At BikeWorks, you can buy a good quality refurbished used bike for about the same price as the cheapest new bikes at a department store. A common question we get is "Why should I spend $150 on a used bike when I can get a new one for the same price?"
Below are two bikes currently for sale at BikeWorks North. The gold CCM, brand new, was sold for $150 two years ago at a large department store chain. It has barely been ridden and is currently priced at $45. The navy blue Peugeot mountain bike has seen many miles since it was a brand new mid-range model in a bike shop in the late '80's. It has been fully tuned, with a new drive train, cables, bearings, rebuilt Deore derailleur and is priced at $145. So, why the difference?
To produce a bike that can be sold for under $200 new, costs must be cut at every corner, and the cheapest possible parts are spec'd. The brakes, levers, pedals, and shifters are all plastic (let that sink in a moment - plastic). The derailleurs are so flimsy they won't stay in gear and will bend with little force, and the machine-built wheels' hubs are poorly adjusted while the rims often become wobbly during the first rides. Even brand new, the shifting is sloppy, the brakes are squishy, and there isn't much that can be done about it except installing better components. Despite the fact that the frame and rims are aluminum, this bike is a tank, coming in at around 40 pounds. Much of the extra weight is thanks to the spring loaded suspension fork, which doesn't suspend so much as it bounces, forever sucking forward momentum from the rider. Most of the parts on this quality of bike are only replaceable not repairable, and it's not a question of if they'll break as much as when they'll break. Because you can easily spend more than the original price of the bike servicing it and upgrading parts, most people treat these bikes as disposable and will buy a new one instead of fixing the old one.
Bikes should last for decades with regular maintenance. The used parts on the older Peugeot work well and can be repaired and rebuilt. The shifting is crisp, the braking strong and reliable. Even though it has a larger size steel frame, it is a full 15 pounds lighter than the CCM. Between the weight difference and lack of crappy boing-boing fork, the Peugeot is quicker & responsive, making it much more enjoyable to ride. It is more versatile, going on or off road, short or long distances, and it includes eyelets to mount racks & fenders for extra commuting comfort. We have also put more than $50 worth of new parts onto this bike, including chain, cassette, cables, and bearings so that it should run for a couple thousand kilometers before needing replacement parts, while the cheaper bike has its original but still used parts.
For somebody shopping for a new bike on which they will only pootle around the neighbourhood on weekends, the cheap department store model seems like a better deal than spending three to four times as much on an entry level bike shop bike. For short distances and occasional fair weather rides, the sluggishness of the ride and lack of durable components are not such a big deal. For somebody who plans on riding as transportation, daily (even if it's just on the nice days), who needs to go further than the corner store, and needs a bike they can rely on, the department store bike will soon disappoint, and may not be worth the trouble at any price. It will work, but it will never work that well, and though it is still safe to ride, riding a bike that works well is far more enjoyable, confidence inspiring, and will encourage you to ride more often.
*Update - Both of these bikes have sold already, but there are lots of other great used bikes to choose from at both BikeWorks locations!