Let me explain.
Every year cyclists come to me and complain that their NEW bike is not working the way it should. Keep in mind I've been doing this sort of work for 31 years as of 2017.
I ask them the age of the bike and when was the last time it was serviced. The most common response, "I just bought it at Bike Mart" or something similar.
A wave of sadness fills the shop. I can feel the frustration oozing from their pores. I can easily identify with the cyclist as I have been there myself. My first "road bike" was a gift that my mother purchased for me from a hardware store in Woodstock Ontario, sometime around 1979. I loved its shiny red paint, and all that Shimano. On my maiden voyage, about 2 km outside of town ( I loved to venture out of town) the rear derailleur slammed into the spokes, instantly stopping my forward motion. The long walk home was both maddening and frustrating. But I digress.
The clients with the thought of buying a basic bike, thinking they will save money at the cash register, invariably suffer similar fates when they get on the road. It just doesn't work properly.
Then they either A) return the bike to the point of purchase and ask for a repair/replacement/refund or B) they come to me to have it fixed or setup properly.
Why does all this happen?
Simple, the BikeMarts of the world are there to sell products in a general sense. They do not employ knowledgable mechanics. Who they do employ are assemblers. People who assemble not only bikes but also BBQs, furniture, shelving, lighting, patio sets and more. In some cases the retailer contracts an outside firm that travels to many stores to assemble bikes (and maybe other products).
These assemblers are never properly trained in the mechanics of bicycles. They don't have a basis for why a bike works the way it does, what causes certain problems and what to do about it. Troubleshooting is not in their vocabulary.
To better understand this phenomenon I briefly took a job with a contract assembly firm before I started Mike Fix My Bike. This firm was contracted to assemble bikes at Zellers stores east of the GTA, including Peterborough. I would go to the location (bringing my own tools) pull bikes from the shipping boxes and build until the required bikes were all assembled and put on the floor. It was not my job to perform any repairs.
Here's what I noticed during this experience: there is a major disconnect between the assembly department and the sales department. Nobody beyond the assembler knows anything about bikes.
The assemblers are very poorly paid and therefore need to build as fast as possible in order to earn a decent days wage. This leads to shoddy workmanship and increased stress.
(In this case the assemblers are paid $3 per bike assembled)
The assemblers never apply grease to bike parts as they should.
(When a repair comes to Mike Fix My Bike, I always apply grease to components that will eliminate rust and improve function. It's an inexpensive addition to assure proper function over the long term)
This mentality hurts us all. The cyclist suffers because of a poor experience. The store suffers because of bad feedback from the customer based on a poor product experience. The manufacturer suffers because of a bad shopping/product experience.
Is there a solution?
I would propose that big-box and department stores simply stop selling bikes, or incorporate in house bicycle service departments with properly trained mechanics. Even if on a seasonal basis. Run it like a bike shop. Sort of like you see a coffee shop within a giant book store. Bikes in the summer and skiis and skates in the winter. Somehow I don't see that happening.
In the meantime, I would suggest that if you are hunting for your next bike please steer towards a bicycle store to assure your purchase is a mechanically sound one. Avoid the pain of your rear derailler smashing into the rear wheel spokes and that long walk home.