The Ins and Outs of Internet Bike Purchases.
When I was a part-time mechanic at a local Schwinn shop, every bike we sold needed to be assembled, checked, and test ridden by the shop personnel before it was ready for the customer. Times have changed as bikes and E-bikes are being shipped to directly to people world-wide. To my knowledge, these bikes have been fully assembled and checked, and then partially torn-down before shipment, but have they?
The reasons bikes are being purchased over the internet are many. Not everyone has a local bike shop that offers the item they want. Sometimes it is strictly a matter of money savings. People living in the boonies or away from the masses almost have no choice. So what can you do to make sure your new bike is what you want, in good shape, and working correctly?
If at all possible, I recommend that you do buy your new bike from a quality local shop. The hands-on service can make such a difference in your happiness. The reasons are many. First off, they will offer brand name bikes that they have experience with and can trust. If bikes don’t live up to their standards, they will be removed from the floor. Most shops don’t want their customers to be unhappy with any item purchased there.
Next, the bike will be assembled, checked over, and test ridden to make sure it is just right. They will help you make adjustments so you are comfortable on it. Part of that is getting you on the correct bike that is sized to fit you. You should also expect some basic instruction on the operation and shifting needs of the bike you have chosen.
If the bike has any problems, they are right there to effect the warrantee and make things right again. Also, they have a selection of accessories that can be installed for you. They might organize group rides and offer bike trail maps for your area. This all sounds great, but what if you don’t have good local shop, they don’t offer the bike you want, or for some other reason you just don’t like them? Then I guess, it’s off to the internet.
You are most likely going to save some cash on the net. The initial price could be lower, and you might be able to avoid sales tax, but you will need to add in the shipping fee. These cost reductions could bite you if the bike is damaged in shipping or it has a warrantee problem. A reputable dealer might cover some or all of the return shipping, but maybe not. Plus the amount of extra time lost shipping it both ways could be something you aren’t willing to live with.
Now, let’s look into the brand of bike you are considering. There are more good brands of bikes than I personally know of. New ones come into the market every day. Just the same, bad ones come onto the market every day. How are you to know the difference? Certain brands are a given to make a bike that will give good service and that you can be proud of. Some investigative work can be helpful here, but is no guarantee for your new bike.
When it comes to E-bikes, this is even more important. I have spent a lot of time riding and fixing electric bikes over the last so many years, and have found how important it is to trust the manufacture. In addition to the quality build of the bike, the electrics need to be matched and built to high standards. Re-engineering their work is pretty much (but not completely) out of the question, so you want to get a good E-bike the first time.
I spent some time talking to Greg over at Pedego Junction in Township, Michigan about the quality pieces that make up the bikes that he offers. It just reinforced what I have found as I deal with electric-motored bikes everyday. Paying a reasonable price, for a correctly designed E-bike is the only way to go. They do come in many price-points, but buying a name-brand E-bike with a good reputation with reduce, if not completely eliminate your headaches and disappointments.
The same goes for E-bike conversion kits. I hear and experience so many stories of great kits and terrible kits. It is possible for a manufacture to cut so many corners (to reduce costs and lower your purchase price), that the end product is just not worth having. Of course, this goes for most any electro-mechanical device on the market today. We have all experienced it, a poorly made item is a waste of time, materials, and money. Try to avoid them.
So how do you know if the bike, E-bike, or conversion kit you are going to order on the web is worth having? Do some serious investigation on the web. Don’t believe everything you read, but if it is repeated over and over, you would start to think it is true information. A good company will have someone you can talk to over the phone. If you have problems, you are going to want this. No guarantee, but it can make a big difference in your confidence as you order.
E-Bay is filled with stuff at all prices. The ones that are so low that it is hard to believe should raise a two mast red flag. I don’t think I need to go much further explaining this. E-Bay has some great deals, but it can also be a dumping spot for total junk. Tread lightly and keep your eyes wide open as you bid on items. The sellers there strive for a good rating, but that doesn’t mean the item you are considering is worth buying.
The moral of this article is do everything you can to stay away from lousy bikes and internet ordering. If you can’t, choose carefully, do your homework, and keep your fingers crossed. I have had bikes shipped to me with no problem more than once. I hope you have the same luck, Turbo Bob.
“Possibly the tragedy of the bicycle is that it was invented too close in time to the car. In the historical scheme, pedal power hardly got underway before the combustion engine appeared and, not only took over the roads, but changed our view of machines. We’ve forgotten that pedal power is a potent form of energy.”—Richard Ballantine.