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Bikes as Disposable Items?

Old 05-28-17, 10:14 AM
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Bikes as Disposable Items?

When did bicycles become disposable items?
There are threads here where folks have found bikes in the trash, on the curb, etc.
I assemble bikes for Walmart, and i sell @ 15-20 bikes a week. Seems like folks go through bikes like toilet paper.
So, when did such a reliable means of transportation become a throw-away object...?
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Old 05-28-17, 10:33 AM
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Some would say that Wal*Mart bikes are disposable when new...
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Old 05-28-17, 10:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Rcrxjlb
When did bicycles become disposable items?
There are threads here where folks have found bikes in the trash, on the curb, etc.
I assemble bikes for Walmart, and i sell @ 15-20 bikes a week. Seems like folks go through bikes like toilet paper.
Sadly this is true for most consumer products and appliances. Very few things are designed to be maintained, such that's an unusual pleasure to work on something that actually was.

Windows installation ate itself? Buy a new computer.

Blender won't turn on one day? Buy a new one.

So, when did such a reliable means of transportation become a throw-away object...?
Big box store bikes are probably intended for the few-times-a-year recreational user (or kids given a new one every year) not for "transport". These are the ones that might not displace enough car miles to payoff the energy expended in their manufacture. Those users may also see a rarely-used bicycle as the easiest thing to discard when moving, returning from college to a car-based lifestyle, etc - if they find they want one they can always get another.

Of course these bikes may get pressed into transport service by those who can't afford much else. Fortunately at least with bikes most parts are still exposed to view, bolt-on replaceable, and quasi standard - as a guess they remain among the most repairable of products from such stores.

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Old 05-28-17, 10:49 AM
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I think in just about every market, people tend to change the cycles just on their demands. When I was a kid during the late sixties a bicycle was considered still to be a luxury item to some degree. They were built to last. They were heavy compared to now. Brand names meant a lot more. If a parent back then could even afford a bike for their kids it would be a great bike because they wouldnt have money to simply throw away on another one. They were handed down too, even passed to other parts of the family. Lasted decades . It was our responsibility (at least in my fam) for us kids to maintain the bikes, keep them out of weather, oil chains etc..

Todays lifestyle is so quick, fast paced, multi faceted , electronically dependent that it has changed peoples lives to create more "disposable" items. A bicycle is one of them. Nowadays kid wants a mountain bike, parents typically will not spend a lot on one and usually the kid bangs it up quickly anyway.

what people do today, shapes tomorrow. As time went on the bicycle has evolved. Obviously not all bikes are disposable their is and will always be a high quality market....Its just not the standard anymore as in the past..

,
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Old 05-28-17, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Rcrxjlb
When did bicycles become disposable items?
There are threads here where folks have found bikes in the trash, on the curb, etc.
I assemble bikes for Walmart, and i sell @ 15-20 bikes a week. Seems like folks go through bikes like toilet paper.
So, when did such a reliable means of transportation become a throw-away object...?
Are you selling the 15-20 bikes a week to the same people?

If not, how did you arrive at your conclusion that anything has changed as far as bicycle disposal/longetivity in the last 40 or 50 years other than the arrival of Internet Forums to propagate such memes?
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Old 05-28-17, 11:18 AM
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I worked on quite a few so-called "department store" bikes, in decades past. I don't think things have changed all that profoundly. A department store bike would start its life with some minor manufacturing flaws such as loose brakes and poorly adjusted bearings. If you took care of maintenance from the git-go, your bike could last for quite a long time, and a department store bike that had deteriorated could be brought back into reliable use with just a bit of TLC.

A bike shop bike might have been made with as many flaws, but the shop took care of them before the sale. If the dealer is your re-work department, then you really don't know if you're making a quality product or not.

Still, when I see a cheap bike in dilapidated condition, I wonder if the problem is the bike, or that the owner doesn't have a place to store it indoors, or the means to repair it, such as workspace, tools, motivation, knowledge, etc.

