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When, where and how to buy!

| Buyers Guides, What Mountain Bike | 23/07/2010 12:09pm

Mail order, interweb, superstore, dodgy imports or local bike shop? Consider carefully the pros and cons of buying from each

Traditional wisdom says you should buy your bike at the local bike shop. Apart from the fact that it supports your local economy, your local bike shop will probably offer you a personalised deal and some decent after-sales service.

However, don’t always expect a cut-price deal from a local dealer. Would you ask for a deal on groceries from the corner shop? Local shops work on relatively small profit margins and are often barely surviving compared to the giant retailers. Good local dealers usually only survive if they offer a good service. That might mean offering expert advice or helping you to choose the right bike for your size, riding preferences and local terrain. It might mean swapping a flat bar for a riser bar, changing a saddle or putting you in contact with a local ride group.


Think before you buy. Would you prefer to deal with a real person, a do-everything sales assistant in a superstore, a web page or a voice on the end of a phone? There are pros and cons to each. You’ll know what suits you best, but bear in mind that ‘in stock’ (when you see it in an ad or on a website) might not always mean just that. A phone call is a good back up, but you still can’t see the product in the same way you can in your local shop, and you’re taking more of a gamble on after-sales service. But, websites are good for browsing and you can use Google to search for opinions or reviews on products before you commit. It’s wise to use websites and mail order merchants that come recommended from other riders. There are plenty of good ones.

Bargains
Everyone likes a bargain. You’ll see bargains in bike shops from time to time and you’ll probably see even more in the magazine ads for the mail order specialists. There are all sorts of reasons for reduced prices. One way or another, reduced prices will usually be linked to products being in over-plentiful supply, being unpopular, or both.

Supply and demand sets the price of everything. Over-supply of a product does not necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with it – just as a product being unpopular doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with it. Sometimes manufacturers and distributors simply get their projected calculations of product sales wrong. This can boil down to something as simple as colour, or that a suspension fork has a little less travel than the suddenly fashionable norm.

One of the big problems for the average bike dealer is that stock becomes ‘out of date’ – in other words, there is a time of year when bikes are replaced by new versions of the same thing. Inevitably, marketing hype helps to sell product and while we try hard to separate hype from genuine innovation, there’ll be times when we’re as guilty as the marketeers of getting far too excited about new stuff and overlooking the fact that the old stuff was great too.

All change!
The big stock change in bike shops traditionally starts to happen from around September time. Manufacturers normally launch their ‘new year’ budget bikes around about then, followed within the next few months by the higher end models. In some cases, the real top end stuff won’t arrive until about March. It’s a tough time for bike dealers if they’re left with old stock, but buyers can take full advantage of the bargain spree.

Distributors are often left with large amounts of old stock which they have to sell to bike shops at vastly reduced prices and this is when the real bargains occur – shop around and you can get old models at half price. Look in the shop ads in the monthly bike mags, particularly around the year’s end. If the bike is old stock, ask if you’ll get all the usual warranty advantages.

There are plenty of less obvious reasons why bikes and bits end up as sale stock. Every time new sprocketry or shifters arrive, the ‘old’ system is seen by many as being somehow inferior. In the wider scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter. More gears just means more overlapping ratios, and more suspension isn’t always a good thing if it’s not appropriate to the needs of the rider.

Taking stock
There are certainly times when old stock isn’t as good as new, or when bikes are just discounted to a price that reflects their perceived worth. On the whole, suspension (both front and rear) is still improving each year in terms of both function and value for money. Full suspension systems in particular are gaining benefits of hindsight. Some swingarm linkages – once supported by bushings that wore out far too quickly – are now likely to be joined by quality bearings. The bearings of main pivots have become better designed for durability as the years have passed. An average suspension fork has come down in price and become far better controlled in function. In short, suspension still gets better every year, so be wary of old model suspension bikes that haven’t sold well.

On the whole, though, bikes are discounted because someone made or bought too many of them, or because something about the colour isn’t as appealing as the opposition that have sold better. In some cases, one single item of componentry on the bike looks wrong. Perhaps the stem’s too long or low, or you want a riser bar. Such things are easily and cheaply put right.

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This entry was posted on Friday, July 23rd, 2010 at 12:09 pm and is filed under Buyers Guides, What Mountain Bike. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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