Purchasing a Bicycle Direct

In case you aren’t aware, there is a company called Bikes Direct that sells bicycles right to your front door without the hassle of going to your neighborhood shop, and at a discount to

boot!

Here’s the pitch: There are literally hundreds of models to choose from, all at around 50% off MSRP, with free shipping and no sales tax! 80%-90% assembled, only takes 15 or 20 minutes to put together.

While in theory this sounds like a good idea, I have two major issues with this business model.

First, most people who buy bikes from BikesDirect.com are simply looking for the cheapest possible bike and don’t have the slightest experience or qualifications to assemble a bike from the state they are shipped. Many are too cheap or stubborn to pay a professional to assemble it for them.

Second, because BikesDirect.com owns all the brands they sell, they can jack up the ‘MSRP’ to twice what a bike of that quality would actually cost, discount it 50% and sell it for more than it’s actually worth. This makes bicycles at legitimate bicycle shops seem ‘overpriced’, even though local bicycle shops offer much more than BikesDirect.com can.

Assembly

image of a bikesdirect.com bicycle box

Here's how it looks delivered to your door!

 

image of a bikesdirect.com bicycle

Here you go, have fun with that!

These bikes are received by the customers in exactly the same condition that a bike shop would from a manufacturer. Here’s what happens when our bike shop receives a new bicycle:  It takes an experienced professional bike builder an average of one hour to assemble a new bike.  It is then checked over thoroughly by a second mechanic before going onto the sales floor, and before it is delivered to a customer gets checked a third time.  At our shop, the bike is completely gone through, including but not limited to:

-adjusting and regreasing hubs and headset

-aligning the derailer hanger

-pulling and regreasing the bottom bracket

-truing, tensioning and stressing the wheels

-pulling, greasing, reinstalling the cassette

-lubricating all cables

-setting brake pad position and brake cable tension, pre-stressing cables

-setting derailer limits and B tension, stressing cables

When the customer tries to put their bike together by themselves or with a friend who ‘knows all about bikes’ and it inevitably turns into a horrible death trap, they bring it to us and expect that it will cost no more than $20 to finish. They usually just roll it in and ask if we can ‘adjust the derailers’ on their Motobecane, Gravity, Dawes, Windsor or Mercier. This is a dead giveaway, because BikesDirect.com owns these brands and is the only place to get one.

We charge $85 for a bicycle assembled from a box.  75% of the time when I’ve told this to a customer, they expect a discount because the bike is already mostly together.  Not really, it’s actually more work because I’ll have to take it all apart again and start over, because we check everything.

Several times I’ve seen customers bring their bike into the shop and noticed that one of the following is wrong:

-fork installed backwards

-handlebars installed upside down

-brake pads hitting tires

-brakes missing a critical part rendering the entire system inoperable

And these are just things that I notice WITHOUT touching the bike. Most of the time these people have no idea that anything is even wrong. Who can blame them? They aren’t trained mechanics and most have no experience assembling a relatively complex machine like a modern bicycle.

The other situation goes something like this: A customer brings in his week old bike that has the drive-side crank stripped. He needs a new crankset AND bottom bracket because the OEM crankset is so cheap and obscure that we don’t have replacement parts. With parts, tax and labor he ends up spending up to $200 to make his bike functional again, negating any savings from buying his bicycle direct and still having no service warranty.

Brands

BikesDirect.com has bought the rights to several brands that were either defunct or struggling, and slapped their decals onto bargain basement Taiwanese or Chinese frames picked out of a catalog with a mix of cheap to fancy parts. They advertise an MSRP that is outrageous and then ‘discount’ them to a price that seems amazing. There is no actual MSRP, because there is no other place to buy these bikes!

Any reputable bicycle shop includes some level of after-the-sale service, at minimum sizing the customer to their bike and doing an initial tune up after a few hundred miles to make sure everything is settling in properly. BikesDirect.com gives some guidelines for sizing and setup, and then you’re on your own! Any money you save by skipping the middleman we as a shop get back in assembly, service and fitting costs. Overall, unless you do all of your own maintenance and know your fit numbers, it’s a bad deal to purchase one of these bicycles.

Conclusion

I certainly believe in a direct-to-consumer business model. When I worked at Rivendell, we would fully assemble and check each bicycle, minimally disassemble it and carefully pack it.  The bike IS ready to ride in 15-20 minutes. The same goes for PUBLIC bikes, who I’ve also done work for.

The main problem I have with BikesDirect.com is that they are putting products into the hands of people who are unqualified to safely assemble them, while undercutting legitimate bike shops and driving down the perceived ‘acceptable’ price of bicycles.

 

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41 Responses to Purchasing a Bicycle Direct

  1. DDD May 3, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    Public Bikes rubs me the wrong way. $600 for a 7 speed bike made with hi-tensile steel?! Strikes me as way more WTH? than what bikes direct does.

