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On Cheap Bikes

On Cheap Bikes

On Bicycle Value:

We see it all the time- a customer rolls into the shop for repairs, and they're riding something cheap. Something from the big department store, something that looked good new at $300, but aside from its frame might as well have been made with particle board and cheap plastic.
The derailleur snaps like a twig, the wheel dents and is deformed from just dropping from a shallow curb, the brakes snap from a single sudden stop. Issues that come from cheap components, cheap assembly from part time workers focusing on speed and volume instead of properly tuning and adjusting. All bikes will eventually wear down and have broken parts, that's just basic entropy at work. But these bikes WILL break down within the first few months, I guarantee it.

It's a common problem, that goes with the old adage: You get what you pay for. A bike is an investment, and an investment needs to hold value to maximize that return. A cheap bike has so little value because it doesn't hold that value for long enough to make the cost worth it. It's a $300 dollar bike, but repairs alone to fix or replace its flawed components may end up costing you hundreds in the long run, a good 50% or more what you already paid on the bike. This is the "hidden' price that comes with cheap products that those who aren't experienced with money tend to have. It's one of the ways that we end up shooting ourselves in the foot and end up more broke than we started.

Sam Vimes, a distinguished fictional policeman in a silly fantasy series words the issue like this:

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that'd still be keeping his feet dry in ten years' time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
This was the Captain Samuel Vimes 'Boots' theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

In short, going for what's cheap will almost always lead to you spending more on your purchase than a more solid, well designed piece of kit.

At Battlefield Outdoors, we stock only solid, reliable cycles. The cheapest they go is $500, and that's an entry level bicycle for the young newbie. We recommend spending at least $700 on a bike, which means you're getting Grade A parts on an already solid frame, which we guarantee will last you for years, not months. More expensive kit also tends to come with solid warranties, standard and cheaply replaceable parts that also have the same greater durability. We service bikes bought in the early 2000's that ride just as well as they did brand new. The only Walmart bikes we service from the 2000's are the ones someone left unused in a garage or shed for the last decade and thus still have some use for a grandchild.

This adage goes for all the things we sell, not just cycles. We definitely recommend our Vibe and Feel Free kayaks, way more expensive than a cheap inflatable 'yak or those cheap plastic ones you see parked in front of Walmart, for all the same reasons. You're going to ding a Walmart kayak on a rock, and it'll puncture it like the cheap toy it is, and you'll have to throw that not insubstantial investment into the garbage. Our Feel Free, Vibe, and Native boats are made of solid construction, resistant to cracks, punctures, and warping, and in the event they do, repair is often at least viable compared to a cheaper 'yaks. A patch job or expoxy sealant only works when it has a strong foundation to work with.

People get a little upset when they show up in a bike bought from Walmart or from a Yard sale bought for cheap, and we tell them it will cost $80 or more to fix what's wrong with their bike. "But that's almost as much as I paid for it!" they say, but we can only reply with: "Well, there's your problem."

Best use for an old Walmart bike, unless you're interested in completely refurbishing it with brand new parts (which would make it cost just as much as one of our low end Fujis, if not more) is to save that sucker for parts, or donate it to charity, and save up for a higher quality bike.

I myself am normally a an advocate of the "Dollar Store/Harbor Freight" method for buying new tools, where you buy the cheap alternative first, and then you know its worth spending more because you used the cheap one to the breaking point, but there's a big difference between a cheap dremel or wrench and a bicycle. A bicycle breaking on the ride means crashing, and a long walk home, and several pounds of worthless  junk taking up space until it gets fixed. So I'm letting you know in advance: buy quality, and save money in the long run.

Yes, a bike is better than no bike, but it has to be a working bike! We at Battlefield Outdoors have a lot of ways to help you get on the road without breaking your bank. We offer not just credit, we also do no interest layaway, and we emphasize using the layaway on our bikes whenever possible. 

Our lower end Fujis and Scotts often come between $400 and $700, and come not with their own limited parts warranty, but our personal service guarantee AND a free full tune up worth $70! We guarantee our bikes are of uncompromising quality and will always support any bike we sell. Try taking your bike back to Walmart and ask them for a tune up!


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