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Are Big Box Stores Promoting a Throwaway Bike Culture?

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Are Big Box Stores Promoting a Throwaway Bike Culture?

Old 03-24-20, 06:40 PM
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RandomlyWest
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Are Big Box Stores Promoting a Throwaway Bike Culture?

Recently, there was a thread in this sub-forum where the owner of a new Breezer Downtown lamented that the bike was already "starting to deteriorate" after "a couple hundred miles."

The "deterioration" = some worn bar tape, a loose bolt on a fender, and a missing bar end cap. This is also known as "normal wear and tear" (or something close).

I got to wondering, did the OP not realize bikes could be repaired? Is there a whole community of people out there raised on bikes from XMart or wherever, with the presumption that bikes typically "deteriorate" after 100 miles of use, and when they "deteriorate" you should just throw your bike away and get another one?

Obviously, the Breezer Downtown is not an XMart bike; I've ridden one, and I think it's a really cool, durable utility bike. But I wonder if hastily-assembled, poorly-lubed big box bikes are giving consumers the perception that this is just how bikes are - bikes look good when you first buy them, but they inevitably "deteriorate" within three months or 100 miles.
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Old 03-24-20, 06:54 PM
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Just about anything a big box store sells is cheaper to replace than to repair. So it would seem that all the goods sold in those stores promote a throw away culture.
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Old 03-24-20, 07:02 PM
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It is not unique to bikes.
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Old 03-24-20, 07:17 PM
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Absolutely. That's one main reason I dislike hi-ten bikes. Has nothing to do with being snobby or anything. They also have no resale value on the private market.

Which means they end up in the landfill, and it's just a TON of waste all around.

They're pretty good for kids though. Like, if you just want to roll around the block with the family, or maybe screw around with it and smash around the block, they're perfectly fine.

For those purposes, a $75-$100 bike is a great value. But they are not marketed in that way, they are marketed as X-treme "sports" bikes, which irks me because they're actually unsafe to do anything serious with.a bnd as soon as anything happens to them, and they find out that the repair is more than the bike itself, they just get tossed.

It would be nice if someone had a bunch of big box bike parts laying around to just fix them up to roll again so that they can be sent off to developing countries.

Nothing that rolls should be wasted and thrown in a landfill.

They're also made with some pretty ****ty labor standards, and QC is obviously lacking.


But you're not going to find replacement parts for them on the aftermarket very easily, and franken-biking one with aftermarket parts is just really bad and not worth it.

I see these all the time. Would be way sicker if they got to have chromoly bikes though, but better to be a bike that some kid just rolls around on and has some fun with than to just throw it away.


They are catching on though. The new Schwinn MTB that's being sold at the big boxes is actually great. Everything is specced to industry standards, so you can actually replace parts as you break them, and eventually replace the frame.

That's not wasteful at all, and it's a great entry level bike. I started off on a bike like that actually, and it ended up being great. It helped me learn how to ride BMX, and my parents replaced parts as they broke, and it eventually turned into a sick bike.

It was made of mostly hi-ten, but it had a chromoly downtube, 3 piece cranks, and halfway decent wheels. Obviously because of the steel used I snapped literally every part on that bike, but it lasted long enough for them to be replaced as they went, and for my skill to build as I rode it.

I still have the stem from that bike as it's the only part that never broke. It's an old style big chunk of aluminium front loader that will probably never break, and I will probably still use it if I build another BMX just because of how funny it is lol.


Anyways, I think that a good solution would involve first sourcing ethical labor, and then not marketing them as anything other than "leave this in the garage for an around the block spin once in a while", along with the existence of people who know where to source REALLY cheap (like the same parts that were on the bike before) kind of parts. That way they can be re-purposed and either sent off to developing countries, or given away to people in deep poverty.

They're already catching on with the whole industry spec thing though, and ideally we would see mostly those kinds of bikes.

If I didn't know how to find decent stuff on craigslist (and if I didn't get so so lucky with my current bike), I would honestly consider one of those schwinns - no joke.

