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A lesson on Discount Store bike repair

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A lesson on Discount Store bike repair

Old 11-14-19, 12:21 AM
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jlmonte
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A lesson on Discount Store bike repair

Our office purchased, to travel between office buildings, a $100, 21 speed hybrid bike from a discount store . By now it was a couple years old and sitting inside our cubicle farm. Never having a need to use it, I stumbled across it and noticed it was functionally a mess. Two flat tires, untrue wheels, inoperative front brakes, and yet as clean as it was new. After hearing how others have worked on it and no one had a presta valve pump, for the last year, the bike has been just taking up space. I decided to take it home and try and bring it back to life.


Rear axle was loose, bottom bracket was loose (at first I thought the peddles were broken), crank arms bolts were not torqued down (only hand tight). brake pads were improperly aligned, and the derailleurs needed adjustment. And lastly, the wheels needed to be trued. I invested 2-2.5 hours diagnosing and repairing. I needed no parts, though one brake pad was worn so lopsided, rather than replace it, I filed it to level the surface.


After, getting it to a reasonable working state, I found on the Web, a video review of a bike purchased from a discount store. The reviewer had to essentially reassemble the bike to use it. I then realized that my office bike was never assembled properly, and people just rode & accepted it. A proper assembly could have cost maybe $30-$40? I also learned there is a reason it is $100. We had purchased a set of inexpensive parts attached for delivery and never assembled properly.


Returning the bike to my office, I was asked it it worked? I mentioned that it now stops, as well as goes.
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Old 11-14-19, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by jlmonte View Post
Our office purchased, to travel between office buildings, a $100, 21 speed hybrid bike from a discount store . By now it was a couple years old and sitting inside our cubicle farm. Never having a need to use it, I stumbled across it and noticed it was functionally a mess. Two flat tires, untrue wheels, inoperative front brakes, and yet as clean as it was new. After hearing how others have worked on it and no one had a presta valve pump, for the last year, the bike has been just taking up space. I decided to take it home and try and bring it back to life.


Rear axle was loose, bottom bracket was loose (at first I thought the peddles were broken), crank arms bolts were not torqued down (only hand tight). brake pads were improperly aligned, and the derailleurs needed adjustment. And lastly, the wheels needed to be trued. I invested 2-2.5 hours diagnosing and repairing. I needed no parts, though one brake pad was worn so lopsided, rather than replace it, I filed it to level the surface.


After, getting it to a reasonable working state, I found on the Web, a video review of a bike purchased from a discount store. The reviewer had to essentially reassemble the bike to use it. I then realized that my office bike was never assembled properly, and people just rode & accepted it. A proper assembly could have cost maybe $30-$40? I also learned there is a reason it is $100. We had purchased a set of inexpensive parts attached for delivery and never assembled properly.


Returning the bike to my office, I was asked it it worked? I mentioned that it now stops, as well as goes.
You performed a mechanical mitzvah. A potentially rideable bike, left in an unrideable state is a sin...even a $100 department store bike.

And now that it is in working order, f the bike still doesn't get used, or is underused, perhaps it could be given to a deserving employee's kid or donated to a charity for the less fortunate.

Good job!
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Old 11-14-19, 07:51 AM
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Good thing you went over it before someone pumped up the tires and tried to ride it! Shame how bikes from many retailers aren't even close to being assembled/adjusted correctly.
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Old 11-14-19, 08:16 AM
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Old 11-14-19, 08:26 AM
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so the lesson is don't trust Wal-Mart to assemble your bike correctly? got it
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Old 11-14-19, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Flip Flop Rider View Post
so the lesson is don't trust Wal-Mart to assemble your bike correctly? got it
See? BF can be fun AND educational.
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Old 11-14-19, 09:45 AM
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So what did the Discount store repair that was bad?
Any bike that comes across my path gets rebuilt. Doesn't matter where it was purchased.
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Old 11-14-19, 05:51 PM
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Local charity shops are full of perfectly good bikes that don't work because they need an hour or two of TLC with a basic tool kit.

