera hybrid.
Rich - June 5, 2013
Stumbled across this after my cleaning lady asked me to have a look at her BSO after just 18 months - it's made by "McKenzie" which is popular in germany. I really couldn't believe the state of it and the quality of components when I started looking at it. I've got plenty of spare bits and bobs, so managed to replace the wheels, rear mech, cranks, bottom bracket, brake levers and calipers (i.e. everything that moves) which were all well on their way out. When you consider what that the components and labour would've cost compared to a new reasonable bike, it's a definite false economy unless you're literally only using it a couple of times a year.
Mark B - June 5, 2013
I'm in two minds about this article, but I completely appreciate what is said. I bought a BSO from a Decathlon store in 2009, one of their bottom-of-the-range 'Original 3' hybrid models for Â£109 . Admittedly I haven't riden it a huge amount, but I've chucked it about a bit on road, off kerbs and along bumpy trails and not had a single problem in the 4 years I've owned it. As far as I can recall, as regards maintence, I've only had to adjust the brakes once, and that's it. But two days ago I decided to upgrade to something a bit more comfy due to a back problem, so got an 'Original 7' for Â£229, which has front and rear suspension and a gel saddle. I cycled to and from work yesterday (about 3 miles total!) and felt a clicking through the pedals, like a dodgy bearing in the main pedal crank. At one point this slipped and crunched audibly. Also, the gears kept jumping out of place, and looking down I noticed the pedal cog was slightly warped. And the 'expensive' gel saddle included was not half as comfortable as they touted it. I'm taking it back today and (hopefully) getting a refund. So I think, as regards my experience with BSOs from large French chainstore retailers, it's a case of pot luck. I'm going back to my original BSO, fitting a comfier saddle and looking out for one of those suspension seat posts that the article author mentioned.
graham - May 30, 2013
i bought a Trax TR1 5months ago in halfords, cost me 84.99 euro. (with my 15% axa card discount) put it together in 5minutes have to say i cycle it nearly everyday and the only mishap i had was the chain came off once
Spokey Dokey - May 28, 2013
I see these BSO things being ridden. Hand on heart I've never slung a leg over one (nor would I). But I can understand why people buy them, They have no idea what a proper bike will do or how efficient they are. Why buy a Â£100 full susser if your on the footpath just going to work. mind you even a Â£1,000 full susser can be bad, I got my friend to walk away from a B****man in Halfords because it wasn't built properly. Admittedly it could have been sorted out at home, but the brake levers flexed and it weighed too much. Buy in haste, relent at leisure.
Taylor Wenslow - May 25, 2013
This article is so true! I have had many BSOs in my lifetime, and found them to be horrid. From childhood on, BSO after BSO. Recently purchased a (very) used late 1970s Huffy 3 speed for $35US. Best bike I've ever owned. It rides nice and smooth, the brakes are razor precise, the gears all work. The frame is solid and the paint still looks good for it's age. It's all original parts minus the saddle which is a replacement from a similar British 3 speed. Newer Huffy bikes I've ridden have proven to be just as horrible as other BSOs. I suppose some brands forgot what quality was. I've even ridden some horrible newer Schwinn bikes! I love my old 3 speed Huffy, clunky as it is. I've never owned a more mechanically sound bike than this. All the parts feel very sturdy, like they'll never break! Sure is creeks a little, but it's almost 30 years old! And the bit the creaks isn't anything of much importance, just an apparently added on analog speedometer/odometer. So far I've only put 10 miles on this bike, but it's a pleasure to ride! The gears are clutched! (You have to stop pedaling after changing gears, then pedal again for the gear to catch!) almost like a failsafe in case you didn't mean to shift!
Jason - April 18, 2013
Well I was going to buy a bike from a local supermarket in Poland called Real.pl I though as long as the frame is alu and brakes are shamui you will be ok. Their is also allergo.pl bit like ebay. selling bikes. aprox price is 900zl is 180 pound. Names like Romet delta 28' frame. Its a mine field and as I am a novice and beginner thought I need to crawl before I walk. Please help. This is a great cite by the way.
Manuel - April 14, 2013
I agree with you, but it also depends on how much you're going to use it and how well you service it. Last year, coming to the UK and needing a form of transport, I got a BSO from an on-line retailer for Â£50. Apart from a flat tyre in the first few days of using it (in its defence, the track I was riding on was lined with spiky shrubs!) and some fiddling with the brakes I had no major trouble with it (no broken chains, no issues w/ frame, nothing serious!). True, I only did about 700k in 6 months, and it does need a new set of callipers for the back brake (couldn't be bothered to fix it yet...), but for Â£50 I got what I expected, and I believe that if I service it properly and take care of it it should last me a lot more. In addition, I had a couple of friends who bought the very same bike at the same time as me (from the same retailer!) and they had a lot of trouble with them (missing screws, things falling apart, rustiness...). One can also be lucky, perhaps in my case the blokes in the factory were actually manufacturing the bike properly! However, now I got myself a entry-range Raleigh commuter bike. Even though I only paid around Â£180 for it, which is still in what you call the BSO range (it was last year's model, so it had quite a bit of a discount, I think originally it was closer to Â£300) I feel already a very big difference in relation to the one I had before, the build construction is noticeably better! And, since this is a bike which is used to commute and also to get to the shops at the town centre, I really don't want to shell Â£300+ in something that can be snatched easily (I have a sturdy-looking D-lock, but still!..).
Ed - April 13, 2013
I own a so called "BSO" and have done for 8 years. It cost me Â£29.99 from Tesco and is top quality. I have only replaced the cables and brake pads in all that time. I average 22 MPH. Great buy - bargain!
chris - April 12, 2013
I could not agree more, I bought a bike a year ago, having not rode a bike since I was a young teenager and all I was worried about was how much it would cost! after a few months of cycling it and trying out my brothers Carrera, I realized what a piece of shit it is. Its falling apart. I'm now saving up for a mid range hybrid, LOVE CYCLING NOW BTW!!
Will (Canada) - April 6, 2013
My wife and I bought our first bikes in 1977, for a little over $100 ea new. They were 10 speed bikes. They lasted until the mid 1980's and were a great ride. Our neighbours were moving and gave us two mountain bikes. After overhauling them, we got about 7 years out of them. Wanting more gears, we bought two used bikes originally costing $300 ea. at a reputable sports shop for just under $100. I later bought my daughter a used bike there for $129. It had a $1000 frame. She rode it for 6 years to University and now rides it nearly every working day to her teaching job. I bought my son a $700 Norco for $109. It has been a joy to ride for him. He broke the forks goofing around wo we are on the hunt again. Unfortunately our used bike supplier has retired. We are not that wealthy, so I do a lot of research and buy used. We have also learned how to service and maintain our bikes. You wrote an excellent article.
