Cheap bikes

by gawl07   April 22, 2014  

I have a straight forward commute. With additional rides, I'm probably doing between 70 and 80 miles a week.
After using different mountain bikes for years, eight months ago, I was told it would cost £150 to repair my bike, so I decided to buy a single speed/fixed gear. The idea being that there's less to go wrong. Low maintenance - less expense.
I bought an SE Lager for £435. It's a lovely bike, and a very smooth ride.
However, after six months, the Thick Slick tyres lost all puncture resistance. I was getting a puncture a week!
I replaced the tyres with Marathon Plus for £60.
I've just taken the bike back to the shop I bought it from, to have some repairs carried out, and have been quoted £130!
I realise that I'd save a fortune if I learned how to carry out these repairs myself but that's just not going to happen.
I'm starting to think that I'd be better off buying a cheap bike, riding it into the ground, until it gives up the ghost, and then buying a another cheap one.
I see Muddy Fox Mountain bikes advertised for £150, or those Chinese Single Speed/Fixed Gear bikes go for under £200.
Moan, moan, moan...

20 user comments

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chains will stretch, components will suffer wear and tear (especially in bad weather). You might find that mud guards and gatorskins might be a good investment ?
That said, I do find that around the 5000-8000 mile mark you will face diminishing returns on your refurbishment spend but simple maintenance is not difficult, will elongate the life of components.
On cheap bikes, all I'd say is that I wouldn't want to get on a bike in the morning I didn't enjoy riding....
Good luck

posted by arfa [473 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 21:52

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Tell me what they are taking £130 for on a single speed....

I just finished repairing a recovered stolen bike that was to be honest well and truly f*cked. The guy loved this bike though.

Had to bend it back into shape, replace rear wheel, both tyres and tubes, chain, cassette and then my labour on top. Came to not much more than you are being quoted.

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posted by Gkam84 [8786 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 22:05

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Marathon Plus tyres should be standard issue on any commuter bike. Only ever suffered two punctures in five years of running them: one from a spoke piercing the rim tape (so nowt to do with the tyre) and the other from a ruddy enormous industrial nail, and even then that was only after the tread had been worn well down.

On the wider point, I can understand your frustration but the fact is if you're going to be putting that kind of mileage in over well-worn roads in all weathers, your steed will require regular maintenance, professional or otherwise. People who cycle infrequently often baulk at this; but then most people who have a bike only use it four or five times a year.

To put an eco-hat on, it is much more socially responsible to buy a decent bike and maintain it than buy cheapo after cheapo. And in the long run, it will still save you dough. For example a good steel frame (e.g. from Genesis) will likely last you twenty years or more. And hub gearing, if you need gears, will also greatly reduce wear and tear, and will last longer. A Brooks saddle will also last 20+ years, if kept properly. Also, buying crappy bikes only encourages them...

I spend probably in the region of £300 (max) per year on maintaining my bike, including new parts where necessary. Even after the initial £900 outlay, I'm still in profit vs public transport (which would cost me around £900 p.a.) and I get to work quicker, keep fit, avoid other peoples' smelly armpits... and of course my bike never gets cancelled!

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posted by Ghedebrav [1073 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 22:15

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Oh, and a lot of decent bikes are made in China, as well as the BSOs.

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posted by Ghedebrav [1073 posts]
22nd April 2014 - 22:17

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Get a decent commuter bike with 'bomb proof' tyres. Learn how to replace (and maintain) the chain, cassette, chain ring and brake blocks (pref have hydraulic brakes), and trips to the LBS will be rare. As someone remarked to me years ago when I was teaching myself, "it really isn't difficult", and now there are numerous on-line tuition videos.

