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Hamburger Morgenpost, 2022/03/26
Reading time 2:45 minutes

What are cheap bikes from the discounter good for?

Hot or scrap? A bicycle expert tells you what to bear in mind – and gives tips for the purchase

Just in time for the start of spring and warmer temperatures, they are stealing back into supermarkets, discounters and DIY stores: Cheap bicycles that in most cases still have to be assembled by yourself. Is it worth taking a closer look in order to make a bargain? The German newspaper MOPO talked to expert Dirk Zedler of the institute for bicycle technology – his verdict is devastating.

A trekking bike for well less than 500 euros? Not uncommon at Germany’s discounters Tchibo, Lidl, Aldi, etc. There, some bicycles are even available for as little as 220 euros. The low price is mainly due to distribution, production and the mostly cheap components of the bicycles. If you invest no more than 300 euros, you can't expect to get a bicycle for life, states the Hamburg regional association of the General German Cyclists Club.

In the past, the German broadcasters NDR and WDR tested cheap bicycles from time to time. The results: displaced rim tapes, imbalances of the tyres and even broken handlebars. “Ultra-cheap bikes are not necessarily super unsafe,” explains Dirk Zedler, expert for bicycles and e-bikes of the institute for bicycle technology in Ludwigsburg (Baden-Wuerttemberg). “However, the bicycles are of such poor quality that they lose their original function very quickly.”

This brings back memories of the “Sladda Bike” launched by Ikea in 2016: The “Sladda” was available for a very attractive price, especially the belt drive was unusual for this price range. But it was precisely this belt drive that caused problems later – until Ikea even recalled all “Sladdas” in 2018.

“The drive belt can suddenly break, which in turn can result in possible falls,” was the statement of the furniture giant in these days. At the time, there were eleven reports of such incidents, two of which had resulted in injuries.

According to the engineer Zedler, the brakes and the gears are particularly at risk. “Then the front and rear wheel quickly become out of round and in the end you don't feel like riding anymore and put the bike in the corner – until it goes to the bulky waste. A real eco mess.”

What is more, if you buy your bike from a discounter, you often have to assemble it by yourself. “The customers then stand in front of it and are supposed to adjust the brakes and gears by themselves and mount the saddle and pedals on their own. This can quickly become too much for them,” Zedler is convinced. His institute has been working on bicycle quality for 30 years.

But there can also be exceptions: Some of the bikes in the WDR tests did quite well in the brake tests. The decisive question is what is the bike used for. Commuting to work and back home is of course also possible with such a bike. “If you are a super-savvy hobby mechanic who saves the bike most of the time, then this can work,” states Zedler.

If the discounter bike breaks down after a short time – as predicted by him – unfortunately, one is left alone with the repair. According to him, bicycle dealers usually don't touch this kind of thing for a good reason. “The screws are often of such a poor quality that the bike is at risk of breaking down completely during repair – and no one wants to run that risk.”

When it comes to e-bikes, he also advises people urgently to keep their hands off cheap offers around 600 euros. “Riding is mainly terrible, the rechargeable batteries are borderline. Here, you simply spend even more money on bad quality than on conventional bikes.”

His tip: To get many years of use out of your bike, you should spend between 600 and 1200 euros. Good electric bikes from specialist dealers start at 2000 euros. You can also take luggage with you and get a proper LED lamp at the same time. Anything above is not necessary for normal use.

If the bike is then defective, bicycle dealers usually don't touch it for good reason.

Author: Annalena Barnickel