Count Spokeula - April 2, 2013
I bought two 1950's British 3 speeds, one for me, one for Mrs Spokeula - and we've never looked back. They are the best cheap bike's available. Tomorrow I am taking the Hal-crap-fords bike carrier to the tip after less that a year of use - broken screw threads. Rubbish!
Ralph Down - April 2, 2013
In the USA, we can buy Huffy and Roadmaster bikes for under $100, at Walmart.These are pretty reasonable bikes, and will certainly last longer than 2 years. Maybe there are a lot worse bikes available in your country? Actually, my usual mode of getting a new bike is to pick one up that someone has left at the dumpsters. The price is right! There is definitely something to be said for buying a cheap bike like the aforementioned at Walmart. And they have their place on school campuses or around town where theft is a problem. Thieves probably prefer your type of bike to mine! So, while you may have some good points, there is a good niche for my style of bike.
Alan oakley - March 28, 2013
I have my own shop and agree with your comments 100%. I have customers that actually work at halfords and will not have their bikes repaired there.
Woody - March 10, 2013
I work for a well known bicycle and car parts retail chain that sells bicycles ranging from the excellent quality right down to BSO's. I try really hard to put people off buying these things because they are simply dreadful and if used properly will just end up back in store for countless repairs and warranty. The threads strip, the nuts round, the bearings are awful and the brakes are poor. Everything is made as cheaply as possible. I bloody hate them and I hate my company for selling them alongside very reasonably priced quality bikes. Save your money.
John Clifton - February 23, 2013
Wonderfully written & structured article! Agree with every word of it! Hope the word goes out to all the people looking for bikes - I personally think those cheap bikes should be banned for health & safety reasons! Why isn't there a government body checking standards of these things before providing companies licences to operate/produce? Its a shame, because people's lives are at stake here! I always advised my friends looking for bikes but had smaller budgets to look for good quality used bikes instead of cheap new bikes! I personally grew up riding my grandfather's Hercules when I was in school. The bike is still in our family 60 years on & will give any new expensive bike a run for their money any day!!
DONALD KIRKBRIDE - January 22, 2013
Ive repaired bikes since i was 14 and am 54 now i learned how to build bike wheels in 13 weeks built a mtb wheel using a wheel that was out of true stripped it cleaned and serviced the hub with new bearings and spindle and rebuilt the whole wheel roadtest the wheel for six months in my muddy fox silver jaguar mtb then rechecked the wheel and only two spokes needed adjusted as for bikes from halfords or supermarkets halfords mechanics are a joke they dont know the name of components one didnt know what a rear mech was and another halfords i was in three of them were trying to assemble a bike! their assembly standard is abysmill the brakes dont work properly(levers come back to the bars) and the gears arent checked and set up properly the amount of people ive had bring me a halfords bike to get the brakes sorted is now 35 thats 35 dangerous and in my opinion unrideable bikes halfords sold to members of the public putting their lives in danger i worked in a bike shop 10 years ago and if i assembled a bike and the brakes and gears didnt work properly my employer would have read me the riot act none of the bikes assembled left the shop with poor brakes or the gears not working properly i also used to roadtest the bikes personally to ensure the gears and brakes worked 101% not 98 or 99 even but 101% only then would i let someone else ride that bike on the basis that if i feel safe on the bike then its ok to ride as for supermarket bikes if you have to buy one insist in one in its box not an assembled one and get a competent mechanic to assemble it ok it may only last six months but at least you will have ridden a safely assembled bike not one assembled by someone who knows nothing about bikes personally i wouldnt let a halfords bike mechanic within 3 ft of any of my bikes and if i bought a bike in halfords (which is doubtful) i would insist it was left in its box so that i could assemble it myself if they refused this request i would just tell them to forget it and walk out. in my opinion all halfords mechanics should be made to do a compulsory cytech course to learn bike mechanics properly instead they employ under 25's who ride mtb but just about grasp the basics of bike mechanics yet when i tried for a job with halfords 12 years ago i was told because of my age i didnt fit into their corporate image ie under 25 and know damn all about how to fix bikes.
Andrew - January 14, 2013
Just messing about and found this article. I cannot agree more. I am teaching myself, with the help of a big blue book, to fix bikes. A hobby you might say. I am by profession a heavy vehicle mechanic so I am fairly handy with tools and can figure out, mostly, how things are meant to work. My one piece of advice, spend the extra money and invest in a proper bike. Those cheapies from the department stores are rubbish. They are incredibly frustrating to service and tune. The parts and components are cheap and nasty. No sooner than you tune it, it goes out of whack on the test ride! I bought a Merida Matts bike about 20 years old. The fork has a crack on the clamping section which has been welded. It was cheap. In its day, it was a very good bike and it still is despite its age. I could tune it in about 20 minutes and be certain it will run as it is meant to. The BSOs will take over an hour of fiddling around and by the end of it, I am still not satisfied. So to finish off, buying a cheap BSO is false economy. It's dubious whether it'll last more than a year and your mechanic will not thank you. Buy a quality bike, and it'll still be with you in 20 years time.
will - December 31, 2012
Sometimes I wonder... well maybe the bso's are good cos they get people into cycling who otherwise wouldn't but then I suspect they are actually detrimental to the cause cos the ride is so unpleasant it probably ends up rusting in the shed and the person just assumes 'oh well cycling is just not for me'. For me the pleasure of cycling comes from using a machine that is smooth and responsive, I'm on a low wage but I've got a road bike and an mtb both from ebay that are very good quality and were both around half their original price- it took a bit of looking around but there's some good deals out there- especially bikes that are collection only.
Alan - December 24, 2012
I bought a mtb for 150 euros from a store called decathlon , I've had 5 years and sometimes take it off road , never had a problem with it, it's still going strong. So sometimes you can be lucky
Tony Thompson - December 23, 2012
It`s just common sense really, but what i find hard is getting a decent quality bike for my kids. There only seems to be junk out there for young children or the few that are decent seem to cost as much as an adult bike would with much better specs.
Luca - December 18, 2012
Very good article and so true.
Stephen Kittoe - December 6, 2012
Wayne seems to think that most of the commentators above are, effectively, snobs. They're not: they're criticising the peddlers (Gedditt?) of the monstrous bits of rubbish that are BSOs. I sell and buy back good bikes. I have noticed an almost inverse relationship, that is, the older the bike the smoother it rides. Amongst my stock I have a 1949 Rudge, a similar year Humber and a 1952 Rudge Whitworth. They may not sparkle and glitter like all those sheds' and online offerings but they all run "sweet as a nut" as a London used car dealer might aver.
