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  1. #1
    Immoderator KrisPistofferson's Avatar
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    What's the difference?

    So, somebody in another thread has asserted that there isn't much difference between the quality in the LBS and X-Mart as far as quality of the bicycles, or the mechanics that work on them. Anybody want to comment?
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    The Red Lantern Rev.Chuck's Avatar
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    I will. That guy is an idiot. (This comment was made without looking at the thread or knowing who the OP is)
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    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rev.Chuck
    I will. That guy is an idiot. (This comment was made without looking at the thread or knowing who the OP is)
    So no bike shop has ever assembled a bike improperly and no bike shop has ever hired a moron? Bulltwinkle. Sorry Kris got you all involved in this...but the fact is I have seen just as many poorly assembled bikes come out of bike shops as from x-mart. My question, even if I may not be who he is presently arguing with in the other thread, was if anyone could provide some factual comparison...which he can't, so he comes running to you in the hopes of starting a flame war to divert the issue - for that I apologize to you all.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

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    Senior Member mechBgon's Avatar
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    The person in question (and I knew who it is before looking at what thread it is) seems to have a contrarian streak. Nothing is valid unless backed by formal studies, etc.

    But anyway, yes there's a difference in the products, and there's a difference in the quality of the assembly work. XMart sells units, never to return. LBS sells a product that will boomerang right back at them if something's the matter, and their lifeblood is satisfied clients, so they'll take pains to do it right the first time.

    That's been the approach at every LBS I've worked at... if we got a new assembly guy, the assembly work got checked over, critiqued and corrected before the bike hit the floor. The bikes were checked and tuned again when sold, no matter who assembled them. There are undoubtedly bad LBSs out there, but they'd be the minority.

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    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mechBgon
    The person in question (and I knew who it is before looking at what thread it is) seems to have a contrarian streak. Nothing is valid unless backed by formal studies, etc.

    But anyway, yes there's a difference in the products, and there's a difference in the quality of the assembly work. XMart sells units, never to return. LBS sells a product that will boomerang right back at them if something's the matter, and their lifeblood is satisfied clients, so they'll take pains to do it right the first time.

    That's been the approach at every LBS I've worked at... if we got a new assembly guy, the assembly work got checked over, critiqued and corrected before the bike hit the floor. The bikes were checked and tuned again when sold, no matter who assembled them. There are undoubtedly bad LBSs out there, but they'd be the minority.
    The ones I have had bad experiences with are almost always the larger 'chain' operations. But my own guy, who I trust implicitly, once sent my GF out of the shop on her new bike with the fenders unsecured and flapping away...everyone can make a mistake...especially when distracted by people yakking over their shoulder as they work. Funny thing, one of the guys who used to work at one of our area LBS now works at...yes, Walmart.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

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    The Red Lantern Rev.Chuck's Avatar
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    Yes I can give an opinion based on evidence. A professional opinion if you will. Background, bike mechanic for more than ten years. Have worked on more than twentythousand bikes(Far more) The poorest built LBS level bike I have ever seen is of a better quality than the nicest department stor bike I have ever seen.
    Yes there are some poorly assembled LBS bikes, the numbers pale in comparison to the number of poorly assembled department store bikes. It is rare that I have a LBS bike, from another shop, come in with a dangerous assembly issue. Almost every department store bike that has come in had a dramatic safety issue, from mostly unthreaded pedals, brakes rubbing the tire or hanging off the rim, limit screws completely unadjusted, cables routed so they bind the steering, loose stem or brake levers, loose axle nuts, loose BB. Often several issues on the same bike.
    There will always be people on this forum with an opinion of bikes shops based on a few experiences. My opinion, and the opinion of guys like mechbegon, are based on hundreds, thousands of experiences. You don't need to believe us tho, some people still think the Earth is flat.
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    Senior Member halfspeed's Avatar
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    While I don't worship at the church of the LBS and I've even strongly disagreed with the good Rev, I do recognize significant differences between the product and service provided by bike shops as opposed to what comes out of *mart.

    Those who like to complain about "elitists" and "yuppies" are unreachable as their religion blinds them. It's not worth the energy to engage in fruitless "debates".

    FWIW, as a suburban DINK, I admit that I am evil incarnate.

  8. #8
    beginner budster's Avatar
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    (Short version: LBS work is usually better, as are LBS bikes -- but there's a place for Xmart bikes, too.)

    While the race is not always to the swift or the battle to the strong -- that's how the smart money bets.

    Sure, LBS employees make mistakes. Even the most experienced mechanics make mistakes. It's a pitfall of humanity: ain't none of us perfect, including professional bike mechanics. But in my experience, LBS work is generally quality work, done by people who know what they're doing, especially at an independent LBS with a small number of mechanics. Their reputations depend heavily on the quality of their work, and their customers won't be satisfied with anything less than excellent work.