  2. Patrick Kelly May 13, 2012 at 1:18 am #

    I’d seen the ads and tried to shop at their website. Always wondered why I couldn’t find any bikes that I was actually looking for. Now it all makes sense. Thanks

  3. jeremiah May 15, 2012 at 7:43 am #

    you are right i bought a bike from them and had to replace everything except frame. was a piece junk.

  4. Hernan Carrillo May 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    Great article, Dan. Mind if I share it with others?

    • Daniel May 19, 2012 at 3:42 pm #

      Of course Hernan,

      feel free to share, I’m glad you liked it.

      • blueride2 June 19, 2012 at 4:33 am #

        “The main problem I have with BikesDirect.com is that they are putting products into the hands of people who are unqualified to safely assemble them”….

        How do you know they are unqualified? You make a lot of assumptions about the people who buy bikes from Bikes Direct. I’m not sure your depiction of Bike Direct customer’s is very accurate.

        While I support my local bike shop, having bought multiple bikes from them, I buy most of my bike supplies on the internet. I can’t afford not to.

        Companies like Bikes Direct are a welcome addition to the cycling scene. A lot of people wouldn’t be riding bikes if it weren’t for them and companies like them. They simply can’t afford bikes from their local bike store.

        So lighten up, competition is always a good thing. Makes for a healthier economy.

        • Daniel June 19, 2012 at 5:15 am #

          “How do you know they are unqualified? You make a lot of assumptions about the people who buy bikes from Bikes Direct. I’m not sure your depiction of Bike Direct customer’s is very accurate.”

          I know that there are unqualified people because I am a professional bicycle mechanic to whom many bring these bicycles after they fail to assemble them properly. I’ve seen literally hundreds of bikes from bikesdirect.com in my shop for repairs or just brought in by a customer while shopping, ranging from single speed bicycles to full suspension mountain bikes. Many of them have gross mechanical faults from poor assembly and adjustment.

          That being said, I do recognize that people who are qualified to work on bicycles also purchase from bikesdirect.com. “The main problem I have with BikesDirect.com is that they are putting products into the hands of people who are unqualified to safely assemble them.” Not everybody is unqualified, but many many people are, and are just looking to spend the absolute least amount of money for a bike without knowing how to assemble it safely. A bicycle can be a deadly instrument if just one or two bolts aren’t fastened correctly.

          People can do whatever they want, but they should also be informed of the risks. Most customers who have come in for something simple like the handlebar tape coming undone have much bigger issues, like the fork being on backward and the front brake not being connected. While I believe in supporting local shops, that doesn’t even matter to me in the context of the safety argument.

          • lg October 16, 2012 at 9:16 am #

            I could not agree more.

            The arrogance of most lbs I have been to has turned me off . I have purchased 2 blikes from bikesdirect.com . I have had no problems with either one. looking for my 3rd bike now . I ride 100-150 miles a week .

  5. Roger May 23, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    I got a bike from bikesdirect for my wife. The rationale was that I did not want to spend too much on a bike unless it was going to get used. If she begins to ride the bike alot in a year or two I will replace it with something better. It took me over two hours to tear it apart and reasseble it properly. The wheels were out of true, all of the cables needed to be adjusted. Basically if you don’t know how to put a bike together you not be happy and will have a bike that does not work properly and is probably dangerous. Since I have always done all of my own maintenance it was not a problem but I did wonder about all of those people that have no idea what they are doing that buy from this outfit.

  6. John June 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    So…let’s do some math: They own the bikes they sell, so they charge double, and then cut the price by 50%, and you say that they overcharge? Let’s say the bike is worth $1000, then they charge double, so $2000, and then knock it down by 50%, so… the price is? $1000. You are right about the lack of comparable MSRP, but you can look at components, and see that they are generally cheaper. For example, a specialized allez can come with 105, and costs ~$1500. Bikes with these components on BD are roughly half that.

    Now, your post points out some of the major issues that I find with cycling-snobbiness. I own a motobecane. I bought it because I couldn’t afford a richer bike, and as you accurately described a typical buyer of these bikes, I didn’t know better. I researched for a couple of hours, and picked one that looked cool. But it wouldn’t have mattered. I would not have been able to afford the cheapest road bike at the lbs at $900-not counting the trek 1.1s. I was glared at when I showed up at the local rides, and was dropped for the first months, and it was apparent when I took my bike to the lbs to be worked on (all standard stuff-new chain, adjustments, trues), that I was not welcome there. Three years later, still on the motobecane, I lead and attack. The attitudes of cyclists need to change.

    I have the feeling as to why you are so grumpy is that by purchasing bikes from BD or any other online source (see performance, nashbar, etc) is that it takes business away from a lbs. Cyclists are generally loyal to their lbs, and the online retailers have been putting a lot of strain on these stores. LBSs need to improve their prices and service to get these customers in the door rather than turning their noses up at these potential customers.

