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Commuting 101: Bike Shaped Objects

by Richard Masoner

A Word about Bike Shaped Objects

Bike geeks like me and the other authors of CbB often snicker about the “Bike Shaped Objects” (BSO) sold at the mass retail discount stores for less than $200. They’re heavy, ugly, inefficient, poorly engineered, poorly designed, and poorly assembled by the same guy who scoops the the dead fish out of the tanks in the pet department. These types of bikes are recalled every year, and, in fact, the CPSC recently announced a recall of 34,000 Dynacraft BSOs sold at Target over the past year.

I realize, however, that millions of people rides these kinds of bikes to work — probably half of the commuting cyclists I see every day are on these BSOs. I imagine some CBB readers even ride these bikes, though they may hesitate to admit it. Two years ago, I followed the adventures of Poor Guy On a Bike who, amazingly, toured 2000 miles from South Carolina to west Texas on a Wal-Mart Schwinn. The only problems he had were with flat tires.

If you decide to go to Retail-Mart to buy these, stick with the inexpensive basic bikes and absolutely avoid the “full suspension” models. There’s much less to go wrong on the basic bikes, and the frame suspension on the more expensive models add a lot of weight and complexity for absolutely zero benefit. If you do go this route, please realize that there’s a world of difference between BSOs and good bicycles.

For more about choosing the ideal bicycle for your commute, read Commuting 101: Choosing a bike.

 
Burley nomad 229

39 Responses to “Commuting 101: Bike Shaped Objects”

  1. jeremiah says:

    bsos do suck. 49.73, for a bike?!?!?
    http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=1977659

    but then again, when your friendly and/or elitist local bike store is charging $30 for a tune up, and marking parts up 300% then i have to say the riders of bsos are making an economically sound decision. LBSs just don’t serve the needs of the poor rider.

  2. Patrick says:

    I just bought a “Bike Shaped Object” from Wal-mart to start commuting with. I am sure that it is not as good as what the local shop had to sell me, but then they didn’t much care to talk to an overweight middle aged man that had the nerve to ask about used bikes.

    If everything works out I will upgrade to a better bike, but if it doesn’t I am not going to be cramming a $1000 bike into a corner where it wont impede access to my lawn mower.

  3. Noah says:

    I started on a BSO, which fell apart 6 weeks after I bought it.

    I turned around and bought a proper used bike from a bike shop for $100. Sure, it was a ’99-era front-suspension mountain bike, but it turned out to be sufficient for my commute, then a truly awesome snowmmuter bike once winter set in.

    I do believe that my current commuter is probably a “Brand name” BSO. It retailed for under $250 back in ’98 and it has low-end components. I picked it up on craigslist (barely) used in November for a little more than $50, pretty much without even looking it over. I’ve upgraded quite a bit. The handlebars, shifters, crankset, derailleurs, saddle and cables are all original. Pretty much everything else has been upgraded, either because I knew it would be a problem (the cheap freewheel rear hub, for example, got replaced INSTANTLY after I bought it, with a whole new rear wheel, freehub, and cassette) or because something failed (Bottom bracket went out in under 1,000 miles).

    I’ve also found that proper assembly goes a very long way. A ghetto craptastic BSO stands a better chance of lasting longer if it’s assembled with proper care and torque. Even a top of the line bike will have severe problems if slopped together by a stoned 17 year old warehouse monkey with only a crescent wrench.

  4. Jay says:

    I agree with Jeremiah, many local bike shops push people toward BSOs because of the elitist attitude. While I know some bike shops do a very good job trying to serve the customer only what they need, my recent experience at a LBS was ridiculous. I purchased the entry level Specialized Sequoia to train for and complete 2 MS150 rides this summer. I completed the MS150 ride last year on an older bike that worked just fine. After the MS150 rides I’m planning to add road riding into the mix of my weekly exercise program to throw in some variety. So I paid $689 for the entry level Sequoia, I took the bike home and noticed it did not have any bottle cages (why they’d sell me a bike to ride on a longer tour without bottle cages I’ll never know). So the next day I went down to the shop and I asked to buy a couple bottle cages. The salesperson grabbed a couple of the basic $5 cages and then recognized me and said, “Hey, you’re the guy that bought the new Sequoia, you don’t want THESE bottles cages” Being relatively new cyclist I thought maybe he meant the type of cages he first grabbed would not fit my new bike or something. He led me to the rack containing a large selection of carbon fiber bottle cages, costing $25 a piece. He carefully explained how the $25 cages were better because my bike would weigh less. I stood there not believing my ears. The difference in weight between the $5 cages and the $25 cages was not noticeable. What is noticeable is the fact that I’m 6’5″ and carry about 20 to 25 lbs of extra weight. I’m not exactly sized like a road racer, nor is the Sequoia even meant to be a racing bike. I looked at him like he just stepped off a spaceship from Mars and said, “You can’t be serious! Spend and extra $40 to save a couple ounces?? If I want my bike to be lighter I’ll lose 15 lbs….

