- The global bicycle supply chain, like much else, is under huge demand and shipping pressure.
- Cheap bikes are a great alternative to public transport and vehicle ownership, for lower-income riders.
- But have cheap bikes, in some cases, become dangerous?
Cycling has experienced an amazing growth curve since the pandemic.
Servicing commuters too afraid of crowded public transport,
or enabling those who desire a more mindful and isolated form of exercise, the
bicycle is winning.
But rampant growth, comes at a cost. The cycling industry has not evaded global supply chain and production issues.
A shortage of quality supply
With bicycle and component demand at an all-time high, and shipping efficiency at an all-time low, there is an enormous inventory shortage. Especially in the budget bicycle category.
Opportunity begets innovation, but a disturbing trend is being observed by bicycle mechanics: awful entry-level bikes.
Although budget bikes are expected to be heavy, a new class of unusable junk bikes have emerged. Built by substandard fabricators from the poorest metals and components.
Frames can crack - after many years (but not a few months)
Material stability in the frame is crucial to any bicycle’s safety and rideability. If a frame is poorly welded, using substandard tubing, it will easily crack. Quality steel frames, can last a lifetime.
And it’s not only the danger of frames with an extremely short fatigue life. Braking components are also manufactured to a price, instead of a standard, on these junk bikes.
In an era where cycling is finally gaining broader acceptance as an active transport solution, junk bikes endanger the most vulnerable: kids and workers from lower-income groups.
Bicycle mechanics at non-profit bike shops have extensive experience keeping budget bikes rolling along. And even these mechanics have noticed a trend from budget bikes to pure junk bikes – capable of failing in less than 100 hours of riding.
A call for better budget bikes
The trust deficit – and medical expenses – of a junk bike crash can be enormous for the lower-income riders who buy them.
An online petition has been launched to address the issue and raise awareness within the bicycle industry. The petition mandates that minimum durability standards be enforced for budget bikes, to last at least 500 hours before failing.
To enhance the value prospect of a budget bike, concerned mechanics also want better planning regarding parts specification, to ensure serviceability on budget bikes.