Is Bikes Direct dot com legit and a good choice?
April 1, 2024 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Pretty straightforward ask: is bikesdirect (dot) com legit and is it a viable option for me to purchase a bike? Would love the thoughts of experienced, invested bicyclists.

My snowflake reasons for considering buying a bike online via the bikes direct site:

I need a solid hybrid or road bike that I can ride around mostly locally on errands or day trips (I live in NYC), and occasionally a 40 minute commute to the office. Until now, I've owned used bikes, but in the last year my bike was stolen, and that one was kind of a hassle anyway - it always needing tuning / fixing. I now have a real beater mountain bike that takes me on very short, 10 minute rides to specific places - its uncomfortable beyond that, heavy, and too small. So I want a relatively sturdy and light bike that fits me b/c I'll need to carry it up one set of stairs.

I'm not going to use it for speed, focused exercise, or super long distances, I just want it to be reliable.

When I've shopped at local bike stores, I'm seeing new bikes for $600 - 1200. I'm seeing comparable new bikes online at "bikes direct" for $300 - 500. I'm hoping to spend around $500, which I know is not much for a bike, but what I've got set aside for it.

What do you bicyclists out there think, should I go this route or another? Would buying local be smarter for any reason? Are any of my conditions incompatible?
posted by RajahKing to Shopping (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When I was looking for a new bike ~10 years ago, the guy at my campus bike store recommended bikes direct, I got a bike from there, it was my main form of transportation for several years, it's still in good shape. The rear fork is a bit wonky and hard to get the wheel seated properly, but it works and I don't need to take the wheel off often. It won't be as nice as the more expensive bikes, but I'd count on it being serviceable.

Caveat: if you aren't comfortable assembling it yourself (grease everything! watch a YouTube video or three!), plan to pay for a bike shop to do it.
posted by momus_window at 8:32 AM on April 1 [2 favorites]

Best answer: bikesdirect is legit, I've bought several bikes from them, including the road bike I currently ride, and have zero regrets.

Note that they will only deliver with signature required, so you need to physically be present to take delivery. Assembly is pretty straightforward, but unless you're a bike mechanic, you'll want to take your new bike to your local shop to get the shifters and derailleurs properly set up.
posted by gnutron at 8:34 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]

They aren't bad. Every bike that comes in to a bike shop needs to be lightly assembled and given a once over. In this case, either that's you or you'll pay a shop for it. If you pay a shop for it, a lot of their cost benefit goes away. If everything is great, the only thing I worry about is getting the headset correctly adjusted. You'll want it just tight enough, and it's hard to develop a good feel for that from a video. If everything isn't great, you might not know enough to know that you have wonky spoke tension leading to a wobble and wheels that won't last as long, a brake that's rubbing all the time, or clunky shifting. If you have a friend with a lot of bike repair experience, you can probably work out a real nice deal.
posted by advicepig at 8:38 AM on April 1 [2 favorites]

+1 to momus_window. Whenever you're buying a bike that's shipped to you direct, you need to be prepared for a level of assembly and tuning that a shop would handle if you were buying from a brick-and-mortar local bike shop. There are some exceptions to this—some online vendors will have everything correctly torqued and tuned before it goes into the box. Bikes Direct is not one of them.

There are some vendors on eBay selling remaindered models for a significant discount (here's one). Same deal with them—they need a fair amount of setup to make them right.
posted by adamrice at 9:00 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]

I would be wary of bikes sold here. In my experience of seeing these bikes firsthand, they may or may not be damaged in transit, the QC at the factory is highly variable, and the warranty on the parts and frame may or may not cover what happens after you start riding it. The money you spend getting it built and then serviced at the shop may not provide an actual cost savings to you. So take that as you will. I will always advocate for buying at a bike shop, but I work at a locally owned and operated bike shop in NYC.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 9:32 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]

I bought a bike from them and the fork was completely bent, to the point that the bike was not rideable. In order for me to get a refund, I had to pay to return the bike which came out of my refund. So, basically I paid $50 to not have a bike. My experience was probably unique, and I could have potentially done a chargeback with my credit card, but the experience left a bad taste in my mouth.
posted by sacrifix at 9:59 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Your local bike shop will already have the bike assembled and ready to go, and they might even give you a free first tune up. Plus local shops are about to have some sales on last year's models, as new inventory comes in.

You can buy a bike online, and they're an okay retailer, but you'll end up paying more for service.

Also, if you go to your local bike shop, you'll be able to ride a few bikes and see which fits better.

Can you try selling your beater mountain bike for $100-200? That might give you more money for a local bike shop bike.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:24 AM on April 1 [3 favorites]

The bikes aren't necessarily bad, but the MSRP is grossly inflated. The discounted prices are about what the MSRP should be, and a comparably priced bike from a real bike shop might be a better choice.

I'm not sure which Bikes Direct bike you're considering, but here's one in your price range and a comparable Trek from my local store. The specs between the two are pretty comparable. The Bikes Direct bike has slightly better components (3x8 gears vs 3x7; Shimano vs Tektro brakes), but a local bike gets you a chance to see it in person to make sure it fits and better service, both in terms of initial assembly/adjustment and later service.

If you're confident about sizing and can do your own service, the BD bike might be a better deal, but if you'd like better service, you might want shop around locally.
posted by fogovonslack at 11:32 AM on April 1

I have never dealt with Bikes Direct, but one distinct advantage of a local bike shop, as others have mentioned, is service. Not only at initial sale, but many if not most bike shops will offer you lifetime minor services, like brake/derailleur adjustments, chain lubes, safety checks (generally anything that doesn't require assembly or dissassembly), for as long as you own the bike.

Local shops can also take the time to understand what it is you are looking to get out of owning a bike, what you want to use a bike for, and might be able to recommend a brand or type of bike you hadn't previously thought of, or at the very least, would let you test ride a few different brands and styles of bikes to see which one(s) would work best for you.

I'm not automatically NEVER BUY A BIKE ONLINE, because if you're buying a reputable brand from a reputable place, it can work fine. But for something that you're relying on for transportation on a daily basis, you really want to know that it will work well for you and fit you properly, and it's very hard to do that just by looking at a spec sheet on a website unless you know exactly what you're looking for, which in this case it doesn't sound like you do.

Set aside an hour or two, go to a local bike shop that carries several brands of bike, and don't be afraid to ask the sales staff a million questions. That's what they're there for, and they'll be happy to help you find something that'll work for you that will last you a very long time.
posted by pdb at 3:14 PM on April 1

I know you've been answered, but for future readers, is awesome. I ordered my current bike from them last summer and FedEx LOST it. Sent it from Texas to California (I live in PA) and then couldn't track it for me for a day. The FedEx assistance wasn't very helpful, so I emailed Bikesdirect, and got an immediate response. They followed up with FedEx and promised that if they didn't find my bike, they would ship me a new one the next day.

FedEx found it, but I was much less worried after contacting Bikes Direct.
posted by Wilbefort at 12:39 PM on April 3

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