Shades

posted by Shades [195 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 10:24

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My old Ridgeback (source of the name) will be 26 years old this year. I've lost count of the distance it's covered, though I don't do the miles on it I used to it's true. It's had a lot of stuff replaced and is on its third back wheel, second front wheel, third saddle, third set of bars, third rear mech and I've no idea how many chain sets it's gone through now. Stuff wears out and breaks. The frame, front mech, carrier, bottle holder and rear brake calipers are original, but everything else has been changed. It's heavy by modern standards but it's nice to ride all the same and as it's really scruffy, I don't worry too much about locking it up at the train station, despite the fact that there are some really good parts under all that dirt.

Cheap bikes are cheap, but they wear out faster and aren't very nice to ride.

If you work out how much a bike actually costs to run/km and compare that with a car or paying for public transport, it is a very small sum.

If you buy a low-mid priced model from a well established brand, you'll get a lot more miles for your money than if you buy some really cheap and nasty bit of tat. It'll be nicer to ride too.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2165 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 10:35

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If you're looking for economical cycling, but on a bike that feels good to ride to work, then go for a 2nd hand touring bike, or road bike with room for mudguards, from the late 80's or early 90s.

Chains for seven speed bikes last up to ten times longer than modern narrower chains (and if you've been running single speed then 7 gears is more than enough), brake blocks can cost as little as a quid a pair, and may last many thousands of miles, bearings will cost a few pence, indexed gears will hardly ever need adjusting and, despite the hype, good sidepull or canti rim brakes are more than good enough to commute on. And the whole bike can be repaired cheaply by any bike shop or friendly home mechanic. In fact, it's possible to strip the entire bike down to it's component parts, by the roadside if necessary, with just a few tools, which might allow you to consider doing all your own repairs, potentially making your cycling very cheap indeed.

However, modern bikes can be difficult to repair at home without complex tools and consumeables like disc pads, bearings and chains are specifically designed to have a short service life, and require incessant adjustment. If you're after economy and reliablity, I'd definitely for an older bike.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

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posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 11:47

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130 quid to repair a fixed?

Have you destroyed the BB thread or something?

posted by MKultra [208 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 11:50

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"Low maintenance - less expense.

I've just taken the bike back to the shop I bought it from, to have some repairs carried out, and have been quoted £130!

I realise that I'd save a fortune if I learned how to carry out these repairs myself but that's just not going to happen."

What's your complaint? You can't be arsed to learn how to do something yourself but don't want to pay for someone to do it for you? Laughing

posted by teaboy [149 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 11:58

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In many areas it is possible to get basic maintenance training free of charge through the local authority or transport authority.

In Manchester go to TfGM.com/cycling for details. I believe that similar offers exist in Leeds, Nottingham and other cities so it's worth checking.

I used to run a fixie for commuting, training and club runs and that bike would need a new chain every year, a set of new brake pads and every couple of years a new chainring and some cables. That bike would average over 100 miles a week all year round and had dynamo lighting so it's total annual running cost in modern components would be about £50.

None of my bikes have been to a shop for repair except when the frame was damaged as most repairs and servicing really are quite straight forward once you know how. Keeping the bike running for little money is also really satisfying.

Shay

posted by shay cycles [220 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 12:37

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Can't imagine what on earth needs replacing on a fixie after eight months that would come to £130... Even assuming there's an hour's labour at £50 in there, £80 would be a whole new drivetrain. After eight months?

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [809 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 14:01

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Thanks (almost) everybody for your comments and advice.
£45 is the labour charge, the rest is for a new chain, BB and rear cassette/cog.
I wasn't just moaning about the amount of money. I just felt that eight months was a short space of time, to have that kind of expense. Including the tyres, it's £190! Nearly half the price of the bike!
I change my own brake pads, inner tubes and tyres, and look after my bike. Cleaning the chain and drive with a brush, and keep it oiled.
So I'm not one of these people who go to Halfords whenever they get a puncture.
I've been sent two links.
One for, "Made Good", an on-line bike maintenance site, and another for local authority run, bike maintenance training.
I've contacted the local authority, and am waiting to hear from them.
I'll be reading the Made Good site and attempting my own repairs in future.
What's the worst that can happen?! lol.
Thanks again for the advice.
Gary

posted by gawl07 [3 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 15:57

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As much as I dislike admitting it and find the idea of throwing away a bike pretty ridiculous, there is undoubtedly logic in treating a 200 quid crappy commuter as a throw away bike. I certainly spend well over 200 quid a year now keeping my nice commuter running.