    Xmarts want satisfied customers, too, but since their reputations depend more on low prices than on the quality of their assembly work, they don't have as much to lose.

    People who work at an independent LBS usually do so because they love bicycles. People who work at Xmarts may love bikes, but then again maybe not. The last time I needed bike help at an Xmart, the guy who helped me said he didn't know much about bikes (he said he owned a Gary Fisher but hadn't ridden it in several years); he usually worked in the grocery section.

    I have an Xmart MTB. To be fair, the assembly was pretty good. I replaced the cheap wheels and had to re-adjust the rear derailleur, so I have no idea if that was correct to begin with. The brakes were a little looser than I liked, but no big deal. One of the pedals wasn't as tight as I'd have liked, but I replaced the plastic pedals right away, so that didn't matter. They'd cut off the brake and derailleur cables too short to "tuck them in," but that's getting picky I know.

    After I'd double-checked Xmart's work, I took the bike to my LBS and had my favorite mechanic (a friend of mine) double-check me. Only after that did I ride it on an MTB trail.

    Since it was (by LBS standards) ridiculously cheap (even more so for me since it was a gift), I expected to trash it after a few rides. I'm new to MTBing, so I figured a cheap, semi-disposable bike was a good way to go. I figure when I've trashed this one, I'll know enough to make good use of a higher-quality bike. Four months and counting on the Schwinn Aluminum Comp. I haven't even broken anything on the bike (or me) yet (knock wood). I've had to adjust the cheapie derailleur (Shimano Tourney) more times than I'd have liked.

    My other bike is a used Trek, which originally came from an LBS. Although it had been neglected before I got it, it's clearly a superior bike -- better frame, better drivetrain, better components -- and I expect it to last a lot longer than the Schwinn.

    Comparing LBS bikes to Xmart bikes is comparing apples to oranges. I don't know about your LBS, but mine doesn't have any new bikes under $300. I've never seen a bike at an Xmart that cost more than $200. They are intended for different customers.

    I think if they both had bikes that cost the same, the quality would probably be about the same. But for the same money, I'd get it from an LBS because of the service. Most LBS bikes come with lifetime service. All I got with my Xmart bike was a 90 day satisfaction guarantee.

    Maybe it's ironic: the people who buy Xmart bikes don't usually know very much about bikes, but since they don't get professional service as part of the deal, they will need to do more of their own work (or they will need to pay someone else to do it). Maybe it's not ironic, but unfortunate.

    Also unfortunate (perhaps) is that LBSs don't have anything for under $300. But if they did, it'd probably account for something like 15% of their profit -- and 85% of their repair time. Well, you know where I pulled those numbers from, but I hope you see my point.

    There's a role for Xmart bikes.

    When people first start riding, or when they decide to try it again after many years, or when they buy bikes for their kids -- anytime they don't know whether it's going to be a 'serious' hobby or not -- it makes sense not to spend too much money. For people on tight budgets, the choice isn't between a $300 LBS bike and a $100 Xmart bike. The choice is often between the Xmart bike and not riding. I applaud anyone who chooses riding. If they like cycling enough, they'll probably become LBS customers pretty soon anyway.

    Bicycling needs more riders, and fewer snobs.
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  9. #9
    Banned. sngltrackdufus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by krispistoferson
    So, somebody in another thread has asserted that there isn't much difference between the quality in the LBS and X-Mart as far as quality of the bicycles, or the mechanics that work on them. Anybody want to comment?
    Yeah well , alot of so called mechanics in the LBS are not as experienced as some of the Xmart mechanics...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rev.Chuck
    Yes I can give an opinion based on evidence. A professional opinion if you will. Background, bike mechanic for more than ten years. Have worked on more than twentythousand bikes(Far more) The poorest built LBS level bike I have ever seen is of a better quality than the nicest department stor bike I have ever seen.
    Yes there are some poorly assembled LBS bikes, the numbers pale in comparison to the number of poorly assembled department store bikes. It is rare that I have a LBS bike, from another shop, come in with a dangerous assembly issue. Almost every department store bike that has come in had a dramatic safety issue, from mostly unthreaded pedals, brakes rubbing the tire or hanging off the rim, limit screws completely unadjusted, cables routed so they bind the steering, loose stem or brake levers, loose axle nuts, loose BB. Often several issues on the same bike.
    There will always be people on this forum with an opinion of bikes shops based on a few experiences. My opinion, and the opinion of guys like mechbegon, are based on hundreds, thousands of experiences. You don't need to believe us tho, some people still think the Earth is flat.

  11. #11
    hateful little monkey jim-bob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sngltrackdufus
    Yeah well , alot of so called mechanics in the LBS are not as experienced as some of the Xmart mechanics...
    I'd like to hear more about this. I don't buy it.

