When Halfords started promoting build-up fees for bikes under £150, the ACT kicked up a stink via the trade-only part of BikeBiz.com. Halfords has since retracted the promotion. This has led the ACT to go on the offensive: the organisation has mailed mainstream media with a pre-Christmas warning for consumers thinking of buying bikes-in-boxes. Will they be safe?, asks ACT.

ACT goes public with its bikes-in-boxes campaign

Here’s the full release:

Buying a bike at Christmas? Safety is not an option.

Independent Cycle Retailers are claiming victory after Halfords backed down on its

decision to charge customers extra to have their Christmas bikes built in-store, two

weeks after launching the promotion in their Christmas catalogue. The ACT, the trade association representing independent bike shops in the UK,

highlighted last week how Halfords proposed to charge customers an extra £10 to have

unassembled boxed bikes built in store. ACT claimed this was an irresponsible

practice that compromised child safety by giving parents the option to take a bike

away in a box and build it themselves. Halfords now claim to have reversed this policy but the issue of unassembled bikes

in boxes still affects consumers, and in the run up to Christmas is more acute than

ever as parents attempt to make short-term savings. Mark Brown, ACT spokesman commented, "This is now a serious issue for consumers and

they should be aware that their safety is being put at risk when they buy an

unassembled bike which they then attempt to build themselves, often without the

right tools or knowledge." He continued, "Owning a bicycle should be an enjoyable

experience, but with many parents now being offered cheap bikes in boxes we fear

that not only is safety being compromised but the long-term future of cycling as

well." In the run up to Christmas cycling is already high on the agenda thanks to child

obesity, transport and environment issues receiving widespread coverage. The

Government has already committed funds to a number of projects to increase cycling

amongst children, primarily through the recently launched "Safe Routes to School"

initiative. However, bikes in boxes combined with questionable service levels at many large

retail outlets selling bikes means much of this work could be undermined. ACT has

evidence that many customers requesting bikes to be built by in-store mechanics are

still being put at risk by dubious technical standards. Mark Brown from ACT highlighted, "Our members have provided us with details of

numerous bicycles brought into their shops by customers who have purchased them at

large retail outlets to then find they don’t work or are appear unsafe. The most

common example being forks fitted back to front. Many of these bikes have been

bought complete from such stores and therefore we must question the training

provided to individuals responsible for assembling and testing these bicycles." The retail sector has a vital role to play in helping realise the Government’s plans

to increase cycle usage, and without the provision of the right products and

service, attempting to get people back on their bikes will be harder than ever. Specialist cycle retailers have had a tough time over recent years, with bikes being

available everywhere from Asda to discount high street shops and prices tumbling as

a result. Independent bike shops have had to focus on the provision of high quality

service to ensure their survival. Current plans promise much for the sector but if

the majority of customers are not aware of what’s on offer and how they could be at

risk then local bike shops will continue to face an uphill struggle even though it

is they who support the long-term future of cycling. To help combat this issue the independent cycle retail sector is currently involved

in the development of a ground breaking industry wide scheme to establish and

endorse a single qualification as the minimum technical standard for all staff

involved in the building and maintenance of cycles. This initiative will not only highlight the safety of consumers and the

responsibility of quality cycle retailers, it also provides a clear indication of

the level of service, quality and safety consumers can expect from local bike shops.

At present many consumers take a leap of faith when buying a bike and therefore the

provision of a single endorsement of quality practices will provide greater piece of

mind and help ensure safety. By Spring 2004 this scheme will be in practice and local bike shops, with the

support of all major suppliers, will have the option to attain the minimum technical

standard and to promote this fact to consumers. ACT will be undertaking a

wide-ranging consumer promotion to highlight what this means to the cycle buying

public. A service quality-rating scheme under the CyTech brand will be in operation

soon afterwards to allow customers to easily recognise quality cycle retailers and

therefore be assured that service and safety are not being forgotten for the sake of

profits. Contact: Mark Brown – ACT: 01892 526081 email: mark.brown@act-bicycles.com Editors Notes: Pedal Cycle Safety Regulations (1984) require all new cycles supplied in the UK to

meet British Standard BS6102/1, which lays down stringent requirements for the

manufacture and performance of all components of the cycle. If the cycle is sold fully assembled by the retailer, he / she is required to ensure

that the cycle fully conforms to the British Standard and can be penalized under the

Consumer Protection Act if this is not so. If the cycle is sold unassembled, or

partly assembled, this requirement is effectively bypassed and it becomes the

responsibility of the consumer to ensure that the BS standards are met. Part of the BS requirement is that a full set of assembly instructions are supplied

with each cycle. This assumes that the purchaser 1.. is literate and can understand technical terms and diagrams

2.. is able to understand English

3.. has access to the correct tools required for assembly

A skilled mechanic, in a workshop, with all the correct tools to hand, can take

between sixty and ninety minutes to assemble and check a bicycle that has no

problems. Additional times would be required to true wheels, adjust problem gears

or brakes and finally test the completed cycle to a satisfactory level of


The bicycle is the only class of vehicle that does not require, by legislation, a

complete safety check before it is used on the public roads.

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