If you consider yourself a bit of a bargain hunter you have probably bought many things online before. Although we are not anti-online shopping, we have, in the past, made a song and dance about buying and supporting your local bike shop... which perhaps fell on a few deaf ears. In any event, here is a light-hearted list of what NOT to buy online because, frankly, your local bike shop can find humorous forms of entertainment other than that involving you rocking up with an online item in hand and a confused look on your face.
Without further delay, let's take a look at the few items you should probably avoid; unless, of course, you are an experienced home mechanic with sufficient know-how and tools.
Should you buy CASSETTES?
This is always a classic especially when the buyer thinks all cassettes are the same. When buying your cassette there is a high chance of getting it wrong. Selecting the wrong gear ratios, wrong model, wrong gear count, or forgetting to replace the chain at the same time (which itself is riddled with landmines). Along with this, you'll need very specific tools you've never used before - for both the cassette AND the chain. Once you've acquired your new parts you'll no doubt be headed straight for your local cycling store for help. Of which you'll pay for, meaning you'll be at square one anyway.
Should you buy SUSPENSION FORKS?
Unless you have an understanding of what you really need, it's advised you don't purchase suspension forks, (or shocks), online either. There are many contributing factors to selecting the correct fork and these are specific to each bike. To date the main factors are: Wheel size, axle width, axle type (quick release or thread through maxle), expected tire width, brake mount style, rotor size, headset size, steerer tube length and diameter, suspension travel...Happy shopping.
Should you buy CRANKSETS?
Buying a crankset used to be... actually no, it's never been easy unless you know exactly what you want. When you consider replacing or upgrading your crankset there is a lot to consider to ensure you get the right set. In today's cycling world even more so than ever before. Here's why! Cranksets have always come with different crank lengths, as well as different tooth counts on all the chainrings. Today, cranksets can come with one, two or three front rings - with only one of those choices compatible with your current bike setup. Then there's the spindle length and bottom bracket compatibility to negotiate. Once you've navigated all of this, you need to ensure your crankset is also a match for your chain and handlebar mounted gear changers. It's quite easy once you nail all of that, so good luck!
Should you buy WHEELSETS?
In recent times, we've highlighted the best upgrade for your current bike to be a new wheelset. But buying this wheelset can be tricky, not necessarily because of compatibility issues, but because of the huge range of choice available. Choice which is based mostly on claimed performance benefits, not mechanics as such. When buying a new wheelset there are a few key things to consider - things which could make or break your online shopping high.
Wheel material is a big decision to make, along with the required brake pads to go with it (assuming you're not riding disc brakes). From here, it's important to consider wheelsize and rim width, especially for mountain bike tires and their vastly different sizes. Speaking of mountain bike rims, make sure they're tubeless compatible while you're at it. Finally there's the right wheelset for your axles, which is determined by your bike!
Lastly, although wheels are incredibly strong when ridden mounted to your bike, they are also prone to damage when shipping internationally. We've seen many solid wheelsets arrive with bent or broken spokes.
Should you buy SHOES?
Completely unrelated to your bike, but potentially the worst thing to buy online. Shoes are very much a 'try before you buy' item, with different brands offering different fits of the same size. Some brands are notoriously wide, or very narrow - meaning you might buy a size 44 shoe, but with a drastically different fit between brands. More importantly, not all websites offer a warranty or exchange because you made the wrong decision. But this is definitely something your local bike shop can offer!
If you're ever in need of some technical advice, or just want to try some stuff on, pop in to your local bike shop and ask some questions. You'll find the knowledge of the staff far more in depth than the little blurb on your screen and when it does go wrong it probably isn't going to be your fault!