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Old 03-24-20, 07:22 PM
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Old 03-24-20, 07:43 PM
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In Australia, they have days when people can put large items of trash out on the street. Sometimes bicycles are in the trash, in various conditions. Sometimes complete and usable, but often needing repairs. Sometimes little rust, sometimes a lot of rust. If you collect a few of these, you can normally get enough good parts to make a good bike. A lot of my bikes have been free.
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Old 03-24-20, 08:56 PM
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Originally Posted by BicycleBicycle View Post
Which means they end up in the landfill, and it's just a TON of waste all around.
Nothing that rolls should be wasted and thrown in a landfill.
I don't know where you live, but no bicycle goes in a landfill here. If it's metal it gets recycled. Whether that is by the local waste hauler, pickup alley cruisers, or a guy pushing a shopping cart, it happens.
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Old 03-24-20, 09:27 PM
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Old 03-24-20, 10:21 PM
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Well my bikes as a kid were Huffys and Western Flyers and I've been around awhile. Cheap stores sell cheap stuff. We're the ones who buy it so who's to blame?
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Old 03-24-20, 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by hillyman View Post
cheap stores sell cheap stuff. We're the ones who buy it so who's to blame?
+1
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Old 03-25-20, 05:09 AM
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The basic nature of big box store products. It is pretty easy to change color, slap any of wide array of decals
on one of these and call it a bicycle. Low end components. poorly manufactured and speed assembly put on
branded name plate = BSO's(Bicycle shaped objects).

No precision, really not repairable and as stated above, virtually no value in resale.
A true indicator of the throw away mentality.

As an industry, bicycles are a bit of an inconstancy.
The humble bicycle is a lifeline of mobility for many around the world.
They are very simple, functional and actually, very fun to ride.
They are virtually free to operate, save for cost to maintain and replace wear parts.

There are very few protections from the consumer receiving poorly manufactured, poorly assembled and
non precision units.( Note the posts and photos of big box units with the fork on backwards).
Assembly on the big box level is "pieces per hour".
Assembly at the LBS level is more of "hours per piece".

I would venture a guess there are more regulations for a pair of electronic ear buds than for a bicycle.
Compare a fork failing to the worst that could happen to many consumer product failures.


It is interesting to note that the cost of a LBS bicycle tune up or a professional assembly can rival or exceed
the initial cost or that of replacing a big box model with a new one.

The "return it because it broke" mentality fostered by amazon has people believing that this is their right.
Ebay's orientation is that the vendor/seller is always wrong and needs eat the costs for user error or abuse.
The "customer is always right" mentality of yesteryear has evolved into "Solve my stupidity or do what t I want or I'll sue or more
and its current iteration - "I'll blast you on social media" because you are not willing to roll over".
"I put the product through things it was never engineered to do, now it doesn't work or I bought the wrong thing
and I demand my money back" has become the consumer mantra.

​​​​​​Free service, free parts and immediate satisfaction. Free shipping to be included!

rusty
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Old 03-25-20, 05:11 AM
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Bicycle grave yard in China.

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Old 03-25-20, 06:54 AM
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Originally Posted by 100bikes View Post

Bicycle grave year in China.

That's the aftermath of the bike share bubble--really a very different issue. Maybe I'm missing something here, but the premise of this whole thread really seems off the beam to me--high end carbon fiber bikes are by far the least recyclable bikes as the frame material cannot be used as scrap. Steel frames are scrap metal. Continued use of either type of bike requires a fairly high use of disposable consumables.

Just another "BSO" bashing thread. Guess it's its own form of recycling.
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Old 03-25-20, 07:14 AM
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Originally Posted by 100bikes View Post

The "return it because it broke" mentality fostered by amazon has people believing that this is their right.
Ebay's orientation is that the vendor/seller is always wrong and needs eat the costs for user error or abuse.
The "customer is always right" mentality of yesteryear has evolved into "Solve my stupidity or do what t I want or I'll sue or more
and its current iteration - "I'll blast you on social media" because you are not willing to roll over".
"I put the product through things it was never engineered to do, now it doesn't work or I bought the wrong thing
and I demand my money back" has become the consumer mantra.

​​​​​​Free service, free parts and immediate satisfaction. Free shipping to be included!

rusty
Amazon just picked up where Walmart started off long ago. I remember watching a stand up comedy routine back in the 1990s about someone trying to return used diapers to Walmart. The comedian was poking fun at how Walmart would take just about anything back. I think that was back when Walmart made a big deal about selling American Made products.
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Old 03-25-20, 07:30 AM
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High end bikes are far more wasteful, the resources that go into each bike are far more, carbon fibre is far more labour intensive and expensive e-bikes have complicated motors with many proprietary parts. Many have dedicated frame designs that means when the motor fails the bike is scrap. Most cheap bikes do not have proprietary parts and can be repaired easily. When such bikes hit recycling they are either sold as repairable bikes or recycled fully. Most of the world's bikes are steel and provide decades of service. It's good that people in the west buy cheap steel and aluminium recyclable bikes. If they bought expensive CF bikes and didn't use them that would be far worse adding far more waste to landfill. Better to test the water with a cheap walmart bike than a CF bike.

