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Need a bike but burned by private sellers AND LBSs

Old 06-26-20, 07:29 PM
  #1  
MrPeabody
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Need a bike but burned by private sellers AND LBSs

New guy here.

So last year, I wanted to find a first real bike for my 9-year-old son. Didn't want to spend a huge amount (wife set the limit - married guys know the deal). I knew it was going to be thrown around, slammed about, etc. so an expensive bike didn't make sense.

I went to the LBSs in my area because I like to buy local if I can. Almost every one was a nightmare to deal with.

The first place put my son on a bike 2 sizes too big for him with the seat too high, insisted it was perfect (against my protests), and watched him wobble around the store until he crashed into a display.

At the second LBS, the owner apparently didn't like kids and refused to let him try more than one or two bikes. And only inside, not outside. He yelled at him for trying to climb onto another bike to try.

I ended up buying a used, high quality bike from FB Marketplace for a great price. I checked it over as well as I could and didn't find a problem. So I took it to a 3rd LBS to have them go over it all and do a safety check. This LBS kept it a week, barely looked at it, and OK'd it for me to take home. Except it had no rear reflector, which is a legal requirement in this state. They missed that.

I brought it to a 4th LBS for a minor adjustment a week later. They happened to notice a large crack in the head tube that the other 3rd LBS repair guy didn't catch. It was almost invisible just looking at the bike, but if you put any pressure on it, it was plain as day from the front. I was furious. I should have found it, but the guy I paid DEFINITELY should have found it.

The 3rd LBS owner was extremely apologetic and did a great job making things right. Even got a new frame and basically put a "new" bike together for my son. And then charged me an extra $100 for the labor.

So now that I'm looking for a bike for myself this year, I don't like or trust any of the LBSs near me. I don't trust myself to find a decent used bike that hasn't been ridden off a cliff and fixed up. And no one has anything in stock anyway. What to do?

Stamp collecting is looking like a better hobby right about now...

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Old 06-26-20, 07:46 PM
  #2  
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Originally Posted by MrPeabody View Post
New guy here.

So last year, I wanted to find a first real bike for my 9-year-old son. Didn't want to spend a huge amount (wife set the limit - married guys know the deal). I knew it was going to be thrown around, slammed about, etc. so an expensive bike didn't make sense.

I went to the LBSs in my area because I like to buy local if I can. Almost every one was a nightmare to deal with.

The first place put my son on a bike 2 sizes too big for him with the seat too high, insisted it was perfect (against my protests), and watched him wobble around the store until he crashed into a display.

At the second LBS, the owner apparently didn't like kids and refused to let him try more than one or two bikes. And only inside, not outside. He yelled at him for trying to climb onto another bike to try.

I ended up buying a used, high quality bike from FB Marketplace for a great price. I checked it over as well as I could and didn't find a problem. So I took it to a 3rd LBS to have them go over it all and do a safety check. This LBS kept it a week, barely looked at it, and OK'd it for me to take home. Except it had no rear reflector, which is a legal requirement in this state. They missed that.

I brought it to a 4th LBS for a minor adjustment a week later. They happened to notice a large crack in the head tube that the other 3rd LBS repair guy didn't catch. It was almost invisible just looking at the bike, but if you put any pressure on it, it was plain as day from the front. I was furious. I should have found it, but the guy I paid DEFINITELY should have found it.

The 3rd LBS owner was extremely apologetic and did a great job making things right. Even got a new frame and basically put a "new" bike together for my son. And then charged me an extra $100 for the labor.

So now that I'm looking for a bike for myself this year, I don't like or trust any of the LBSs near me. I don't trust myself to find a decent used bike that hasn't been ridden off a cliff and fixed up. And no one has anything in stock anyway. What to do?

Stamp collecting is looking like a better hobby right about now...

What did the 4th lbs do wrong?
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Old 06-26-20, 07:55 PM
  #3  
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Wow, sounds like some crappy experiences with your LBSs. Canít say Iíve experienced anything like that. Used bikes can be a crapshoot unless you know the seller. Maybe give one of the LBSs another chance? I suspect anywhere you go inventory is going to be limited or even nonexistent right now.

