Tesco £45 Bike

by DaveP   August 17, 2009  

The recent media fanfare over the “Cheapest Bike in Britain”, ASDA £70, was quickly followed by the advertisements getting pulled for showing the gents version with its forks on backwards. Most bike aficionados scoffed at the low spec and called them Bicycle Shaped Objects ( BSO ), none thought that these cheap Supermarket bikes could encourage people to take up cycling ..

Having recently spent close on £200 for my daughters first 24inch wheel cycle, I was interested in see just what you did get for your money.

One Sunday morning we found that a Tesco £45 bicycle had been thrown over (through) the hedge from the path that boarders my property. Upon inspection it had been hardly used: the chain rings and cassette weren’t scuffed but the tires were flat. I dutifully called my local Bobby and gave him the BSO details and placed it the shed with my ‘normal’ bikes.

Twenty eight days later no one had claimed the bike lost or stolen so it became my property. Its made of Hi-Ten steel with a spec very similar to that of the ASDA BSO: no suspension, twist-grip shifting of 18 gears, ‘V’ type brakes and a quill stem. One friend’s recommendation was to re-spray it and plumb it as a towel warmer in my bathroom…

What to do with a ‘Mountain’ Bike that costs less than a decent pair of tires…? My usual riding consists of the two or three work commutes in the week, on a Single Speed roadbike and blast’s around the countryside on a high-end mountain bike… Not wishing to appear a coward for my first ride I chose to take the “Ascent” for a gentle ride around local tow-paths and bridleways.

To my great surprise the wheels rotated without any buckles and the brakes ( after 5min of effort ) work, eventually bring the BSO to a stop. The angles of the bike are very laidback and the chainstays on the long side, making it a very stable platform, perfect for the first time user. Alas, the same could not be said for the saddle that would not stay in the necessary place despite my best efforts to get the ‘old’ style rotating-clamping-sliding-thing as tight as possible.

The other loose items on the BSO are around the drivetrain. Whilst it does have the rear mech attached to the wheels axle, as was criticised on the ASDA BSO, there was never a hint of ghost shifting. But, the cranks and pedals are as wobbly as a jelly in an earthquake. The pedals are nasty plastic bushed units that found it hard to rotate on their axles and would quickly become useless ( I’ve swapped them for an old pair of ‘80s Shimano XT platforms) but at least the BottomBracket could be stripped down and re-built with new ball bearings and grease – if I could be bothered.

All in all I’d not be happy riding it to work on a regular basis – too heavy and much too costly in worn out parts – and I like the comfort and safety of suspension, disc brakes, etc, etc, for off road use. But, as an introduction to cycling ( and if it was backed by proper LBS support ) it would be a great introduction to cycling as a recreational activity and MUCH better than vegetating in front of the TV on a Sunday afternoon.

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7 user comments

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DaveP's picture

posted by DaveP [467 posts]
17th August 2009 - 11:57

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A slightly more encouraging write up than the Adsa BSO got from Mark at the ACT then. it does beg the question though: if it needs expert attention to get it to a rideable standard, how many of these bikes will ever see that? An hour of fettling at the bikeshop and you've almost doubled the price of the thing...

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7317 posts]
17th August 2009 - 21:28

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I could take the snotty view and rubbish every bit of the bike, and yes the basic - out of the box set up needs work ( clamping the seat, setting up the brakes, sorting the cable routing, etc, etc.)...

But, it is what it is: a bike for very little money, and you get what you pay for. Nerd

DaveP's picture

posted by DaveP [467 posts]
17th August 2009 - 21:44

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Loads of people just don't have the knowledge to set up bikes. At the MX track yesterday there was a kid with a very bashed up mountain bike saying his dad was going to spend £300 on a new one for him. I took another look at his bike and realised it was a Trek that'd probably cost his dad £300. I told him he was riding a good bike and all it needed was a new back tyre and some new cables but he was all set on the new bike. If I see him again I'll say to him to bring his dad as I'd like to buy the Trek off him so I can fix it up for my kids.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2188 posts]
18th August 2009 - 9:52

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Some people just want to spend money, mates of mine change bikes every 12 months.. Some just don't have the money to spend.

People who buy these cheap BSO are not the sort to go thrashing them for 30 miles around the Lakes, they just want something to ride to the shop / park / pub. Why do I keep reading 'reviews' by experts comparing them to £200+ bikes? I do agree that the shops MUST spend more time setting them up correctly. Interesting point from one guy was that French shops mustn't sell a bike in a box, it must be built at the point of sale. Is this something we should push for?

DaveP's picture

posted by DaveP [467 posts]
18th August 2009 - 11:30

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That's certainly something the ACT is pushing for. The main concern with BSOs, from my point of view anyway, is that you're asking someone to build a bike who has no experience of doing it, and no frame of reference for whether they've done it right. I reckon I could build one up okay but i've spent a fair few hours/days/weeks of the last decade in my shed doing just that. If regular Joe goes into Asda/Tesco/wherever to buy one for his son and knocks it up in the living room then there's a fair chance that it will be not just badly assembled (given the tools you get given to work with) but actually dangerous. However, if you stipulate that the bikes need to be built do you also stipulate that a qualified mechanic is responsible? because otherwise it'll be the Asda saturday boy knocking it together, and the bike will be even more unrideable...

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7317 posts]
18th August 2009 - 11:38

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Alas, Kays/Gratton/Argos/littlewoods have been selling boxed bikes for decades...

It's not just Supermarket BSOs; The 'normal' bikes (£200+) I've seen out and about, with obvious build issues, have all been C2W scheme bikes supplied un-built in boxes.

DaveP's picture

posted by DaveP [467 posts]
18th August 2009 - 21:56

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