The main reason that I eschew the cheapest bikes is that, given the same amount of time and effort, I'd rather maintain a nice bike than a cheap one. There are some subtle differences: Even without getting into the stratosphere of high performance bikes, a "nice" bike will tend to have more corrosion resistant materials, formed more precisely, so that it's easier to keep them adjusted. For instance, the bearings in a lot of those old department store bikes could not be adjusted to perfection, because the parts weren't perfectly smooth or concentric. You could still get them adjusted to the point where the bike would probably last forever under typical urban use, but it just wasn't as satisfying.
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Old 05-28-17, 11:35 AM
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Everything is disposable. Some things more than others.

Some people can't figure out what end of a screwdriver to hold. If they can buy a new bike $150, and the repair on their old bike is more than $150, then it might make sense to them to just replace.

Don't forget, this is a world where people will trade-in a car so that they won't be shocked by a sudden $2k repair bill--while ignoring the fact that they just spent $25k to save $2k. Logic sometimes isn't a linear thing for everyone.
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Old 05-28-17, 11:37 AM
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You could say the same thing about cars, couldn't you? Or many other consumer products. And what about electronics?

I don't see folks throwing away bikes like toilet paper, as you put it. Most people I know have bikes, probably purchased more than ten years ago, and most from big box stores, but they are still in service or at least serviceable. It might have a flat, or the shifting is a bit off, but even bikes from big bikes stores can last a long time since the total accumulative riding they do is more like 100's of kms rather than 1000's. The biggest detriment to these bikes is neglect. Even if you leave a thousand dollar bike outside for long period of time year after year it would eventually become a piece of scrap.
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Old 05-28-17, 11:52 AM
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Most people (but not all) in the Western world are in enormous personal debt. They prefer to spend 25% less on something that is disposable cheap garbage, because the sticker price is lower.

Due to economies of scale, this means that higher quality items have much lower demand and would have to be sold at enormous prices to justify their existence. The prices of quality items then skyrocket. The rest of people who are actually financially responsible and would prefer to buy a quality product end up rationalizing that the "good quality" product, if it exists, is so expensive it's better to buy the disposable item, and buy another when it breaks.

It is the same thing, most people will flock to an airline fair that's $50 less, not caring that there's another $50 fee if you want to check a suitcase. Other airlines have to follow suit or lose customers, whether they like it or not.

Here in Ontario, the government finally did something about those car dealership 'admin fees'. Instead of dealers advertising lower and lower prices, and charging higher and higher admin fees, they are now required to advertise the full price including everything except tax and registration.

Sad. Very said. But also an accurate reflection of our society.

Perhaps what we need to do is require manufacturers to include the price of a 2 year repair/replace warranty, including 2-way shipping, in the prices of all of their up-front prices. This would probably cause a difference in manufacturer behaviour, since they would either have to build in a lot of price for warranty / shipping costs, or just make a better quality product in the first place!
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Old 05-28-17, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by cb400bill
Some would say that Wal*Mart bikes are disposable when new...
True, especially if they have a financial or emotional attachment to it's competitors.
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Old 05-28-17, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
Are you selling the 15-20 bikes a week to the same people?

If not, how did you arrive at your conclusion that anything has changed as far as bicycle disposal/longetivity in the last 40 or 50 years other than the arrival of Internet Forums to propagate such memes?
I live in a fairly large city but, i don't see see as many bikes on the road as i would expect compared to how many are sold.
I would even expect to see less cars on the road, but gas is cheap...
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Old 05-28-17, 12:06 PM
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I think bikes have always been more or less disposable.

Back in the 70's and 80's, it wasn't uncommon to find a bike at the dump, sometimes in reasonably good condition, but usually low-end department store bikes. Also kid's toys like tricycles.

One of the issues impacting bikes s that they're often kid's toys. And kids grow up quickly, so they can use up a bike every year or two. The bikes often get stored outside, abused, and generally destroyed. People find it more convenient to buy a new department store kid's bike than to buy a used kid's bike that needs new tires and a full overhaul.

That may also teach kids the lesson that bikes are disposable trash (assuming they don't just throw out their teenage bike and replace it with a car).
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Old 05-28-17, 12:06 PM
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Well, for a college campus or a beach house or commuting through rundown neighborhoods I'd consider buying a bike that would likely last a couple of years and be particularly attractive to no one.

Different needs, different bikes.