Anonymous - November 18, 2012
Thanks for hosting this valuable material. I'd like to share my experiences given that my wife and I both recently bought bikes. My wife was the first to show interest, fighting hard against my best attempts at dissuasion. My view was that most bikes are not used and end up cluttering up the shed or garage. In my wife's case, this is exactly what happened, but only after I had spent Â£300 on a reasonable bike. Now, when we went to pick up my wife's bike, the queue was long, so inevitably I got bored. I saw (and actually bought) a Trax T700 hybrid for Â£60, thinking 'well, there's more chance of us using the bikes if we get one each'. The last time that I had ridden a bike was some 20 years ago so I was very impressed with the 700c wheels and V brakes. I spent the smallest amount of money that I thought that I could get away with, because, after all, bikes end up the garage and are seldom used. Mistake. Determined to get some value for the investment, I used the bike regularly, clocking up over 100 miles in just a few weeks... before the inevitable trouble. The gear / drive system was awful from day one: 'Clunky' just doesn't cover it. The bike had to be strongly encouraged to step up or down, despite mechanically sympathetic behaviour, such as never moving more than one cog. The chain slipped and regularly came off, meaning that rides invariably resulted in my hands getting covered in GT85. The saddle needed to be replaced before the second outing - It was badly designed and uncomfortable as a result. The wheels were untrue by the end of the first week. I suspect that the bottom bracket has issues because the whole frame seems to creak and knock when ridden. The tyres were unbranded and performed badly in the wet. The brakes performed very well in the dry but abysmally in wet conditions. The pedals were unfit for purpose: Any vigorous riding, particularly in non-ideal conditions, would result in my feet slipping, and on one occasion, I actually came off the bike. The bike was also unreasonably heavy... which to be fair may be a positive consideration for those wishing to lose weight. The gear levers were made of plastic, as suggested here, and while I had no immediate problems, would not expect them to hold up long term. So, the bike was a BSO, and the Â£60 investment resulted in my.... buying a better bike. It turned out that the BSO was *just* good enough to convince me that - despite it's shortfalls - I actually liked cycling. So, I returned to the shop and bought a Voodoo Marasa, this time costing Â£350. The difference is astonishing. The bike fits me. The brakes are razor sharp. The gear system is efficient. The frame - weighing less than I do - is responsive and well balanced. My feet never slip from the pedals. The saddle is comfortable. Let's face it, Â£350 is very little to spend on a bike, given that a gym or sports club membership can easily cost Â£700... per year!
Felix Fiera - November 3, 2012
Very Well Said, sadly they are everywhere!
Greg Archer - October 29, 2012
I am a bicycle mechanic and everything in this article is absolutely bang on. I could write a book about the horror stories I have seen in my workshop in the shape of cheap, horrible bikes with unknown names like 'Terminator' or 'Volcano' - all skip fodder.
Chris Riding - October 9, 2012
I bought a "Trax" maountain bike from Halfords for Â£79 last year for a 400k tour. Being completely ignorant of bike build quality and the concept of a BSO I felt incredibly annoyed at the "bike technician" who completed my transaction when he commented "yeah, this bike won't make the trip, its rubbish" when I told him about my planned tour. Having returned from said tour I concluded that he was right. The tour was awesome, the bike, wasn't. Snapped chain, painful gear changes and what felt like a foot long razor on my posterior. I have since purchased a Dawes Vantage for Â£600, and the difference in ride quality is indescribable. I returned today from a 45k jaunt around Canterbury and Whitstable today and I am literally wetting myself at the thought of planned 500k tour in France next year. Great article.
Libercontrarian - October 8, 2012
I'm a Yank, and was nodding my head in agreement with what you've written. An item of note: Mongoose has taken up with Wal-Mart to produce a half-decent full-suspension mountain bike called the XR-Pro - it's a 29er. It is getting some rave reviews, although the folks who like it buy it at $379 US for the frame; they upgrade the suspension components and wheels shortly after buying. It's a whole lot cheaper than buying a $1,300 FS bike, which is what I just did (and my credit card is still smokin' hot, too). If you want to check out the debate on the topic, go to a website called "bigboxbikes dot com" and there's a lengthy thread.
chris railton - September 10, 2012
hi re dunlop mtbs i work part in cycle shop people bring this rubbish in all the time but dont blieve they crap c railton lincoln uk
Phillip Austin - August 26, 2012
A couple of years ago I bought cheap brand name bike from a cycle shop for occasional commuting. It's not done very many miles and things have kept coming loose. This morning, almost at walking pace, I braked sharply and bumped down a 1 inch kerb. The front wheel collapsed. At speed it would have been catastrophic. Don't buy cheap stuff! You may not live to regret it.
Brian - July 26, 2012
I'm not sure if I agree with this article. I've just knackered a cheap bike. However, I estimate I got at least 2,000 miles out of it. Not bad for Â£64. Part of the problem for me is that bike shop owners tend to be real snobs, and out you off buying a mid-range bike. I think you underestimate the price of fixing a bike, expecially when labour is taken into consideration. Plus, not everyone can afford to spend Â£400 on a new bike.Your environmental arguments however, are less easily dismissed, though there is nothing to stop you taking an old bike to a recycling centre, and buying a new bike every year, still creates afar smaller carbon footprint than driving. Keep cycling.
Phil - July 13, 2012
Totally agree. I had many Raleighs growing up. Totally fixable bikes. The BSO I bought for my teenage son (they lose things) from Costco is a real piece of junk. I think I only paid CAN$175. The tubes installed were oversized and when I looked for the source of the two slow leaks, I found the excess tube folded over on itself inside the tire! Also everything was quite out of wack and needed lots of tuning. Just recently after 3~4 years the rear axle snapped!!! Never seen that before. Personally, I ride used bikes. One is a Giant Yukon that a neighbour was throwing out. I have been riding that for 10+ years. What a work horse. Lately, I bought a Specialized Rockhopper for $CAN150 at a garage sale. Nice ride. If you can't afford new, buy used but keep looking to find a "real" bike
Hugh - July 4, 2012
I am a regular cyclist having spent too much money and maintenance on fantastic machines that I love to ride and tinker with. Every now and then I get to try a BSO, borrowed from a friend etc. I thought that the trickle down effect would be able to make a bike stop and go reasonably well at any price, time and again I am reminded that a BSO is not pleasant to ride. I recently bought an unused BSO for $20Aus off eBay, tried my best to assemble it correctly and grease and adjust all the parts. It was still terrible so I onsold it - I think the new owner thought he got a bargain to try out cycling but now I suspect it'll be gathering dust anyway.
