Major retailers put to safety test when building bicycles for kids

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DENVER -- If a bicycle is on your child’s wish list his holiday season, you need to have a safety evaluation done by an expert before you wrap it up.

Many retailer stores have their employees assemble the bikes on their sales floor and FOX31 Denver found the majority of times those bikes are poorly built, which could cause serious safety issues for any rider.

75 percent of bikes kids ride are bought at stores like Wal-Mart and Target, so we went shopping at those retailers along with Kmart and Toys R Us. We picked four random bikes and then took them to a bike mechanic expert for evaluation. Three failed a basic inspection.

Jordyn Drayton is with Bike Depot in Denver. It's a nonprofit community bike shop. Drayton has been working and fixing bikes for more than 10 years.

“Parents are typically looking for a deal and the prices are attractive,” he said.  Almost immediately he points out the child’s bike with training wheels has a flat tire. “It’s probably not a slow leak,” he said.

While a tire can be easily fixed, there were other problems with the bike we purchased from Kmart in Denver. “You see the handle bars are rocking here.” He showed us how simple pressure on the handle bars of the girl’s bike would bend the handle bars forward. “This would fail,” Drayton said.

Each safety inspection took about 10 minutes. Drayton checked the tires, brakes and bearings to make sure they were installed properly.

“The crank bearing in this bike is slightly loose,” he said about the orange Mongoose bike with training wheels we bought from Toys R Us. The rear hand brake is also not functional. It also fails his inspections.

A spokesman for Toys R Us told us, “The safety of the products we sell is our highest priority and we have strong protocols in-place to ensure the proper assembly of bikes in our stores. We will be reviewing this particular occurrence with the store team.”

But the child’s bike that failed in five different areas was the one FOX31 Denver had built at Target.

“We would not let this go nor do I think any other local bike shop will let this go out their front door,” Drayton said after his inspections. Both the front brakes and back brakes were not put on correctly and didn’t even work when it was tested. The handle bar simply came off the bike when he pulled on it.

We contacted Target and they issued this statement: “Target is committed to providing high quality and safe products to our guests. Our team members receive training for bicycle assembly and items are regularly checked while they are on the sales floor.”

The only bike that passed inspections was a girl’s bike we purchased at Wal-Mart.

When looking for a bike at a retailer, follow these tips:

Handlebars

  • With the front wheel between legs, try to twist and then rotate handlebars.
  • Tighten if needed to secure and tighten in a straight position. Bounce the bike a few inches off the ground.
  • Check nuts, bolts, and spokes for any loose parts.

Tires

  • Check the inflation of the tire with a thumb test by pushing down on each tire. If there is an indent there is too much air.

Hand Grips

  • Must not twist easily. They must cover the handlebar ends with no protrusion of metal allowed.

Chain

  • Make sure there is no excessive looseness.

Reflectors and Lights

  • Check that all lights and reflectors are mounted securely on the bike and are visible from a distance.

Hand Brakes

  • Depress levers and place fingers between lever and handlebar. At least one inch of space must remain between depressed lever and handlebar.
  • Check the brakes and make sure they are touching the rims of the wheels.

The best advice is to have a professional bike mechanic look at the bike. A basic safety inspection starts at $20 at most shops.