I own 5 bikes made before 1991, I consider them high quality, have decades of good use left in them. But even though someone might drop $3K to buy a bike with the same qualities from Rivendell, I suspect I could sell these bikes for less than five hundred dollars each. It's assumed a "new" bike has some intrinsic value that greatly exceeds that of the essentially the same bike that's 30 years older. This is rather bizarre thinking to me, and has been said before it seems like people equate bikes and with cars; they are nothing but trouble after several years of service.

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Old 05-28-17, 12:25 PM
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Most of the bikes I have pulled out of the trash have been trash. Missing wheels, broken spokes, broken shifters .... lots of rust ...

Mostly it looks like people bought cheap bikes (not necessarily trash bikes) but looked at the price for a new brake lever (bent or broken) or a new wheel or whatever ... $20 for the part, $40 for the labor for a $120 bike, no way. So the bike goes behind the shed until finally someone drags it to the curb, rusty and dirty and fixable pretty easily by someone who wanted to.

I made out because if I found three or four junk bikes I could make 1 1/2 or two running bikes and have parts left over.

Bikes which aren't torn up end up at yard sales, or CL nowadays.
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Old 05-28-17, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs
Most of the bikes I have pulled out of the trash have been trash. Missing wheels, broken spokes, broken shifters .... lots of rust ...

Mostly it looks like people bought cheap bikes (not necessarily trash bikes) but looked at the price for a new brake lever (bent or broken) or a new wheel or whatever ... $20 for the part, $40 for the labor for a $120 bike, no way. So the bike goes behind the shed until finally someone drags it to the curb, rusty and dirty and fixable pretty easily by someone who wanted to.

I made out because if I found three or four junk bikes I could make 1 1/2 or two running bikes and have parts left over.

Bikes which aren't torn up end up at yard sales, or CL nowadays.
Yup. A few months back I was at my LBS when a guy showed up with a Wal Mart bike, and a really wobbly front wheel. He asks if the bike shop can repair the wheel. The mechanic takes a look at it, says no, the rim is bent, and the hub is shot, and that he needed a new wheel. How much for a new wheel? The mechanic says, about $40. The guy says, that is almost as much as I paid for the bike. Now, maybe this Wal mart bike could be repaired with parts scrounged from a bike coop, swap meet, or Craigslist, but it really makes no sense to pay bike shop prices to repair such a bike.
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Old 05-28-17, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by supton
Everything is disposable. Some things more than others.

Some people can't figure out what end of a screwdriver to hold. If they can buy a new bike $150, and the repair on their old bike is more than $150, then it might make sense to them to just replace.

Don't forget, this is a world where people will trade-in a car so that they won't be shocked by a sudden $2k repair bill--while ignoring the fact that they just spent $25k to save $2k. Logic sometimes isn't a linear thing for everyone.
Oddly enough, a lot of people find it easier to budget for a large predictable expense, than a small unpredictable expense.
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Old 05-28-17, 12:49 PM
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I don't use toilet paper, which may be why I keep my bikes for a long time.
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Old 05-28-17, 03:42 PM
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I agree completely with most of the comments above. Once a cheap bike needs a couple new parts it doesn't make any sense to most people to have it repaired. And, you also must remember - the average American thinks it's beneath their dignity to repair something with their bare hands. It's why we produce more garbage & waste than anywhere else on the planet. I think it's a real shame that we've gone from being a "can - do" country to being a "can't do nuffin" country.
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Old 05-28-17, 03:59 PM
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You can be replaced, too...






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Old 05-28-17, 05:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C
Oddly enough, a lot of people find it easier to budget for a large predictable expense, than a small unpredictable expense.
I see your point--but I'll disagree with it. Once a vehicle is paid off, they can easily continue making "payments" in a car repair fund. Heck they should have been doing that when they first purchased the vehicle, if not for repairs (if new) then at least for maintenance. Most I've paid for a car payment was about $300 so inside of six months I'd have enough to cover the sudden unexpected $2k repair.

Personally I think it's a bad metric to sell a car when the repair exceeds the car value. A better metric is, does the repair exceed the cost to replace the car? If a car needs $500 of work but I can get a perfectly good one for $400 then I'll mine for $100 and be ahead of the game. [Totally bogus numbers but you get the idea.]

Anyhow... once a car is paid off the owner can try to get ahead of the game. If they decide to replace after say 10yr/150k... hopefully they saved for 5 years and could just pay cash. Or financed with a low APR and now are sitting on a pile of emergency cash. Always paying or saving the same amount--but ahead of the game.

