BBC's Watchdog to highlight bicycle shaped object dangers

Tomorrow night's show challenges five cyclists to assemble flat-pack bikes

by Simon_MacMichael   November 4, 2009  

Watchdog.jpg

Tonight’s edition of Watchdog, the BBC’s long-running consumer affairs show, will include an investigation into flat-pack bikes, better known in the cycling community as “bicycle shaped objects” or BSOs.

The segment, hosted by John Humphries, himself a keen cyclist, sets five “regular cyclists” the challenge of putting together a flat-pack bike, which have been sourced from Asda, Argos, Halfords, Tesco and Toys “R” Us.

There has been growing opposition from within the cycle trade to non-specialist retailers with no expertise in selling or servicing bicycles moving into the sale of flat-pack bikes, which need to be assembled by the purchaser, who may have little or no mechanical experience and can also be faced with confusing or incomplete assembly instructions.

The dangers involved were unwittingly highlighted by Asda itself earlier this year, when it ran a press ad showing what it claimed to be “Britain’s cheapest bike,” accompanied by a picture of a bike which had been assembled with the front forks facing the wrong way round.

In the wake of the attention that Asda’s gaffe attracted, Mark Brown, Director of the Association of Cycle Traders, started a blog that aims to highlight the issues involved and bring about a change in the law to ensure that no matter how low the price tag, all bicycles should be sold assembled and set up properly.

We’ve covered Mark’s blog on road.cc before, with links to videos of trained bike mechanics taking an hour to put the Asda bike together, as well as Mark’s views on his first ride on it.

And if it takes an experienced mechanic that long to assemble one, that must raise questions about whether your average purchaser might be tempted to cut corners to put the bicycle together, without being aware of the safety implications.

With Christmas window displays starting to go up in high streets across the country, the Watchdog coverage is timely, and the programme airs on BBC1 tomorrow evening at 8pm and thereafter on the BBC iPlayer, which can be accessed from the show’s website.

12 user comments

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We're looking forward to seeing the Watchdog piece here at Asda. We did put the bike forks on the wrong way round in our advert but noticed the mistake and in within hours of the advert going on air it was pulled and amended straight away. A simple mistake that we hope is helped by our step by step video guide on YourAsda.com

http://your.asda.com/2009/8/17/step-by-step-video-guide-to-building-the-...

The real experts here are our customers and almost 50,000 of them have bought the bikes since they went on sale in June. Our aim is simply to encourage thousands of people who have previously been put off cycling by the high cost to get out and discover how much fun riding a bike can be.

If in the longer term they become serious about cycling then they’ll probably want a more sophisticated bike. But families looking to get started can’t go too far wrong with the British Eagles that we’re selling.

All the bikes we sell are built and tested to the safety standards set by the European Commission Directive - if they weren't we wouldn't sell them.

posted by jo_asdapr [1 posts]
4th November 2009 - 13:06

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Fair play to Adsa for coming on here and commenting - fair play too that they have a build your bike bit on their website. however...

Quote:
The real experts here are our customers

what does this even mean? the whole point here is that you *do* need to have a level of technical ability - that is to say, be an 'expert' - to be able to put a BSO together properly, especially since the tools supplied with the bike are, let's face it, gash. Just cause you've sold 50k of them doesn't make the individual buyers experts, does it? That's like saying all the people that buy a Ford Focus can automatically repair the engine, ie nonsense.

Quote:
Our aim is simply to encourage thousands of people who have previously been put off cycling by the high cost to get out and discover how much fun riding a bike can be

that's a noble aim, somewhat undermined by the fact that cheap, badly assembled BSOs aren't fun to ride at all. mostly that's my issue with them.

Quote:
We did put the bike forks on the wrong way round in our advert but noticed the mistake and in within hours of the advert going on air it was pulled and amended straight away

That was a high profile mistake, but the real problem is not that it happened in an advert but that it's happening in stores and sheds all round the country, as we speak. It's not like the bike in the advert is the only example, and bikes with their forks on back to front are sketchy to say the least.

Barry Fry-up's picture

posted by Barry Fry-up [187 posts]
4th November 2009 - 13:47

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This is all very well timed for my Scrapheap Challenge!

I will be putting it through a bit of a tougher test than I suspect Watchdog have in mind...

I hope the program points me in the direction of the cheapest dual suspension bike, I still can't get under £99 delivered. I want to avoid ebay if possible, Argos' dual suspension and dual disc braked Muddy Fox for £99 is looking favourite.

November is now being set as a definite target to get this done and dusted.

