Bicycle mechanics in the U.S. have had enough of junky bikes that big box stores sell under the pretense of “budget bikes.” Mechanics say these cheap bikes from Walmart and similar retailers have been built to meet low price points for decades. But in the last ten years, their quality has declined so much that they’re not really budget bikes anymore. They’re now better categorized as bikes that are “built to fail,” according to a report from Vice.
In the report, Jalopnik alum Aaron Gordon quotes Mac Liman and Josh Bisker, mechanics from Denver and Brooklyn respectively, who warn that cheap bikes from superstores are flooding repair shops amid the bike boom from the COVID19 pandemic. More riders obviously means more bike repairs, but the problem is budget bikes are breaking too often too soon and aren’t actually repairable. From Vice:
[Liman’s] talking about the kind of bikes, hastily wrenched together out of flat-packed boxes by people with minimal training, that mechanics have long called bike-shaped objects: bikes with misaligned wheels, forks on backwards, and faulty handlebars, bikes that break after just a few dozen hours of use and that cannot be repaired.
...When asked what the problem with them is, Bisker responded, “The problem with budget bikes is everything. They’re literally built to fail.”
The current crop of budget bikes are struggling to last even 90 riding hours, per the report, and are plagued by the following defects, emphasis mine:
Liman rattled off the problems she’s encountered with cheap bikes brought into the shop in the last year or so: bent or damaged frames, bent axles, snapped crank arms, broken forks, busted welds. “Things that shouldn’t happen in a year and a half, even under extreme use,” she said, “but have happened under minimal use.”
The mechanics are now petitioning for a minimum durability standard of 500 riding hours, and they’re asking big box stores to stop making and selling these disposable bikes.
Of course, the mechanics admit that bike manufacturers and local bicycle shops (LBSs) play a role in all this; people buy cheaply-made bikes because they can’t afford the bikes their LBS sells in the first place.
Bike co-ops like the one Bisker runs are trying to address this by providing cheap, reliable bicycles and affordable repairs. But when bike advocates are up against retail giants like Walmart, it’s like cranking uphill in the wrong gear.