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I think most of us will agree that the more cyclists there are, the better the world will be. Bicycles provide an inexpensive means of transportation that is generally healthy for the user, have no tailpipe emissions, and are reasonably recycleable. Cycling as a sport has fairly low entry costs, and can be done year-round, in many areas. Families members from 2 to 102 can participate in one form or another. You can put together a decent commuter for about what it would cost for a couple months of gas/insurance/loan payments.
Let’s face it, the bicycle is one of the greatest (and perhaps most under-utilized) inventions ever. So why would I be knocking certain companies that produce or sell bicycles? When a company has to keep a team of attorneys on hand to fight cities just to open a store, that’s a bad sign.When they have to spend a small fortune creating and maintaining both public and government relations units just to keep their stores open, that’s a bad sign. When they find the need to have a Threat Research and Assessment Group due to fears that their own employees might try to unionize, that’s a bad sign. When this group steps over the line, and starts conducting surveillance of consultants, outside critics, stockholders, and even their very own board members, that’s a very bad sign.
To make matters worse, they sell bikes that are poorly made, with a reputation for recalls. Perhaps the low quality would be less of an issue if they were assemebled by a competent mechanic, but this is not the case. Pity the parent that sees the LBS as too expensive, and instead buys an $89 bike for their child, expecting too much for too little. So they end up paying more to have their LBS do the best they can to make the cheap brakes and shifting gear function properly. They could have paid a bit more for a bike that would last, and be passed on to another user. Instead, they show up on Craigslist for $20, and when they fail to sell, end up in the bin.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, I would really love to see Wal-Mart give up on selling bicycles. If they sold a lawnmower that cut toes off, or a lamp that gave a nasty shock every time it was turned on, they would stop carrying them. But cheap and dangerous bicycles have prominent floor space in their toy/sporting goods section.
Sure, there are other stores that are guilty as charged, but not to the extent of Wal-Mart. If you have a friend, neighbor, or relative looking for a bike for a child, (or adult) please do your best to steer them in the direction of a bike that will at least brake, steer, and shift properly. Let them know that it costs more than $89 to make a dual suspension bike that is both safe and efficient. If we don’t look out for them, who will?