Industry Demands Crackdown on “Bikes Built to Fail”

Denver, US

An alliance of US bike stores, mechanics and cycling advocates has launched a campaign to end the manufacture of what they call “built-to-fail bicycles”.

The campaign, spearheaded by the program director of Denver-based cycling advocacy group Bikes Together, includes an online petition calling upon cycling industry manufacturers to “stop producing and selling bikes that fall apart after a few months of use”.

The petition calls on manufacturers and major bike retailers to:

  • set a minimum durability standard for bicycles to last at least 500 riding hours before breaking down
  • design bikes to be serviceable and hold adjustment, with replaceable and upgradable components
  • stop creating and selling bikes that are made to fall apart

“built to fail bikes” are “harmful to the environment, erode public confidence in the usefulness and joy of bicycles, and waste the money of the mostly poor and working-class people who buy them”

The CEO of Bicycle Industries Australia, Peter Bourke, said the petition was an interesting approach to achieve improved minimum standards for bicycles and would be monitored by BIA to see how it could bring benefits to the Australian market.

Peter said while the sector would probably benefit from tighter controls, he was conscious of how it might impact the affordability of low-end bicycles.

“It would increase the price of cheap bikes, make them less accessible and probably less available, which would affect the lower socio-economic population the most,” he said.

He predicted it would bring added pressure on the second-hand market. That could “cause short-term pain” but was likely to resolve itself over 10 years because bikes are lasting longer.

The US petition claims “built to fail bikes” are “harmful to the environment, erode public confidence in the usefulness and joy of bicycles, and waste the money of the mostly poor and working-class people who buy them”.

“When someone gets a bike to commute or get to school and that bike breaks down in short order, it undermines trust and access to biking,” the petition says.

“It’s predatory. These bikes are made to appear that they have functional, reliable and repairable qualities when they do not, and people don’t expect a bike to fall apart so quickly.

“We are tired of telling distraught customers and riders that their bikes are made too poorly to fix, and we are tired of seeing these bikes filling up our waste streams. Frankly, you should be ashamed of selling bikes that last some 90 riding hours.”

Deregulation of Australian Standards

The petition coincides with an Australian Federal Government announcement, it is investigating possible amendments to the Australian Consumer Law and associated legislation that would allow the adoption of “trusted” overseas safety standards for a wide and extensive list of products. The international standards would replace the equivalent Australian standard, “provided the overseas standard provides at least an equivalent level of consumer protection”.

Peter Bourke said the BIA would provide a submission that supported further adoption of leading International Standards, but also requesting the law changes:

  • allow the Commonwealth Minister to declare an overseas standard through prescribing a list of trusted overseas standards bodies
  • allow the Commonwealth Minister to declare an overseas standard, with the ability to exclude elements of that standard that would not apply effectively to the Australian industry

He said new minimum quality standards in the US, following the current industry petition, could be a prime example of an international standard that could serve as the requirements in Australia.

BIA called for industry submissions to help inform the association’s input to the government consultation, which closed last week.

In an email to industry members, BIA said the government’s proposed changes to the Australian Consumer Law, as part of its ‘deregulation agenda’, could impact on standards for many products including bicycles, e-bikes, helmets, lighting and reflectors, sunglasses and bike passenger seats for children.

Peter said if done right, the changes could bring down the costs of bikes and equipment, increase the ranges available in Australia and help them get to market faster.

“It can bring advantages to the consumer, without having negative impacts on the Australian industry,” he said.

In preparation for the proposed law changes, BIA has called for the Standards Australia committee to have greater involvement in reviews and changes to the International Standards covering bicycles and cycling-related products.

It is requesting Standards Australia step up from a role of ‘observing’ to participating in the review and adjustment of ISO TC-149, which covers the standardisation of bikes, components and accessories, “with particular reference to terminology, testing methods and requirements for performance and safety, and interchangeability”.

BIA said that increased role for the committee would “allow greater input to standards that will have direct future impact on Australian regulations”.

Join the Conversation:

Is there a similar need for minimum quality standards in Australia? Is 500 hours enough?


  1. Andy on 8th February 2022 at 8:05 pm

    I would expect more than 500hours if I was spending a considerable amount on a bicycle. This should be at least the entry point, with perhaps a tiered approach based on componentry.

    My 2005 $2000 roadbike is still going strong, as is my $250 kmart special, but I maintain them.

    Kids bikes get punished and abused and as a bike mech I see failure often attributed to this. They also become obsolete when outgrown if not handed down to a sibling so I guess there is a finite life cycle of the entry level bike.

    A child commuting to school and some additional activities may ride 5-10 hours/wk. With 500 hours as the baseline, at best it’s a 1-2 year life expectancy, by which time it’s probably outgrown.

    Very different story for adult bikes used for commuting, there would be an expectation of lifetime use with regular maintenance

    Tricky one.

    • scottthelatzreportcomau on 9th February 2022 at 12:04 pm

      Thanks for your comments, Andy. There would certainly need to be some variances, taking into account different uses. However, regulations have been successfully applied for more complex issues.

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