Are there any cycling groups in your area? If so, someone may be selling and upgrading or know someone who is. Worth a look. Nothing against stamps, but....
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Old 06-26-20, 08:10 PM
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philately is a great hobby but I don't think that many people on this BIKE forum will be able to help you.
The trick is to not allow our previous experiences to cloud our judgement of the present. Learn from your experience of buying a pig in a poke last year, now you know to look for any airline cracks. If you are looking at a carbon fibre frame I would stick to new in most cases. If you are thinking of buying an aluminium bike just make sure you give it a thorough going over. I have bought heaps of old bikes in the past and have never come across any real issues. You may have had really bad luck on your first time out don't let that put you off. LBS can be a daunting place at times and can feel cliquey. That shouldn't stop you from voting with your feet and buying from an LBS that you get to like. The shortages of bikes because of the pandemic will not last very long and you will find that if you hold on a few months you could end up buying a cheap low use bike off someone that decided to give cycling a try over the coronavirus crisis and didn't like it.
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Old 06-26-20, 08:13 PM
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I see you live in Massachusetts as I also do. I live in Central Massachusetts and deal with two shops that have always been nothing but welcoming. Just last month took my two grand buddies to get new bikes and test rode them at the shop. I have taken bikes out for a weekend to test before buying, and have had friends do the same thing. Good luck in your search.
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Old 06-26-20, 08:18 PM
  #6  
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I'm trying to see why the 3rd LBS gave you anything other than apologies. Cracks are hard to see and that's not usually what a mechanic would look for
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Old 06-26-20, 08:57 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
I'm trying to see why the 3rd LBS gave you anything other than apologies. Cracks are hard to see and that's not usually what a mechanic would look for
OP paid for a safety check. Apparently the didn't consider a cracked frame a safety issue.
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Old 06-26-20, 08:58 PM
  #8  
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A crack might be plain as day when you know it is there but if you don't know and aren't looking for it, probably isn't. If nothing is out of place or working incorrectly there is nothing really to notice unless you are specifically looking for it. I am generally not looking for cracks unless someone says there is an issue that could be a crack or they have crashed or something is clearly visually off. I also don't recommend people buy used bikes especially from random sellers for reasons like this. If you really know what you are doing it can be fine but you lose out on any warranties or support from anyone.

Also a reflector is not something a shop is going to install on a used bike unless you request it. The law is generally that a bike must be sold with reflectors but there is nothing saying a shop must install them when you bring in a used bike for service. If that was something you wanted you could always ask them to install one instead of blaming them for you buying a used bike without one. I am not going to go around installing random things if a customer didn't ask for it or if it is not part of the service asked for. People remove reflectors all the time and I am not there to police that, that is your choice as an individual what you choose to do with your bike.

Not hearing the shop's side it is tough to really form a useful opinion. I have had enough parents come at me saying "I want a bigger bike for my kid they can grow into it" and plenty of times I have said "this bike is the wrong size they don't fit it there is nothing you can do to make it fit" and they of course still want to purchase it. I have also seen plenty of kids who are out of control and the parents are not calming them down and taking care of their kids. I have had plenty of times where I need to step in and prevent the kid from making a mess or causing damage to a bike. I really would love to hear their side of the story.
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Old 06-26-20, 09:46 PM
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
What did the 4th lbs do wrong?
The guy at the 4th LBS that discovered the crack said that it was perfectly fine for my 9-year-old to ride! A crack that went nearly half-way around the head tube.
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Old 06-26-20, 09:49 PM
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Well heck good thing you caught the reflector issue!!! Don't want to send your son off to a life of crime and lawlessness
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Old 06-26-20, 09:58 PM
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Originally Posted by MrPeabody View Post
The guy at the 4th LBS that discovered the crack said that it was perfectly fine for my 9-year-old to ride! A crack that went nearly half-way around the head tube.
Sorry but that doesn't sound realistic. Either it wasn't a crack (maybe paint damage?) or it was a crack and nobody told you to ride on it. I have extremely high doubts anyone would tell you or your son to ride on a cracked bike. Would really love to see pictures of the crack and hear from that shop.

If you have a legitimate issue with that shop great talk with the owner and explain things and try and work it out. If you are just mad because you bought a used bike and someone told you news you didn't want to hear none of which was their fault then relax calm down, apologize and realize you made an error. We all do, we are humans.
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Old 06-26-20, 10:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Ilbiker View Post
Wow, sounds like some crappy experiences with your LBSs. Canít say Iíve experienced anything like that. Used bikes can be a crapshoot unless you know the seller. Maybe give one of the LBSs another chance? I suspect anywhere you go inventory is going to be limited or even nonexistent right now.