  5. David says:

    I owned both LBS & BSO’s. Had all 5 LBS stolen and only 3 Huffy beach cruisers were stolen of 8 BSO’s bought. BSO are good for those starting out commuting or even bicycling. No one will be willing to pay $300 for a bike just starting. Also I now have 2 BSO and 1 LBS (just got it). The BSO’s with proper preventive maintenance can run forever, they are very durable, but it can also is a platform that as time goes by you can upgrade components as you wish to get a better ride feeling. The reason I bought the LBS was that my weight broke 2 rear wheels. I need a bike with a stronger wheel and the wheels on the BSO’s were LBS quality and I could not get a strong wheel without the upgrading the bike. The shop did not have any stronger wheel that were already on the bikes. I still use the BSO’s for a backup bike with the primary is in the shop. If the bike shops want to reach that untouched market of people not riding or just beginning to ride they need to both drop their elitist attitude and start selling entry level bikes below $200 and be open to the newby customer as to the customer’s needs. No one will pay more than that for an entry level bike. One last note, I always patronize my local shop if not for anything else but for repairs, they still get the business, but they can also will open the door for a purchase later.

  6. Val says:

    As a former shop owner, I can definitely sympathize with both sides of this division. I always went out of my way to find a bike that would not only suit the needs, but the budget of the potential rider. Frequently we had nothing to offer that was inexpensive enough, but we always encouraged people to look at garage sales, thrift stores, and online for used bikes. The upside of this for a shop is that the buyer is then much more willing to let your mechanics tune up their new purchase and render it safe and possibly add any accessories that are needed. The profit margin on labor and accessories is much higher than on a new bike, and the customer gets a better deal. I have also tuned up thousands of Huffy and Wal-Mart BSOs, and my feeling is that a Huffy that is being ridden every day is infinitely better than a Colnago that is used to hang clothes on, or gathering bugs on a roof rack. BSOs need love, too.
    As far as high end bottle cages go, they should always be sold with the special, lightweight dehydrated water, as that is the main item that will keep you from shaving that crucial 1/100th of a second off your time from home to the coffee shop.

  7. wolfy says:

    Good discussion!

    The other day at a local trailhead I saw a number of BSOs being ridden in the dirt as well as a number of low end name branders. If it gets them out it’s great!

    On the other hand I know a number of people who bought BSOs and never rode them enough for them to show their faults.

    On the other hand I know a number of people who bought high end XTR blabityblas and never rode those either.

    -M

  8. Fritz says:

    “…XTR blabityblas…” — love it!

    Thanks for the comments, all! I really appreciate the feedback you’ve given regarding bike shop blues and reasons to go with the discount bikes.

    Regarding labor at the bike shops: $30 for a tuneup is a pretty good deal. Depending on what needs done, that can be about an hour’s worth of labor and I think it’s worthwhile to pay bike shop mechanics a living wage.

  9. mechanikal_vandal says:

    I started riding on a very low spec Specialized which had the same sort of spec as the BSOs i now sell as an employee of Halfords. I joined a mtb club and rode my Specialized for about 30 – 50 miles off road every weekend and a 10 mile rouind trip to my grans house after school almost every day of the week.

    I had to replace parts like bottom bracket, chain etc as they wore out but only after a reasonable lentgh of time. I know that there is no way, no matter how well set up and maintained that the BSOs we sell would last as long or be as pleasurable to use.

    My Specialized was a basic bike and it was sold as such, the BSOs in Halfords are designed to LOOK like pereformance mtbs with front and rear suspension, triple clamp forks, disc brakes etc. All these gimmicks eat into the budget on a bike and as such important areas like frame wheels and drivetrain suffer.

