I am subscribed to a newsletter from Anthony BikeRoar, though didn’t actually subscribe and know for a fact that my email address was scrapped and included without an Opt-In, so it’s all very naughty.
The purpose of the BikeRoar website isn’t obvious, they seems to have a bike comparison function, a directory of American bike shops and cycling articles and news with a strong Mountain Bike focus. I generally glance through the newsletter which has “Top Five’s” and beginners tips, but in their current newsletter I spotted a featured article, “What NOT to buy online” by author Joey Esterhuyzen.
Now that is an interesting topic and in the first paragraph the author states the position of BikeRoar to online shopping,
Although we are not anti-online shopping, we have, in the past, made a song and dance about buying and supporting your local bike shop…
But it continues, unfortunately, to say,
…here is a light-hearted list of what NOT to buy online…
All of my anticipation has immediately vanished, but I continued to read anyway and discovered that the article isn’t ‘light-hearted’ (as in humorous) rather it includes one funny picture and instead is ‘light-reading’; basic common-sense information with broad comments, barely pausing to give substance or examples for justification.
Screen caputure from BikeRoar
When buying your cassette there is a high chance of getting it wrong. Selecting the wrong gear ratios, wrong model, wrong gear count, or forgetting to replace the chain at the same time (which itself is riddled with landmines). Along with this, you’ll need very specific tools you’ve never used before – for both the cassette AND the chain.
For a beginner, perhaps it is useful to ensure that the reader knows that the techy details (specs) are really important and if you get it wrong, you lose. But this type of information is not particularly new and applies to mail-order, telephone-orders and online shopping for car parts, audio sound-system parts, instruments… and almost any product that has parts and comes in different sizes.
In core message is that if you go to your (physical) local bike shop, the mechanic will get the right item because they have the experience, plus if they stuff it up, it is their fault. If however you chose to buy yourself online, then know exactly what you want and be prepared to assemble.
The information on cycling shoes does try to provide reasoning as to why and identical sizes shoe can still be a bad fit.
But what I am missing is…
I am missing two things. Firstly, even accepting that the light-hearted humour is limited to a picture of a funny bike, I want more depth and I want real-life examples to open my mind. For example explaining what happens if I buy a compatible cassette for my bike which has a different gear range and the effect it will have when I try to climb the steep hill next time. Instead of telling me “…you’ll need very specific tools you’ve never used before…”, tell me which tools they are.
And secondly, I am really missing the content that made me click through in the first place. I do want to know what NOT to buy online. Online shoppers are now buying things online which they would not have considered five years ago. Clothing is booming and the risk of getting the wrong size is hardly stopping sales. There are not many product segments which are untouchable, but there must be some things you shouldn’t buy online.
Here it is: what should you NOT buy online
Let’s exclude advice targeted to beginner cyclists whether or not to purchase, rather really try and think of specific products you should not buy online. It was more difficult to put a list together than I anticipated.
You should not buy:
- Flammable lubricants / cleaning agents because it is simply better not to air-deliver dangerous items.
- Second-hand cycling knicks. It is not hygenic as they are intended to be worn without underwear.
- Bicycle Helmets are a safety item so a perfect fit is important and you also need to ensure that the helmet complies with local regulations (if applicable) and with any regulations for competitive cycling, if you compete. I recommend that you know that it fits perfectly before buying which means a trip to your local dealer. Though do consider that showrooming (when you try first at a retail store with the intention of purchasing online) is bad form.
- Items which are illegal to use in your country, for example, Germany has strict regulations on the brightness of bike lights and even how loud audible devices such as horns can be. While lights and loud air-horns for the bikes will pass through customs, if you fit them and uses them on public streets there can be consequences if you are stopped by police officers or involved in an accident.
- Fake cycling apparel (and gear). Though it may be a fraction of the price of a genuine item there are two problems, the quality is often signficantly inferior and secondly by supporting fake / counterfeit / unlicensed products it supports an industry built on fraud rather than the cycling teams and cycling brands who deserve the support.
- Bikes and gear of unknown origin. By all means, do some research and find out more, however if you don’t really know anything about the products and are not getting the right signals, then you don’t really know what you are getting.
- Anything from untrusted online retailers. Check and see if it is a genuine online bike shop because you will never see your $800 again for the top-of-the-line-brand-new-too-good-too-be-true Pinarello.
And for an attempt at humour, don’t buy yellow jerseys or ‘world-champion’ jerseys or any other cycle-wear reserved for the victor of a race. You have to earn it first. The exception is when you are buying a collectable (and the money goes to charity) and you don’t wear it rather it hangs on the wall until it is uncovered that your cycling hero was a doper all along and now the jersey is worth only disdain.
Title Photo: © Egan Snow