posted by giobox [268 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 16:22

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Chains are £3 in Wilkinson

Bog standard sprocket £15

Chain ring, less than £36 for a Goldtec

Square taper BB maybe £15

Thats £69 for perfectly durable parts so just what are they billing you for? I also doubt the BB needs swapping unless it's some cup and cone rubbish which brings it down to £54

If it's a flip flop hub you wont need to welly the old sprocket off you just put the new sprocket on the other side so thats another job they don't need to do for you

Everything else requires alen keys and your track spanner and is as easy as normal home maintanance/puncture repair.

posted by MKultra [208 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 16:23

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Oh and be sure to read the Sheldon Brown website

L/A's do offer courses but having been involved with a recycling charity who run these things it's mostly run by Gibbons who have done the basic Cytech qualification which is a workfare con these days. Serious bike shops who do quality work and fabrication train their own staff as they are the experts, not some training provider.

Why would say...Longstaff Cycles or Rourke or Mercian feel the need to pay someone else to tell them how to build bikes?

posted by MKultra [208 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 16:40

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+1 for the old bike from yesteryear. You can get a lot of bike that way.

The main trouble with taking your bike to the shop is you pay rrp. for the parts. I would cry if I had to do that. Most consumable parts are about half price if you shop around and fit them yourself. On the bright side the tyres you have just bought should survive a nuclear blast.

posted by ilovemytinbred [164 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 17:20

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The parktool.com website is pretty handy for repair advice, as is youtube.

posted by teaboy [149 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 18:51

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£45 to fit a square taper BB and chain??! They're taking the p1ss. Square taper should last years, not months. But if you're in London then everyone screws everyone so it's normal.

If you buy a chain checker and chain tool you can fit your own chain. Keep it adjusted and replace it before it's too worn to extend the life of the sprocket and chainring. Otherwise find a cheaper spannerman or quit moaning and pay up.

There are many tyres cheaper than M+ but you chose a premium model. They should, however, last a long time.

Old bikes come with their own problems, most are in need of proper fettling. A cheap bike will still need new tyres, chain etc at the same interval as a more expensive one so you won't save anything there.

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posted by Simon E [1940 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 20:03

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MKultra wrote:
Oh and be sure to read the Sheldon Brown website

L/A's do offer courses but having been involved with a recycling charity who run these things it's mostly run by Gibbons who have done the basic Cytech qualification which is a workfare con these days. Serious bike shops who do quality work and fabrication train their own staff as they are the experts, not some training provider.

Why would say...Longstaff Cycles or Rourke or Mercian feel the need to pay someone else to tell them how to build bikes?

I can think of five reasons straight off.

1. Customers prefer it..
2. Product warranties sometimes insist upon it.
3. It avoids picking up naughty short cuts.
4. It helps protect the retailer from litigation.
5. It improves the image of the whole cycle industry.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

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posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 21:09

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I've got a Lager, I paid £200 for it new and have done over 30'000 all weather miles on it fixed with front brake only. The original BB lasted about 2 weeks and was swapped for a UN54 which is still in. I fit a Dura-Ace sprocket straight away which is now worn out as is the front rim and rear wheel bearings. Obviously I have worn a few chains, tyres and brake pads and fitted other parts to preference such as saddle, bars and pedals.

As for £45 to fit a sprocket, chain and BB they are taking the piss, that's 15 minutes at worst for a proper mechanic, I would charge you £10-£15 plus probably £35 for the parts, you need a better mechanic.

posted by drfabulous0 [287 posts]
26th April 2014 - 21:06

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