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03/31/2011

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Rob

If you do feel that an X-mart bike is all that can be justified please make sure to double check all the vital components like brakes etc. Also be prepared to take a wrench to the bike to make sure things like the stem are secure before you let your kid ride it. These bikes are often thrown together by store staff who might not have access to the proper tools or adequate training.

Bill

Good advice, Rob. If you don't feel you have the expertise to do a proper pre-purchase inspection, try to find a cycling friend who will help. I think most cyclists are pleased to share their knowledge.

Tim Kenyon

My $.02: I say the same thing about bikes and guitars: it's a false economy to buy one so cheap that you don't want to use it. This includes buying for your kids; I sometimes hear parents say things like, "Let's buy a cheap one for now, and then if s/he likes it we can think about getting a better one." It can't be a great surprise that it's harder to enjoy an activity that is made pointlessly difficult through the poor construction, inefficiency, or unreliability of the equipment, though.

Of course money is tight for most parents, so it's not just a matter of cavalierly dropping a huge bundle of cash on a bike; but it's worth thinking also about the participation fees and indirect costs (including driving costs!) for many organized kids' sports, which only last for a season. By contrast, cycling is an "any time, any place" activity, the bike is good for many, many years, and it can be sold for good money even years later, if it was a quality product to start with.

Above a certain dollar value, you're paying for name brand and a few ounces here and there. But up to about $1000 (at least), every hundred dollars buys you a bike that is more enjoyable to ride. (Assuming you're buying wisely, that is -- it's certainly possible to spend $800 on a bike worse than one you could have bought for $700.) And bikes that are more enjoyable to ride are bikes that you or your kids ride more! So instead of spending $200 on a heavy bike with poor components, and then $400 on that new X-Box with a couple of games, spend $650 at a spring bike sale and get a great, fast, fun, safe and reliable $850 bike with a warranty from one of our local expert bike shops. If your kid is going to like cycling, s/he'll like that bike! And if s/he doesn't, you can easily sell it again for $550.

Bill

Thanks for that pro-investment argument, Tim. I would compare it to buying a baby accessory. You would never buy the cheapest possible crib or car seat. You want one that works well, is safe and likely be good enough to be used by more than one kid, or resold for at least half price after you no longer need it. Those $89 bikes are the bicycle equivalent of facial tissues: use once and throw away.

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