    I dont think that Halfords or WalMart can be blamed for selling bikes like this though as theres clearly a market for them. I think the problem partially lies with the customers and i think it starts from a young age. At christmas time i have heard many parents complain at having to spend.£100 on a bike for their kid but they have bags from the nearby shopping centre and you can see that they have bought the latest games console as a present. They are perfectly willing to spend several hundred pounds on somethin that will keep their kid inside and inactive but they are reticent to buy a half decent bike that would get their kid out in the fresh air getting exercise and socialising.

  10. nathan says:

    imho specialized doesn’t really seem to make bike shaped objects — that is if specialized makes it and it’s shaped like a mountain bike then it is a mountain bike. even the bottom of the line hardrock xc is a worthy ride. (but i think the hardrock sport is a better buy with it’s cassette rear wheel)

    bike shape objects are the nasty “dual suspension” mongooses, kents, magnas, nexts, razors, gmcs, etc. they take a normal mountain bike design and pervert it into a really crumby knock-off that mostly just looks similar but barely has it together enough to be ridden home from the store.

  11. mechanikal_vandal says:

    Yeah totally, thats my point, my Specialized had a hi tensile steel frame, unsealed b/b and hubs, threaded headset and quill stem, the cheapest of cheap mechs and shifters just like the BSOs but it still performed and lasted like a bicycle should.
    We sell a brand of bikes called Shockwave and these are without a doubt the worst bikes ever. They are unbeleivably heavy, the “top of the range” model – with its triple clamp forks with legs the diameter of coke cans, disc brakes that always rub and stop you slower than any v brake or even centre pull canti i have ever used – weighs in at about 30 kilos or about 67lbs! Oh and being that heavy does not mean they are strong, i pulled one out of the box the other day and the seat tube area of the main frame was about 3 inches out of alignment with the rear triangle/swingarm area.

  12. yodel says:

    What I have found is that if the BSO is too cheap – then it will be uncomfortable in inefficient and then people who are hesitant to ride anyway will not want to. Spending a little bit more on a low end “XTR blabidyblah” makes the bike hurt less and be less work.

    Now that does not mean that a beginner would appreciate that $7000 carbon fiber road bike that weighs 14lbs.

    But a quality low end model will work well and not suck.

    We bought a *pair* of bikes for $150 at SEARS maybe 12 years ago. They sucked. We tried to use them a couple times, and it was like it was harder to ride them than to walk. So they sat on the porch and rusted.

    Then I bought a $400 bike, also at SEARS, but it was a pretty basic mountain bike. But it was like SEARS’ top of the line at the time. It has suited me well over the last 10 years. I have thousands of miles on it.

    My spouse got a $500 Trek hybrid. Great bike, wonderful ride. However it turned out that she just didn’t like the seating position so she didn’t ride it much. We sold it for a few hundred and she bought a $400 cruiser style bike. She loves the comfort and doesn’t mind the added weight or loss of gears, so she rides more now.

    I am awaiting a delivery of a super duper Cannondale commuter bike that is pretty pricey. With my experience level – now I will see the benefits over my $400 SEARS model.

    OK, I guess I am rambling. My point is that there is no point in saving money if it means you end up wasting the money. But even a good middle range bike might not fit a person’s style either.

    Buy the best bike you can for the money you have, and think about how you will use it and pick accordingly.

    Oh, and almost no one actually needs full suspension… Heck, most people don’t even need front suspension…

    :)

  13. Adam says:

    First some background:

    I grew up MTB racing in CO. I owned top of the line Cannondale hardtails with Marzocchi shocks and full suspension rigs from Pro-Flex to Santa Cruz. I also rode track every week, and did some light road training on a buddy’s (now a pro cyclist, was on the Postal Service team with Lance) carbon Trek.

    Years later, I’m older and fatter and my time in the saddle is vastly different. After several moves I landed a solid job and am bike commuting. I have a wife, a house and a 4 month old daughter. I DON’T have $1000 to spend on a bike. In fact, I barely had $100. I looked and I looked for a nice, rebuilt fixie or singlespeed in my price range. I found beat up 80′s bikes. I also found a crappy bike at Target, the Triax Crimson or something or other. I bought it.