    • Daniel June 27, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

      Would you be upset if they advertised the MSRP as $10,000 and then discounted it by 90%? I would be, and I think that their current “MSRP” pricing is deceptive. In most cases, you AREN’T getting the same quality frame/fork as the bikes that bikesdirect.com is comparing their’s to, and the bikes with Shimano 105 parts for example, only have perhaps the shifters and rear derailer as actual Shimano 105 parts. A Specialized Allez with Shimano 105 parts is generally more expensive because it has a much higher quality frame and fork and higher quality parts (real shimano or equivalent crankset and brakes, bottom bracket, good headset, wheels that don’t suck). What you also get, which I believe is just as important for a beginner cyclist, is professional assembly and adjustment, a warranty that is redeemable at your local dealer as opposed to some warehouse who knows where, and for that matter the service that is generally included with a new bike purchase such as fitting, advice and tune-ups. My point is that it’s difficult to compare apples to apples when there is a disparity in product (bike+service+warranty) knowledge. A bicycle from BikesDirect costs fewer dollars with the initial transaction, but you definitely get what you pay for.

      As far as being grumpy or snobbish, perhaps I am, but I actually recommended a bike from BikesDirect for my dad when he was first wanting to get into cycling. I did this with the understanding that I would be the one assembling it, fitting it and servicing it for him. If I wasn’t able to do that, I would have recommended that he buy it from a LBS.

      As far as attitude at the bike shop, I don’t know your particular circumstances and so can’t speculate, but in my experience we’ve had many customers come in and pick our brains for hours and test ride a bunch of bikes and get sized, and then show up a week later with a bike they purchased online and expect us to take care of them in the same way we would for somebody who bought a bike from us. Imagine how you would feel in that circumstance. Bike shops generally like to build strong relationships with their customers, but it’s difficult to do when it starts off this way.

      Buying parts online is fine if you know what you’re doing and install them yourself, but if you come in and pick the brain of the bike shop employees to get the exact part numbers that you need, order them online to save a few dollars, and then bring them in to be installed, expect attitude and a much higher installation fee. When you go to a restaurant, do you bring your own steak and ask them to cook it for you?

      I’m sorry that you experienced elitism in your group rides upon showing up with your new Motobecane. It sucks to be judged by your gear. I’m glad you kick ass now. People think they can buy performance with many things in life, bikes included, but it doesn’t always work that way.

      I think more people should be riding bikes. Whether they buy from Craigslist, an LBS, BikesDirect, or eBay it’s fine, they should just know what they are getting into and be safe. That’s the whole point of this post.

      • Patrick December 26, 2012 at 10:14 am #

        Daniel;

        I agree with some of your comments regarding Bikes Direct. First they do underestimate the amount of assembly required. With that being said however the rest of your comments are blown way out of proportion. This spring I bought a Motobecane Fantom X9 29er. I am extremely pleased with my purchase and put nearly 1000 miles on it this season. I did extensive research before I bought the bike and if anything the Bikes Direct estimated retail price was undervalued. I paid $1099 for the bike and took it to a top bike tech at Dick’s Sporting Goods who was thrilled to work on it. He does all the work on $5000 police Trek bikes. He thought the bike was awesome and charged me a whole $30 for the assembly and that included a free return tune-up after the first 100 miles.

        As I said I went to every local bike shop and compared component packages and to get similar components I would have had to spend at least $2400 (bikes direct estimated retail price was $2195). You talk about the frames being made in Taiwan or China, well guess what that’s where all Trek, Cannondale, Giant and most other brands frames come from as well. As far as components all the ones on my Moto are name brand and high level. It has X9 shifters, front AND rear derailleurs, Rockshock Reba RL long travel 100mm front fork, WTB Nano tires, FSA MegaExo BB, Avid Elixer 3 hydraulic brakes, WTB FX rims, etc. Now I know the bike snobs reading this may quibble with some of the components, however all were in line with bikes I was comparing to costing much, much more. I am VERY pleased with my purchase and although it is a little more work getting and setting up a bike from Bikes Direct the value you get is very real.

    • chet fortier September 16, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

      Bikes Direct does not sell crap bikes. They sell bikes that don’t have a lot of advertising expense. The majority of bikes (frames) made today are made in one of 3 or 4 chinese facilities, they are making 99% of all bikes ridden regardless of name. This is not a bad thing because they have gotton a lot of practice and well, you know, practice makes perfect. As for componentry, it is the same as all other bikes, Shimano , Campy , Sram.I bought a full Dura-ace Kestral 3 years ago for 2900$. It was 1/2 the cost of any full dura-ace bike shop bike. I had it assembled and checked by the best mechanic in our area, and his reply was no problems. It took him 20 minutes to assemble and adust. He charged me 40 bucks. 12,000 mi later still running smooth.(chain and cassettes excluded) I have ordered 3 other bikes from Bikes Direct, with the same results. Dont listen to the shop geeks, most of them are insecure, nincompoops whos snobbiness is simply a mask to hide their insecurities. Pay less, train more and you’ll make whatever you are riding the envy of whoever is triing to catch you. It’s not the bike that matters, it’s the person on it.

