A few days ago, the designer of the London Cyclist app tapped in to my vast cycling knowledge and asked me whether he should buy this £137.90 bike:
I shrugged and muttered “Looks alright”.
My intuition told me he was probably looking for something a little more significant than that.
So I got in touch with my favourite bike shop, Lunar Cycles and asked the owner to take a look at the spec. Here’s what he had to say:
“Looking at the hybrids they do they seem to be really pretty shoddy, the equivalent to a £99 Tesco’s bike. The components are mostly steel so the bike will weigh a tonne, even though he will be doing only short distances I would still say this bike is really pretty sub standard and will rapidly end up costing him loads in repairs, I would strongly recommend he gets something like a trek/specialized/giant etc so in other words a branded bike.”
In other words “avoid, avoid, avoid.”
I can picture him spitting out his coffee upon glancing at the specifications.
I passed on the advice to the designer and thought, that’s the end of that.
A few weeks later, I get a Skype message from the designer.
You can tell what’s coming…
It turns out, he bought the bike and the front derailleur had already broken.
The derailleur is the SHIMANO TX51 which costs £8.79. I was starting to see why things went wrong.
For a start, you can buy the Shimano TX51 wholesale for as little as £0.49.
I wouldn’t want a derailleur on my bike that costs £0.49 to make.
It’s only a matter of time before more components will need replacing.
Buy cheap, buy twice.
How to assess the value of a cheap bike
The temptation will always be there to grab a bargain. If you are looking to assess a cheap bike, try copy and pasting some of the components that are listed in to Google and seeing what their value is to buy. If you find that they are the bottom of the range components, you’ll end up with a bike you’ll hate, that will cost far more to fix.
I ended up advising the designer not to buy another Shimano TX51, but instead to spend slightly more and get a Shimano Fr Derr M410 Alivio. It costs just £5 more but will serve much better over time.
Buy second hand. You’ll get a way better bike for your money and your local bike shop will be able to fix any small issues.
What readers had to say about cheap bikes
- I bought one of those warehouse clearance bikes for a really silly price. from a newspaper a few years ago for my son. Within weeks it fell apart and the front wheel came off while he was riding it! Luckily he wasn’t hurt but lessons learnt. It’s not worth it.
- Before getting into cycling properly and not having a clue about bikes I brought a bike from Tesco Direct! Bad move it was rubbish so took it back, I then did some research and brought a decent bike (Giant Roam XR2 Hybrid) love it, it’s so worth investing in a decent bike!
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.