David Harriman - June 22, 2012
I bought a tatty Dawes Streetwise off E-bay for 50p in 2006 (I made the first and only bid!) and have used it as my hack-bike almost daily since then, and it still rides perfectly! So you can still sometimes get quality at a bargain price, if you're lucky, but I would never expect to get such use from a cheap and nasty catalogue bike.
aj - May 31, 2012
liked your article. know u dont sell bikes, however some examples of good and reasonable bikes and companies would be welcome, for hybrids, mtbs and road bikes. seems like even well known brands have cheaper versions. also some comments on usual well known suspects would be welcome- raleigh, claud butler, falcon, carerra etc.
Darren Hayes - April 30, 2012
Well said indeed. People do not have to spend silly money to get a bike and as long as you spend at least "sensible" money it will last for years and years. My commuter today is a '96 Saracen Kili Comp. I'm the bikes 3rd owner and it is still on all original parts apart from pads, chain and sprockets/rings.
Joe Sheridan - April 26, 2012
In 1999, living in a remote part of Wales, we ordered an MTB-style bike for my wife from a well-known UK high street catalogue store. It was handy to have it delivered, as it would have been a long ride from the nearest bike shop otherwise. It cost about Â£80, if I remember correctly. It came in a box, and the instructions said all it needed were the pedals fitting, the handlebars loosening and turning through ninety degrees, and a quick check of nuts and bolts. Had I known then what I know now, I would have stripped it down completely and rebuilt it. The factory had fitted a new chain without shortening it, and it used to slip. Even so, it was reasonable to ride, although the Shimano SIS indexed rear derailleur could never be adjusted properly. A couple of years ago, I did carry out a complete overhaul on it. The ball bearings in the wheel hubs had collapsed into a shiny powder. I fitted new, quality ball bearings (the cones and races were fine), a brand new chain which I adjusted for size, and a stem-mounted friction lever instead of the SIS indexed twistgrip. It's now a lovely bike to ride, and the paint is still like new. I should say that this particular machine was built in England, but just let down by cheap bearings and hasty setting-up. I wouldn't like to risk a sub-Â£100 bike from that same store nowadays.
embee - April 20, 2012
I think this article is quite true. i am more and more becoming a mountain bike enthusiast. I enjoy riding and wish i could do it more often. I work for a retailer that offer affordable mountain bikes to the public. it is my job to build these bikes and perform a 28 point safety check on them. I am sometimes left confused to how difficult it can be setting up these bikes due to there components being of the budget variety. i do not own one of these bikes. I am the proud owner of a scott hard-tail and just from the maintenance side of things it is so much easier to maintain and set up than a budget bike. Setting up gears and brakes on my scott tends to be something to look forward too after tinkering with non-responsive deralieurs and tension adjusters all day. These budget bikes have heavy frames, cheap materials and components but if your on a budget your on a budget. I always have and always will make sure these bikes are safe and legal before they leave the shop, with the customers satisfaction at the forefront of my mind, but these are really only good for leisurely rides and commutes (even though they have full suspension) they are much better suited to flat asphalt. if your are wanting to get 'off road' please spend a bit more money, get a reliable, durable, well known manufacturer.
TJ - April 2, 2012
Great article on the BSO. But srsly, you can still buy a good bike at about $100-$200, like a secondhand. I got a Decathlon Rockrider 5.2 for just under $300, works grest after a few months' riding.
Brad - March 28, 2012
i love this article, i used to have like 30 cheap bikes (about 5 now, i ended up giving alot away and cutting the rest up) but i now have 2 quality bikes and its awesome!!!
Shaun - March 24, 2012
I recently used to ride to work daily. It was a just under under 5 mile round trip, cycle path all the way. The route is flat (except for one moderate bridge) and well paved. In the 4 years I cycled the journey to work I got through 3 BSOs. They literally fell to pieces and they all had faults from new. I'm now investing in a quality used hybrid! Maybe it's a touch of rose tinted glasses, but when I was growing up in the 70s & 80s, we all rode British built bikes that seemed indestructible.
Charles Eck - March 24, 2012
Started riding to work a few weeks ago, using my old '73 Hercules I got as a kid. Around '79 I updated the brakes and wheels (700C aluminum rims and a 5 speed hub, center pull brakes.) and rode it another ten years. Pulled it out, adjusted the brakes and gears, new tires and tubes, and she's back on the job! Got a decent aluminum MTB frame and building it up as a commuting bike, leaving the old 'Herc' as backup. Looked at the 'bikes' at Wal-Mart: I'd rather walk!
Alice Cooper - March 18, 2012
I'm going to buy a BSO just because I have no clue whether I'll ride it or not. (Haven't been on a bike since I was eight.) I agree, Â£300 for a mode of transport/a sport tool isn't a lot, but it's a lot for a lawn ornament if I don't use it. Am very grateful to this article for giving me a clue what to look to spend my money on if I discover a new hobby.
Ben Davies - March 8, 2012
Very interesting and amusing read - I have been riding mountain bikes for 17 years and these BSO's are a complete pile of crap in my opinion, I'm not saying that you should go out and spend Â£5000 on a top of the range machine but just double that Â£129.99 (BSO price) and shop about a bit online with Â£260, maybe bump it up to Â£300 and you will pick up a Â£400 bike in last years colours....now that is a bargain, no one wants a rusty, heavy, over built full susser when the average person buys a bike just for commuting/getting fit - get a little hybrid/hardtail, it will make all the difference and you will want to ride it again and again rather than resenting that 'rusting waste of money' sat at the back of your shed. :-)
alan wilkinson - February 29, 2012
Not always true. I do buy my kid's bikes at Toys r us. (Kids are 7, 13 and 15) Provided I really inspect the construction and materials used and accept that I will have to totally strip the bike down and rebuild it, greasing all components as I go before it can be used, then it is all OK. However, I would never buy a toys r us bike for me to get to work every day!
Mohit - February 18, 2012
This is one of the best articles written on bikes for a newbie. I live in India and planning for a new bike. Will surely keep this in mind while purchasing. Thank you
Ahmad Kamal - February 17, 2012
Well written and very true. I see a lot of these BSOs, from where I come from, and most of them are sad and forlorn looking things, abandoned or just waiting for the landfill. I bought a 16 year old bicycle, a named brand, but it was in running condition and I paid a fraction of its original cost. Even at that vintage, it is way better than any of the BSOs, and it is reliable. I only decided to change the crankset aftre clocking close to 500km on it. After making that change, the bike's performance actually went up a notch. I actually have people expressing interest on the bicycle. I do my own servicing, only resorting to the LBS if I do not have the proper tools to carry out the repairs or servicing. The cost comparison, and the illustration of a hub brings home the point that spending a little bit more on a bicycle will save you a lot of heartaches, and the complication of what makes a bicycle.