    • Paul February 5, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

      100% correct! I understand the LBS has overhead, insurance, payroll, etc… It’s the attitude that if I show up on anything less than a Seven, Ridley, Moots, Serotta (all stellar mind you) I get the air from the LBS people. I am thrilled to support my LBS, my cash is just as green if I’m on a Motobecane.

  7. james August 27, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    Sounds like you just have a problem with people not going through your bike shop to get a bike. Pretty lame statement about people who buy from BikesDirect are trying to buy the cheapest bike possible. A $2000 Motobacane isnt exacty the cheapest bike possible now is it? It is, however probably the best bike by far that you could buy for $2000. You know, most value for your hard earned dollar. Sorry about cutting you and the local bike shop out of the deal, but there are plenty of people who can be fooled into thinking a bike shop is the only guys who sell real bikes. Prey on those lemmings and get over it.

    • Daniel August 27, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

      James,

      As somebody who no longer works at a retail bicycle shop, I really don’t care where you purchase your bicycle. Read the previous comments, or don’t. My points remain the same. Cheap is a relative term, there are plenty of cheap people with money and some cheap people will still spend $2000 for a ‘great deal’ on a Motobecane and not bother to pay somebody who knows what they are doing to assemble it, when the parts on it require more precise adjustment to work properly. Since you mentioned it, the one bicycle I saw that a customer brought by (not even to have fixed, because he was oblivious) with the handlebar, shifter and brakes installed backwards and upside down was an ‘expensive’ titanium Motobecane mountain bike. Just because you got a lot of value out of a bike you bought off of the internet doesn’t mean you necessarily know how to pick the right size, put it together properly or will have any kind of after sale service. Maybe you do know what you’re doing. Good for you. For those that don’t, that is why I would recommend talking to somebody who does, usually a LBS. Since it sounds like you don’t have any experience working at a bike shop and seeing people come in every other day with death trap internet specials that they thought they could cobble together themselves but have absolutely no idea what they are doing, I probably wouldn’t expect you to understand what I’m talking about.

      I don’t think most bike shops are trying to prey on people. Karim Cycles in Berkeley is an exception, they sell stolen bicycles and I wouldn’t touch anything from their shop with a 40 foot pole.

      I would get excited when somebody came in looking for a bike because I enjoy helping people find exactly what they are looking for and outfitting them for their next adventure. I’ve never sold somebody the wrong size bike because ‘it’s the one we have in stock’ and I’ve often tried to sell somebody a less fancy bike than what they were looking for because it will do the job just as well for less money. It sounds like you’ve been jaded by somebody and should perhaps look at another shop that can take care of you better, or just keep buying things online and don’t bother anyone in person.

  8. Fred September 4, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    With modern “advancement” and factory assembly I thought the days of bicycles needing most fine adjustments, lubrication, etc. had gone the way of loose ball bearings, etc. (sometimes regretfully). If your shops had/were able to do all that work- with mechanics that had more then a month of “experience”- and actually knew what they were doing- they were unusual shops. MSRP have always been high and even if the LBS puts on a lower price the question always is -what kind of a deal do you haggle for? Sure there may be safety and shifting concerns especially if a persons is rushed, or mechanically incompetent.There are excellent online instructions and You tube videos for instruction, if they are even needed. I guess I will find out soon if ordering direct is a mistake. I will also see how much snobbery sells expensive bikes when I show up on an “rebranded” rather then my old ttue classics! I don’t know how LBS should compete. I guess if they are that proud of “value added” they need to find some way to proudly display it on the bike.

    • Daniel September 13, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      I agree with you that manufacturers will have an MSRP ‘range’. Usually the price that might be listed on their website is 5-10% higher than what you will see it actually tagged at in a bike shop, but to be honest, margins on new bikes are pretty darn low. I’m surprised by the comments here that say that shops are trying to rip people off with high prices, because most of the money shops make is by selling high-margin accessories and service, the bikes don’t really add a lot to the bottom line.

      As far as bike assembly ‘advancement’, it’s true that bottom brackets have cartridge bearings now instead of loose balls, and certain parts are more plug and play than in the past, but the main thing I see is the lack of grease used on bb threads, hub bearings etc. which can cause creaks immediately, and long-term seizing of parts down the road. With modern 10 and 11 speed drivetrains, they are much more sensitive to having the derailleur hanger perfectly aligned and having cable tension just right. Having a bicycle partially assembled in a factory in taiwan and then shipped around the world doesn’t mean that it’s going to be ready to go right away. It’s true that a lot of the bike would probably pass a cursory inspection, but I guess different shops have different standards for service. That is not a knock to other shops, and I’m only speaking from personal experience. Even after a bike is fully assembled and checked over, everything has to settle in and requires a follow up service to re-adjust cable tension on the brakes and derailleurs, make sure the wheels are still true, that the headset bearings having settled and gotten loose, etc. and most shops include this as standard.

