Beware of Bike Shaped Objects

Bike Shaped Object in for a tune up

Bike Shaped Object in for a tune up

Newcomers to cycling need to beware of Bike Shaped Objects, BSO for short.  I’m not saying not to buy one, but just take care to make sure it’s in good order before you start to use it.  Make sure you don’t part with too much money, if any at all.

Recently a friend of ours acquired a BSO and I offered to tune it up for him.  He had the good sense to agree and it’s just as well as I came across a number of common issues.  They are easily dealt with and can make the difference between a safe and unsafe bicycle. Even if the faults are not dangerous, they will take away much of the pleasure which is bound to be stored up and become worse.

The bike itself

The bike didn’t seem to be high mileage once I’d started to look over it.  If anything it was a bit dusty, neglected and unloved, although certainly a few years old.  The chain didn’t seem to be worn at all which is a positive sign.  I checked by trying to lift it off the front chainring and it was almost like new.  The tyres and brake pads didn’t seem to have much wear at all.

P1160039Probably seven – ten years old now and must have been fairly ‘budget’ in the range, most likely a supermarket-type or Cycle King type of shop where they would be selling these like hot cakes for a £149 each.  There’s no escape this is a heavy bike which will be hard work but at least it doesn’t have unnecessary suspension (full suspension on cheap bikes is awful).

Possible snags to look out for

First up is the squewer on the front hub.  These quick release squewers are welcome features on any bicycle and fairly common on the front hubs.  Cheap bikes, like this, tend to have a solid axle on the rear as it is a cost saving feature – having a hollow axle and suitable hub which is strong enough is more expensive.  Care needs to be taken these are attached correctly which this one certainly was not!

Incorrect and dangerously fitted quick release lever

Incorrect and dangerously fitted quick release lever

A further problem on the safety front was the operation of the brakes and the alignment of the brake pads

Badly aligned brake pad

Badly aligned brake pad

Getting these problems sorted was fairly straight forward although sometimes getting the spring tension in cheaply made and anonymous V brakes can sometimes be tricky.  These were okay, thankfully.

So what are the pros and cons of BSOs?


  • BSOs can be obtained for little or no money
  • Useful as a local “pub” bike
  • Useful if you need to leave it at a railway station and best to regard it as semi-disposable
  • Many around to choose from
  • Anti snobbery message
  • A cheap easy way into cycling i.e. testing yourself out
  • It could become the cheapest possible form of transport you will ever have
  • Could lead you into getting a decent bike which you will find so much better – you could really get the cycling bug!


  • Heavy, often awkward to ride
  • Pedal / saddle position often too close, difficult to stretch your legs out properly
  • Often horrible lurid colours, model names even worse
  • If bought from a supermarket, never trust the person in the shop who assembled it
  • Accept the fact that although it cost £149 (give or take) to buy, the ex-factory price was about 10% of the selling price.  So what do you expect?
  • The cost of replacing tyres and a few other parts might not be economically viable
  • Can be tricky to set up and service
  • The cost of buying a rack, mudguards, lights and a lock will double the value
  • Some are so awful it might put you off cycling for good

Where do you stand on BSOs?

If you’re a cycling enthusiast, do you have one of these?  What do you think about it?  Are these useful spare bikes that you don’t need to worry about if it gets stolen?  A useful bike to have alongside your “Sunday Best” bike?

Or are these BSOs no more than junk, scrap metal?

Where do you stand?  Just leave a comment and let’s see the range of views….

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4 Responses to Beware of Bike Shaped Objects

  1. chris says:

    my brother has one for $ 349 with front and rear suspension and it is a junk trash bso bike .loose everything.and the frame is ok but not the best and as with the rest of the bike! well!!! junk .

  2. chris says:

    i will not recommend this bike to any one as his bike is a walmart bso bike.cheers

  3. james says:

    Maintain it oil it .and they keep on working .a bus pass is $35 a month !! And fit comfortable saddle and grips

  4. Pingback: How many bikes are sold in the UK? - The Cycle Hub

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