Safety Rules For When You're Buying A Bike

Cycling is a green and fitness-friendly way to get around, and you can save money by assembling the bicycle yourself. However, the experience can sour pretty quickly if you don't have a decent bike. Having busted a bunch of retailers for selling bikes that don't meet Australian safety standards, the ACCC is a useful (if perhaps unexpected) source of bike safety tips.Picture by Michael Spiller

In a survey of 311 bikes sold through 84 retailers nationally, the ACCC found 41 breaches of mandatory safety standards. Self-assembled bikes (the main choice of Lifehacker's editor, as it happens) were a particular problem area. Here's some of the key areas to check before you invest in that bargain bike and figure you can assemble it easily in the garage:

  • All bikes sold in Australia must include protective guards, reflectors, brakes and some form of warning device (such as a horn or bell). If a bike or bike kit you see on sale doesn't include those, then don't purchase it.
  • In the case of bicycles for children, there should be two braking systems (both pedal-based and cable-based, for instance).
  • The same rules apply to unassembled bicycles, which must also be sold with clear and adequate instructions. If a boxed bike includes no instructions, doesn't have them in clear and adequate form (which likely implies they must be translated into English), or is missing those safety elements, it's illegal to sell and you're entitled to demand a refund.
  • The ACCC recommends paying a bicycle mechanic to assemble your bike. Given what that might cost, it might make more sense to buy a bike pre-assembled if you're not confident in your own ability.

ACCC

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Comments

    "some form of warning device (such as a brake or bell)"

    How do I warn someone using a brake?

      Not easily! Fixing now.

      Perhaps they'd hear you skidding (just before the thump)?

      My brakes squeal pretty damn loud when it's wet. Must remember to put some oil on them.

      (Note : Don't put oil on your brakes)

    I understand the need for quality control, but learning how to build a pushbike yourself is part of being a kid!

    You forgot the best bit of advice - buy your bike from a bike shop! Not from K-Mart or Big W or Target or the like.

    I purchased a bike from Kmart 2 years ago for $150.

    After riding it for a few weeks (along with having dodgy breaks), the bolt on the pedal started coming loose. No matter how hard you tighten it, it will always come off, as it will unscrew itself as you pedal, instead of tighten.

    Anyway, I went back to Kmart to return it, but they said I can't return it, only get it repaired. So I got them to repair it under the warranty, and they said that it would cost $70 to fix it, and considering it was a $150 bike, I don't know how they calculated that cost.

    Anyway, with a heated discussion over the phone with the Store Manager, I got them to give me a full refund, because the bike was unopperatable as the entire pedal kept coming loose.

    So lesson to be learnt, don't buy Bikes from Kmart

      Lol, sounds like you put the pedals on the wrong side, each pedal has a different thread, one for left side, one for right.

        After further reflection, i think what i said was wrong! :)

        Department store bikes do suck though, they weigh a lot more, gears and brakes are generally worse and most bike shops wont even touch them if you bring them in for a service.

          Nope, you nailed it, Adrian. RH pedals are traditional "righty-tighty, lefty-loosey" threads. LH pedals are the reverse of this.
          Never, but never buy bikes from department stores.

            Except you can't thread a right hand thread into a left hand socket so I don't believe that you CAN get them reversed.

    I find it odd that the law requires the reflectors and guards, I agree for kids bikes they should be manditory. But They are the first thing that gets taken off when purchasing a road bike (racing bike) before it has even left the store. I also don't think I've ever seen a road bike sold with a bell attached either.

    A bell is useless as a warning device on the road - the reaction time spent reaching for it is better spent reaching for the brakes, and yelling at the top of your voice. On the bike path it can be a notification that you're about to pass, but a pleasant 'passing on your right' is friendlier and more personable.

    An important safety feature not mentioned: handlebar caps. Get into an accident without caps on the handlebars, and you'll likely end up core-sampling yourself. They're cheap (or free), or you can get creative with champagne corks or the like.

      This is truth when we were teenagers (back in my day teenagers couldn't drive so we had bikes) me and my friend were riding our bikes and he had a little accident. The handlebar went in his stomach and out his back.

    Bought my first road bike end of last year and yes it came with a bell and reflectors attached : )

    I've bought a few mountain bikes and none has ever come with guards. Looking around the bike shop yesterday I don't think I actually saw ANY road or mtn bikes with guards only a few "comfort" bikes designed for gentle bike paths and riding round town.

    Surely they are not ALL illegal?

    The picture above shows a replaceable rear derailleur hanger that is designed to brake. It is a replaceable piece that bolts on and is sacrificed in a crash, saving the non repairable and expensive tips of the alloy or carbon frame from damage. It is then easily and inexpensively replaced, a bit like an electrical fuse.

    Having worked in both the retail and wholesale sides of the cycling industry my advice is to buy a bike from a reputable, specialist bicycle retailer. Bicycles sold in Australia should be supplied with front and rear reflectors, wheel reflectors (orange) and a bell. In my experience, customers often ask for these to be removed at the point of sale. Chain guards are not required on a bicycle with a front derailleur. This explains the lack of chain guards on the majority of geared bikes for sale.

    Beware of floor models at K-mart. If they are reduced prices, it's because they are flawed. Just got back from K-Mart, tried buying a bike, and the tire was about to bust out, and it kept hitting the brake.
    They came with a replacement -- just the opposite. Somehow the tire couldn't stay in the rim.

    I got my refund and backed slowly out of the door.

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