Earlier this morning, blogger Karl McCracken tweeted a pic to the Twitter account of ASDA, the supermarket group.
He said ASDA was "selling dangerously mis-assembled forks-on-backwards bicycle shaped objects."
ASDA tweeted back: "Hi, please can you confirm which store this was so we can look into it?"
The snarky reply would be "All of them." Supermarkets don’t tend to be very hot on the correct assembly of the bicycles they sell.
This is a good thing and a bad thing for the bike trade. On the one hand, it’s good for a laugh ("supermarkets shouldn’t sell bikes if they don’t know how to install forks, do up quick releases etc.") but, clearly, many people feel it’s perfectly acceptable to buy cheap bikes from supermarkets, and this is bad for bona fide bike shops because (a) that’s a customer who may otherwise have sought out an IBD; and (b) the low, low prices of these bikes make people wonder why bike shops are charging so much.
Mind you, it’s a moot point whether bike shops would attract the kind of customer happy to put a bike in the trolley alongside the baked beans.
It’s very possible that ASDA, Tesco and the rest are actually expanding the market for bicycles, by making this particular commodity more widely available. The corollary of this is that BSOs don’t offer the best of riding experiences and folks who buy supermarket bikes may be put off cycling for life.
It would be nice to think we could "educate" consumers into buying higher quality bikes – and this is what bike shops and bicycle consumer magazines attempt to do on a daily basis – but, sadly, for a large sector of the UK population, bicycles are "toys", disposable items, not worth throwing down serious cash for.
Gratifyingly, there’s another, smaller, sector of the UK population that’s coming to realise bicycling addresses their transport or leisure needs and is willing to spend to get quality kit. No-one in their right mind could think an eighty quid bicycle will be able to stand up to the rigours of more than a ride or two. So, those who buy BSOs are not really lost to the bike trade, they were never really in the game to start with.