What applies to computers, shoes or clothing also applies to bicycles: buying online often saves money. "That's not always the case, but in principle, bargains are certainly possible on the Internet," says René Filippek of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club (ADFC, German Bicycle Club).
Despite this, the proportion of wheels sold over the Internet is still relatively small. At 11 percent, it was according to Zweirad-Industrie-Verband (ZIV) last year. With rising tendency: In 2012 it was still 9 percent. According to the ZIV, the slight growth is primarily at the expense of self-service and DIY stores, not retailers. They are still good for 70 percent of sales. Also because increasingly more electric bicycles are sold, for which there is a higher need for advice, speculates the ZIV.
But even apart from e-bikes, bicycles are among the more complex goods that can be ordered on the Internet. That's why online customers should know what they're getting into.
For Gunnar Fehlau of Pressedienst Fahrrad (pd-f), it's hard to judge a bike without a test ride. "There are often real aha moments associated with that," he says. To estimate the character of a wheel on the basis of the pure data is difficult. Because in addition to frame size, top tube length, stem length and inclination, and the length of the seat post, for example, all play a role. "If you measure your old bike from the middle of the bottom bracket to the top of the saddle, you get values that you can compare with those of your dream bike," says Fehlau. However, he sees in this only a clue.
Most shippers offer online tools to help determine the correct frame size. "There are different expressions there, with some you just enter the stride length, others take other data," says Filippek. A certain frame height is then given out as a rule. "The fine adjustment, however, is made by the stem length and inclination," he points out. Filippek recommends getting help for measuring. "To measure out all by oneself is very difficult."
While you can take a close look at your dream bike at the local dealer, the Internet usually only offers more or less informative photos – and a list of the installed parts. According to Fehlau, this at least gives you an impression of whether the quality of the individual parts is right. "You can compare it to a cocktail: I can see whether it has the right ingredients, but I don't know yet whether it really tastes good to me." He advises to check carefully whether, for example, a "sort" shift group is installed. Strictly speaking, this includes not only the bottom bracket and crank, rear derailleur and front derailleur, but also the sprockets and chain.
Ordered today and delivered tomorrow – it often looks different with bikes. "Whether I order online or from a stationary dealer often makes no difference," says Fehlau. As a rule, mail-order companies must also order from the wholesaler or manufacturer. "If a sought-after frame or fork is sold out, it is sold out. It often takes a long time to reorder," says Filippek.
When buying online, one must also plan for one's own performance. "The wheels usually come pre-assembled in a cardboard box," says Fehlau. "There the pedals are not mounted, the saddle is recessed and the handlebars are transverse," he explains. "You don't necessarily have to have a lot of technical know-how to install it," says Filippek, adding that the user manual is usually informative enough. However, there are, for example, with the stem certain tightening torques to be observed: "Without a torque wrench, this does not work, and only a few manufacturers deliver it with."
Fehlau also points out that the transverse handlebars require adjustment of the headset. "So you have to have a feeling for the bearing, which is not necessarily for everyone." And the wheel must be adapted to the driver. "An experienced dealer can see if wrist pain is caused by the saddle tilt, a layman would rather adjust the handlebars."
Who bought his bike on the Internet, can not expect too much concession from the dealer around the corner, if something is broken, gives Filippek to consider. And while dealers certainly do the one or other adjustment in between on wheels bought from them, they usually charge for the working time in full on wheels from the Internet.