They tend to get donated due to people ''having a clear-out''.
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Old 11-14-19, 08:18 PM
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A friend of mine started a coffee shop and bicycle repair facility plus a co-op where unwanted bicycles could be donated. I'd say that the vast majority of the bikes donated were department store bikes. They still had a lot of life left in them but most had never been set up properly in the first place. I looked at bikes on the sales floor of many department stores and those bikes were ready to go out the door when purchased. The thing is many of them had improperly adjusted brakes that wouldn't work well because the brake lever would hit the handlebar before the brakes engage very strongly. I dread to think what the disc-brake equipped bikes in t hose stores are like. Most of the bikes with suspension have suspension so soft that the forks bottom out if you push down hard on the handlebar even if you're just standing beside the bike. The biggest and in my opinion most dangerous problem with those bikes is that most of the people buying them don't know how to check the bike over themselves or how to adjust it so that it's really safe to ride - especially to ride in traffic.

Cheers
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Old 11-15-19, 03:57 AM
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There is a Target we shop that has a Schwinn road bike that was assembled with the front fork turned around backwards. It now proudly hangs on display for purchase.

Out of safety for the consumer, I told one of the store associates, and took them over to show them. That was 6 months ago and it still hangs there in the same condition as of last Saturday.

Personally, I'd rather assemble the bike myself than have a store clerk do it with a hammer and vice grips.
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Old 11-15-19, 04:57 AM
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Originally Posted by UKFan4Sure View Post
There is a Target we shop that has a Schwinn road bike that was assembled with the front fork turned around backwards. It now proudly hangs on display for purchase.

Out of safety for the consumer, I told one of the store associates, and took them over to show them. That was 6 months ago and it still hangs there in the same condition as of last Saturday.

Personally, I'd rather assemble the bike myself than have a store clerk do it with a hammer and vice grips.
Within the last few weeks, I saw a likely "department store" disc brake mountain bike with the fork installed backwards. I was sitting at a traffic light when a guy pushed the bike through the crosswalk in front of me. the proximity of the front tire to the down tube caught my attention.
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Old 11-20-19, 01:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Flip Flop Rider View Post
so the lesson is don't trust Wal-Mart to assemble your bike correctly? got it
Well...turns out I was too quick to judge. It turns out a co-worker bought and assembled it from the store with a big red target. He told me this when I asked if he knew when presta value tubes were installed. So maybe the real lesson is to be charitable and take the win.
Originally Posted by BobbyG View Post
mechanical mitzvah.
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Old 11-20-19, 05:54 AM
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Originally Posted by jlmonte View Post
Well...turns out I was too quick to judge. It turns out a co-worker bought and assembled it from the store with a big red target. He told me this when I asked if he knew when presta value tubes were installed. So maybe the real lesson is to be charitable and take the win.
What a twist!

Good on you for taking up the task! Also what profession are you in that the company provides a bike? Sometimes I wish I worked in a more urban setting capable of that.
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Old 11-20-19, 11:57 AM
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When I want a bike assembled I take it to Dunkin' Donuts.
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Old 11-21-19, 03:54 PM
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I have a friend located in a city of >200,000 who (now retired) was an air force jet fighter mechanic and worked part time as a Wallyworld bike assembler. At $9 an hour he quit after the new "book rate" assembly time per bike was reduced to 8 - yes- eight minutes.
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Old 11-22-19, 12:30 AM
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Originally Posted by jlmonte View Post
a $100, 21 speed hybrid bike from a discount store
That such a thing would exist seems to be a perfect example of how several intersecting trends have made solid low-end items almost extinct in some settings. I can think of many markets where the incumbent agreement of what an "entry level model" featured was disrupted by cheaper imports laden with features, most of which didn't turn out to actually by anything more than eye candy to distract from low quality where it matters - and often as not just an unnecessary source of user annoyance.

Generations past, a plant bicycle would have been a solid single-speed coaster-brake conveyance likely thriving even in neglect.

But today? Too many gears to ever solidly be in any of them. Rider-defeating suspension forks. Goofy suspension frames that will never see worse than bad pavement. Brakes that disassemble themselves if you look at them funny. I see them bouncing down the rail trail with frustrated owners astride, and at least until the past year's wave of electrification living 2nd lives as misfit delivery steeds in the city in a way that would be comical if it were not so economically desperate.

It's ironic to think that the countries where these are made use solid basic bicycles as everyday transport.

What would it take to get the big boxes to import those, instead of the crap they do?