      As far as how the LBS can compete, that’s a tough question. Before I bought my first bike from an LBS back in 2001, The main thing I was concerned about was the service that was included with the bike because I sure didn’t know how to fix it and didn’t think I should have to pay to have it done on a new bike. For other people this isn’t as big of a concern. Ordering a bike from the internet wasn’t an option at the time, and it’s kind of fun to think about what I would have done if it were. I test rode a couple of entry level Trek mountain bikes and couldn’t tell the difference that the parts made on my two minute loop on the flat parking lot, so I just bought the cheapest one. When the bottom bracket starting coming out a few months later, I took it in and they fixed it no charge. That was worth it for me right there. I liked having somebody there to answer my questions and follow up with issues that came up.

      • Patrick December 27, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

        I know you used to work at a bike shop, but I have to call you on the comment that bike shops have a low margin on bikes. If that were the case how could they afford to stock all the high-end bikes they carry on the showroom floor? Also if you look at a place like Performance Bike Shop, which is a high volume chain you see them discount one or two year old models at 30-60% off the original retail prices. How could they do that if margins were that low? Are you telling me they are selling them at a loss? I don’t believe that.

        • Daniel December 30, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

          Independent bike shops generally make a margin in the high 30% on new bikes, if they’re lucky and sell one at full pop they’ll get low 40%. The reason some shops can afford to stock high end bikes is that they have very generous financing terms from the manufacturers, or they are there on consignment and are only paid for when they are sold. Shops are not paying out of pocket for these bikes in most cases. Performance Bike Shop is a different beast than your typical IBD. They specialize in being a discount store, and their selection of bikes and parts shows this.

          • Patrick January 7, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

            Yes I would believe those margins if as you say they are stocking the bikes on consignment or have “generous financing terms”, somebody has to carry the cost for unsold inventory, so that low margin, really isn’t that low if they are not taking the bulk of the risk. I’m sure an LBS that does well by the lines they carry can get a better deal, much like the holdbacks that car dealers get.

          • Braap! July 20, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

            Somebody is making huge profits on bikes. Honda sells motorcycles that have 50x more material and 50x more assembly than mountain bikes but sells for close to the same price (about $4K)

          • Daniel July 31, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

            Bike companies that can produce bikes on the scale of Honda motorcycles on the same relative price scale are selling them for $500-800. To engineer a bicycle that weighs a tenth of the rider and can safely carry him/her down a 50mph descent and last for years is a feat of engineering. The equivalent level of engineering with a motorcycle would cost an astronomical amount. The last time I checked motorcycles weight closer to 500lbs. To make a cheap heavy bicycle is easy.

  9. mike September 13, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    You look at Treks and they have the same materials in them as Bikes Direct. When I got mine for half the price. I understand you will definitely need to have it adjusted by a professional. But if you guys are so concerned then go after walmart and target for selling bikes as well to our children because they dont know what they are doing either. I brought it in and The bike shop adjusted it for 45 dollars. Full tune. can’t beat that. So now I have a bike just like a trek that was priced at 600 that i got for 345. If your willing to spend a thousand at bikes direct you get a bike that is close to three thousand dollars. Not only that but the bike shops have classes that teach you how to do a full tune up on bikes. So stop complaining.

    • Daniel September 13, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

      Hey Mike,

      That’s awesome! Glad you got the bike checked out and professionally assembled and that you’re happy with it. What more could you want? Sounds like a great introduction to road bikes for not too much money.

      I’m definitely concerned about walmart and target selling ‘bikes’ that are assembled with vice grips and pliers. I would never recommend somebody buy a bike from a department store unless there was literally no other option. Go out and buy a used japanese road bike from the 80′s that is gonna be way better for the same price!

  10. Saul September 26, 2012 at 8:13 am #

    Couldn’t avoid to comment on this topic because it appears to be somehow bias and I really hate when individual experiences are “generalized”. I’ve bought 2 bikes from bikes direct in the past: the first one (2 years ago) was aluminum with carbon fork and the low end Shimano Sora components(paid $400), you are right the bike needed a tune up and I spent the additional $80 taking it to my LBS, no problems after that, 2 months ago I decided to upgrade, sold the aluminum bike ($275)and got a complete carbon Motobecane with Shimano Ultegra ($1,200) . I ride with my bike partners and their more expensive same-components “brand” bikes and I honestly can say that there is no way I would be spending more just because of the brand name (yes I’m cheap ). Everybody’s experience with bikes direct is different but mine has been trouble-free ; however I’m sure there must be people whose experience has been not so good.

