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Are these VERY cheap bike upgrades and accessories too good to be true? Testing 10 budget cycling products from 'China's answer to Amazon'

We've bought 10 things from Temu, the latest buzzy bargain basement online retailer to crop up amid the cost-of-living crisis, and put them through their paces to see if they're actually any good

With the ever-increasing cost of cycling, sites such as Temu and AliExpress have gained a huge amount of popularity in recent years... but is this discounted gear any good, and can it really match up to pricier gear from more established brands? To find out, we bought a haul of cycling-related products from Temu. 

2023 temu site cheap cycling kit

What if there was a place where you could get cycling kit, bike components and all kinds of accessories for a fraction of the price? Nope, we’re not talking about the deep discounting at troubled retailer Wiggle currently, but rather Temu, the latest Chinese online retail giant to emerge following the likes of Aliexpress and Wish. It's even been dubbed 'China's answer to Amazon' already. 

Despite ethical concerns and other potential issues relating to compliance and tax evasion (a US congressional report published in June 2023 raised significant concerns about Temu's association with forced labour), you'll find some riders rely heavily on such sites, and it's more understandable when you see the prices of some products. A quick trawl through Temu quickly revealed a wide selection of cycling-related items, often up to about 80% cheaper than what's available from established UK firms through online retailers or your local bike shop.

But... surely these prices are too good to be true, aren't they? To find out, Dave and I decided to buy each other some bargain gifts. We would then use the bike components and accessories as we usually would before deciding which, if any, are actually worth buying...

The products

Road bike shoes (£28.98)

2023 Temu chinese accessories shoes

We'll kick off with the most expensive item that we purchased from Temu. The shoes appear to look very similar to Fizik's Tempo R5 Powerstrap, yet are less than half the price.

I was quite impressed to find that they did indeed fit, although they were tight in some funny places. They also claimed to be supplied with cleats, but these were missing from the order.

> Best road cycling shoes

After a couple of rides, it's safe to say that they do work as cycling shoes, but the stiff sole combined with the inflexible upper began to cause discomfort, and left a lot to be desired.

There are certainly elements here that are a success, but I'd be more inclined to spend £30-£40 on a set of cheap cycling shoes from the likes of DHB or Bont, to name just two established brands. They work, but even with that cheap price, they're not making our cycling shoes buyer's guide.

Verdict: Miss

Cleaning brush (£2.69)

2023 Temu chinese accessories chain cleaning brush

> How to keep your bike running smoothly

Dave isn't well known for his drivetrain cleanliness, so I thought I'd treat him to a new cleaning brush to try kickstart some good bike maintenance habits.

This double-ended brush is certainly cheap, worked as it should and left Dave's chain and cassette much cleaner than when we started. The bristles are very stiff, so it's important to only use this on non-painted metal components. Overall, though, it did its job and we'd happily use it on a regular basis.

Verdict: Hit

Cycling jersey (£10.78)

2023 Temu chinese accessories jersey

There are not many cycling jerseys that you can buy for around a tenner!

Ignoring the polarising graphics (there's lots of colours and designs available) the jersey has a full-length zip which worked without getting stuck, and a breathable material that did indeed breathe, albeit not as well as more premium offerings. We also found the three pockets on the rear rather small.

The fit wasn't horrendous, and was as good as you could expect from a cheap unisex jersey - although it did come up small and was particularly tight around the sleeves.

The rubber grippers and elasticated cuffs performed as they should. Both Dave and I were impressed with the stitching, which has survived a fair few washes.

Overall, if you're just getting started with cycling then something like this will serve you well, as long as you don't expect the same quality and refinement as more expensive jerseys.

Verdict: Hit

Cycling glasses (£3.59)

2023 Temu chinese accessories mirror lens glasses

Before starting my job at road.cc, I was guilty of purchasing a fair few discounted pairs of cycling glasses, that I can only assume were imitations rather than the real thing. Some of them were excellent, others less so. 

These oddly-named SCVCN glasses sit somewhere in the middle. They're certainly cheap - in fact, you could purchase 20 pairs or so for the same price as most premium cycling glasses!

The image clarity is good, the field of view is excellent and they fit my face quite well. The nose rubber isn't adjustable and feels noticeably cheap, and there's also no rubberised bits on the arms. Out riding, they definitely fogged up easier and the lens has scratched already despite me being quite careful with them.