Dave - February 14, 2012
I bought an appolo slant 17 from Halfords. I am already looking at buying a good bike from my local bike shop. My BSO works ok but it is hard going on inclines, the brakes are loose even though they had 6 wk service 9 days ago. The problem is I don't know enough to know what is a good bike for trails and road travel. I love being out on a bike though and am getting rid of my car.
Mick Wilson - January 27, 2012
My wife needs to read this article - she thinks a hundred quid BSO is enough to lay out on a weekend bike so the Â£ 600 budget ive set myself for a decent hardtail has got her reaching for the rolling pin. BSO's - another sad indicator of how much our society sunk towards everything being 'disposable' great article , thanks.
Chris - Derby - January 16, 2012
This is a very good, well-written article. I can't agree more. Only one thing - if you're buying a decent bike, buy a decent lock to secure it with (Top category D lock, and/or motorbike chain).
Daniel - December 12, 2011
I totally agree. I have hade my Trek 4300 for 8 years and it is still doing great. I bought the bike for $310 I have kept it well maintained and have spent about $80-$100 total on keeping up with maintenance. I will never by a cheap bike.
Sami - December 2, 2011
Thanks from, Adelaide, Australia. I bought a BSO recently.. For only AU$170... Thinking 'how smart I am'.. Bikes at local bike shop start from AU$300+.... and I saved heaps!! I was so bloody wrong. Utterly disappointed with bike I bought... it is a collection of heavy junk metal on wheels. Does not brake at all (trust me). Real wheel bent shortly after purchase, some balls (bearing) in crank case break off in day 2â€¦ thus getting â€˜ kat kat katâ€™ noiseâ€¦.. Within weeks its all rusty and gear would not change properly... Iâ€™d be lucky to get AU$40 for it now..... ïŒ Never buying a bike from a generic super mall again, N E V E Râ€¦â€¦ And buying BSO does not only mean monetary loss but also loss of a ride and health for the time period.
tom - November 2, 2011
that's a nice, well written article. i'd add to it though: you can get a decent second hand bike for Â£100, so why get bso? also... aluminium. damned aluminium. if you want a bike to last make sure it's steel. oh.. and derailleurs. bring back internal gear hubs for cyclists who want reliability.
Caroline - August 4, 2011
This article is so true. My last bike was awful, so I saved and bought a lovely road bike for Â£400. Two years on and all I've replaced is one inner tube. It still looks as good as the day I bought it even though I ride it daily in all weathers. Don't buy cheap it's not worth it, you should get pleasure from your bike not worry about what will break next. If you can't afford new then do your homework to find a good one second hand. Happy cycling!
andy - July 17, 2011
I have recently completed my 2000th mile, a little over a year after having bought a Â£70 British Eagle from Asda. Nothing has broke, I've not had any nasty mishaps and with a little routine maintenance everything has remained absolutely serviceable. I continue to ride this 'BSO' daily and have no complaint. To me and many others like me these bikes are truly bargains. It may not be as smooth or comfortable as 'proper' bikes, but as I've not ridden them to compare I wouldnt know. I have lost with this bike though. Three stone in weight. Best Â£70 pounds I ever spent.
Ramesh velayudam - July 4, 2011
i could remember the gone good old days when i had bought Â£40 tesco cheap throw awaya BSO way back in 2007, i can garantuee you it all happened what is narrated above ended up spending more than the actual bought price in fixing one or the other parts every week
David Tam - July 3, 2011
My BSO purchased from Costco (Infinity Huron, $180 CAD + tax) just had its front derailleur snapped with the odometer at 2,500 km (1,600 miles), resulting the front shifter becoming stuck in the granny gear unable to shift (3 speed front). As a result the rear gear should only be shifted to gear 5 at most to avoid cross chaining (7 speed rear) limiting top speed to 20.5 km/h (12.7 mph).
wv cycling - June 25, 2011
This is a list of all the BSO companies in North America. If you ever find a decrepit product of theirs... do not hesitate to contact them and let them know it is ass. http://i53.tinypic.com/25qyp2t.jpg http://wvcycling.net
David - June 22, 2011
'Buy cheap, buy twice' Rode a BSO for the first time on holiday and I bought into it with a positive attitude as it was the only bike on offer. It turned out to be the sum of all my biking fears. The saving grace was the beautiful scenery we rode through. My advice is to spend Â£20 on MB magazines and look through the buying guides. They go from entry level to expert users. These guys do this for a living 24/7 and it will give you an insight into what your buying into.
Tim Hudson - June 20, 2011
The latest BSO to darken our doors is a Dunlop full suspension, the axle breaks in the rear wheel within weeks, we had one chap asking for a replacement, we told him to take it back to shop he got it from, they gave him another wheel, that axle snapped! He got another wheel, this one had a defective hub! We were had a donation of around 50 of these from a major retailer, a few weeks after we received them, they phoned to ask if they'd been useful, our answer was yes thanks, the reflectors were re-used and you currently get a good price for 'pig-iron'.
Abo - June 15, 2011
I knew nothing about cycling and just wanted somethign so I could go for rides out with my son. So I bought an Apollo Slant from Halfords. The bottom bracket was wonky and it sheared several teeth from the rear cassette. It was returned to the shop and they just replaced it with another bike. Within 10 miles I had bent one of the sprockets just through normal riding so I again returned it and complained. They replaced it with an Apollo Phaze. The thing rode ok so I thought but never kept it's adjustments very long, in fact I was having to adjust it daily. The rear cones came loose after 100 miles so I complained to the head office. They swapped it for a Carrera Vulcan and it is worlds apart. If I'd known at the start I'd have bought second hand. I don't see the problem with this; after all, people buy used cars every day and are happy with this. Why shouldn't it be the same with bikes?
Wayne - June 1, 2011
People like you and some of you commenters get on my nerves so bad! I'm ashamed to think some people are so high up on the pole they think they can't ride a cheaper bike! Myself, I don't buy box bikes from department stores. But I know a few that rides them and they are doing just fine, some a year old and being rode every day. What the hell happen to 'At least they are riding bicycles' ? And having fun might I add! People, don't kick someone for riding a cheaper bike than you because they're biking and having fun. And who knows, maybe a 80 dollar department store bike is the best they can do. Jeezzzz people, share cycling and stop being so above other people just because they buy a better bike.
Ian Edwards - May 18, 2011
From looking around sites like Amazon at their bikes and the amount of positive reviews BSO's get, I suspect that the vast majority of the public don't know any better. Found one BSO full suspension for Â£300 (RRP Â£400 apparently?) and also found the same bike for sale at Asda. It makes no sense to me when you can get an entry level hardtail from most of the big brands for the same money?? But then again, if you don't know any different, you're stuck with BSO's. I commend your article and agree. Just a shame people don't read this before adding to their basket, whether it be on Amazon or at the supermarket. Sometimes it takes a ride on a nice bike for someone born and bred on BSO's to understand why proper bikes are more expensive. A friend of mine has a Carrera Banshee, for which he paid Â£400. I'm really surprised how good it is for such a low price. His girlfriend has a Â£150 BSO from Toys R Us and recently borrowed his bike and described it as a dream to ride compared to her bike and is now looking for a better bike herself. Nevermind Asda and its rollback on prices, I think Sainsburys 'Taste the difference' is the most fitting slogan.
