Writer. Warning: opinions. My lawyer advised a disclaimer, but didn't include any jokes to go with. Damned if I can think of any either.

Is Bikesdirect Legit?

There is a company on the Internet called Bikes Direct, and they sell bicycles. There’s not anything particularly remarkable about that, but the mere mention of their name has the power to spark fiery debate. Well, I say “fiery”, but I guess I really mean “embarassing” or “horribly nerdy”, but the end result is discord and we simply can’t have discord on the Internet.

So what’s so different about Bikes Direct that rouses ire? Well, they sell partially-assembled no-name frames with name-brand components. You choose your bike on their web site and it arrives at your house packed in a box for much less than you’d buy a name-brand frame with the same component group at a shop. It is then up to you to put the finishing touches on the bike’s assembly, or have a local shop do it for you, but the only material difference is the frame.

So, how much does the frame’s name branded-ness matter? It’s hard to say. All bike frames are birthed by a Queen Bicycle that lives somewhere in China and is tended to by white-gloved servants. Each frame’s geometry is whispered softly into her ear, she’s fed the necessary ingredients in soufflĂ© form, and then out the frames come.

If that’s the case, then who cares what the decals say? The short answer is, I do. I’m a vain, self-conscious douche, and I like having name brand items. I’m of the opinion that they lend the credence to my riding that my race results do not.

More than that, though, I like buying stuff at shops and having a good relationship with the people who work there. Not that shops won’t work on Bikes Direct bikes, because they will. In fact, my buddy Rob The Rocket informs me that he and his shop will happily work on even department store bikes, a policy which is analogous to a dentist who agrees to work on mouse teeth.

I guess I just like having a face to look at when I whip out my wallet and plunk down a bunch of money, even if it’s the scruffy, thin face of a bike shop employee. I like to think that there’s more to business than just price, and I don’t mind paying for that intangible extra when it comes to bikes.

Mind you, I have no trouble whatsoever buying flat-pack furniture from Ikea and assembling it myself with the included tool and no instructions, so I guess I’m not a unilateral purist.

Bikes Direct does have a great following on the internet, though, particularly among new bike purchasers, or so it seems to me. Ultimately I think that BD fills a niche created by a growing distrust in corporations, and that the cut-out-the-middleman approach appeals particularly to people who buy things online where the main competition point is usually price.

I think the real answer is that bicycles have reached a point with me where price isn’t the main concern. Along these lines, I also wouldn’t advise keeping a running total in your head of the money you’ve spent on entertaining your Cheryl. It’s best just to evaluate your time together on an experience basis alone, independent of the facts and figures.

Having said all that, I have no reason to believe that there’s anything wrong with Bikes Direct bikes, per se, they’re just not for me.

7 thoughts on “Is Bikesdirect Legit?”

  1. Rob The Rocket

    After assembly, constant adjustments and rebuilds required, a Bike Direct bike is not worth the time and money you should have spent buying a bike at a shop or having one built up by a competent shop or mechanic. Just like dept store bikes, BD bikes get worked on because well, people need their bikes (please see my post about the nobility of such an act on here from sometime this past summer). Just like the dept store bike, pretty much everything will go wrong or break during the period you choose to own a BD bike. It’s not the components necessarily (which can be Top-Shelf) it’s their assembly at the factory and subsequent assembly at point of delivery by consumer that leads to these failures. If you see the outside of the boxes these bikes are shipped in it says that everything can apparently be assembled with a simple flat head screw driver, adjustable wrench and 5mm allen key. If only this were true…. This will lead you to hating cycling and going back to driving a car. Before this, a kind person like myself will try to persuade you to sell it for what it’s worth now and get a better bike before it’s too late. But you will persist on riding the money pit until finally you break something that will ultimately bankrupt you. And I don’t even want to get started about the wacky geometry where somehow a 60cm frame on paper becomes a 56cm in person. Their fatal attraction online may be do to the fact that people buy these bikes for the parts and the strip them off and sell the frames on craiglist or ebay for pennies on the dollar. In that case, it might be the best value going. Full Ultegra group with wheels, bars, seat etc for $999. No bike shop can compete with that.

