Bicycle Shopping

by Jason Fredin

Yeah, these posts get way off the beaten path sometimes. Today is no exception.

Most people know I like to ride my bike to work. I have a great bike for that, a Trek FX7.2 that I purchased exactly for that reason. It wasn’t crazy expensive, but I invested a good amount of money into a bike that would be reliable.

I also have been riding at Fanshawe Conservation Area, a fun 23km off-road trip with sections of varying difficulties. I have ridden my Trek FX7.2 hybrid/road bike around the loop, but with a rigid front suspension and narrow tires the bike is a poor match to the task. One of the guys at my local bike shop looked at me a bit sideways and kindly asked, “You know the bike’s not designed for that, right?”

I knew the bike wasn’t well suited to the task, so the next time and every time since, I have ridden my department store mountain bike that we bought as a matching pair for about $150 after my wife’s and my own bikes were stolen along with my truck over 10 years ago.

mudslide

Now my 10 year old mountain bike is really showing its age, (actually the bike is a Franken-bike made of the remaining good parts from both bikes and the occasional upgrades like new shifters, grips, and a new seat) the bottom bracket, front suspension, and rear brake cable all need replacing. Replacing all this on the bike would probably cost more than buying a new department store bike. Replacing the suspension forks for the front would be half the price of a new bike. The bottom bracket although not expensive, requires specialty tools to remove the lock ring and the cranks. These tools and the replacement part would chew up the other half of the price of a cheap department store bike, and I would still have a 10 year old department store bike.

On a side note, I am seriously considering joining Purple Bikes, the bike workshop at Western. For only $5 a term (4 months) you get access to the tools you need to fix your bike and affordable new and used parts.

The challenge, find a bike for off-road use in the $200-$300 range.

So, to be completely honest, I’m considering buying a Reebok bike from Sportchek.

pSPCK1-14665815enh-z6

Why not buy used? Trust me, I would love to, but there are so many problems with buying used. I hoped to purchase a used low end name brand quality bike, something that would cost $400-$600 from a reputable bike shop when new.

First, how do know you aren’t supporting the black market stolen bike trade? I have been searching Kijiji for a bike and I realized I was often seeing the same phone number. I also kept seeing the same address. It appears there is one person on there, with at least three accounts, selling at least 20 bikes this month. Other posters often have multiple bikes or needed them gone “today”. This makes me uncomfortable buying a used bike privately.

I could buy a used bike from a reputable bike shop, but the bikes they sell used are the ones that cost $1500+ new. Bikes that don’t lose much value in the one or two seasons they were ridden before the individual decided to upgrade. They also wont bother with selling lower end used bikes that have a poor profit margin (and I don’t blame them).

Second, the price of used bikes is all over the place. Aside from the “too good to be true” bikes, most used prices don’t look like much of a deal. This is mostly because many of the bikes have upgraded components which pushed the new price of the bike higher, resulting in a price too high for me to consider. Either that or some people think they have a bike that magically doesn’t depreciate in value over time.

Third, buying used means you are buying a bike that may have its own issues. I know I can spot most current mechanical faults, but how much life do those components have left in them? My bottom bracket on my current bike felt fine just weeks ago, now it feels awful.

So here I am, considering a cheap department store bike.

I would love to know if you have any serious suggestions.

Anyways, Its late, I’ve rambled enough, and I have to work in the morning, but I thought I would get enough of this out of my brain to let me sleep. Night y’all.

 

[ UPDATE ]

I did buy what is essentially a department store bike tonight.

I didn’t buy the one mentioned earlier in the post, I picked the next bike up, the Reebok Oregon from Sportchek (I also got the last 17″ in stock (yes I’m short)). The Sphere’s components were simply too cheap with a twist grip shift and non-indexed front shifter.

After weighing all the options, the bike store bikes couldn’t touch the price ($239).

F.Y.I. the cheapest Trek at my local bike shop sells for $399 ($160 more).

 

P.S.

I usually steer people away from department/sports store bikes, there’s a lot of crap out there and you really have to watch what components are on these bikes. I feel a bit guilty for going against the advice I give many other people when they are looking for a bike.

The Reebok Oregon has pretty standard Shimano parts, my only concern is the no-name front fork (but at the bottom of the price range all bikes come with no-name forks), but the bike uses a standard 1-1/8″ threadless headset which is also very common if I do ever feel the need to replace it.