My main complaint about walmart bikes is the ridiculously crap suspension that fails quickly and achieves nothing and make the bikes more difficult to recycle for use again.
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Old 03-25-20, 07:45 AM
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Originally Posted by hillyman View Post
Well my bikes as a kid were Huffys and Western Flyers and I've been around awhile. Cheap stores sell cheap stuff. We're the ones who buy it so who's to blame?
Yep, two bikes I had in the 1970s were a Sears branded banana seat bike and a Huffy 10 speed. That banana seat bike got a home made conversion to a BMX bike, since we didn't have the money for a new BMX style bike. The 10 speed got donated away to a local church charity after I moved away from home at 18. The banana/BMX bike had the same fate a few years prior.

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Old 03-25-20, 08:05 AM
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Originally Posted by FiftySix View Post
Amazon just picked up where Walmart started off long ago.
And Walmart picked up from what Sears did even longer ago.
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Old 03-25-20, 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Twang -O- Doom View Post
And Walmart picked up from what Sears did even longer ago.
I was wondering about that. I definitely took advantage of the Craftsman tool lifetime warranty on a few occasions.
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Old 03-25-20, 08:47 AM
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Big box store bikes usually have a rather heavy strong frame. Just up grade the components.
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Old 03-25-20, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Virus stay at home orders are the new winter.
our fearless leader in Wisconsin said to go outside, take walks, walk your dog, or ride your bike, as itís good for you and your well-being. Looks like today will be warm enough to to so. Of course, your post, and my reply have absolutely nothing to do with this thread, but didnít want to leave you out there by yourself.
Tim
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Old 03-25-20, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Bonzo Banana View Post
High end bikes are far more wasteful, the resources that go into each bike are far more, carbon fibre is far more labour intensive and expensive e-bikes have complicated motors with many proprietary parts. Many have dedicated frame designs that means when the motor fails the bike is scrap. Most cheap bikes do not have proprietary parts and can be repaired easily. .
You have obviously never tried to repair a Walmart bike.

Most of the parts are proprietary and ultra-flimsy---hard plastic or stamped pot-metal levers, stamped chain rings, cheap and flimsy stamped brakes .... you cannot buy replacement parts so you have to go to a real bike retailer and pay----almost always half or more of the total worth of the bike---to get real parts.

Now you have a $120 bike with $60 brakes and the rest is still crap. When the next bit fails .... spend another $60?

As far as recycling goes, when is the last time you actually took a bike to a recycler? How much of it gets reused?

The plastic might ... but probably none of it is recyclable. The metal might ... but how much does the recycler pay to have workers disassemble the bike for $1.22 worth of aluminum?

And where I live, a lot of "recyclable" material is Not accepted for recycling any more because there is no profit---the market is flooded with cheap crap. A lot of it cannot be reused due to contamination, and a lot of the plastic is already partially recycled and all it is good for is blown-in insulation for houses ... and there are only so many houses.

I know it is probably regional, but I question how much of any "recycling: is actually done---as opposed to companies shipping everything to landfills in India so they can meet their federal requirements for waste-stream recycling by percentage.

Originally Posted by Bonzo Banana View Post
My main complaint about walmart bikes is the ridiculously crap suspension that fails quickly and achieves nothing and make the bikes more difficult to recycle for use again.
I thought they were easy to repair? Hmmmmm .....

Also ... High-end bikes Don't get thrown away. Most of them are used by their owners and then relegated to back-up or rain bike when they get replaced by a new model. A lot are sold. And even the expensive bikes which don't get ridden get sold---garage queens? ever heard the term?---and then ridden by someone else who really appreciates a good bike.

High-end bikes Can be repaired, and generally get good maintenance, because not a lot of people spend a lot of money on expensive stuff and trash it. And even if they don't get maintained, they still get sold ... and people replace the worn bits and ride them for years longer. It is worth doing if the basic bike is of good quality.

Walmart bikes ... break them, toss them, because almost any repair will cost more than a new bike.