Alex - May 15, 2011
I just bought my first road bike, from Tesco direct no less... It's not a bad bike - almost all Campagnolo parts - but the sheer number of BSOs on that website were astonishing. Having ridden hack bikes and BSOs for years I can definitely feel the difference now: praise be to the clubcard :P
Oliver Thomas - May 13, 2011
I work in a bike shop and we only sell quality bicycles for cyclists. We only stock well known brands of bikes and all of our staff are cycling enthusiasts. We're genuinely here to help and don't put pressure on people to buy and discourage buying beyond their means. We try to build a rapport with a customer and like to educate and encourage people into making informed choices based upon their needs and in some cuscumstances we have reccomended that people look elsewhere, for example on eBay and classifieds etc for good quality and servicable bikes. Very often we have people comming in who just want a bike for next to nothing. We do our best to accomodate but our cheapest bike retails at just over Â£200 which usually causes some people to walk out in disgust. One particular gentleman was pushing me to match the price on a Â£59.99 bike he had seen in the supermarket. No amount of effort would convince him that our cheapest bike was not like-for-like. No pleasing some people, but there is definitely a market for cheap bikes there.
Christian Thornton - May 10, 2011
I bought a cheap Â£100 catalogue bike a few years back and it arrived in a flat pack. Both wheels were buckled out of the box so I sent it back and got another one which was exactly the same!! On returning for the 2nd time, I was pretty much fobbed off and managed to walk away with my money back fortunately. I then saw an article on watchdog about cheap bikes: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/watchdog/2009/11/flat_pack_bikes.html, found this article and then decided that i'd be better off saving some money up and buying a proper bike from my local bike retailer. I've always had cheap bikes and assumed cycling wasn't for me but now I can't get enough of it when the sun is shining. Just starting cycling to work too and saving a fortune in fuel money :). You definitely get what you pay for with bikes, of course some are silly money but my arguement is that if you compare anything else, people are willing to spend the cash. A Â£10 mobile phone from a supermarket is awful to use and made of cheap plastic and nothing like an Iphone, but spend a bit more and you can get something nearly as good. The same logic applies to bikes.
Greg from Loughborough - May 4, 2011
Cracking article and totally true. I though I was alone with my loathing of BSOs'. Wanna see a BSO? go to your local scrap metal skip at your local tip - you'll see lots!
Nathan Alexander - April 18, 2011
One thing nobody has mentioned yet; the online bike stores who are selling 2009/2010 bikes at huge savings. I have recently bought myself a rather tasty Cannondale at about 2/3rd the RRP from 2010 and about Â£500 cheaper than a similar spec 2011 bike from my local bike shop. It came delivered ready to roll and set up by a qualified mechanic. There are bargains to be had on a decent bike if you're willing to shop around on the internet. I do feel like i've betrayed my LBS a bit, but Â£500 is a big saving and they will still get the business servicing it.
alicej - April 9, 2011
This is great, but one thing you forgot to mention. SECOND HAND good quality bikes are much less expensive and just as good. Not everyone actually earns the average wage - it would take me a lot longer than 5.4 days to earn Â£400! But I bought a secondhand frame and built it up with secondhand parts for less than that, and my first bike I got for Â£90 on Ebay - it was worth more new but I didn't need a new one because it was a decent bike and so hadn't fallen apart when used previously. It's hard for beginners to know which bikes are BSOs and which are real bikes, how about keeping a list of inexpensive but "real" bikes to help people choose? I found Probike to have decent quality components etc and I don't think they're expensive even new. Ridgeback I think are recomended as cheaper but decent bikes. Got any more budget options that aren't rubbish?
Tim Blackwell - April 6, 2011
Some (hopefully) constructive criticism of your otherwise excellent article: - Risk of theft - already mentioned in other comments. - A 100 pound bike that lasts two years fits your price per year rate perfectly well. - All bikes are disposable, it's just a case of time, and where you draw the line on a reasonable working life (for practical or environmental reasons). - You mention that a 400 pound bike will last 10 years. Will it really? With no further expenditure of either money or time? I guess it might if you never ride it, but then so will a 100 pound bike. Certainly many people I know will happily lavish time and money on keeping a bike in good order - it's a labour of love and cyclists are often understandably passionate about their mode of transport, but I think to be honest about this you need to factor in 10 years of brake blocks, inner tubes, tyres, cables, etc plus the odd larger job - a new wheel or bottom bracket - plus either the time and tools, or the labour costs to sort all that out. - There's that slightly superior and condescending tone that one often seems to get from bike officianados (BSO indeed...), which makes cycling a little less accessible to those not in the club. Halfords staff may lack knowledge at times but they'll never be patronise you like a small independent bike shop. Or perhaps that's unfair because it's good of you to share your experience and good advice with the world for free in the first place. - I think it's worth adding that suspension, as well being very poor quality on a cheap bike, will also make road cycling harder work by sapping the force out of every stroke of the pedal. Despite my criticisms I agree with the article, mainly because I'm saddened by seeing anyone try something new and be put off forever by a poor choice of initial purchase. Like a disheartened guitarist with a cheap guitar gathering dust because it won't stay in tune for two minutes.
Conor - March 21, 2011
I have wanted to mtb for quite a while, and I know someone who will sell me a good quality Kona Coiler for 500euros, unfortunately my dad thinks that cheaper is better and keeps bringing me around Halfords, looking at all the sh!tty bikes for under 200euros, how would be a good way to explain to my dad that i need a good quality bike not a sh!t one, and get him to part-buy me this bike. Also on a side note, my brother is like-minded with my dad, so bought a bso, from halfords for 100euro, apparently "full suspension", i borrowed it a few times and it is a piece of sh!t, the brakes are horrible, to change gears i had to get off the bike and physically move the chain after twisting the gear shifter, the chain came off a few times as well, and despite being "full suspension" i couldn't notice it at all.
