A couple weeks ago, I worked on a BikesDirect bike, a Windsor Wellington 3.0. Customer needed wheels trued. While we had it in the shop, I looked the rest of it over as well, but stopped short of tearing it down completely and checking things like greased bb threads, faced BB and HT, etc.
Can't imagine that anyone isn't familiar with BD, but basically, they buy bikes of similar spec to what bigger name brand dealers are selling, and instead of going through a dealer network, sell wholsale to the public through an online-only business. They've bought the rights to brand their bikes with traditional brands like Motobecane, Daws, Windsor, and Kestrel, even though they have no direct provenance to these classic names. Like many modern name brands--Cannondale, Schwinn, Mongoose, etc.
Thing is, they ship bikes to customers in exactly the same state that bike shops receive bikes, before mechanics or technicians assemble and adjust them. You get the bike basically assembled, in a box: pretty much bolt on the handlebars which are already assembled with shifters and cables, install the front wheel, install seat/seatpost assembly, and the bike is ready to go. But not quite.
There's a bunch of different things mechanics do when prepping a bike out of a box at a bike store. These are things which should be done to a BD bike, but may not, due to customer ignorance. So this was a perfect opportunity to see what was done and what was not.
I trued the wheels, which were out by at least 1/4" each. Customer had some miles on the bike already, but these were out of true way quicker and by a lot more than wheels destressed, trued, and tensioned upon bike setup. No bearing play in the hubs while on the bike, but I forget if they are sealed bearing or adjustable and can't recall if I checked for bearing play off the bike.
Headset needed tightening. If it was a quill stem and typical of those that come through the shop, I imagine that it would have been over-tight out of the box.
Brakes needed to be centered and adjusted, front brake needed cable end.
Seatpost was not greased by customer.
Both derailleurs were slightly or grossly out of tune. Rear needed just a bit of limit adjustment, and a bunch of cable-stop adjustment. Front derailleur was way out of whack, toed-in too much by about 1/4", thus limit screws were way out, and cable needed healthy adjustment at the set screw before even getting to fine adjustments. Honestly not sure how he dealt with something so obviously malfunctioning.
Because I was curious (and we're slow), doodrancher got a free tune-up out of the deal--brought wheels in for truing, got gratis set-up tune as well. There was nothing in the adjustments I did, nothing wrong with the bike, nothing out of the ordinary from similar bikes we get from Big Brand Name, just that a customer who was not real down with bike mechanics thought he was getting a good deal. I really can't think he was happy, riding that bike in that state of tune...
Wellington 3.0, $450. If he'd brought it in for us to set up out of the box, $75. We offer two free tune-ups on new bikes @ $30/ea. So figure $585, total, for the bike if he'd had us set it up. Two major wheel trues and a free tune-up later, it still cost him $510. Comparable-spec bike in our lineup would be around $850. Still seems like a pretty good deal, just not quite the bargain it appears at first. Cheaper if you can do the work yourself, but I really wonder how many BD customers actually have the knowledge or take the time to do it right. This guy certainly didn't.
Is local LBS brand and dealer support worth the additional $265? I treated this like any other repair job--are there shops out there who would refuse to work on an internet sourced bike like this?