    Please ignore my grammar since English is my second language :)

    • Daniel September 29, 2012 at 5:20 am #

      Hi Saul,

      Thanks for your comment. Certainly not all bikes that BikesDirect sells are bad, as seen from the positive feedback on the comments from this post. I am writing from my experience with the people who probably should not have ordered one from them to begin with, but I do recognize that many people have bought bikes they are very happy with from this company.

      Bikes are like cameras in a certain way, it doesn’t necessarily matter what brand or kind you use, or the price, it’s just a tool and the user will ultimately be the biggest factor in how it performs.

  11. Steve October 18, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    I started riding a thrift shop mountain bike that I bought for $9.99 in 2008. Seriously. It was an old rigid frame Bianchi with big knobby tires. I rode the you know what out of it, rode it like a road bike, fer-chri-iy. Did a century on it one time, I just didn’t know any better. What I DID know was that I LOVED biking.

    Two years of that and a light went on in my head – hey how about a ROAD bike? So I bought a 6 month old Cdale Synapse 7 on craigslist and for the last three summers I have ridden it about 1000-1500 miles each summer.

    All through this, I have supported my lbg, local bike guy, a guy who works out of his basement. Basic tune-ups cost $25.00. He does reasonably priced, quality work. I really couldn’t afford the prices at the lbs’s. And I bought a repair stand and started doing some basic maintenance myself.

    Recently another light went off in my head – hey how about a Carbon Fiber Road bike? So, knowing I really didn’t have the scratch, I started looking anyway. Went to my lbs and looked at some bikes that started out at about $1500. Finally, pinching a penny like I do, I started looking at Nashbar, bikesdirect, etc. Since I have learned quite a bit about bike maintenance over the last few years, I decided to take the bikesdirect plunge. I ordered a le champion cf, full carbon road bike.

    When it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the finish and all the components. It is really a beautiful bike. Both wheels were true and everything went together on my bike stand, without a hitch. For the twelve bills I spent, I feel VERY good about the value I received.

    I could have spent more at my lbs, but I’m glad I didn’t. Based on what I looked at at the lbs versus what I got at bikesdirect, I did very well for myself. Not everyone has the money that some of the lbs’s charge for a new bike.

    I do visit 2 lbs’s regularly and do buy parts and accessories there, usually when they’re on sale. In addition, my Cdale has gotten yearly tuneups from my local bike guy. And now my Motobecane will as well.

    If you know your way around a bicycle even a LITTLE bit and are looking for a great value in a new bike, you’d be cheating yourself if you DIDN’T look at some of the online options. If people want to look down their nose at you, that’s their trip.

    S.

  12. walt November 12, 2012 at 11:19 am #

    i would like to add my two cents to the bikes direct comments. i have purchased 3 bikes from bikes direct over the years. two cross bikes for my sons and a recent purchase of a le champion ti heat, sram rival for myself. all of the bikes have arrived on time and in great shape. they main
    point that people have to understand about bikes direct is that if you are going to purchase a bike from them, you should have some sort of mechanical apptitude for building things or be willing to learn. i spent my childhood wrenching on or building one thing or another so i have always been comfortable with mechanical things. i have had to maintain my wifes bike (kona sutra), my bikes (kona sutra, kona kikapu deluxe and now le champion ti heat) and my sons bikes over the past 8 years. i have a mini bike shop in my garage and enjoy working on them.
    i can see why local bikes shops get mad about the outside purchases. you just spent alot of money somewhere else and you want to give them the crumbs for assembly. if you have no mechanical apptitude, stick with buying a bike at the local shop. if you are confident in your abilities to put the bike together correctly and maintain it, there is NO WAY you will find a better deal than bikes direct when you get to the bikes that have a price point above $1,500.00.
    for instance, i have done alot of welding in the past and can say that the welds on my titanium
    le champion are some of the best i have ever seen. people may say that motobeccane just cranks out the frames and there is no quality. HOGWASH. any who has welded in the past knows that the more you weld the better you welds get. i would rather have a guy who has welded 1000 frames welding my bike than a guy who has done 10.
    the list of components don’t lie whomevers frame they are hanging on.
    there are alot of bike snobs out there who have to have the brand name bling. ussualy these are the people your see on the tours that cannot even figure out something as small as a barrel adjustment to fix a shifting problem. if you do not like to get your hands greasy and have no internal joy of fixing something yourself, then the local bike shop is where you should buy your bike. to close, buy a book (park tools blue book or zinn’s), pick up some tools, and ask questions.
    it will add a whole new demension to your riding.

    • Daniel November 12, 2012 at 11:32 am #

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment Walt.

    • Justsayyes2 December 17, 2012 at 9:44 pm #

      In reply to Walt, I’ll be buying from BikesDirect.com if they get the bike re-stocked that I’m seeking. If not BD, the Pricepoint (Sette).