We have no way of testing the claimed UV400 rating which is the most worrying part, although this isn't necessarily challenging to produce, so we can hope. If you're willing to take that risk, then these will save you an absolute fortune.

Verdict: Hit (just about)

Laser rear light (£2.69)

2023 Temu chinese accessories rear laser light

The two AA batteries to power this rear bike light cost us more than the unit itself. It's not the brightest, but does do enough to get you seen in dark conditions. The lasers do indeed create a virtual lane for traffic to avoid.

A quick-release clamp is included, and while not of the highest quality, it did hold the light semi-securely, and we were unable to bounce it off while riding over through potholes.

Sadly this is where the good news ends, as the laser lane lines are barely wider than the handlebars. This surely defeats the point...

2023 Temu chinese accessories laser light water ingress

Undoubtedly, the biggest failing of this light is the lack of any waterproofing or sealing. The battery compartment on the underside of the unit is without any rubber O-rings or seals, so after just one wet ride (with mudguards) there's already a fair bit of water ingress. This means its life expectancy can likely be measured on a stopwatch rather than a calendar...

Verdict: Miss

Bar tape (£2.69)

2023 Temu chinese accessories red bar tape

Surely there's not a lot that can go wrong with bar tape... other than Dave ordering me the wrong colour.

The tape is exactly as you would expect. It's a gel cork tape with a small strip of double-sided sticky tape down the centre. This is around a quarter of the price of the cheapest options from the biggest UK retailers, and it's hard to see what the extra money would get you.

> Best road bike upgrades under £50

The included plastic bar plugs are cheap, but the tape itself provides grip in both the dry and wet, has an ok amount of vibration damping and is easy enough to wrap.

When I'm looking for cheap bar tape in the future I'll happily use something like this. The biggest issue I foresee is the extended delivery time - I only seem to order bar tape when I needed it yesterday!

Verdict: Hit

Bell (£1.34)

2023 Temu chinese accessories bell

The cheapest gift purchased was this little bike bell, which looks suspiciously similar to a Knog Oi. Like the Oi, it isn't the loudest but does have a clear, distinctive sound that is capable of warning passers-by of your presence.

We did overlook the fact that this only fits bars up to around 26mm diameter, which meant it wouldn't fit my standard 31.8mm bars - but in fairness, that was our mistake rather than Temu's.

We were disappointed to find a clamping bolt with a Phillips head rather than hex head, and it could do with some rubber adaptors to make it fit a wider selection of bars and prevent the bell from scratching them.

On the whole it's not perfect, but it works. None of the issues are going to endanger your life, and this bell is very, very cheap.

Verdict: Hit

Chain link repair tool (£1.37)

2023 Temu chinese accessories chain plyers

These small pliers are designed to complete just one job, namely opening the quick link on your chain. The tolerances aren't the best, but they did work and you even get a chain hook included to stop the chain being at the mercy of the derailleur cage tension.

Will they last a long time? Probably not. Are they good enough as an emergency set for riders who only remove chains irregularly? Yes, absolutely.

Verdict: Hit

11-speed mountain bike cassette (£21.98)

2023 Temu chinese accessories mtb cassette

Cheap bike accessories are all well and good, but what about components? Well, I thought I'd treat Dave to a brand new 11-speed cassette to replace his rather worn Shimano XT one.

For about a third of the price you're looking at about a 15% weight increase, but the biggest question that needed answering was: how well would it shift?

> How to get lower gears to make climbing easier

The all-steel construction promises "durable performance", but initially we were less than impressed with the shifting quality. However, after a new chain (Not from Temu) our impression was a lot more positive. The shifting was perfectly acceptable, even if it's a little noisier than the Shimano equivalent. It does work though, and it's hard to see how the steel will wear out too quickly.

Overall, we'd be wary about ordering extremely cheap components, as the consequences are pretty severe if something was to go wrong - you could even end up ordering counterfeits. In this case though, we have very few complaints.

Verdict: Hit

Handlebar extension bar (£3.27)

2023 Temu chinese accessories handlebar extender mount

Clutter-free is not a term I would use to describe Dave's bars. He has a camera, an out-front computer mount, a front light, sometimes a bell, and when exploring the country on Audax rides, even more than that! Extension bars are a great way of increasing your bar's real estate, and this one was an absolute bargain. 

