Don't buy a cheap bike!

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A few customers have recently brought us very cheap, low-quality bikes which are almost impossible to service or repair. Some of these bikes are so bad, frankly their sale ought to be illegal on safety grounds. Others may be just about safe, but are a completely false economy because they will cost so much more in terms of maintenance and repair, even only in a year or two of ownership. (Some people refer to them as "Bicycle Shaped Objects" or BSO's: they look like bikes, but if used as such they will quickly fail). One customer bought a £170 bike 6 months ago and hardly even used it, yet had to pay us another £140 to repair and reassemble it correctly (we did try to talk her out of having the work done, but to no avail). If she'd only spent the combined total in the first place she would have had an infinitely better bike.

The perils of buying a BSO from a department store or mail order website don't end there. Even when brand new, such bikes are heavy, sluggish to ride, and uncomfortable thanks to hard saddles and cheap grips. People with BSO's who test-ride a good quality hybrid bike are always amazed at the difference. How many novices up and down the country have been put off cycling for life because they assume all bikes are as unpleasant to ride as their new £99.99 BSO from the supermarket?

Remember also that any BSO bought online or from a mail-order catalogue will arrive flat-packed and will require assembly. Although they come with instructions and very basic tools, it's easy to get wrong. All too often we see self-assembly bikes we see with pedals on the wrong side, loose wheels or dangerous brakes. Some manufacturers' warranties are also valid only if the bike is assembled by a bike shop - a service which typically adds £35 to the price of a mail-order bike.

There is one sure method of avoiding the BSO trap: if you are buying a brand new bike which will be used regularly and you want it to last more than a few months, don't spend less than £300. And nowadays this represents the bare minimum price for getting even a basic, no-frills bike. If you want luggage racks and mudguards, don't spend less than about £350. And if you want a new bike for mountain biking or serious cycle touring, don't spend less than about £600. There really is no point in cutting corners. This is what it costs to get a new bike that's worth having, and anything cheaper will be both unpleasant to ride and unreliable in the longer term.

What if you can't afford e.g. £350? Your money is much better spent on a £200 second-hand bike (in good condition) which would have cost around £350 when new, than a £199.99 new bike that will fall apart in 6 months time.

See also our What type of bike is best? tip sheet

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