Decisions about department store bikes...
We LOVE riding bikes and we want to encourage everyone to ride! We realize cost is a factor, so we hope you’ll consider all the costs, not just the price tag.
Did you know department store brand bikes like Huffy, Mongoose, Schwinn, Pacific, and Ozone often last less than a year? They average 75 miles of use from manufacture to landfill. That’s a BIG carbon footprint for very little use, compared to thousands of miles and decades of use from bike shop brands like Kona, Fairdale, Giant, Trek, or Specialized. Not only are department store bikes utterly unsustainable, they’re also a poor value for the customer.
Don’t take our word for it, Bicycling Magazine has a great article called The Hidden Costs of Buying Walmart Bikes. Highlights from the article:
- "Sloppy" Assembly
- They’re Not That Much Cheaper
- Inferior Parts
- There’s No Bike Service at Walmart
- Lame Warranties
Department store bicycle manufacturers cut corners to cut costs. It simply is not possible to produce a safe & reliable adult bicycle for less than $400, and yet department store brands continue to mis-represent their products to unsuspecting customers. Not only are lesser quality components bound to have problems, but we also encourage our customers to consider the social & environmental justice implications of the externalized costs of department store bikes compared to a conscientious brand like Surly.
After 20+ years as a bike mechanic, our owner Brad has learned that proper adjustments on department store bikes do not always hold, and we frequently see bolts strip out and/or break when tightened. We've also heard horror stories of serious injuries from department store bike malfunctions. *We are not willing to help customers ride away on bike brands with a history of being unreliable.
Buying a quality bike
Entry level bike shop bicycles often start around $4-700. If that’s beyond your budget, consider buying a used bike shop brand bike. There are lots of great articles out there like these:
How to Buy Used Bikes by Bicycling Magazine
How NOT to Buy a Stolen Bike by BikeIndex.org
Austin's Yellow Bike Project
We are also incredibly fortunate to have Austin’s Yellow Bike Project where you can earn-a-bike by volunteering for 12 hours, and learn how to maintain it yourself! They even offer earn-a-bike for kids!! They also sell refurbished used bicycles, and they gladly accept donations of bikes and parts.
Quality for Kids
Affordability is understandably a consideration for many families, and because kids grow so fast, they sometimes choose slightly less expensive, but also lesser quality department store bikes. We hope to offer a trade-up program for our kids bikes soon, but until then, we encourage parents to weigh the pros & cons of department store kids bikes vs. quality kids bikes (the cost difference is often under $100). Lesser quality bikes can make it less enjoyable and less safe to ride (like sketchy brakes your kids can’t rely on), whereas quality bikes help kids learn priceless skills that transfer to other aspects of life including:
- thinking ahead
- choosing safe/fun paths
- and a fun-loving sense of adventure!
We're All About Safety & Sustainability
We’d like to share a personal story to illustrate our sincere desire for everyone to enjoy riding reliable & long-lasting bikes, which is a win/win for people & the planet. When Brad's wife was in her early 20’s, she was working her way through college and couldn’t afford a car/gas/insurance, so she rode a bike for transportation, and for fun & exercise. Sadly, her reliable bike was stolen. She scraped together $100 and bought a used department store bike, but the brakes soon broke, making it dangerous and scary to ride on city streets. She took it to two bike shops, but the brakes could not be fixed because the frame was incompatible with any replacement parts. So she saved up $400 to buy a quality bike from her local bike shop, which she enjoyed for 15 years before she upgraded and gifted her trusty Giant to a friend who still rides it!
Our bottom line...
We’re a small, sustainable bike shop with a passion for building and fixing reliable bikes, so we encourage our customers to invest in quality bikes because safe & pleasant riding is priceless! We've chosen to carry these bicycle brands because of their commitment to quality, reliability, and awesome handling for decades of fun.
To help bring quality rides within reach, BIKEALOT offers layaway programs, and financing through PayPal.
*If you really need to get a few more miles out of a department store bike, there are some other great Austin bike shops who will do their best with any brand.