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Old 03-25-20, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by tkamd73 View Post
our fearless leader in Wisconsin said to go outside, take walks, walk your dog, or ride your bike, as itís good for you and your well-being. Looks like today will be warm enough to to so. Of course, your post, and my reply have absolutely nothing to do with this thread, but didnít want to leave you out there by yourself.
Tim
We are allowed out for certain things as well, including exercise. Took a nice walk yesterday morning to simulate what would have been my usual walk to work when it's cold out.

My point was that some must be bored to death if they are starting threads about subjects that have beat to death ad nauseam to the power of infinity. They definitely need to get outside.
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Old 03-25-20, 09:11 AM
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Originally Posted by dedhed View Post
I don't know where you live, but no bicycle goes in a landfill here. If it's metal it gets recycled. Whether that is by the local waste hauler, pickup alley cruisers, or a guy pushing a shopping cart, it happens.
I bet there are a lot of bikes in the Milwaukee river...
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Old 03-25-20, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by FiftySix View Post
Yep, two bikes I had in the 1970s were a Sears branded banana seat bike and a Huffy 10 speed. That banana seat bike got a home made conversion to a BMX bike, since we didn't have the money for a new BMX style bike. The 10 speed got donated away to a local church charity after I moved away from home at 18. The banana/BMX bike had the same fate a few years prior.
My last Huffy at age 13 was one of those like a beach cruiser with fenders and gas tank headlight, whatever you call that style. Worked it hard with a paper route. Bought a Western Flyer 10 speed and rode it to many towns and places.
Cut to today and I see homeless, carless not by choice and folks who just like a bargain riding department store bikes and seems to work for them. Necessity brings out the best in anything.
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Old 03-25-20, 09:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs View Post
You have obviously never tried to repair a Walmart bike.

Most of the parts are proprietary and ultra-flimsy---hard plastic or stamped pot-metal levers, stamped chain rings, cheap and flimsy stamped brakes .... you cannot buy replacement parts so you have to go to a real bike retailer and pay----almost always half or more of the total worth of the bike---to get real parts.

Now you have a $120 bike with $60 brakes and the rest is still crap. When the next bit fails .... spend another $60?


As far as recycling goes, when is the last time you actually took a bike to a recycler? How much of it gets reused?

The plastic might ... but probably none of it is recyclable. The metal might ... but how much does the recycler pay to have workers disassemble the bike for $1.22 worth of aluminum?

And where I live, a lot of "recyclable" material is Not accepted for recycling any more because there is no profit---the market is flooded with cheap crap. A lot of it cannot be reused due to contamination, and a lot of the plastic is already partially recycled and all it is good for is blown-in insulation for houses ... and there are only so many houses.

I know it is probably regional, but I question how much of any "recycling: is actually done---as opposed to companies shipping everything to landfills in India so they can meet their federal requirements for waste-stream recycling by percentage.

I thought they were easy to repair? Hmmmmm .....

Also ... High-end bikes Don't get thrown away. Most of them are used by their owners and then relegated to back-up or rain bike when they get replaced by a new model. A lot are sold. And even the expensive bikes which don't get ridden get sold---garage queens? ever heard the term?---and then ridden by someone else who really appreciates a good bike.

High-end bikes Can be repaired, and generally get good maintenance, because not a lot of people spend a lot of money on expensive stuff and trash it. And even if they don't get maintained, they still get sold ... and people replace the worn bits and ride them for years longer. It is worth doing if the basic bike is of good quality.

Walmart bikes ... break them, toss them, because almost any repair will cost more than a new bike.
Yup. The economics of repairing a department store bike just don't add up. Whenever I get a question from a friend or acquaintance about an old bike it usually goes something like this.

"So since you are into bikes, could you help me? I (have an old bike sitting in my garage/just got a bike from my father/mother/uncle, just bought a used bike on Craigslist) and was wondering what you think?"
I always ask them to show me the bike, or take a couple of pictures and I know right away if it is worth saving.
If it was a decent bike when it was new, whether that was 5, 10, or even 25 years ago, and the bike is reasonably clean, the answer usually is, yes. For $50 to $100 of parts and/or labor, you have yourself a rideable bike that will probably get you by until funds allow you to upgrade to something better.
If it is a Huffy, Roadmaster, or some such department store brand, even if it is practically brand new, my answer is, just donate it and get something else. Because even $50 put into such a bike is throwing good money after bad.
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