  12. #12
    mousse de chocolat Moose's Avatar
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    There is a clear difference in the quality of the product, period, the end. The statement that "just as many" bad builds come from bike shops as x-mart, is pure hooey!

    Is this April Fools Day or Christmas?

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    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by krispistoferson
    So, somebody in another thread has asserted that there isn't much difference between the quality in the LBS and X-Mart as far as quality of the bicycles, or the mechanics that work on them. Anybody want to comment?
    Two things:

    First is the quality of the product. Sadly, many people don't know the difference between features and quality. Most mountain bikes, for example offer the same features. Unless you are either an idiot or kidding yourself, you will clearly notice the quality differences when you assemble or tune the bike and when you ride it.

    Second is the quality of the service. All bike mechanics aren't created equal but I'd much, much rather take my chances with somebody who considers that his primary job. I'd like to play cards with anybody who thinks otherwise.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by sngltrackdufus
    Yeah well , alot of so called mechanics in the LBS are not as experienced as some of the Xmart mechanics...
    This is so far from the facts as to be almost impossible to argue with rationally. I've never seen anyone in a K-Mart of Wal-Mart that could even be called a bike mechanic. Most are just stock boys that are told to assemble the bikes between stocking the grocery shelves.

    What a TROLL.

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    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider
    This is so far from the facts as to be almost impossible to argue with rationally. I've never seen anyone in a K-Mart of Wal-Mart that could even be called a bike mechanic. Most are just stock boys that are told to assemble the bikes between stocking the grocery shelves.

    What a TROLL.

    Then you can easily cite some factual evidence? So far all that has been stated is opinion. My experiences between x-mart and LBS are about the same, so if you'd like to prove that my experience or the experience of others is not the case overall, perhaps you have some cites?

    I worked in a local gas station throughout my teen years, did that make me automatically qualified to overhaul your engine? Did that mean I was beyond screwing up?

    I understand the egos of some good wrenches have been called into play by Kris' inflammatory spin on this. Nobody disputes that there are some damn fine people working in LBS - the point is that not all 'bike shops' employ quaility people and not all x-marts are staffed by morons. If anyone can correct me with some facts, I'd love to see them.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

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    One of the posts in this X Mart vs LBS argument requested statistics to back up the statement that LBSs sell superior bikes and prepare them better. As a quality engineer, I can relate to the request, but I'm afraid the sample would be biased. In order to make a fair comparison, one would have to sample mountain bike performance on MTB trails. Comparing trail experiences to asphalt, where kids ride X-Mart bikes, is not a correct sample. I can't speak for any area except the area where I live and ride. I have only seen an X-mart bike on an intermediate or advanced trail once when a group of cub scouts travelled the trail. Considering X-Mart bikes outsell the LBS brand bikes, one would think there would be a large number of X-Mart bikes on the trails, and a direct comparison could be made. Perhaps the experience of MTB cyclists suggests they don't trust the X-Mart bikes on difficult trails. I don't think all those cyclists just enjoy spending additional money. I would be more than happy to take an unbiased sample at the two trails and one MUP path I ride if it would help settle this disagreement. Any comments?
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    mousse de chocolat Moose's Avatar
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    If the point the Pro-Xmart people are trying to make is that Xmart bikes are fine for kids to ride around the neighborhood and are not expected to last a long time or perform as well as a shop-quality bike may under certain circumstances, then they are absolutely right. To say that Xmarts products, workmanship or service are on average better or even as good is ludicrous. Here is one fact (an important one) to back this up: Stamped steel V-brakes are terrible, especially when combined with steel rims and poor setup.

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    your nightmare gal chipcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moose
    If the point the Pro-Xmart people are trying to make is that Xmart bikes are fine for kids to ride around the neighborhood and are not expected to last a long time or perform as well as a shop-quality bike may under certain circumstances, then they are absolutely right.
    Exactly!
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

  19. #19
    Immoderator KrisPistofferson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moose
    To say that Xmarts products, workmanship or service are on average better or even as good is ludicrous. Here is one fact (an important one) to back this up: Stamped steel V-brakes are terrible, especially when combined with steel rims and poor setup.
    Precisely!
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    Quote Originally Posted by roccobike
    One of the posts in this X Mart vs LBS argument requested statistics to back up the statement that LBSs sell superior bikes and prepare them better. As a quality engineer, I can relate to the request, but I'm afraid the sample would be biased. In order to make a fair comparison, one would have to sample mountain bike performance on MTB trails. Comparing trail experiences to asphalt, where kids ride X-Mart bikes, is not a correct sample. I can't speak for any area except the area where I live and ride. I have only seen an X-mart bike on an intermediate or advanced trail once when a group of cub scouts travelled the trail. Considering X-Mart bikes outsell the LBS brand bikes, one would think there would be a large number of X-Mart bikes on the trails, and a direct comparison could be made. Perhaps the experience of MTB cyclists suggests they don't trust the X-Mart bikes on difficult trails. I don't think all those cyclists just enjoy spending additional money. I would be more than happy to take an unbiased sample at the two trails and one MUP path I ride if it would help settle this disagreement. Any comments?
    Good idea. There seems to be the concensus in this thread that all xmart bikes are unrideable garbage, but no testimonials based on first hand riding experience.