    I have been riding it for a while now and it works. I rarely, if ever shift it, and the derailleurs are so bad I never want to. The brakes work, it stays upright, it’s relatively light, and it goes fast. I still have my old Ritchey’s from my MTB days, so I ride it clipless. It does the trick.

    Bottom line is that there are bikes that get the job done at Target or Wal-Mart. They’re not pretty, but if you have a budget they can be better than nothing. I do think it’s better to spend $100 more and get a used or re-built bike of some quality, but in my case I barely had $100. However, with the savings in gas it won’t be long before I can upgrade!

    I’m thinking a Raleigh One Way or even a Redline 925!

    It’s all about the two wheels and activity.

    That said, I worked at Target for 2 years and will confirm that most of the bikes there are abominations. I mean, a bike shaped like a Harley? WTF!!!???!!!

  14. Mike says:

    I have a BSO from Costco i am very happy with. It cost me about 2,000.00 but easily compares with bikes in the 4 to 5,000 range.

    Specs.
    Dedacciai Black Pearl Frame (same frame as top of the line Vin Diesel Solstice and Guerciotti factory team bikes).

    Full Dura-Ace
    Reynolds Ouzo Pro Carbon Fiber fork
    FSA K-Wing handlebars
    Deda Elementi Blackstick Carbon Fiber seatpost
    Selle Italia SLR saddle
    And so much more, even came with Dura-Ace peddals.

    This is only to say that you can get a good deal at the Big Box stores.

    Mike

  15. Mike in Florida says:

    I think that if one is fairly handy and happens to be the person who fits a ‘mart bike, then they can be OK. I’ve looked at some of the Wal-Mart Schwinns and they aren’t bad. I would always recommend someone go to their LBS first. The entry level Trek 7000 is $279.99 MSRP, but I’ve seen them cheaper at my LBS. Same for the other entry level hybrids from the big makers(Raleigh, Giant, etc). For someone fairly knowledgable, I’d point them to eBay, Bikes Direct, or Ibex. If one knows how to size oneself, and can do a simple tuneup, then Internet purchasing can save lots of money.

  16. Nicole says:

    I maintain that $100 spent on a good used bike rather than a Wal-Mart BSO (never heard the term before now, but I like it) is money much better spent.

    In college, I spent roughly $100 at Wal-Mart for a BSO (might have been a Next) to get to class on and maybe take out for a ride now and then. The brakes immediately started squeaking. I took it to the LBS where I had to sweet talk the guy into adjusting them (this involved promising never to come back to him complaining about the brakes, which I didn’t until I accidentally stuck my tennis racket through the spokes of the front wheel). Anyway, the bike was always hard to ride. Going uphill sucked and, perhaps I was just in horrible shape, but even a short seven mile ride was quite the effort.

    A couple years ago, I got back into biking after moving to a very bike-friendly city. I bought a mid-80s model Bianchi hybrid for $40. It’s the perfect commuter and before adding a real road bike to my bike collection, it did well on twenty-milers I do a couple times a week. Even with added lights and fenders, I’m at a lower price point than the BSO.

    I suppose “new” is a big draw for people, but I always encourage new bikers to go with a better model/brand used bike. Ultimately, though, I’m okay with whatever gets people biking!

  17. Adam says:

    I don’t want to come across as the holy savior of BSOs or anything, but I have to disagree with Nicole.

    The reason being that I found a VERY good BSO at Target…the one I mentioned. I have several friends right now who commute to work, and all of them are on either expensinve rigs (road and mt.) or cheap used rigs. My new BSO is faster and holds together better than the cheap used rigs. My BSO is faster than expensive mt. bikes and keeps up pretty dang well with expensive rigs when navigating city streets with lots of lights. In fact, I tend to pass most hardcore “roadies” on my BSO with my tennies and my cogs slipping because the rear derailleur needs adjusted badly.

    I know that the majority of the bad BSOs you’re talking about are those weird kids bikes that look like motorcycles, but my sub $100 road bike works perfectly…it just doesn’t fit well and you don’t want to spend the money to cush it out!

    Also, Target has some very nice Schwinn cruisers for $99. I was talking to another friend at work the other day who said she bought a Bianchi cruiser for tons o’ cash and her friend bought the Target Schwinn. Her Bianchi has been in the shop at least a dozen times in as many months while the friend’s Schwinn is problem free. Plus, the Schwinn owner doesn’t feel bad being rough and careless with a Target cruiser like she would a beautiful Bianchi.