Are there any cycling groups in your area? If so, someone may be selling and upgrading or know someone who is. Worth a look. Nothing against stamps, but....
Thanks. I'd like to try a different one, I just need to go out of my area apparently.
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Old 06-26-20, 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by sledgefisher View Post
philately is a great hobby but I don't think that many people on this BIKE forum will be able to help you.
The trick is to not allow our previous experiences to cloud our judgement of the present. Learn from your experience of buying a pig in a poke last year, now you know to look for any airline cracks. If you are looking at a carbon fibre frame I would stick to new in most cases. If you are thinking of buying an aluminium bike just make sure you give it a thorough going over. I have bought heaps of old bikes in the past and have never come across any real issues. You may have had really bad luck on your first time out don't let that put you off. LBS can be a daunting place at times and can feel cliquey. That shouldn't stop you from voting with your feet and buying from an LBS that you get to like. The shortages of bikes because of the pandemic will not last very long and you will find that if you hold on a few months you could end up buying a cheap low use bike off someone that decided to give cycling a try over the coronavirus crisis and didn't like it.
Thanks for the advice. I'm getting back into cycling after 30+ years, and I'll be the first to admit I know next to nothing about the bikes today. So yeah, I bit it on that one, I admit it. But as you say, I know for next time.

I'd like to go with an LBS if possible. I'll need to wait then.
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Old 06-26-20, 10:27 PM
  #14  
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When my nephew turned 9, weeds couldn't keep up with his growth!!!

You didn't mention much about your son, or the bikes you tried out or eventually bought. But, I wouldn't discourage a frame that was on the large size.

Seat height is tricky, My working with my niece and nephew was that they liked a seat height with 2 feet on solidly on the ground. For adults on road bikes, the heels on the pedals and straight leg seems to give a good approximation for seat height. The two sizing methods give vastly different results. My guess is your shop didn't really realize the difference between kids and adults for seat height, as well as planning for future growth.

I can't say about the headtube crack. Out of personal experience, I've bought used stuff, got it home, and had big OOPS moments. I've promised myself that I will never sell anything without full disclosure.

The safety or danger of a headtube crack would depend on the nature of the crack. Going around the headtube, the steertube will generally give it stability. Going around the toptube or downtube could be very dangerous. Depending on what was cracked, I might personally choose to ride for a few days while looking for a replacement. But, I probably wouldn't recommend someone else to ride it.
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Old 06-26-20, 10:30 PM
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A bicycle can be a pretty simple piece of equipment, and generally follows logic in the way everything works, if you think about it some. It would be a good Father/Son project to work on the kid's bikes together.

You can use your own bike for "practice"

I rarely buy any bicycle equipment less than 10 years old, and consider all used bikes I bike as "Projects". It makes buying used much easier. Even if I buy something that the seller promises is ready to ride, I'd prefer to go through the whole thing myself.
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Old 06-26-20, 10:37 PM
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Originally Posted by veganbikes View Post
A crack might be plain as day when you know it is there but if you don't know and aren't looking for it, probably isn't. If nothing is out of place or working incorrectly there is nothing really to notice unless you are specifically looking for it. I am generally not looking for cracks unless someone says there is an issue that could be a crack or they have crashed or something is clearly visually off. I also don't recommend people buy used bikes especially from random sellers for reasons like this. If you really know what you are doing it can be fine but you lose out on any warranties or support from anyone.

Also a reflector is not something a shop is going to install on a used bike unless you request it. The law is generally that a bike must be sold with reflectors but there is nothing saying a shop must install them when you bring in a used bike for service. If that was something you wanted you could always ask them to install one instead of blaming them for you buying a used bike without one. I am not going to go around installing random things if a customer didn't ask for it or if it is not part of the service asked for. People remove reflectors all the time and I am not there to police that, that is your choice as an individual what you choose to do with your bike.

Not hearing the shop's side it is tough to really form a useful opinion. I have had enough parents come at me saying "I want a bigger bike for my kid they can grow into it" and plenty of times I have said "this bike is the wrong size they don't fit it there is nothing you can do to make it fit" and they of course still want to purchase it. I have also seen plenty of kids who are out of control and the parents are not calming them down and taking care of their kids. I have had plenty of times where I need to step in and prevent the kid from making a mess or causing damage to a bike. I really would love to hear their side of the story.
Obviously you're a shop owner and want to defend these guys. I get that. I'm not saying all LBSs are like this. This was simply my experience, and since I'm in the market again, I need a new option than the ones I've got.

You are right in that these cracks are difficult to see (if they are for you, then they must be for a non-pro like me). But this place did not do anything with this bike at first except polish it up and return it to me. If I pay $90 for a "full inspection and safety check" for a used child's bike, it better be a full inspection and safety check as advertised. The reflector was a side issue, but it showed me that they missed the small stuff as well as the big stuff. At least tell me it needs it and I'll buy it from you and put it on myself.

I went to these shops because I expect that these people know more than I do about kids' bikes and have an interest in sizing them, selling them, and fixing them. I don't believe in being confrontational. But if my kid is over the top tube and sitting on it, is that a "perfect fit"? That's the one he crashed into the display.