andy - March 7, 2011
your article is spot on, well done, i am an independent cycle dealer. i always say if these El-Cheapo's for Â£50-Â£100 were any good i would sell shed loads. The big supermarket multiples and sports store multiples selling these type of junk donot have their customers at heart, or their safety as a priority. Profit, Profit, Profit, i have been offered hardtail BSO's for as little as Â£ 12 +VAT & Full Suspension for Â£ 15 +VAT these prices included believe it or not DELIVERY. I politley turned them down. I have a rule if it won't go together well in the workshop, it won't work well on the road. This whole El-Cheapo BSO situation needs kicking into touch by Parlaiment. Safety first not profit, some of these BSO's are ridden by kids as well as adults. Price is not always the issue, it is quality, you cannot get quality without paying some money out. The stores always blame the consumer, they call it demand. The consumer looks at the store to provide quality and safety. The REAL demand is good quality + safety, to give the consumer a reliable product with no compromise. But at Â£ 50-Â£100 you won't get either. Independent retailers who sell quality bikes are not ripping consumers off, they are putting their reputation and investment on the line to sell good products which with maintenance will last for years to come. Bikes are a science of their own, not rocket science, but it needs specialists in their field to make them work efficiently & safely. It is the individuals choice, but it annoys me when someone buys a BSO & expects me to put it right sorry "just tweak it a bit" (customers words) for a a couple of quid, as they've only paid very little for it. Sorry i don't lower my pride to work for nowt and be expected to give them a Tour De France dream machine back for a couple of quid. Think about it, some bike shops run a "Savings Club" you can purchase a cycle for summer by saving with the shop through the winter or use the Savings Club for Xmas, Easter or Birthdays, you will be supporting your cycle local shop, who in return supports you and will help you enjoy your purchase. The "Savings Club" is an old classic way of paying for a cycle, it has been used for over 60 years. Ask at your local cycle dealer if they run a Savings Club, if so why not join it and save towards a better cycling experience.
andy - March 7, 2011
I agree with you get what you pay for, but the trouble with living in an inner-city in a 3rd floor flat with no garage, shed, indoor space or even garden is that I have to lock my bike to a lampost on the street. Here it is rusting in the sea air, made worse in winter by the salt on the roads, is a tempatation to vandals and thieves (like most bike-owners in Brighton, I have had bikes stolen). So, unfortunately, for me there is little reason to invest in a bike as I know I cannot give it the security and care it deserves. This article may be about economics, but it cannot apply to the hundreds in my position. This is why we buy crap bikes. we know they won't last, but actually we count ourselves lucky if they don't get kicked in or nicked.
Terry Nobbe - March 1, 2011
U.S. citizen, cyclist most of my life. Bike mechanic for five years now. I tell any cyclist that will listen that a used quality bike that's priced the same as a dept. store bike is a 500% better value, particularly if it's fitted properly and ridden often (at least weekly). I'm 64 and I weigh 12% more than I did in 1964!
Adam Ryah - December 21, 2010
Nice article! I have been riding for about 2 decades now, and have ridden everything from Â£100 Halfords bike's , to my current Â£4000~ Kona. While I was in the trade, I used to find myself telling this same old story to alarming numbers of customers, including many that had brought in their BSO's for servicing or repair. Whilst the bike I ride now is beyond the needs or means for most people, I have a need for it, in that I ride DH and freeride, and need a bike that won't fall apart doing it. But even at this end of the market, one needs to be sensible, as you can buy suspension forks for over Â£2000, and frames for Â£3000 etc. Madness.... The problem is, that a lot of people I have met buy a bike to use once a month, if that. They don't see the point in spending more than they have to on something they don't use. Oh well, I'll have to remain happy by watching the reactions of the uninitiated, when they climb aboard my 20Kg ''Sofa-bike'' Lol.
Gezza - December 1, 2010
Your article was spot on ref cheap bikes.Bought a cheap mountain bike for under a Â£100 from an online sports company,and it was exactly as you stated in your descriptions.Turned out to be a pile of rubbish and the company i bought it from isn`t interested in refunding me.
Dave - November 17, 2010
I ride a 10-year-old Halfords Apollo BSO, the cheapest bike they were selling at the time - under Â£100. It is absolutely fine. I've had it since new and I've only had to replace the tyres. So cheap bikes do have their place. Especially if you're concerned about theft.
Ben - November 5, 2010
Brilliant article. I currently have a Raleigh Redrock which must be at least 10 yrs old. Have done some refurb / servicing my self and still going fine. Am now looking to upgrade to a hard tail with either v-brakes or discs (the raleigh has cantilevers!). Was considering BSO's but am now trying to source a 2nd hand Carrera Vulcan or similar as they look like the best for my budget (Â£200 max). (Unless anyone has any other suggestions?)
Kevin Latham - September 27, 2010
I was bought up on BSO's. My first 'mountain bike' recieved as a christmas present around 1992 was a rigid, hi-tensile steel framed Townsend with 12-speed Shimano SIS, Cantilever brakes and steel rims (which didn't brake in the wet!!!). My parents weren't particularly wealthy and bought what they thought was a good buy. The bike was far too big for me so I could grow into it apparently. Needless to say, the bike was awful to ride and got worse as the wheels got buckled and various parts of the running gear siezed up. I didn't know better at the time (age 11) but a couple of years later I bought a proper bike from a friends older brother for Â£250 used and the difference in ride quality was startling.
Tristan Welsh - September 27, 2010
The problem is that most people see Â£100-Â£150 as the going rate for a bike and anything over that is seen as excessive or needlessly expensive. Anything under Â£100 is a bargain to average joe on the street. Most folk consider a bike as poor mans transport and can't see why anyone would pay as much as a cheap used car for a bike. I'd say that most people think good quality bikes are all about designer labels and are largely style over substance in the same way that designer clothes are often made in the same factories as the cheap stuff but are labeled with designer logos. There seems to be a general assumption that if something looks similar then it is the same.
George - September 26, 2010
I work for Halfords and yes admittedly they do sell some cheap stuff which does often come back but you cannot fault the Carrera or boardman bikes for the kind of components that you get for the money, once set up correctly they can more than compete with an equivilant raleigh or claud butler. Yes there are other bike manufacturers but for the money and the specification you can't fault it, but it is that halfords get the reputation for cheap bikes they have becuase of the people who know nothing about bikes at all apart from how to ride one, and you can get for at the moment for Â£203.99 a Carrera Vulcan V-spec which I personally own and I abuse on trails at Thetford forest in Norfolk and not a single thing has gone wrong with it in the year I have owned it, but for Â£199.99 an apollo pahze which again is a hardtail but that Â£4 difference they are a world apart.
Pete Jones - September 26, 2010
BSOs exist because of what the average people are prepared to pay for a bike. As someone who regards cycling one of my main past times and an integral part of my life, I'm usually looking for the best bike I can comfortably afford when buying a new one. Family and non-cycling friends can never understand why anyone would pay thousands for a bike when you can get a bike for Â£99 from Asda etc usually dropping in comments like "How much? for a bike? does it have an engine for that price? you could buy a reasonable used car for that much money......" and so on.... Maybe the public at large are bone idle, fat, ignorant and narrow minded and see a bicycle as 'just a means of getting from A to B'...Fortunately one such friend is into photography and has recently spent Â£600 on a Nikon SLR camera. I quizzed him because I can get a nice 12 megapixel Tevion compact camera from Aldi for about Â£50. I think he got the point.