Sorry, I sometimes let my gearhead side come out. [Not really a gearhead, I drive Toyota's.]
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Old 05-28-17, 06:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs
Most of the bikes I have pulled out of the trash have been trash. Missing wheels, broken spokes, broken shifters .... lots of rust ...

Mostly it looks like people bought cheap bikes (not necessarily trash bikes) but looked at the price for a new brake lever (bent or broken) or a new wheel or whatever ... $20 for the part, $40 for the labor for a $120 bike, no way. So the bike goes behind the shed until finally someone drags it to the curb, rusty and dirty and fixable pretty easily by someone who wanted to.

I made out because if I found three or four junk bikes I could make 1 1/2 or two running bikes and have parts left over.

Bikes which aren't torn up end up at yard sales, or CL nowadays.
I made out almost every week in the early 70's in Philadelphia when perfectly serviceable English 3 speeds, and American (Schwinn, Columbia, Huffy, etc.) single speed as well as 3 speed bikes were tossed to the curb on trash day, as their owners discarded them for the joy of riding 10- speed "racers" with rock hard ass hatchet saddles and skinny high pressure tires with gears not much easier to go up hills than were found on the discarded "disposable" bikes. Needless to say almost all of those discarded bikes had more quality and practical features for riding on the streets of Philadelphia than the bikes that replaced them.

"Disposable" is all in the mind and needs of the beholder when it comes to bicycles, especially when the
term is being used by self described enthusiasts and so-called serious cyclists, or the Internet parrots who repeat what they read on sites like this.
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Old 05-28-17, 07:06 PM
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Originally Posted by supton
I see your point--but I'll disagree with it. Once a vehicle is paid off, they can easily continue making "payments" in a car repair fund. Heck they should have been doing that when they first purchased the vehicle, if not for repairs (if new) then at least for maintenance. Most I've paid for a car payment was about $300 so inside of six months I'd have enough to cover the sudden unexpected $2k repair.

Personally I think it's a bad metric to sell a car when the repair exceeds the car value. A better metric is, does the repair exceed the cost to replace the car? If a car needs $500 of work but I can get a perfectly good one for $400 then I'll mine for $100 and be ahead of the game. [Totally bogus numbers but you get the idea.]

Anyhow... once a car is paid off the owner can try to get ahead of the game. If they decide to replace after say 10yr/150k... hopefully they saved for 5 years and could just pay cash. Or financed with a low APR and now are sitting on a pile of emergency cash. Always paying or saving the same amount--but ahead of the game.

Sorry, I sometimes let my gearhead side come out. [Not really a gearhead, I drive Toyota's.]
I drive Toyota's too. And I completely agree with you. What I meant by "easier" was that it's psychologically easier for some people, not that it makes financial sense. Of course, a lot of people just enjoy driving a new car too.

Right now the two family cars are about 10 and 14 years old. They both replaced cars that we completely drove into the ground. One car needed a new clutch, brakes, heater core, and had a few other things wrong with it. The other was a Saturn, and its engine disintegrated at about 60k miles.

We don't make car payments at all -- we just pay cash when it's time for a new car.
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Old 05-28-17, 07:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Rcrxjlb
When did bicycles become disposable items?
There are threads here where folks have found bikes in the trash, on the curb, etc.
I assemble bikes for Walmart, and i sell @ 15-20 bikes a week. Seems like folks go through bikes like toilet paper.
So, when did such a reliable means of transportation become a throw-away object...?
I get them giving to me weekly. Usually ones that get left outside. No one seems to know how to fix them. I get them fully functional and auction them. If there is any work to be done to it nobody will touch it. I get decent money for department store bikes as long as they are clean and in good working order. I have seen bikes in the dump that just needed a tube.
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Old 05-28-17, 07:20 PM
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I remember 20 years ago my dad garbage picking bikes to disassemble to use the wheels for homemade deer carts he built (out of garbage picked bed frames, in case that was a follow up item...), so I'd say at least that long.
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Old 05-28-17, 07:26 PM
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Late 80's we didn't have a problem with setting the department store bikes out at the curb for garbage pick up. We knew someone was going to come pick it up before the trash collectors do.
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