Last Thursday evening the BBC consumer affairs programme did a feature on BSO’s ( a term coined in the UK ) details of which can be found here : http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/watchdog/2009/11/flat_pack_bikes.html
These ‘bikes’ do have a place in the cycling society by getting more people on bikes and catering for people who are under financial pressure in these recessionary times . However correct assembly is vital . Most BSO retailers try to push this on to the consumer but when their own tv ads (asda) , catalogues (smith’s toys here in Ireland) and display bikes have the front fork fitted backwards they are doing a dis-service to their customers .
Smiths toys winter 2009 catalogue page 208 ;
This was in recently for a puncture repair . Obviously we turned the fork correctly before the customer came to collect it .
If you do buy a BSO some common areas to look out for are ;
Left hand crank loose , which very quickly causes damage and may need to be replaced or just fall off .
Brakes improperly adjusted : all brake blocks should come into contact squarely with the rim when pressure is applied to the brake lever . Check plastic levers for cracking which could lead to failure under braking pressure .
Make sure all wheel nuts are tightened with a proper wrench . Same goes for seat pin collar and pedals .
Handlebar stem bolt should be very, very tight , as should saddle clamp bolt .
Tyres should be inflated to 40 psi .
The gears should be properly adjusted but this does require a certain amount of bike maintenance experience . However any ordinary person can check if the chain pops over the top of the inside sprocket or off the bottom sprocket . If it does this can be remedied by adjusting the two screws on the outside of the rear deraileur clockwise .
However , if you buy a BSO and are not 100% sure if you have assembled it correctly ask someone who knows about bike assembly to take a look before you ride it .