I'm hoping this was simply a run of bad luck.
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Old 06-27-20, 01:30 AM
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For safety...

Make sure you have a helmet for the kid, and consider some bike specific clothing.

I like orange or yellow construction vests. Perhaps not the most popular thing for school, but they will be much more visible than a bike reflector.

I'm often on the prowl for bright colored clothing for when I don't wear the vest.

For dusk, dawn, or night riding, a light will be better than a reflector. I like rechargeable ones that I can top off as needed.
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Old 06-27-20, 04:08 AM
  #18  
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The first two shops may not have been good at sizing for kids, or maybe just werenít wild about kids, but that doesnít mean that they canít properly size for adults. Also, are you concerned that theyíll try to talk you into a poorly-sized bike? I understand that you donít want to use them because youíre pissed with them - thatís just human - but youíre also spiting yourself in the process. You need a bike, and they have bikes - suck it up and first see if they can supply a properly-fitting bike. If it still grates, you donít have to buy it
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Old 06-27-20, 04:58 AM
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I encourage you to continue to learn. The more you know and can handle on your own, the less opportunity you'll give others to mistreat you. If you have only yourself to blame it's hard to hold a grudge.
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Old 06-27-20, 05:16 AM
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Reflectors are not required unless riding takes place during certain hours:

https://www.massbike.org/laws
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Old 06-27-20, 06:16 AM
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I'm not a bike shop employee at the present, but I worked in a shop for nearly 10 years as a mechanic. So maybe you think I'm biased. Looking for cracks is not a thing. Stressing a frame to look for cracks is not something that is ever done. I know my lbs has found cracks in frames, but I'm sure they have had frames with closed cracks like the one you describe that they haven't noticed. I don't think I have ever seen a crack like the one you described and wouldn't think to check for it. If someone brings in a bike without reflectors and doesn't ask for a reflector, then it wouldn't occur to me that they wanted a reflector. This does happen, people bring in bikes and ask for reflectors to be put on. More people come in and ask to have them removed. Is you kid going to be riding this after dark? Most states have a law that requires lights and reflectors 30 minutes after dusk.

Running a bike shop is anything but lucrative. The owner of my lbs told me how much he makes one time and I'm sure he would be making more elsewhere. Without all the headaches and difficult customers. Mechanics are poorly paid. And my lbs is one of the few that pays for health insurance for the mechanics. They need to make sales to keep the lights on. It occurs to me that you are never going to find a bike shop that will make you happy. I know there are a lot of mediocre bike shops out there, but none of the things you describe make me think that there is a problem with any of those shops. Well, maybe the guy that didn't like kids. I would save time and start watching videos on the park tool website and buying tools.
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Old 06-27-20, 06:56 AM
  #22  
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Learn to fix bikes. Then you can check used bikes before buying and don't need to pay LBS.

As for new bikes, go to a direct seller.

Alternatively ask some locals for LBS recommendations.

I think an LBS charging $90 for a safety check and not checking the frame is robbery. What do they check besides reflectors and brakes for $90? Any noob can check if there is a reflector and if the brakes stop the bike. You would think for $90 that would include a minor tuneup to adjust gears, brakes, and verify bolt torque.
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Old 06-27-20, 07:08 AM
  #23  
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Not quite understanding the sizing issue, I have a 9 y/o and I think (generally) 9 y/o can go to 24", no way I'd even think about 26". I just got him a 24" road bike (used from someone in my local club I ride/race with). He's average height and his 20" bike was definitely getting a bit small for him. I expect the bike to be a decent fit until he's probably 12.

As for yourself, the internet is a great place to get educated before going into a shop. When I got back into cycling a few years ago, I had basically decided myself that I was going for a hybrid bike, found the models that fit the description/price range of the budget I had and just went and tried ones that according to my research on the manufacturer sites would likely be a good fit for me at 5'10". I'm sure if you were to describe to the forum what type of riding you're thinking of doing and your height, a lot of folks here could help you go in the right direction
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Old 06-27-20, 07:31 AM
  #24  
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forget cycling, have the kid run
cycling is for old men with weak bones who can't run worth a ****., Kids should run

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Old 06-27-20, 07:56 AM
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freeranger
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Do you have a friend with "bike smarts"? If yes, have them accompany you when looking for a bike. They may notice things about a bike that you may not. Or if there is a bike club in your area, maybe contact them to see if any members have a used bike for sale. Chances are, if they are a member of a club, they will know something about bikes, want to promote the sport, and might be sincere in helping you choose the right bike for you. No guarantee, but some ideas to think about.
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