Read our experience of buying bikes online to see what's in store for you
Words: Ryan Walsch Photos: Nick Waygood
With a growing list of consumer direct bike brands available to us down under, buying a bike from your local bike shop or online retailer has never been easier. There are a few things to consider when purchasing your new steed online.
· Building/Build quality
· Customer Service/Warranty
Many brands have developed quality sizing charts and guides to assist riders in getting the perfect fit, others have return periods, others smoke and mirrors.
There is no denying that online retailers have things your local bike shop can't offer like an experienced bike fitter or onsite mechanic so let's take a look at how brands are helping the buyers negate these things.
As an experienced mountain biker, I know my height, weight, inseam, what geometry I prefer and so on but understand how foreign and at times overwhelming all this is to a new riders as I have been that person before. All sizing advice is generalised and doesn’t take into account that some riders have longer legs or inseam than arm span and visa versa or plain just aren’t as flexible as the next.
Many bike brand's frames now have fantastic stand-over or room between you and the top-tube when straddling the bike along with shortened seat-tube lengths allowing greater room for adjustments. So much so than many riders could ride on two and sometimes even three frame sizes comfortably pending their own style and fitting requirements.
Recently we ordered a Marin from Bicycles Online and a Canyon from Canyon directly, both companies provided good rider sizing charts to refer to before adding the bike to the online shopping cart, but they did so in different ways. Bicycles Online have a uniform chart listing the rider heights suggested for each size. As they sell more than one brand this makes understanding sizing on their platform easier to comprehend and there is a free returns period. Buying the Canyon directly had us using a slightly more thorough sizing chart before purchasing which is to be expected when buying directly from the company. By entering my height and inseam measurement a size recommendation is made.
Across the direct to consumer sales platforms we have recently used (Marin, Canyon, YT, Commencal) and others we researched such as Intense and Zerode the brands all offer pretty solid information on sizing.
There is always going to be a level of trust required with these charts and having at least some reference of what works for you is advised. Here are a few ideas to consider to make the decision easier or even confirm what the chart is telling you.
Gets tips on how to buy a bike online here!
Is your current bike comfortable? Assuming you like the fit of your bike, it is a good place to cross reference the chart for things you like about the current bike or even things you don’t.
Does a friend have the bike your looking at or similar? If you're fortunate enough to have a friend with a similar bike, or a friend of a friend, send them a message, offer them a beer and see if you're able to throw a leg over it. Most people are proud of their bike and are only too happy to sing its praises.
Get a professional bike fit. Many major brands offer professional bike fitting services, as do independent fitters. Although the terms and acronyms can vary talking to a professional about what will work best for you could be the answer.
I still pull the tape measure out and double check measurements on my bikes and of bikes that I enjoy riding and reviewing. Assuming my current setup is perfect would be silly.
Building and build quality
Our most recent reviews of Marin, Canyon and YT bikes have surprised us with the attention to detail with their build processes and packaging. All the bikes part kits have offered torque wrenches, detailed instructions or tutorials with labeled or numbered parts to make things easier. There is always a warning on the box stating that if you're unsure, the bike should be checked or built by a professional bike mechanic.
The high level of quality in the packaging meant in all cases the bikes arrived damage free with nothing out of alignment making gear and brake adjustments not required. Attaching the bars, pedals and dropper post cable are the crux of the build. Bicycles Online have in depth video tutorials that help with this.
More and more local bike shops offer bike builds for bikes bought online, if in doubt chat to the professionals and see how they can help.
Getting to your bike shop during business hours just isn’t possible for everyone and it's one reason why online retail is booming. While I enjoy visits to my local bike shops, sitting in the comfort of home sipping a beverage of choice and comparing endless models ain't bad either. My most recent bike purchase had me doing all my research online and picking up the bike from my local which combined the benefits of both channels.
Some bike brands are now offering online purchase and designated store collection to ensure they too are offering more convenient ways to buy.
With convenience and a direct sales model things like bikes and product availability can be hit and miss. When an item is out of stock, it can often be out until the following season. Many shops have other brands or even stores that may have what you’re after.
Customer Service and warranty
After-sales support can sometimes be the most important aspect of a new purchase and direct to consumer brands have had to be on the front foot in this area. We have been fortunate to only report hassle free dealings through these buying channels and have explored the creative ways brands provide support to riders across the globe.
Some brands have distribution centres in select regions making bikes and service parts available in shorter timeframes much like that of your local shop, others are required to send directly from their centralised warehouses. Our recent purchases from Bicycles Online and Canyon had one and two day delivery times for their bikes, Bicycles Online form here in Australia and from Canyon via UPS direct from Germany.
We would assume that a required service part from either of these brands would see similar arrival times.
Getting in touch if needed is super simple too thanks to live chat with tech representatives and online forms that with very short response times across the board. As most buyers are online after the standard 9-5 working day, there always seems to be a country up and able to offer support which is pretty impressive and all part of brands being competitive globally.