Bargin Bikes

We spend more than $5 billion a year on bicycles. Almost 75 percent are bought at big chain stores where you can save hundreds of dollars. However, Consumer Reports found the savings come at a price.

Almost 20 million Americans buy a new bike every year. Consumer Reports says buying a bicycle at a bike shop will get you expert attention and a wide range of choices.

But most people buy them at stores like Wal-Mart or Toys R Us, instead of a bike shop. They can cost hundreds less, but is there a difference?

Consumer Reports just tested 3 mass merchandise bikes along with dozens of bicycles bought at bike shops.

Testers found big differences. For one, the less expensive bikes were not assembled very well.

A poorly assembled and adjusted bike won't work well and it may even be unsafe.

Another drawback, the mass merchandise bikes were much heavier and when it came to riding them, they were harder to pedal uphill and were harder to shift.

If you're buying a bike for a child who will typically outgrow it in a season or two, then you might want to consider going to a department store. Just make sure the bike is assembled right and adjusted right.

A professional at a bike shop can do that for you, but if you want a better quality bike you're going to have for a long time, Consumer Reports says it's worth paying more at a bike shop. You'll usually be able to try out the bike, so you're sure to get one you really like.

Consumer Reports says while mass merchandise bikes are one size fits all, bike shops sell bikes in many sizes.

That means you can be sure to get one that's the right size for you. Stainless steel has moved beyond the kitchen and onto the patio.

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