    For what its worth, I used to wrench at an LBS long, long ago. Back then, the low end, but very servicable bikes came from Japan. The local electronics mega-store started a promo where they gave away a ten speed with items costing as low as $100. These bikes were made in Taiwan.

    We got a bunch of these bikes in the store for a once over before they were ridden. We gave the owners (an honest) disclaimer that the bikes were not great quality ad we would not guarantee the work. I found that in general the Taiwanese bikes were definitely a step below the Japanese bikes. The finish was bad, inferior, knock off, derailleurs that worked, but not very smoothly, freewheels with a lot of wobble, caliper brakes that would stop the bike fine but couldn't be adjusted so that there was no play at the brake pivot. Lots of steel instead of alloy but the bikes were usable. The major problem was assembly. The bikes were atrocious. To make them work, you had to go through absolutely everything, including taking apart the BB and headset.

    For commuting to school or going to the grocery store, they were sufficient, but for serious riding, no way.

  21. #21
    beginner budster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by San Rensho
    There seems to be the concensus in this thread that all xmart bikes are unrideable garbage, but no testimonials based on first hand riding experience. ...
    I've been riding this $125 Xmart Schwinn on this intermediate MTB trail 1-2 times a week. The wheels that came with this bike were crap, as were the pedals. I put some decent pedals and wheels on, double-checked the assembly, had an LBS mechanic double-check me -- and started riding. It's holding up amazingly well after four months. No component failures or problems. The rear derailleur needed a lot of adjusting at first, but it seems to have settled down now. Otherwise, about all I've done is to lube the chain and and put air in the tires.

    I would probably still be saving up for an LBS bike if I hadn't gotten this one as a gift. I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

    That's my testimonial based on firsthand riding experience.
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom
    Then you can easily cite some factual evidence? So far all that has been stated is opinion. My experiences between x-mart and LBS are about the same, so if you'd like to prove that my experience or the experience of others is not the case overall, perhaps you have some cites?
    Cites? Are we arguing a court case? All of my "evidence" is anecdotal as is yours. There have been no formal studies published that I'm aware of to confirm or refute either argument.

    My experience is that while bike shops vary in the quality of their mechanics they are, on average, head and shoulders above whoever assembles bikes at X-mart. I've seen many LBS-sourced bikes and attempted to work on a few X-mart bikes and there is no comparison as to either product or assembly quality.

    I worked in a local gas station throughout my teen years, did that make me automatically qualified to overhaul your engine? Did that mean I was beyond screwing up?
    Maybe it did and maybe it didn't. I assume it didn't and you weren't. However, if you worked in a repair shop or for an automobile dealer's Service Department, I'd expect competence and my experience says that a dealer's mechanics, by and large, are far better than the average pump jockey.

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    Senior Member halfspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by budster
    I've been riding this $125 Xmart Schwinn on this intermediate MTB trail 1-2 times a week. The wheels that came with this bike were crap, as were the pedals. I put some decent pedals and wheels on, double-checked the assembly, had an LBS mechanic double-check me -- and started riding. It's holding up amazingly well after four months. No component failures or problems. The rear derailleur needed a lot of adjusting at first, but it seems to have settled down now. Otherwise, about all I've done is to lube the chain and and put air in the tires.

    I would probably still be saving up for an LBS bike if I hadn't gotten this one as a gift. I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

    That's my testimonial based on firsthand riding experience.
    By the time you replaced the wheels and paid a mechanic to check it over, the cost of the bike had to have ballooned to close to that of a Trek 820 or 3500, especially on sale.

  24. #24
    Immoderator KrisPistofferson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by halfspeed
    By the time you replaced the wheels and paid a mechanic to check it over, the cost of the bike had to have ballooned to close to that of a Trek 820 or 3500, especially on sale.
    Oops! You're making too much sense. We're going to have to ask you to leave the thread, sir.
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  25. #25
    Bike Junkie roccobike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by halfspeed
    By the time you replaced the wheels and paid a mechanic to check it over, the cost of the bike had to have ballooned to close to that of a Trek 820 or 3500, especially on sale.
    WOW, Tough to top that one! A Trek 820 at a 10% off sale, sells for $225. A Schwinn costs about $150. If you add a trip to the LBS to get it set up correctly and maybe add a good deraileur your at $225 or more. My son has a TREK 820, it is a VERY reliable bike that he rides on the local trails with no problems. Good post.
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