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What are the advantages and disadvantages of ordering a bicycle from a large online retailer, for example Bikes Direct (i.e. not Walmart's website)? What should an inexperienced bicycle shopper be aware of when buying online?

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Looking at their web site I wouldn't say "a fraction of the price". Probably a bit cheaper than the equivalent store-bought, but you apparently have to do the final assembly and setup yourself. That work probably costs Walmart $10-20 a bike, and a local bike shop several times that amount. And, if you got the bike at your local bike shop you'd generally get a couple of free checkups in the bargain. Plus you don't get to look at the bikes before you buy, don't get to try them for size, etc. –  Daniel R Hicks Nov 28 '11 at 2:11
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This is a forum-style chatty question that doesn't belong here. Vote to close. –  Neil Fein Nov 28 '11 at 19:53
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Really? Asking whether a vendor is reputable is not a legitimate question? –  speedplane Nov 29 '11 at 5:40
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If the question were rephrased as "what are the pros and cons of ordering from a large online retailer (for example Bikes Direct)?" would it be acceptable? –  Jefromi Nov 29 '11 at 19:54
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@Jefromi: That would probably be better. Feel free to edit it into something less likely to inspire chatty opinion answers and we can re-open it. –  freiheit Dec 3 '11 at 1:42
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closed as not constructive by Neil Fein, freiheit Nov 28 '11 at 21:33

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1 Answer

It's a legit company. Many of the bikes they sell are not really name-brand bikes—they're house brands. As I understand it, Mercier and Windsor are old bike marques that went defunct, and BD bought the names and sell their bikes under those names. There is a certain misplaced snootiness about this, since almost all these name-brand companies outsource their manufacture to a few giant factories in China or Taiwan and slap their own decals on. BD's other bikes are remainders from other companies, I think.

Many of their bikes skimp on the specs, substituting lower-cost parts in places you won't notice (like the bottom bracket). Of course, lots of name-brand makers do the same.

Finally there's the assembly. I don't have direct experience with BD bikes, but I've read unkind things about the quality of assembly. Since you're buying a pig in a poke when you buy mail-order, you don't have a chance to see if the wheels are true and evenly tensioned, that sort of thing. In that respect, you really are getting something worse than you'd get from a reputable local bike shop.

If you know what you're getting when you order, they're fine. But you could be buying a bundle of problems caused by poor assembly. You're definitely not buying name-brand cachet. And might not be buying a bike with quite as good specs.

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Many of their bikes skimp on the specs, substituting lower-cost parts in places you won't notice (like the bottom bracket). Of course, lots of name-brand makers do the same. -- This is a problem with bikes in general. Even when you can see the bike close-up, you have no way to assess the quality of the internal components. Is Shimano's XYX thingie better or worse than their XYZ? Who knows? Even after riding 5000 miles on the bike, unless something fails miserably, you have no real way to judge the component quality (other than to trust a Big Foreign Company (that outsources to China)). –  Daniel R Hicks Nov 28 '11 at 3:55
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I don't have direct experience with BD bikes, but I've read unkind things about the quality of assembly. Two of my friends bought bikes from BikesDirect and I assembled the bikes for them. Other than the parts that had to be explicitly assembled (seat post, pedals, etc) the only thing I had to do was true the wheels a bit. This didn't seem unreasonable to me. So I'd say that assembly is not that big of a deal if you have some experience, but it does preclude those who are new to bike mechanics--thus the cheaper price. –  jaustin Nov 28 '11 at 12:20
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