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Old 07-07-08, 08:18 AM
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Where to buy the bike?

This section is included for one simple reason. We’d like to see you buy that bike from a local bike shop (LBS) rather than succumbing to the desire to go grab a cheapie from WallyMart or somesuch chainstore!
It’s often assumed that older folk have more disposable income than younger folk, but of course that’s not always the case. You might be a bit strapped for cash, and if so that $89 ‘special might look appealing up against the bike shop bikes which often start at around $350 or thereabouts. Please, please, PLEASE don’t get lured to the dark side. We like you too much!

Chain store bikes are cheap because they are made from low quality materials and components, and because they are mass market items which are assembled by people who aren’t necessarily trained for the task or do it well. Rather than being an easy and cheap entry to cycling for folk, they’re more often than not a discouragement instead, because they all too often end up unusable, abandoned and left to rust away. A couple of anecdotes, to illustrate:

A friend of mine recently succumbed to the temptation of a tight household budget and a Wally World ‘special’ and grabbed a couple of $89 ‘mountain bikes’ so she and her hubby could go riding along nearby rail trails with her young sons. The bikes looked attractive, and looked nice and solid, but by the time she returned from her first shortish ride the rear wheel was buckled so badly that the bike was effectively unridable. Those wheels were built from shoddy materials, and they hadn’t been tensioned adequately anyway! (In comparison, my ‘entry level’ $400 hybrid has now done thousands of kilometres on and off road, and there’s less than half a millimetre of lateral ‘buckle’ in either wheel!)

Perhaps an even more alarming anecdote is one posted at BikeForums recently. A recent topic elsewhere on the board was pondering whether or not WalMart could be sued for selling shoddy product. The wife of the fellow who posted the topic had purchased a bike from WalMart, and all had appeared well with it while she was getting used to riding. Until, a week or thereabouts later, she went down a hill for the first time on it! The brakes failed to pull her up! From the sound of things, they didn’t fail because the cables had stretched. Instead, they’d failed because the brake cables hadn’t even been securely tightened, and had pulled through the first time any real pressure was applied to them!

Staff at your local bike shop should be friendly and helpful, and concerned enough to show interest in ensuring you get a bike which suits what you want to do, rather than trying to convince you to buy something you don’t want. If you encounter shop staff who seem inclined to treat you as frail and incapable just because you’re an older customer, go find a better shop! Your bike shop staff should also be attending to ensuring that bike is adjusted for your body size before you walk out of the shop with it. We call that the ‘fit’ of the bike, and it’s explained a bit more below.
Also check for after sales support. Any bike shop worth its salt should be encouraging you to bring the bike back to them after a shortish period of time or a minimum number of miles ridden, so they can attend to adjusting the parts which have settled into place and the brake/gear cables which will have inevitably stretched a bit during that initial use. They should also be offering a period of free servicing to follow that up. (I got 12 months of free service with my own entry-level bike!)

If even an entry level ‘bike shop’ bike is out of reach for you, investigate purchasing a decent secondhand brand name bike. You’ll have to do a bit more homework/research, so you’re aware of size and fit matters, but a good secondhand bike is far preferably to a WallyWorld bike!

Last edited by Catweazle; 07-07-08 at 08:26 AM.
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