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?
As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.
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.