  2. BillyO

    I’m really finding it humorous that A: you insist on paying for a brand when B: you can legitimately find the exact same thing for cheaper. I mean, hey, we knew for years (decades) we were “paying for the C” in Campagnolo. I realized in the 80s and especially the 90s that they were over-priced. And yes, I grew up with cycling in my family – from the 70s onwards; and for a spell of about ten years, that’s what summer vacation was: wherever the Nationals were being held.

    I live in Chicago. I love my Trek brand. But I’ve also had two Treks stolen this year alone. Guess what? I’m done plunking down $1400+ for a bike I’m going to enjoy. I also have friends who are commuters, bike messengers, dedicated users and all of them have bought bikes from BikesDirect and I have yet to hear of any of them b!tch about their frames or their components. I think most of them have tweaked the kit a bit, but certainly no breakage, no replacements, to my knowledge. And I don’t really think it has to do with “distrust” as it is just common f’in’ knowledge that what we pay in a retail store is always marked up on a ridiculous scale. Why continue to be a part of that?

    I haven’t bought from BD yet, but that’s where I’m purchasing next and you know, at least here in Chicago, because so many of the bike shops are either messenger-centric or high-end neighborhood-centric, you DONT get that nice personal touch. Unless you’ve got a wad in your wallet. So that whole “I’ll support my LBS” thing falls on deaf ears – at least in this town, among those who either have ridden for years, or grew up with it, or know their bikes enough to not depend on a shop to fix a tire, spokes, bearings or whatever.

    To me, you lose credibility when you must have a certain decal on your gear, and are willing to literally throw money away for that particular logo. Blind patronage. Unless you’re talking components, or you can compare weld points, or your arse has the sensitivity of a seismometer, I’m not really sure the justification. And yes, growing up and settling into what I needed in Chicago, I really grew accustomed to owning a Trek, and I used to have the luxury of committing that amount of dollars. However, I had, on average before this year, had a bike stolen once every ten years. In other words, my price was around $140/yr. This year alone I’ve lost $2400. Time for a different tactic.

    Rob, I certainly don’t consider a fatal attraction. My messenger friends are not dainty with their gear, and they must depend on it to respond in traffic or, quite simply, they die.

  3. jim

    Well, okay, but what I’m saying is that it’s not the same thing to me.

    Also I feel I am protected from losing credibility by not having any to begin with.

  4. Grandpa Brian

    My question for Rob is this: What if one were to buy a BD bike and then take it to a bike shop to get everything completely assembled and adjusted? Would it be worth it then? I admit that I know nothing about bikes so I am at the mercy of much more experienced cyclists in this arena. I don’t even know what a derailleur is…

  5. Chuck

    Well, coming from a scruffy, thin faced bike shop employee, I’d definitely say no to buying a bike from Bikes Direct. It’s certainly not the same frame, and anyone who thinks it is should just save the down time of waiting for the bike to come in and having to assemble it. Go get a prebuilt Schwinn carbon road bike from WalMart! It’s the same thing as a Madone or a Tarmac, right? And it comes professionally assembled by the same guy who throws away all the lock washers that came with the grill you bought there last summer.

    Realistically, those frames are purchased from mass frame manufacturers in China and Taiwan. All you have to do is call up the manufacturer, choose tube shapes from a catalogue of tube shapes, and have them assemble it with your decal of choice.

    As I step down from my soapbox, I’ll close with this. Although I’ll build or fit any bike purchased from Bikes Direct, Performance, et al, I won’t warranty parts for any of those bikes–only bike shop bikes that someone gets from a brick-and-mortar shop. Warranties happen a lot in this industry, more than the consumer might realize, so this is an important point. Also, I often have to explain to a customer that the bike they bought online doesn’t fit, or simply is a style (racier geometry) that doesn’t suit their interests or back problems. Last, you should meet the engineers who design those frames. Do they ride?

  6. Chuck

    I will add that I’ve had customers buy these online brands and later realize the value of a well-designed frame. In this light, getting the cheaper bike was a stepping stone, like buying a Ford Festiva for your first car. I’m just glad they like to ride, and we’ve got another cyclist out there.

  7. A. T.

    The author’s argument is B.S. Would you for instance just give someone $500? Same argument with buying online. If you know what you are buying paying more took look at someone is just irrational. If LBS’s want people to support them they either act like a competitive business or declare themselves a charity.