      I already own a Slingshot DD-X that I bought direct and assembled. Really, Walt’s advice that underlies his comment is the best – get some tools, some reference materials, and start wrenching! You can learn to do just about EVERYTHING if you just scan the web and follow the old adage, “measure twice, cut once”. Of course, given we’re talking about a bicycle I’d append that to, “read twice, watch 4 or 5 times, get a torque wrench and the RIGHT tools, wrench away, check your work, check it again, test ride slowly, check it again.” Hey, an improperly installed headset or stem can kill you after all…

  13. manny December 26, 2012 at 12:07 am #

    I have never bought a bike from BD but am considering either ordering a road bike from bikes direct, or looking for a vintage road bike from craigslist and have found all these comments very helpful. But I saw a few comments that made me want to respond.
    First where can I buy bike that isn’t made in Taiwan, or China. I have stopped and looked at many local bike shops and they all sell bike made in Taiwan and China. I have a twenty year old schwinn mountain bike my parents gave me brand new when I was 11 years old, its been put through some rough use, even hit by a car while I was going pretty fast. All and all it still rides pretty damn good for a twenty year old bike, all it needs is for the rims to be true. I also have a Raliegh I bought maybe three years ago also made in Taiwan, also bought from a local bike store. I would love to buy bike that was made in America but haven’t been able to find any at the local bike store, maybe I should try Walmart, or Target.
    The second comment was about needing to be a trained bicycle mechanic to work on bikes.
    I’ve had to take apart the bottom bracket on my Raliegh mountain bike because it had to much play. When I took it the bike shop they told me it was a sealed unit, decided to buy a pedal puller and a bottom bracket tool instead of having them fix it. When I took it apart I found out it was not a sealed unit but a cup and bearing unit that could be cleaned, regreased, and adjusted. I had never taken apart a bb before but I learned how because I had to, I would rather learn to do things for myself than have to rely on others and there is no better way to learn than getting your hands dirty.
    I agree with alot of the comments about people paying extra for the name brand, but if they are both made in Taiwan or China, and probably in the same factory, and probably by the same five year old, I really don’t see point in spending so much money on a name brand if there is another brand out there willing to pass on the savings from slave labor.
    Like I said I haven’t ordered form bikes direct, and I can turn a wrench. But even if I could not work on my own bikes I think would still consider ordering from bikes direct and having my local bike shop build it for me. Still cheaper.

  14. Max Planck January 21, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    I started riding a bike this summer and have about 1,000 miles on it. I was looking at bikes and especially bikesdirect. There is a point that hasn’t been mentioned yet and that is availability.
    With bikesdirect, you probably don’t get to actually try out a bike before trying it. On the other hand, where I live, I can’t do that at the LBS either. There are two here. One opened a year or two ago. I went in this winter for something simple; I think it was a chain. They didn’t have it. The said that didn’t restock in the fall because they didn’t expect any demand. I can understand that. But certainly they should understand that I wouldn’t buy from them. What I did get were two tubes, for two different sized tires which he said, after hesitating, “should work.” I don’t know why he didn’t give me two different sized tubes. They also don’t have any bikes in stock.
    The second shop the guy actually knew what he was talking about. He had about 10 bikes in stock. They were Specialized. He is the owner and it’s an adventure shop, that sells skis, etc. I don’t think he could reasonably expect me to buy from him either when he has approximately no stock. And I wouldn’t mind paying him $80 bucks to put the bike together. After all, that’s how much I’d have paid in tax. But his shop was a mess, with boxes scattered around, and a bunch of tools out. I’m not too certain he’d be thorough. Since he’s the only one that works there, it’s not like someone else would check the work.
    I’m not a bike mechanic, but I can put a fork on the right way round, adjust the derailleurs, etc. It’s the bottom bracket being greased, the headset checked and greased, and the wheels professionally trued that I’d want. As I see it, in my area, bikesdirect would be the way to go and then watch the only bike mechanic in town as he assembles the bike (to make sure he does it all). By the way, the bike I’d like from bikesdirect is a chromed cyclocross bike with the brazeons for fenders, which I doubt I’d find in a bike shop anyway.