Dave Henderson - September 23, 2010
In 1990 I paid £400 for a Claud Butler mtb, including various accessories to make it more of a hybrid. 20 years later I'm still riding it and the only thing I've altered is the front forks. To put cheap suspension on the front was a waste of time, so I paid $100 for an overhauled set of Maz Bombers, and the necessary adapter bits. Now I've got an Ahead front end (curses on those who couldn't standardise things in the bike world if their life depended on it). To go with that, an inexpensive set of V-brakes transformed the stopping. It's still on the original chain and tyres, though they might get replaced soon, as the tyres are showing their age, rather than worn out. I think a total of £500 over twenty years is quite cheap - 25 quid a year - laughing, mate, just laughing.
Mike Jacobs - September 22, 2010
A good quality and well maintained used bike is a much better buy than the cheap tat you find in catalogues, TV shopping channels and supermarkets and the initial outlay is about the same. Someone mentioned Halfords bikes; I would agree that there are some awful bikes for sale there (purely a business decision to fulfill the demand I imagine) but they also stock some fantastic bikes too. The Carrera and Boardman ranges really are superb and offer great value for money.
dave lambert - September 14, 2010
A few years ago one of my colleagues bought 2 Sterlinghouse bikes. At around the same time I bought a seat post for my bike which cost more than both his bikes put together. He laughed at me but I'm still enjoying my bike every day. He and his missus gave up after one cycle of theirs cos they were so unpleasant to ride.
Joe - September 13, 2010
Based on bitter experience: never buy a BSO from Halfords. I fell for the 'half price' line a few years ago, buying my wife a run-around. The brakes didn't work, so I took it back to another, closer Halfords. The mechanic told me that that model had been quietly stored at the back of the rack with a doubled price tag for a couple of months, then launched to the front 'at half price'. As for the brakes, they had been assembled completely wrongly. That day (five years ago) was the last time I set foot in Halfords.
Finisterre - September 13, 2010
This was fascinating, and I have to say I am totally convinced. I used to buy crap second-hand bikes as they invariably got stolen, but since inheriting a good one I can really see what the fuss is about - it's so much easier and smoother to ride. I wouldn't buy a BSO now, having read this. Thank you!
PaulG - August 17, 2010
It always amazes me when you see a Â£35,000 4x4 with 4 BSO's on the back. They would never buy a new 4x4 for Â£3000, yet somehow fail to make the connection that a bike for 10% of the price of a decent one might perhaps be compromised...
John - May 12, 2010
Not all cheap bikes are rubbish! (Said with tongue in cheek) I work at a charity bike shop and we receive donations from the public of old bikes and make them safe and fit for use. We sell them and give the money to charity. Many of our bikes are actually good quality bikes that were hundreds of pounds when new. The BSOs (Mostly ex-supermarket bikes) are used for spares to repair the odd BSO that is worth the effort. We have a price cap of Â£40 that is because of our aim to provide affordable transport, not to reflect the worth! I have been fixing bikes since 1963. My colleague for 15 yrs more. We are training the young ones and we provide cheap, safe, worthwhile transport for the less well-heeled in Coventry. So please pass on the concept that cheap is bad only applies to new bikes. Used bikes that have been properly prepared are ay least as good as, or better than, most BSOs. Footnote - most BSOs that meet your description above have â€˜brandâ€™ labels - beware! (ie â€˜reebokâ€™) But probably have nothing to do with the brand they advertise?
Neil - April 21, 2010
People who buy themselves a bike from toys r us?? If they were trying to start up in any other sport, say golf; would they be happy with Fisher Price clubs? A decent, light, functional, reliable, serviceable bike from a quality manufacturer can be had for as little as Â£250+ and of course its possible to spend around Â£5,000 if you get silly, a Â£400-Â£1,000 bike will perform pretty much the same on the trail, give or take a bit more weight, less flash and less adjustability, but be just as much fun, cheaper to fix and less to worry about having to tweak. Great for beginners.
Liam O Cuinneagain - April 9, 2010
Couldn't agree more. I bought a relatively good bike from a reputable dealer in 1991 and it cost me very little in repairs in the meantime, despite using it almost every day. I still have it, although I bought a fairly similar new one two years ago, which is a pleasure to ride. "Cheap" machines are a scourge - and dangerous.
Bill - April 4, 2010
Interesting article, I've just purchased one of those BSOs with an aluminium frame and have every intention to do a few upgrades as and when I can afford them as I realise the standard components are'nt going to be upto much. I'm currently unemployed so my budget is very tight. In the past I have owned some very good mtbs including an Orange C6 until it was stolen.
Francis - April 3, 2010
Excellent resource/rant. Thanks for all the useful information and opinion.
Mike R - April 1, 2010
Nice article Paul, thanks. I agree with 'you get what you pay for': I bought a Â£199 bike 4 years ago and have used it daily, it now needs replacing. My employer's signed up to the govt. 'cycle scheme' and I can now by a Â£600 bike for Â£360 (saving tax and NI) and pay for it over 1 year through my monthly salary- a great scheme! FYI - www.cyclescheme.co.uk, best wishes, Mike
Gary - March 16, 2010
This so called Â£50 bike has a sticker on it, saying it conforms to BS 6102-1992. Suggesting it is built to a standard. There is however no build quality what so ever. The free wheel seized up then failed. The pedal crank fell off and will not tighten. The brake arms are so thin, The replacement brake blocks will not fit unless "packed out" with washers. As some were missing. The list goes on. It's now in storage, the tyres might come in hady as will some of the nuts and bolts. Expensive spares!
Gary. - March 12, 2010
Pay Â£50 for a bike from a supermarket, and you might as well throw your money away. From prsonal experience, it got me to work twice and home once. So it covered less than 10 miles.
Ben Errington - February 16, 2010
Hi Paul. Awesome! I used to have to build BSOs (we called them that too..) and after a while my colleague and I refused to sign any paperwork claiming the bike was safe for sale, having to explain to customers why we had not signed the document. They truly are a complete waste of good metal and should be ground up to make spares for decent bikes!
James Hodson - May 24, 2006
Many congratulations on your "Dont! buy a cheap new bike" article. The big problem is, however, how does one put forward this message to the wider public who buy cycles solely by price? I dunno. James
Colin - May 23, 2006
I liked your article on cheap bikes - it put me off buying one from Sterling House.