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September 02, 2013
From big box stores, online shops, gas stations, nick-nacks shops to specialized electric bicycle retail outlets the decision on where to buy one can be overwhelming. Being human, many people's first reaction is to buy on price and probably on the looks of the product as well. Well there are indeed pro's and con's to each type of place on where to buy and electric bicycle from.
So here is a summary of what your typical options are;
While most big box stores typically offer some of the lowest prices, you are typically buying a product using very low end components. Sure buying power helps these Big Box retailers keep prices a little lower but that difference is minimal nowadays. However what we do see is the use of very low quality parts, non ergonomic designs, no sales assistance, a lack of parts and models being discontinued quickly. Of course the staff are generalists and have a very basic knowledge and little to no after sales support capabilities are given by the big box stores. We receive the most number of cries for help for people who have purchased product in from these types of stores and basically own a disposal product one an issue arises.
Like any new product that hit's the market successfully, there will always be shops trying to jump on the bandwagon a make a quick buck. These are typically businesses selling product through an existing shop selling products not even related to cycling. The staff may have a basic knowledge of the product but once again are selling products typically brought in from an importer who wholesales various other products. The non bicycle retailer option is typically a sure sign of a low quality product as reputable brands in the bicycle industry would never approve such shops selling their products due to lack of knowledge, expertise and service capabilities to support the brand.
A traditional bicycle retailer can be a good option. It really is hit and miss here, as most bicycle shops (at least in North America) have little interest in selling, promoting and servicing electric bicycles. In Europe electric bicycles account for the large % of sales and even then most traditional bike shops aren't really interested. Feedback from our European suppliers is that they are resistant to change, may have carried some low end models in the past that were of poor quality which caused them more frustration and unsatisfied customers that they now shy away from electric bicycles. Most bike shops do not have staff who are interested or do not have the qualifications to work on electric bicycles. But my opinion is that will change as more electric bicycles look, feel and can be ridden as regular bicycles with minimal resistance, even though they weigh more.
While many electric bike shops, at least in Canada view electric bicycles as really not being part of their core business either due to lack of interest, lack of training or surprisingly enough not wanting to cater to "those types of clients". Arrgg.. that just burns me up when I hear those comments.
It's a mixed bag with online retailers. There are some amazing quality electric bicycles available for purchase online that will offer their owners years of reliable and trouble free operation and with parts that can easily be sourced at a local bike shop or by ordering online. Owners can rest assured that these brands will be around for years to come and don't have to worry about getting parts and having these bikes repaired. Typically online sales of these products are done by some very large brands simply because they cannot find enough quality shops to carry or service their products.
Then there are the low end online retailers who are typically claiming to be manufactures, but are essentially importers who have purchased a container full of electric bicycles, keep them at a warehouse and ship out when an order comes in. With most of these online retailers, parts, service, lack of support and no physical fixed location (retail or warehouse) is quite common. It is also very common for these retailers to disappear after 1-3 years. Just in the Ottawa area we have seen 3-4 of these types of businesses disappear leaving owners of these products stranded due to their use of non standard parts.
Certainly your best option in many cases. The high quality shops will carry some of the best brands in the business, have a clean retail location, have certified and trained staff (don't be shy to ask to see their certificates), have thousands of dollars in sophisticated equipment to support their clients. Many of these high end retailers have a large inventory of various electric bicycle styles in stock. No one bicycle model will meet the needs of every cyclist so test drives are usually available for people to try the various models before they buy.
Technical support is typically available quickly and troubleshooting problems is normally not an issue due to their expertise and understanding of the products. If they are unable to assist you immediately there is typically the backing of the large manufacturers who can solve any issue that may arise. These products are usually manufactures using premium quality components and backed by some of the best warranties in the business.
The choices are plentiful but keep in mind that an electric bicycle is an investment. Choosing the right brand and point of purchase will have a direct impact on how much you will enjoy your bicycle. We have found through the years that electric bicycle owners will log thousands of kilometers on their electric bicycles vs traditional bicycle owners as they can now go further knowing they have an assist available to them at all times.
Take your time and do your research the time you spend researching your options will either make you love or hate your electric bicycle.
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