BBC Watchdog programme and EU highlight dangers of 'flat-pack' bikes

Self-assembly bikes are dangerous and inappropriate for their target market BBC's Watchdog programme has claimed.

Presenter John Humphries used volunteers to show how difficult it is for non-experts to assemble flat-pack bikes.

The bikes, which come ready for assembly with instructions, were models sold by Tesco, Halfords, Toys R Us, Argos and Asda.

All five volunteers made dangerous errors in assembling the bikes, with three of the bikes having buckled wheels.

LCC’s cycling development officer Charlie Lloyd said, “There are safety risks in not putting a bike together properly. That’s why bike shops employ properly trained staff to ensure a bike that goes out the door is safe to ride on the roads.”

Target market unlikely to have right skills
The Watchdog experts were concerned that the flat-pack bikes would typically be bought by non-expert cyclists with a limited budget, such as students and teenagers, who were unlikely to have the necessary skills to safely assemble the bikes.

Watchdog's bike mechanic Paul Topham said, "They're very poor quality. It's just not going to be much fun to ride even if you do manage to build it.

"And construction of these bikes is so shoddy that the wheels go out of true and brakes go out of adjustment quickly."

EU cracks down on unsafe bicycles
The EU recently banned the sale of five specific bike models for failing to comply with safety standards. Safety issues in the bikes by Leader Fox, Vertec and Lofty included unsafe brakes and parts that could fracture.

In June 2009, Asda was criticised after an advert for its £70 self-assembly bike showed the British Eagle with its front forks on backwards. This would have made both steering and braking dangerous.