(In fairness it looks like plant bicycles have been re-invented on trendy tech campuses; like a lighter version of share bikes built to tolerate neglect but not overbuilt in anticipation of malice the way public share fleets are. So the technology is there, but selling them in quantity to organizations who get it is not the same as selling them in singles to those who need simple reliability)
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Old 11-22-19, 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by grayEZrider View Post
At $9 an hour he quit after the new "book rate" assembly time per bike was reduced to 8 - yes- eight minutes.
This is the real problem, are you going to spend the time it takes to make it right and only earn a little over $1 an hour? Plus they would fire you for working too slowly. I know my LBS would have fixed all of the problems that the OP found, but the bb should be adjusted properly and the cranks tightened at the factory.

I have trued some really bad wheels BITD, but a few years back I assembled a $67 Denali for someone and the wheels were a mess. It would be unusual to find anyone that could true such a poorly built wheel nowadays. Otherwise, the bike was put together fairly well at the factory.
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Old 11-22-19, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by UniChris View Post
(In fairness it looks like plant bicycles have been re-invented on trendy tech campuses; like a lighter version of share bikes built to tolerate neglect but not overbuilt in anticipation of malice the way public share fleets are. So the technology is there, but selling them in quantity to organizations who get it is not the same as selling them in singles to those who need simple reliability)
I won a Priority Classic in a contest a few years ago and rode it for a year. It was intended for this role. I liked the idea. It was noticeably lightweight, mainly due to not-overbuilt aluminum frame and cockpit, and lack of extra things that would make it heavy. As you see it, five hundred smackers.

https://www.prioritybicycles.com/pro...iorityclassic2
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Old 11-22-19, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
I won a Priority Classic in a contest a few years ago and rode it for a year. It was intended for this role. I liked the idea. It was noticeably lightweight, mainly due to not-overbuilt aluminum frame and cockpit, and lack of extra things that would make it heavy.
Sounds great! Except...

As you see it, five hundred smackers.
Ouch!

Not blaming the company - economies of scale are a thing.

But when the right solution is a rare $500 item and the wrong solution is mis-targeted $100-200 BOS from the local big box, it's no wonder what we see on the paths and streets.

Tech companies aren't necessarily price sensitive for a perk like campus bikes, and even to the degree that they are can look at cost of ownership not just initial sticker price. But average folks - especially those who may economically need a bike - are going to go with what they can scrape up to buy at the local store (or get cast off from someone who previously did), even if it's a piece of junk that will soon need to be replaced.

Last edited by UniChris; 11-22-19 at 12:38 PM.
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Old 11-22-19, 01:06 PM
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That's MSRP, they go on sale for a lot less sometimes. But yeah, not anything like $100
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Old 11-25-19, 10:54 PM
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@GrainBrain;
I work at a military base were we are encouraged to van/car pool. Buildings can be a runway length apart, so the boss donated $100, users provide their own helmet, safety vest, and community maintenance.


@UniChris


A single speed would have worked fine. Unfortunately we let the physicist purchase and assemble it.
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Old 11-25-19, 10:56 PM
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Originally Posted by jlmonte View Post
users provide their own helmet, safety vest

Interesting, I basically don't ride without a helmet, but a closed facility is the one sort of place I might


But yes, safety culture... still surprised there can't be such that live on it.

Unfortunately we let the physicist purchase and assemble it.
In that case be glad you ended up with TWO wheels ;-)
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Old 11-26-19, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
This is the real problem, are you going to spend the time it takes to make it right and only earn a little over $1 an hour?
What exactly did you mean by this?
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Old 11-27-19, 07:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Phil_gretz View Post
What exactly did you mean by this?
The part before what you quoted stated that a $9/hour employee was told they needed to be able to assemble a BOS in 8 minutes.

That's $1.07 per bike.

Apparently they thought it would take an hour to do the job properly - so if they took that long and their boss wanted to only pay for the results, they earn a dollar an hour.

Not legally of course, since piecework is not allowed to work out to less than minimum wage - so most likely after a some number of yelling-at incidents they'd just be replaced with someone needing a job badly enough to be willing to give a bike only eight minutes of attention.
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Old 11-30-19, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by jlmonte View Post
Well...turns out I was too quick to judge. It turns out a co-worker bought and assembled it from the store with a big red target. He told me this when I asked if he knew when presta value tubes were installed. So maybe the real lesson is to be charitable and take the win.
Perhaps install Schrader adapters on the valve stems so more common pumps can be used ?
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