    That said, I rode a three decade old Peugot all through college and while it had no working breaks (lots of scary fun!) or derailleurs it was my favorite bike that I’ve ever been on. I even turned it into an amazing fixie after a year. So, I do know the appeal, and the great performance of a quality used bike. But, to turn it into a fixie that I was comfortable riding on I spent more than I did on my BSO.

  18. Noah says:

    Well, is it a REALLY GOOD BSO or does it have a shifting problem? My $100 ’99 Diamondback MTB (which I regularly commute on) is not only a used LBS bike, but a brand that’s of questionable quality to begin with. Not quite a BSO, as it has decent components for its age and the price it cost me. The thing has literally been through hell. A snowy, icy, salty-road winter here in Kansas, mud and snow that’s 6-10 inches deep, taken down whole flights of stairs whenever I see a set that I want to go down (at least weekly) and all that. I flat-out punish this bike and the front derailer only gave me problems once, and that was because I was a dork and shifted HARD from the first to third chainring at a top and popped the cable off the second day I had it. Once the cable got back in place and adjusted properly (and I learned how to use rapidfire shifters) I haven’t had a problem with it.

    It’s not that BSOs are all bad. However, a good BSO usually requires someone with a bit of mechanical knack. In general, discount retail/toy store bikes are not going to stack up to a comparably-priced used bicycle from a bike shop, as long as the bike shop does a once-over and tune-up first.

    There’s a guy on BikeForums who put a few thousand miles on a wal-mart “Denali” road bike. I think it was under $200 for a bike with a similar component group to your average entry-level road bike. Lots of Sora stuff all over it, cheapo deep-v rims. You know the deal. The guy kept a running review discussion going and he had darn good luck with it, but he didn’t try to fool anyone. The bike required frequent adjustments that were easy for him to make on his own. These are the kinds of adjustments that a bike shop would charge $20+ each for. The kinds of adjustments that your average wal-mart toy-aisle stoner isn’t going to be able to perform. The kinds of adjustments that you get FOR FREE from a bike shop when you buy from them.

    For the average mortal human being that just wants to hop on an inexpensive bike and ride it more than 250 miles without adjusting stuff or taking it in for adjustments, the used LBS bike CAN be the answer. It still requires a bit of research, though. Plenty of bike shops will sell used bikes that aren’t going to last, especially in childrens’ sizes.

    For average weight riders (as opposed to overweight riders) and teens, cheap freewheels can last a long time. Put someone my size on one and you’re likely looking at a bent axle in the first few hundred miles. Lots of older bikes (80′s MTBs and road bikes) even of reputable name use these hubs. Almost all bikes found in places other than a good bike shop use these same hubs. Most people don’t even realize that there are two kinds of rear hubs for bicycles. Those who do know usually have a hard time telling the difference just by looking at it, too.

    Anyhow, good like with your BSO. You have a bike that works absolutely great for your needs. Unfortunately, I refuse to blindly tell people that they’re better off with a shiny new Huffy or NEXT as opposed to a 6-year-old Trek or Specialized in the used aisle at the bike shop.

  19. Matt S. says:

    I bought a $150 Target Mongoose Mountain Bike-Shaped Object a little over 2 years ago for the purpose of commuting. Knowing almost nothing about bikes, I thought that I should get the one with the dual shocks, because it would be more comfortable.

    I’ve been riding it to work (although only 2 miles one way) every non-raining day, and for 10-12 miles on weekend days for fun. My BSO works fine for these purposes. It could stand to shift more smoothly, and it can be a battle to keep the brakes from squeaking, but it gets me from point A to point B.

    Now, I really wish I had something lighter, and something larger (I’m 6’4″), but it’s not in my budget. What really bothers me is the attitude I get when I’ve ridden it to both LBS’s in my neighborhood to buy a water bottle, a headlight or an inner tube. I always catch an attitude about some flaw that my bike has, that I can’t do anything about.

    I’m probably going to need a tune up ($50 and $55 at the stores) soon, but I’m not looking forward to the elitist attitude I’m going to have to put up with when I sully their shop with my cheap bike.

  20. Dave Hughes says:

    Pros and cons abound on both sides of this argument.

