This is a transcript on a thread we wrote on Twitter here.
This is something that us, bike professionals, do not talk about, but the thread on Twitter got quite a big reaction, so here it is. Some bikes, even new, should never be sold in the first place. The reflection came out of a petition that some bike mechanics in the US started in January 2022.
They call on the industry to stop the production of so-called “built-to-fail” bikes. These are the low-quality, inexpensive bikes that fall apart quickly, if they ever worked properly, and are difficult if not impossible to repair.
The petition lists several reasons why these bikes, which often fail within 100 riding hours, are harmful to the industry as a whole. They add to landfills, are bad for the environment and “erode public confidence in the usefulness and joy of bicycles, and waste the money of the mostly poor and working-class people who buy them.”
The main reason why the profession does not talk about it is that it makes us look biased. People can easily interpret a 'don't buy a 250€ bike' for 'you want to sell me an expensive piece of kit'. And it is unsolicited advice most of the time. So we keep quiet.
Thing is that, everyday, we get bikes in that are not worth fixing. Because they are simply too poor quality to be worth putting any effort or money in. This is the typical bike I'm talking about.
This retails at €220, and it could look decent to someone who does not know anything about bikes. We get a lot of these in, and we sigh at the sight of them. Why? Well everything on it is cheap. The fork, the crankset, the deraileurs, the brakes, the frame, the paint. It is very usual when we get those that the wheels are out of alignment, not truable (made not wobbly from side to side), even when the bike is out of the box. These forks generally get rusty after 6 months, the gears don't work properly, even when the bike is new.
And none of that is fair. The bike to work is not available for people who are retired, students or out of work. There is a double penalty on people who are watching their expenses. It is also very cruel on families. These bikes are so heavy they can discourage kids to cycle.
(Some of the toy stores kids bikes are over 12kg!!). They also break away easily, eroding the confidence in bikes and making the whole experience awful. But 400e for a kids bike is a lot for families, especially knowing the bike will be outgrown within a year.
So what is the solution? First of all, these manufacturers need to be held accountable and standards have to be introduced to stop these bikes from hitting the streets and participating in the waste crisis the world is facing.
Secondly, the bike to work scheme needs to be reassessed and redesigned. People with little means are getting the double penalty here once again. They buy something cheap they will need to replace every year,making the purchase ultimately more expensive than an actual good bike
Thirdly, we need libraries of kids bikes, where parents can exchange kids bikes for bigger ones as their child grows. Ultimately, we need regulation & public finance. Bikes are essential tools to fight the climate crisis - they need to be made available to everyone.
Finally, one of our followers referred to this piece by Terry Pratchett, and the analogy could not have been more perfect.