I have a bad habit, I must admit. Every so often I drift into K-Mart looking for something trivial and hardwear-ish, that neither Coles nor Aldi carry. I drift across to the bike section, just to see what they’re selling. The bikes, by and large, are rubbish. You have to choose really carefully amongst the kids bikes if you want something that’s going to outlast the current growth spurt. Only one or two adults models, and only if you’re really desperate in a country town far from BAC, are worth looking at (Carbon fibre bikes with bottom-end components? Get real). They look tatty really quickly. I know, I’ve seen both ends of the cycle. At BAC, we get cast-offs from families whose kids have outgrown them. Once upon a time (and today only very occasionally), I built these pieces of consumer almost-durable merchandise for money. You wouldn’t do it for love, although bike shops get lumbered with the task occasionally. They are tedious, annoying and time-consuming to build, and have a high failure rate, as the back rooms of any chain store will attest – piles of warranty bikes waiting for repair.
However, just very occasionally, they will have sourced an accessory from a halfway-decent supplier, and got a bulk discount, ta, Coles-Myer, or whatever you are now. I have a good little double-action minipump that’s pumped up my roadie tyres lots of times that I found in a rubbish bin in a stockroom (whilst building bikes: hey! when you’re at Uni, $35/hr is good money!) – a bit of grease on the plunger washer and it was ok. I saw the same thing on the shelves later for $15 – which is about 1/2 of what you’d pay in a shop. It’s made by Giyo – who make half the pumps on the market, under any number of names. This goes for a few of the Huffy-branded parts, mostly crap with a few adequate examples – a far cry from the 1980s when Greg LeMond and Andy Hampsten used to race on Huffys up European mountains.
Some of the light sets are ok (one is a dead-spit for a model I tested for BV which came first in the light test we ran) – the computers, however, are not. If you want a cheap (~$25) helmet just to stay legal and a bit safe (and they look cheap, ugly, uncomfortable and ungainly), you can’t beat a chain store. They have to meet the Australian standard, tho’. K-Mart carry Rosebank – an Australian brand. The other bits are barely adequate, just enough not to inspire lawsuits.