    I bought a 7-speed Chinese Schwinn Jaguar cruiser at good ol’ “Tar-jhay” for $100, and have been super-pleased with its build quality and performance so far. I’ve even ridden in to work numerous times. I did replace the rear derailleur with a better Shimano unit just because I had it lying around. The other one shifted just fine, but looked funky and I didn’t think it would take my abuse for very long. But overall, I’d put this bike up against a bunch of the similarly-equipped LBS-sold cruisers I’ve ever seen. I know someone who has one of these, and also a KHS Manhattan cruiser, and he likes the cheapie Schwinn better. This guy also works as a mechanic in a LBS…so there.

    OTOH, when I bought this Schwinn, there were several little adjustment/assembly issues that I had to deal with myself, as it was obviously assembled by a non-cyclist. But having some bike maintenance skills, I was able to get it running smoothly and adjusted properly within mere minutes, whereas a LBS would have hit me for just about half what the bike cost me for that ‘tune-up’.

    Yes, there is a lot of crap out there in the department stores (‘Next’ brand comes to mind first). But some shrewd shopping by someone who knows what to look for can yield a pretty good bike for the buck in some cases. I’ve seen some cases (My Schwinn Jaguar is one) where the bike is every bit as good as a similarly-equipped LBS bike, and very likely made in the same Shanghai factory, just painted and branded differently. For instance, my $100 Schwinn cruiser is equivalent in every way to quite a few LBS-sold similar bikes that retail in the good ol’ LBS for up to three times the price. I did some shopping before buying this bike and I’m glad I did. Otherwise, I might have spent $300 to buy a bike no better than the one I ended up spending just $100 on, plus a few minutes of my time to adjust and set up properly.

    Don’t dismiss out-of-hand the bikes sold in dept. stores, just because of where they’re sold. And don’t buy a bike more expensive than you need just because some commission-driven sales person in a LBS tries to convince you that you ‘need’ it. Shop around. Test. Haggle.

  21. Ken says:

    I rode BSOs all my life until I went to college. At that age, you really don’t know anything about bikes so they suited me fine for riding to a cousin’s house or baseball practice. They all lasted fairly long as well (except the 2-speeder when I was really little, that got stolen a few months after getting it for Christmas :( ). The longest I had one had to be about 6-8 years, until I looked for it one day and couldn’t find it. Still don’t know what happened to it.

    But, for my and my father’s birthdays a couple of years ago, we decided we’d each get new bikes. We headed over to the LBS and bought 2 2006 Trek 820s for $250 each, the cheapest bikes they had in the store. I’ve read reviews of the 820 and the hardcore bikers despise it. They treat it just like a BSO. But, it works for me. I don’t have a 20 mile round trip commute everyday– I live a mile from campus, so most of my riding is the 13 miles I get on the bike trail about every other day. I’ve got a few minor clinks and problems, but that’s more because I left it outside last winter (before I converted to real commuting and biking, honest!) in a bone head move.

    So I guess the point of this is, go with what suits your needs. If the BSO works for you and doesn’t give you any problems, go for it! You don’t need a fancy bike to commute. I have just as much respect for the guy on the bike trail with a bike from the 70s that clangs and squeaks its way down the path as I do the team of racers that flies by on carbon fiber thousands-of-dollars-expensive bikes (who sometimes tend to be less polite and friendly as they junker riders). Biking is biking is biking. Just enjoy it! :)

  22. JRL says:

    BSOs have a legitimate place in the CBB cosmos.

    Here “In The Bay Area”, a “Bicycle-Centric Modus Operandi” is greatly facilitiated by the temperaterate climate, the flat terrain (believe it or not!), and relatively abundant mass transit coverage through much of the San Francisco Bay area.

    Alas, there’s some restrictions: BART (the local commuter train) doesn’t permit standard bikes in “The Commute Direction”, as the trains get *really* full.

    There’s two options:

    1. Folding bikes are always allowed, in all cars, at all times.

    As you’re aware, folders have idiosyncracies: Expensive, less rideable (sorry, Bike Friday!), heavier, and generally less able to accomodate standard accessories.