  15. Greg February 15, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

    Just got a new Motobecane Le Champion Ti Heat today. I have an old Vetta trainer that I use as a work stand. It supports the bike by the bottom bracket and the forks mount on an extension and the back wheel remains on the bike to drive the magnetic resistance roller. Anyway it makes a great work stand for adjusting everything. The condition of the bike was excellent. it was well protected and the only real assembly was installing the handle bars and front brake caliper. I was on it and testing shifting inside of an hour. There was white grease on the brake caliper bolt and the headset bolt. All cables were installed, but I did have to make adjustments to the derailler cable as it would not shift above the 3rd cassette. A few aggressive turns on the rear barrel and then some fine adjustments on the downtube barrel and it was good to go. I had to adjust limit screws on the front derailler as it was rubbing a bit on the end cassettes. I plan to remove the tires and check for any sharp areas on the rims before I air them up and go for my first real ride. I checked the few other allens for tightness and found them to be secure.
    As for the comments about Bikes Direct not being for people who don’t know how to work on bikes I have to say it is pretty sad if you can’t learn how to work on a bike. It is nothing like a car and everything is pretty much visible and quite simple. Check out Sheldon Brown’s website and the tons of vids on utube. I used to be a golf course superintendent, so bikes are easy compared to reel mowers and all the hydraulic systems on that equipment. I bought a Meile in 1987, rode for a few years and only recently got back into it. I am glad I kept the bike. I logged around 15,000 miles on it in 4 seasons and many thousands more on a trainer bike indoors in the winter. I have replaced most of the parts and even stripped it totally, repainted and reassembled it with no problems at all. I don’t think I am an exceptional mechanic, but I do know that I had to show doctors how to turn off their irrigation systems as brain surgery must be easier for them. Bike surgery must be difficult for wealthy people as well, but I don’t see how you can survive as a serious cyclist if you can’t change a tire or adjust your derailler. If you have any mechanical knowledge you can assemble a Bikes Direct Bike and make any adjustments. Yes I know about sizing, etc. Do your research, I’m poor, I have waited 2 years to be able to purchase a new bike, but after having a friend repair a crack in my chainstay last year and considering the 50 mph descents I make on a regular basis, my wife thought it was better to spend the money and give me a better chance of making it home from those weekend 50 milers!! I am so stoked about my beautiful new bike!! Yes, it looks as good as any high end bike. The welds are beautiful, the decals are perfectly installed and I could not have gotten this same quality for less than $4000 anywhere else!! This is likely to be my last bike, and I think I made a great choice.

  16. Philco April 24, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    I have been riding a REAL MADE IN FRANCE, ALL OEM Motobecane Mirage that I purchased new for $120.00 in 1972! The handlebars were bent beyond repair in an accident, so after much research, I have ordered a new Motobecane Cafe Latte with disc brakes from BD. If I was able to keep my 40 year old bike in like-new condition with most original parts intact (only the chain, tires and tubes, and brake pads have been replaced), I should have no trouble setting up the new bike. As many people have said, if you do not have experience or mechanical ability or the proper tools, a bike from BD may not be such a good idea. I have a professional background in repairing everything from furnaces to digital color production printers to home appliances, computers, networks,etc. I’m sure that my new Motobecane will be quite different from my old one, so I will study the instructions and videos carefully before I do anything. Experience has taught me to READ THE INSTRUCTIONS FIRST.

  17. Ajith fernando July 19, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    Hi,

    Just thought of posting a short note here since I read this before deciding on my bike. I ordered a motobecane fly team and must say I am delighted. Of course I took it to abike shop and got it fixed so I have no idea how badly it shipped.

    The bike is really great.

    The website stinks. It’s so user unfriendly and for me it was an added problem that they did not accept foreign credit cards.

  18. Shane July 22, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    You make it sound like Taiwanese frames are garbage. They make the best frames in the world. You should know that.

    • Daniel July 31, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

      The Taiwanese don’t make junk frames, on the contrary. If that wasn’t apparent hopefully it is now.

  19. Alex August 9, 2013 at 12:05 am #

    I personally haven’t dealt with BikesDirect.com, but it has been recommended to me by an enthusiast friend. However I have seen reviews claiming good after-sales support from BD. With that said, although some of the information you have here may be true and could be useful to a discerning buyer, I can’t help but notice a tone of bias against BikesDirect.com in your review. You’ve indicated that you’re an industry-insider, having worked on bikes professionally, so it could be equally helpful to your reader if you disclosed any conflicts of interest you may have (if you own a bike shop or something).

    • Daniel September 17, 2013 at 12:24 am #

      I don’t currently work in a shop, only writing from direct customer experience when I did. I don’t gain anything personally if bikes direct sells 10 or 10,000,000

  20. Peter January 8, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    I purchased a 2010 Motobecane Fantom 29 on clearence form Bikes Direct for $400 over two years ago. I’m a good mechanic, so I assembled it myself with no problem. I replaced the Dart 3 fork with a Tora I got on clearence at REI for $100. Sold the Dart on Craigslist. Put a shorter stem and wider bars on it and have been riding it ever since with no problem. I have less than $500 invested in a bike that would have cost me at least twice as much at a LBS. It was the only way I could afford to replace my tired 26″ hardtail with a new 29er. It’s fun knowing that I’m out there keeping up with or beating riders on $2500 bikes. My Motobecane is a solid, durable bike with great components for the price.

    That said, if you buy at top brand, you will get a more sophisticated frame design, and if you buy from a LBS you will get great service. Don’t buy from Bikes Direct if you are not mechanical. Do buy from bikes Direct if you want a good bike at a great price.

    Thanks!

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