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How much does actual branding weigh in these days when it comes to buying a bicycle of an established brand (i.e from a bicycle store)? Or is it all about the components and the brand is just a label?

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    It's probably not possible. Most of the major brands have so many product lines at so many price points that they almost completely overlap. If a brand is only sold in supermarkets that's a very bad sign. There are some less bad signs as well (house brands from some bike shop chains). – Chris H Aug 14 '17 at 14:13
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    @Paparazzi I was surprised to learn recently just how little is done in the shop on a new build. They fitted the mudguards and wheels, and turned the bars round, plus a bit of testing; that was about it. – Chris H Aug 14 '17 at 15:39
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    @ChrisH If they did not check everything then that tells me something about the shop. – paparazzo Aug 14 '17 at 15:41
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    @Paparazzi check is another matter, I was referring to assembly (to quote your previous comment) – Chris H Aug 14 '17 at 15:42
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    Building a bike should include more than just assembling it. Just slapping a bike together is easy. However, if you don't adjust the headset, hubs, bottom bracket, brakes, derailleurs, etc, everything will quickly be garbage. @Paparazzi is right. A quality shop will check hub adjustment and everything else on a new bike. – Deleted User Aug 14 '17 at 19:48
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Major brands make a wide range of bikes, some of which are great, others not so much. To further complicate things, some brands license their name to 's on top of their normal decent quality sales (e.g. Schwinn). So, you can't really rank them on quality in a meaningful sense; just compare a subset of models across manufacturers.

That being said, what are you getting when you buy brand X? Well, it's similar to buying a car. A brand is associated to some extent with prestige, quality and value. Also, how much support you can expect if things are going south (e.g. if there is a frame defect, will the warranty honor it). Giant probably would; Random chinese shop on Alibaba probably won't exist by the time you complain. You are putting a good amount of trust in a bicycle to actually be safe and able to do what its supposed to; that trust is easier to put in when the bicycle is from a quality manufacturer.

At a given price point, different brands will have different components and frame+fork designs. Some of the price is due to marketing/brand name (e.g. if you had an Audi and VW badge on two identical cars, the Audi one would sell for a bit more) and the cut the shop needs to take to stay in business. Other parts of the price are engineering and components.

Note that if you spend more on one part, it means you're going to have to cut somewhere else. Thus, you need to compare bikes (after riding them, hopefully) in order to see whats a good value and fit for you.

Also, note that spending more or going for a less well known brand is not necessarily good or bad. For example, REI used to sell some pretty decent touring bikes under their less well known Novara house brand for considerably cheaper than the usual Trek 520 / Surly Long Haul Trucker / similar.

  • It seems like Novara is now Co-op Cycles. – Batman Aug 14 '17 at 16:54
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In addition to what @Batman says, a bit part of quality (to me anyway) is quality of service. At the brand level, this will depend largely on the countries distributor and how well they support the local bike shops.

Ask you LBS which brand they feel offers better support, which dealer would they rather work with to sort out a warranty claim. Which dealer holds parts vs has to order them in from offshore. Ask "If I broke a frame in a crash, which brand would I rather have?", "If the frame cracked, which brand is most likely to honor the warranty quickly and painlessly?".

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    This is actually a very good remark: check with a good LBS (of course finding out if it's good is also not always straightforward if you don't know what to look for). Most good LBS I've seen will stick to only some brands and they can explain you exactly why. And the real proper LBS is also very honest and will even tell you what are some minor annoyances they have with brands. – stijn Aug 15 '17 at 7:26
  • Well, realistically, most LBS can only support a small number of brands -- it's expensive (money and space) to keep an inventory of a few brand's models (esp. if their sales contract requires them to have some amount of bikes of each type). Not to mention having one of the big 3 (Giant/Specialized/Trek) gives coverage of similar models from the other two. Also, you may not want 10 trek dealers in a region and stuff. If the LBS carries the brand you want, its probably one of few (or only) options for that brand in your region. In any case, this is more of an issue with more botique brands. – Batman Aug 15 '17 at 17:45

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