    2. Locking a bike at the station: “Welcome Vandals / Welcome Thief-types / Here I am Now / Waiting For You” (Sung to the tune of “Hello Mudder, Hello Fadder”

    If #1 isn’t possible, we get two BSOs – one at each end of BART. We ride one from home to the originating BART station, and the second from the destination BART station to work. “Assembly Is The Reverse of Disassembly…”

    The big bummer of buying two NEW BSOs: The locks’ll cost almost as much as the bikes!

    The bigger bummer: The cost of two POS bikes is about the same as one NEW bike of decent calibre.

    Solution: sfbay.Craigslist.com has a LOT of huffy, duracraft, schwinnn and so-forth, very cheaply, and no great loss if they’re ripped or ruined.

  23. [...] on Ebay, for only.£129. Two problems with these though, to my eyes – at that price, the phrase Bicycle Shaped Object (BSO) jumps into my mind, and the design is seriously retro. The brakes are fully LEVER operated, for [...]

  24. AS says:

    I’m sure there are great points to be made for and against BSOs. But for me personally, I went through enough of em from childhood to collegehood (new ones and hand-me-downs) and never fell in love with biking. When my friend built me my first road bike (for free…from a local community bike org) it was like everything clicked. I just wish now that I could convince people to pick up old bikes from craigslist before turning to walmart! Even the low quality frames from the 70s and 80s are better (imo) than what you get today for less than 300, at a fraction of the price!

  25. Noah says:

    I’d call it a BSO. “real” Dual suspension bikes are going to cost more than that. The cheap rear spring and pivot point in the frame aren’t very high quality. The rear hub, if it’s anything like my bike that looked similar, will fall apart in only a few months. Also, those cable-actuated disc brakes aren’t always the best quality.

    I look for a few things on an entry-level bike:
    * Trigger shifters. Grip shifters break easily and aren’t as reliable.
    * Freehub/Cassette rear wheel. Look for one of these lock-rings screwed onto the smallest cog on the back: http://bestsinglespeedbike.com/images/Lock-Ring2.jpg – Another good indicator, but not 100% accurate, is having a quick-release rear wheel.
    * Rigid frame or front-suspension (hardtail), although cheap front suspensions don’t do much good anyways.
    * Be prepared to spend about.£200.£250. In the US, it seems like $350 is kind of the breaking point for a bike that will last and is easily upgraded/repaired.

  26. J,E says:

    Hii thank you for that reply, im am going to consider this bike instead insteadhttp://www.simplythebike.co.uk/product_info.php?products_id=3134
    , do you think it is a better option?
    thanks

  27. Noah says:

    That looks more solid. I am not familiar with those hubs so I don’t know if it’s a freehub or a freewheel. Some will scoff at Mongoose, Diamondback, Schwinn and the like, however they can be decent bikes if you shop out of the “toy store” price range.

  28. Brian says:

    I’ll be the first to admit, I shied away from local bike shops for many years because it seemed so out-of-my-league and elitist. Just walking by and seeing a $2,000-3,000 road bike in the front window is enough to make me choke. I managed to find decent quality used bikes though.

    When I finally got into cycling for real, it was for commuting and transportation, and I managed to score a ’96 Bridgestone mountain bike at a local pawn shop for $60 (I bought my wife’s Fuji MTB at a pawn shop as well for $40). This year though is when I started riding daily, and have gradually added to the bike to “commutify” it… street tires, fenders, lights, new drive train… little by little as I got the money.

    When I bought my first road bike this summer, I browsed Craigslist and other used bike options… and finally found a used ’03 KHS for $270. I don’t consider any of my bikes BSOs, just entry-level bikes from quality manufacturers.

    The problem is unless people are serious about cycling, I’m afraid most folks won’t even know where to find a good used bike… so all they know is Wal-Mart’s BSOs or the $1,000+ LBS option. No wonder BSOs are so prevalent.

  29. Bailey says:

    I found a BSO ditched on the side of the road, and I know it was ditched because there was weeds growing all over it, and I fixed it up and it rides like a dream! Although it’s terrible going up hill, it’s the best bike I’ve ever found on the side of the road. . . it’s the only one I’ve found, but it’s still awesome for a free bike!

  30. [...] more easily adjustable systems for a while. Only to be found on cheap mountain bikes, the kinds of BSO’s that have “Cantilever Brake Technology” written on the chainstays, or, more preferably [...]