Made entirely of aluminium, this one mounted easily, stayed put while riding and was very successful at its primary function. The clamps appear to be well made, the hex heads didn't round off and rubber O-rings are included to protect your bars.

This one is hard to fault, and Dave is confident that it's every bit the match for much more expensive options that he's used.

Verdict: A definite hit

2023 Temu chinese accessories mirror lens glasses 2

The overall verdict: are bike products from Temu legit?

The short answer is yes. The company is legitimate, the items aren't fakes and just like us, you will (most probably) receive them. The prices are kept so cheap and just above wholesale prices because just like Shein, AliExpress and Wish, it relies on China’s very low factory costs. The downsides are because you're buying directly from Chinese suppliers the products can take several weeks to arrive, and those ethical concerns we've already highlighted. 

What about the products themselves? Well, both me and Dave agree that there are plenty of items that we would happily use out on the open road, but there were a couple that we wouldn’t touch with a bargepole.

broken mech - 1.jpg

I think that sums up buying off these sites pretty well, i.e. ridiculously hit and miss. Sometimes you’ll find a winner straight away, and other times you’ll have to spend the same on cheap tat before you find a product that can even begin to rival those from more established brands and manufacturers. 

If you do purchase from an online retailer like Temu, it's worth bearing in mind that returning the items is going to be trickier. The products can be inconsistent and change regularly, so just because you bought something once, it doesn't necessarily mean the same thing will turn up again. It's also worth bearing in mind that in general, it's often the quality control that is first to go when it comes to cheaper stuff, which increases the risk of failures.

In conclusion, there are some cheaper products from the Far East, such as my FarSports handlebars and £7 TPU tubes, that I've been very impressed with. Other components, however, have been far less successful, with bolts and aluminium components made out of what might as well have been Swiss cheese.

2022 Vittoria TPU latex butyl inner tube - 1

Our advice would be to proceed with caution. If you're looking at a component that could jeopardise your safety if it were to fail, then you need to weigh up whether saving a few quid is worth that risk.

Would you buy any of these bike upgrades, or would you rather save up for the 'real deal'? Let us know in the comments section below.

Jamie has been riding bikes since a tender age but really caught the bug for racing and reviewing whilst studying towards a master's in Mechanical engineering at Swansea University. Having graduated, he decided he really quite liked working with bikes and is now a full-time addition to the road.cc team. When not writing about tech news or working on the Youtube channel, you can still find him racing local crits trying to cling on to his cat 2 licence...and missing every break going...

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25 comments

Avatar
Dnnnnnn | 6 months ago
0 likes

I thought it worth sharing this slave labour story about Temu.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-67752413

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wleatlanta | 7 months ago
0 likes

i;m in the USA, i have ordered at least 100 things, from temu

 

delivery is always 7-10 days, not 'many weeks'

 

also they are very fair with refunds, i have never had to send one back to them

also i have been satisfied with about 98% of what i bought

 

they can sometimes run out of something, so a replacement is not feasible, or the price may be higher now

i rank them way ahead of aliexpress

 

 

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timtak replied to wleatlanta | 7 months ago
0 likes

I have found aliexpress to be fair with refunds (that I have only very rarely needed) and have been satisfied with a similar percentage of my purchases.
It seems that Temu is a little more expensive.

Why do you rank Temu way ahead of aliexpress?
 

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Rendel Harris | 7 months ago
0 likes

A good piece from Facebook about what happens if you buy from these retailers:

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robbiesd | 7 months ago
0 likes

The tail light you chose may have been disappointing but the 1.25" round "Brake Light" I got is fantastic. Seatpost or under seat mounting.  About $8 or 2/$10.

Mostly I've been happy with the items I've bought thru them and the delivery service although a bit slow seems fine.

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Oldfatgit | 7 months ago
4 likes

Over the years, I've become a firm believer in the 'Vimes Boots Theory'

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VeNT replied to Oldfatgit | 7 months ago
0 likes

The issue with that is most businesses have cottened on to the idea they can pretend to be good and long lasting but still sell you crap you have to replace every year or so.
Just look at Dr Martin and the North Face. Not that long ago they lasted years. Now you'll be lucky too get a season out of them.