Complicating matters since 1965

DaSy's picture

posted by DaSy [648 posts]
4th November 2009 - 13:49

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I can't wait Smile

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7252 posts]
4th November 2009 - 13:54

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I thought ASDA only pulled the ad when this was pointed out by others. If this was the case, then ADSA didn't spot the mistake as it was spotted by someone else.

As for putting the forks on backwards, it's something that even someone with the most basic bicycle knowledge should know not to do.

I see a lot of cheapo BSOs discarded in the street incidentally.

Buying a secondhand bike will get you something a lot better than a BSO and for the same money.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2125 posts]
4th November 2009 - 18:41

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Sorry, I can't resist: In this case, as with so many, you definitely get what you pay for. A bike for under a ton....... Devil

TiNuts's picture

posted by TiNuts [92 posts]
5th November 2009 - 22:16

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Watchdog ably displayed the main issue with these bikes last night. The people putting them together really is a problem, I loved the guy just off camera with his forks on backwards, the pedal put on with less than a turn, wheel nuts less than finger tight...it was a triumph of ineptitude.

My wife was not happy when the bikes were shown to be dangerous, riding across a flat park. My plans are a little more extreme than that, I think the black-run on Whites and the Graveyard on The Wall may test these little beauties.

The upside is, we have located the bikes, and pick them up on Tuesday. A deal was struck with a bike shop, and we get 6 for £65 + VAT each. The Chariots of Death will soon be with us! His words were apparently "you know they're pretty shit"...music to my ears.

Complicating matters since 1965

DaSy's picture

posted by DaSy [648 posts]
6th November 2009 - 10:31

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DaSy - are you going to give them a proper test and build them up with the 'tools' supplied?

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7252 posts]
6th November 2009 - 10:43

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I think that may a bridge too far!

We are planning on just testing the bike itself, or I would have to compare like with like, and test the Titus Motolite with the tools it came with, namely none, which would render it to a pile of very nice, expensive, but ultimately useless separate parts.

The only thing we can change is the pedals, as we all ride clipless, and of course set-up the suspension to our individual requirements...I think I will choose 'really bouncy with added pedal bob over all terrain', my mate reckons 'as stiff as possible' is the way to go. I have a feeling both options are going to result in much the same ride.

My main objective is to wait for someone to head up the Whites climb on a Giant Anthem X SL or the like, and I come bobbing past on the Raleigh Virus, with a cheery call of "track!"...I am training hard to make this a reality.

I'm sure they will feel vindicated when, on the descent, the Virus gives way to various catastrophic failures and deposits me down the trail side in a heap...

Complicating matters since 1965

DaSy's picture

posted by DaSy [648 posts]
6th November 2009 - 12:00

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I'm impressed that you think doing anything to the suspension will affect how it behaves Big Grin

are you all on the same machine or do you have a selection?

I *have* to be there for this. Vid camera in hand Big Grin Big Grin

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7252 posts]
6th November 2009 - 12:35

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For those wanting to watch it on iPlayer, the feature starts at 14 mins ish.

I haven't watched it yet, but I think it's unfair to put Halfords in this same group. Halfords offer free assembly on all their bikes...

All the gear and no idea!

posted by JonMack [171 posts]
6th November 2009 - 12:36

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dave_atkinson wrote:
I'm impressed that you think doing anything to the suspension will affect how it behaves Big Grin
are you all on the same machine or do you have a selection?
I *have* to be there for this. Vid camera in hand Big Grin Big Grin

As I said Dave, I have a feeling that all adjustments to the 'suspension system' will result in much the same ride, but I will not pre-judge, and hope to be pleasantly surprised by their lively ride characteristics. I think the mantra of laterally compliant whilst at the same time vertically compliant, and also in some way diagonally compliant will be adopted.

I believe there are two flavours of bike available, one is some manner of Raleigh; I'm sure I heard Virus, but feel that even Raleigh couldn't possibly call a bike a Virus!
The other I fear to be a Dunlop, and expect it to hold together as well as my old Green Flashes from the 70's, which used to separate the uppers from the sole with consummate ease.

Sizing is a simple case of "they're 18 inch, that's all they make it in" followed by the previously described
warning of "you do know they're pretty shit"...we did know!

Dave, you're more than welcome to accompany us on this debacle, we do have head cam, still photographers and first aiders all on stand-by. Once a date is established, I will let you know.

Complicating matters since 1965

DaSy's picture

posted by DaSy [648 posts]
6th November 2009 - 13:25

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