  31. wv cycling says:

    This is a list of all the BSO companies in North America. If you ever find a decrepit product of theirs… do not hesitate to contact them and let them know it is ass.

    http://i53.tinypic.com/25qyp2t.jpg

  32. CoreyR says:

    Dude, $30 per hour is a “living wage” to the bike shop mechanic? Are you serious? I have worked 11 years for the state and do not make half that, do you really think I can afford to shell out that kind of money for repairs on a bicycle?
    I do not know what you do for a living but, obviously, you are still not thinking like the average guy out here. When we say “we cannot afford this high end stuff,” what we mean is, “WE CANNOT AFFORD THIS HIGH END STUFF!”

  33. Brrr says:

    My old $99 Huffy BSO gave me more than 12 yrs of trouble free daily use, I cannot say the same for any of the significantly more expensive LBS bikes I’ve owned since. High-end machines are certainly faster and lighter, but they’re pretty fragile.

    • Ted Johnson says:

      Given a choice between a BSO and a finicky trophy bike, I’ll take the BSO — and I will accept that the components are low quality, and that I will need to upgrade some components eventually if not immediately. We have a Motiv bike (Costco), and it’s my favorite bike, but it’s taken a lot of TLC to make it loveable.

      However, the choice is not necessarily between a BSO and a finicky trophy bike. Shanna’s Surly is neither.

      Maybe a rule of thumb is to look at your box-store BSO prices and add $200 for the service it will need over the first two years. Compare that to a good LBS bike that won’t need an additional $200 over the same amount of time.

      I pulled $200 out of the air. But there is an X-factor with BSOs that an informed consumer needs to acknowledge.

  34. Candyman says:

    I am an older former rider who just rides for enjoyment. I had gone to a couple of our LBS’s for questions and help with equipment. They looked at my rather cuddly figure and my age and immediately started looking down their noses and treating me like an idiot. I am not a racer, or a tourer, I just like to ride. I was, however, thrilled to see that both of those shops went belly up when the economy tanked. I have since found two local bike shops where their mechanics are road racers who know their stuff, and they will gladly answer any “stupid” question that I wish to ask. They are joys to deal with and I wish I still had the ability to ride

  35. Martin Neff says:

    I had a LBS Schwinn I bought in the 90s. It was a fantastic bike I had close to 10k miles on it when it was stolen.
    I went to the local LBS. I was told Schwinn didn’t make those anymore. the new ones I tried were nice, but didn’t fit me.
    6 months later I go into sears, I found a BSO Schwinn. It felt just like my stolen Scwhinn. It had dented fenders and was over half off. After I got it home I tore it down and greased everything, I noticed a dent in the wheel from shipping, I tried to fix it, After a week of riding the wheel was toast, I bought a LBS rear wheel, still into this bike cheaper than normal price. Almost a year later and 1000 miles it is running strong.
    This new Schwinn Drifter is only available at Sears only. I commute 7 miles a day on it.
    Then I found a BSO Schwinn Jaguar 7 Speed on craigslist for 20 dollars. I put 12 more dollars into it and it is my bad weather bike.
    I live in the bike capital of the northwest. I have met some real bike snobs and others who see me daily on either of my BSO Schwinn’s These are decent bikes, but if you seriously ride, they are not well lubricated at the factory, I run synthetic grease and they are excellent. I have 2 bike for lest that 200 and a year later still serve me well

  36. Martin Neff says:

    I had a LBS Schwinn for years til it was stolen. I found a great replacement Schwinn at sears, the drawback the Schwinn at sears was a single speed. I found a Schwinn Jaguar minus seat and post for 20 bucks, figured I would convert the new single speed over to a seven with that donor jaguar. They are not the same frame at all. I took the 20 Jag put a seat and a post on it that one of the kids had. A year later the jag is my bad weather commuter. I work around cars so I was able to figure out adjustments and tune ups. I played around with different sprockets with the Sears Schwinn Drifter. It is very comparable to my 1990s stolen LBS Schwinn. The Schwinn Jaguar does not have the same quality of shifter and derailieur as the LBS but I have it dialed in where it shifts well. I am extremely happy with both bikes. I bought my wife a Schwinn Jaguar for less than 50 bucks in mint condition, the derailieur broke soon after but got it fixed at a bike shop with a more expensive shimano unit and it shifts like a Cadillac. As far as a BSO I will ride a Schwinn Proudly

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