There are a lot of exciting things to find under the tree on Christmas morning, but few that bring the lasting excitement and freedom of a shiny, new bicycle. Whether it’s your first two wheeler, or a replacement for that hand-me-down from your older sibling, a new bike that’s all your own is one of those presents you never forget.
It’s easy to walk into any big box store this time of year and see lots of shiny, fancy-looking bikes that seem like the perfect thing to put under the tree this holiday season, but when you look closer, there are a lot of good reasons to make a trip to your local bike shop instead.
We have customers stop in year-round with their brand new department store bicycle complaining that gears are not shifting smoothly, brakes are not engaging, and things just don’t seem quite right. Nine times out of ten, when we put it up in the repair stand and take a look, it is clear that the bike was never assembled properly by a knowledgeable and experienced bike mechanic. The brakes rub, the wheels are not straight, and often parts are backwards, upside down or dangerously loose. We understand that is not a reassuring way to start your first ride. The first thing to remember when you see those lower prices is that you’ll probably end up paying a professional $70 or more just to make your new bike work properly. At any reputable bike shop, staff are trained professionals who take the time to adjust and inspect every part of your new bike as they assemble it, making sure it is perfect for your first ride, at no extra cost.
Even after you’ve had your bike professionally re-assembled, department store bikes aren’t designed for the same kind of use as a bike that you’ll find in your local shop. Department store bikes are essentially designed as a toy to be used occasionally, where a high-quality bike can be ridden every day for years and years. Because of the lower quality of the parts, these bikes need far more service than a bike shop equivalent, and often “service” of a department store bike will involve replacing the original parts with higher quality ones in order to solve the problem. When we can service the existing parts on a department store bike, because of the loose tolerances in manufacturing, we can’t guarantee that the adjustments will last for as long as they would on a higher quality bike. All of this can lead to a lot of extra spending on service and less time on the road or trail enjoying the ride.
On top off all that, department store bikes do not even come in sizes! Can you imagine going to buy a pair of shoes but only being able to get a size 9? Why should your bike be any different? Without a bike that fits comfortably, riding is neither fun nor easy. Often when people say they do not enjoy riding, it is because they associate the difficulty and discomfort of a department store bike to all bike riding. Most quality bike shop bikes come in a range of sizes to fit all sized riders and are easily adjustable to keep you comfortable.
All of these issues are magnified for the younger rider. The extra resistance of rubbing brakes and poorly adjusted bearings are especially difficult for young riders, who are still practicing and learning. As kids master the skills they need for riding, they deserve to enjoy a bike that is able to keep up with them as their ability progresses.
These days there a lot of different options available when it comes to picking a new bike, and you might think that as a casual rider the specifics aren’t really all that important. In a lot of cases you’d be right, there are a lot of technical specs and choices that don’t make that much of a difference. But there are some that are important regardless of your level of riding. Finding a bike that is suited to what you will use it for, fits you well, and has features that benefit you is what your local bike shop specializes in. Someone will take the time to talk about what you want out of a new bike and use their expertise to recommend a bike that will suit your needs, even if you don’t know where to start.
This Christmas, save yourself the time, money, and headache of dealing with a department store bike, check out your local bike shop and feel the difference yourself by testing out a few bikes.
Snyder Cycles has a thorough collection of kid's bikes ready to place under the tree this holiday season. We even offer the ability to store your bikes at the shop up until Christmas Eve so it's ready to pick up at the last minute. Talk to us about how we can be part of the big surprise!