Avatar
timtak | 7 months ago
1 like

I have been purchasing most of my cycling stuff from aliexpress for the past ten years. Temu seems little different. The site is faster and prettier but seems to be a little more expensive, so I see no reason to use Temu over aliexpress.

I have gradually moved moved to, or stayed with, branded stuff in some areas such as:
Shoes. Aliexpress shoes generally have nylon reinforced plastic, not carbon soles and come close in price to second hand Shimano and Sidi when they have carbon soles. Second hand Shimano and Sidis are superb, and can be made to last for a very long time (if you add heel pads to Shimano and periodically reglue soles)
Mech: I have yet to try Microshift Advent and Sensah empire. Shimano still wows.
Chains: The "Shimano" on aliexpress are often a rip off and the cheaper metal wears quick. KMC make Shimano chains but they are often the same price.
Winter wear. I used to use Aliexpress (Wosawe, Arsuxeo) but it generally has one type of material and hasn't reached the heights of Shimano, and Bieme the latter made in Italy. (I use Chinese flouresent yellow yoga pants with added pads in autumn / winter because generally cyclists wear black pants, and it is impossible to purchase flourescent pants. My legs move. I want them to be bright and visible.)

But for:
Summer wear: Aliexpress all the way - jersey and short pants sets in bright colours for < 25 usd. It is ok that the material is thin.
Gloves: Cycling gloves can be ridiculously expensive for the amount of material you get. Good ones are available for 10USD are less from aliexpress. I sometimes sew shoe pad silicon into them.
Inner tubes: Now that Wiggle and Chain Reaction appear to be on the way out (I used to use lifeline) one can purchase similarly cheapa inner tubes from aliexpress at 5USD. 
Brake pads: There are some great pads at cheap prices. I recommend Kingstop. I used to use my Shimano pads past the valleys down to the holders because they were expensive (by grinding down the wear indicator, that grinds the wheel rims, on the brake caliper). Now I change my pads regularly!
Cleats: Shimano's SPD-SL cleats at about 15USD are a rip off. You can get aliexpress ones at 5USD that that last three times as long. They are lethal in that they have no rubber on the tread, and expecially when new they are like walking on ice, but roughed up a bit, they last for ages and work fine at about one 10th of the price.
Rear lights: They tend to be non waterproof but still have superior cost performance because they are so cheap at 5USD.
Front lights: I use 1 x 18650 (harvested from PCs) battery LED torches as front lights and they work well.
Chainrings: Shimano's four bolt injection molded chainrings are way too pricey for an expendable part. I have stayed with 5 bolt and can get cheap chainrings from Ali.
Wheels: Reasonably priced aluminum wheels. Latest are Roton, bladed spokes, 1.9 kg at about  60USD a pair.
Other bits and bobs: handblebar end plugs (I use motorbike), bar tape, bottle cages, seatpost clamps, brake cable, replacement cassette cogs, handle fairings (again motorbike), replacement wheel and BB bearings and BBs with replaceable bearings, BB bolts, and definately chain missing links (at about 50 cents each) are all from the people's republic.

"Human rights" are words. The reality is the extent of suffering caused, or allowed. I think that anglophones may be forcing their legal tendah on people so that they can "ease" it and tax the world. This is at least as nasty as a one party system.

Avatar
Veloism | 7 months ago
3 likes

All of this is total junk and you're contributing to pollution, landfill and supporting forced labour with little human rights AND not supporting intellectual property. It's totally naive/stupid for author Jamie Williams and road.cc to be supporting Temu.

Woeful 'journalism'.

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cyclisto replied to Veloism | 7 months ago
3 likes

I don't understand why if I buy a product still made in China, but with a nice hearing brand name everything is good again.

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OnYerBike replied to cyclisto | 7 months ago
2 likes

"Made in China" is a broad church. There are good factories and bad factories; good products and bad products.

Sure, there are plenty of Western brands that are happy to go with the lowest bidder, but reputable brands will do their due diligence and only work with factories that have better environmental and welfare standards, and producing higher quality products that function well and have a reasonable lifespan.

Avatar
Sriracha replied to OnYerBike | 7 months ago
1 like

Sure, the environmental and welfare standards are one issue (OK, two). The Chinese approach to IP, basically theft or assimilation, is another. I always find a picture tells it better than I can...

