A Tribute to Canadian Tire Bikes

April 21, 2008

Making Cycling Cheaper than Ever Before

For the 15 minutes before they fall apart

At least this one has the forks on the right way - I THINK

When I started this blog, I intended to write a lot about my favourite department store chain, the well loved and utterly defunct Eaton’s, but these days the last big iconic Canadian store is now Canadian Tire. With shrewdly patriotic advertising, the more than just wheel rubber guys have staked a place for the company in the retail corner of the Canuck heart while Timothy Eaton’s management challenged heirs have nothing better to do than sip Happy Hour Pina Coladas in off strip Las Vegas casinos.

It’s not just marketing. For although Eaton’s went bust a good number of years ago, leaving numerous warehouses full of unloved orange and brown North Country polo shirts, Canadian Tire’s management has to be commended for being able to sell a bike that costs little more than what the dead department store offered them for in the early 1970s. A children’s bike, albeit endorsed by Gordie Howe, went for $84.99 in 1973 at Eaton’s. Even after over thirty years of stagflation, inflation, recession, and the departure of Dave Hodge from Hockey Night in Canada, a CT Supercycle will go for as low as $99 – if you are too desperate to wait for the sales.

Expensive- but it had a cool stick shift

The problem, of course, is that we are talking about two very different bikes. Despite all the advances in technology, department store and supermarket bikes have been getting crappier than ever. Apart from the cool 70s name, as you can see from the Eaton’s page on the remarkable Raleigh Chopper tribute site, the $84.99 Mach II from Eaton’s was distinguished by cutting edge design and high quality components – like the superbad Sturmey Archer stickshift gears. These bikes were virtually indestructable – my dad finally got rid of mine by loading it up in the truck and carrying it off to some cousins of ours in the woods who were rehearsing for Deliverance 2. There was nothing wrong with the bike – my dad had just got sick of looking at it for some reason…

When you think gears, think Falcon

On the otherhand, as demonstrated by the aptly named bike of doom blog, your CT bike has a shorter shelf life than a Food Basics chocolate snack. Clearly an expert in bike maintenance, the thrifty blogger proudly admits to spending more than the bike cost in repairs and replacement parts in one year of ownership (although to be fair to CT he has done thousands of kilometres in that year on a bike made for 2 trips around the subdivision per summer). Apart from the entertainment value of seeing what can go wrong (and how little can stay right) on a Supercycle, the blog is a celebration of the underappreciated arts of wheel truing and spoke replacement.

My infallible rule for identifying an el-cheapo bike used to be the presence of the word Shimano on any part of the frame – the logic being that if a bike company felt obliged to identify the presence of parts from the monopoly player in the bike gear biz the rest of the bike must be rough. I have to admit that the Falcon gears chosen by CT are new to me – and do not appear on any of Bottecchia‘s products (I hope).



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  2. Hello.
    Just letting you know there are even worst CTC bikes to buy than the $99.99 Supercycle 1800 and they are any “Pridegroup”(Kranked,Supercycles…) bike these bikes are total junk and I know because I work for a store here in Kitchener,Ontario building/repairing them. 90% of them need major repair right out of the box and the last 10% are junk due to bad welds causing the frame not to line up so if you get a store who don’t care.(there are three here in Kitchener/Waterloo) You might end up with an dog tracker or in simple words a bike that drives sideways and never shifts right even though it has not bad specs. Problem too is they pay(most store) by peice work so the more you build the more you make. This causes LOTS of assemblers to build bikes not set up right or even parts that can break. Sometimes we have to use the vendors(maker of the bike) due to they are the only part that fits the bike.

  3. Doesn’t surprise me. My dad got a Sportek bike from Zellers and I couldn’t get the pedals to do a full rotation, never mention trying to shift…

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