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Wal-Mart and Dynacraft Sued Over Dangerous Bicycles

by Levi Bloom on January 29, 2006

This morning my mom sent me a link to an interesting article at CBSNews.com. So interesting, in fact, that I had to write about it right away!

I recommend you read the article and then come back to read my take on this issue. It's about defective bikes being sold at Wal-Mart.

Ok...

I don't even know where to start. There are so many things going wrong here!

So Wal-Mart and Dynacraft are being sued. Sounds good to me! More power to the parents involved in this!

We're dealing with cheap, poor quality bikes to begin with. Add quick release skewers and incompetent employees and you have a disaster waiting to happen.

Actually, for these families, it did happen. The disaster being their kids going face-first into the pavement. That definitely does not sound like a fun time on the bike!

First, let me say that my condolences go out to all the families and their children involved in all this. Second, let me say that this was an important lesson learned the hard way.

Two lessons, actually.

One - do not buy a bike at Wal-Mart. It's that simple. The bikes are crappy to begin with, but then think about the assembly. Any bike from Wal-Mart will have been assembled by some lazy teenager working for minimum wage. A far cry from a qualified bicycle mechanic.

Two - learn how to maintain your bike. Knowing how to work a quick release lever is a necessary skill that anyone riding a bike should know. Anyone in a real bike shop will be able to show you the proper method of tightening the quick release so that the wheel will not fall out unexpectedly!

Also, the bike should come with some sort of owner's manual that tells you how to work the various components. I think that is kind of required by law.

Now on to another big problem - Wal-Mart is the #1 seller of bikes in this country. Not good. Not good at all. Unfortunately, if Wal-Mart quit selling bikes, a lot of kids would go bikeless. And that would not be good either. This specific issue is so big that we'll have to leave it for some other time.

Back to quick releases...

These stories of the front wheel popping off and sending kids straight to the ground brought back a vivid memory.

It was probably 5 years ago. I found an old-school BMX racing bike in my uncle's barn. One-piece cranks, huge handlebars - it was perfect for riding around! Yeah...

I was riding down a gravel road and decided to pull up and do a manual... That's when the front wheel just fell out of the fork and went rolling away on it's own!

Then I watched the empty fork slowly falling back to the earth, giving me plenty of time to ponder what would happen. Half a second later I found out.

The fork dropouts dug into the dirt, stopping the bike instantly. The jolt sent me off the bike and through the air. Thanks to numerous wrecking experience from my earlier days of riding BMX, I was able to take the fall on my shoulder and roll out of it.

I was scraped up and my shoulder was a tad sore, but I was able to walk away from it. The funny part is that the front wheel was still rolling when I got back on my feet!

(By the way, this bike didn't have a quick release. It was just old!)

Our next point of discussion will focus on something one of the mothers said - the point about it being a child's bike bought in the toy area of the store. Exactly!

The fact that the bikes are displayed in the toy aisles should tip you off to their inherent problems. Again, go see a real bike shop if you want a quality bike that is safe to ride. Is an $88 bike really a good value if it puts you in the hospital?

Next up, the Wal-Mart claims adjuster. She has a good point - it is highly likely that accidents of this type could be caused by improper use of a quick release. But... even if the quick release is not tightened, the wheel should not fall out of the fork.

So in the end, I think Wal-Mart sucks.

If you want to get involved, check out http://www.shokbikes.org.

Also, for anyone that is against Wal-Mart, check this out:

http://www.walmartmovie.com

The only thing left on my mind is the one image from the news story where the kid is being interviewed. It looks like a nice neighborhood... So why are they buying bikes at Wal-Mart?

 

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