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Secret_squirrel replied to Sriracha | 7 months ago
1 like

Sriracha wrote:

Sure, the environmental and welfare standards are one issue (OK, two). The Chinese approach to IP, basically theft or assimilation, is another. I always find a picture tells it better than I can...

Parp!   Sorry I have a bad case of Land Wind.

Avatar
timtak replied to Sriracha | 7 months ago
3 likes

That is a little unfair imho. A Chinese court ruled in favour of Land Rover, banned the Land Wind above, and ordered compensation
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landwind_X7

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bikes replied to OnYerBike | 7 months ago
1 like

How successful are the bigger brands with their due diligence? Are we just hoping higher prices guarantee better working conditions, when in reality it's hit and miss?

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Sussexcyclist | 7 months ago
6 likes

RE: the cassette - "it's hard to see how the steel will wear out too quickly". Very naive statement when you have no idea what steel was specified, whether that steel is suitable for its intended purpose or what material the product delivered to you is made from.

I work in engineering and we go to a lot of effort to ensure that any steel products delivered from China (or anywhere else) are the steel grade we've ordered. I'd be very wary of the quality of that cassette and wouldn't be putting it anywhere near my bike. Not sure road.cc should be recommending!

Avatar
brooksby | 7 months ago
3 likes

Quote:

If you do purchase from an online retailer like Temu, it's worth bearing in mind that returning the items is going to be trickier. 

I'd go one further than that: if you are knowingly buying something from the Shenzhen Special Industrial District (other special industrial districts probably exist) then don't spend more than you are willing to just throw away.  If the 'thing' works then excellent; if it fails, you can forget about returns and refunds, IMO.

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Benthic | 8 months ago
0 likes

So there is a way to avoid the 'bicycle tax' for mediocre bits of engineering after all.

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Secret_squirrel | 8 months ago
2 likes

We're any of them hit for import duty or were they all below the threshold?

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Rendel Harris | 8 months ago
15 likes

I know we are all complicit and have bought things from China, even if you try hard to avoid it there will often be parts of a product made there even if it's marked as having a different country of origin. However it's a bit odd to run a feature on dirt-cheap products from China without any mention of the fact that they are so cheap because they will have often been produced in atrocious sweatshop factories and with a huge amount of pollution (I know the article mentions "China's very low factory costs", but no comment on how they achieve them), nor to have any mention of the fact that purchases from China are helping to finance a pretty appalling regime.

Avatar
Dogless replied to Rendel Harris | 8 months ago
4 likes

Yeah, quite. It's cheap, but at what human cost.

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lonpfrb replied to Dogless | 7 months ago
4 likes
Dogless wrote:

Yeah, quite. It's cheap, but at what human cost.

At the cost of Human Rights, the International rule of law, Intellectual Property, Fair Trade and Democracy.

So a high price paid in blood and treasure mainly by generations that believed in duty and public service.

The only vote you have with the CCP is Not to buy their junk and progress their Belt & Roads initiative to enslave the weak and gullible. I'm looking at you Sri Lanka and African nations..

Avatar
henryb replied to lonpfrb | 7 months ago
6 likes

Yes, I was going to mention Intellectual Property. I'm not sure road.cc should be encouraging people to buy a knock-off Knog bell.

The other issue for me is that most of the things shown here are sold as being effectively disposable. They're so cheap, the argument goes, that you're getting good value from them if they work for a bit and then break, after which you throw them away and get another. This kind of behaviour is a disaster in terms of resource and energy use and for generating pollution and landfill, and also means that you're just using crappy tools which will break the second time you use them (like that chain link repair tool), wearing terrible ill-fitting clothing, and relying for your safety on components you can't trust.

Avatar
quiff replied to henryb | 7 months ago
1 like

henryb wrote:

Yes, I was going to mention Intellectual Property. I'm not sure road.cc should be encouraging people to buy a knock-off Knog bell.

Indeed. And the "oddly-named SCVCN glasses" are suspiciously close to "SCICON" to my mind.

Avatar
SimoninSpalding replied to Rendel Harris | 7 months ago
8 likes

Do keep up, Biden and Xi shook hands this week, so everything is fine now...

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