Why Coco's Variety does not sell (many) used kid's bikes

On December 17th, I blogged about Coco's rationale for not selling kid's bikes and realized that this is an evergreen topic that warrants a permanent home on our entertaining internet presence. The following is a lightly re-worked, re-written version of that original blog post.

Coco's does not sell very many kid's bikes. To carry selection of brand new kid's bikes in the requisite styles, sizes, price points and gender appropriate colorways, our modest 600 square feet would be filled neck deep. We would be submerged!

Coco's does sell used kid's bikes occasionally, but it is an exception. The short reason, we can't find enough clean, quality kid's bikes that allow us make a reasonable profit. And if we don't make the money, the wheels fall off the wagon, we topple out, fall down the hill and lick our wounds without the comfort of extended federal unemployment benefits.

The medium length answer is a six-parter:
    1. Most kid's bikes are purchased from big box stores like Target, Walmart, Costco, Amazon, Bikes Direct and K-Mart. Coco's does not sell big box sourced bicycles. It is not a snob-issue, but bikes from those sources often have OEM-only parts that are not serviceable and spares are not available. Things like Promax disc brakes or the shifters on the GMC Denali. 
    2. Most kid's bikes are not maintained in a prudent manner. By the time a child has outgrown the bike, the plastic-y parts are faded, steel parts are rusty and the soft parts - saddle, grips, tires, tubes - are cracked and baked.
    3. Though often still functional, a faded and rusty bike is not a good gift and many kid's bikes are gifts.
    4. There isn't a huge delta between a simple kid's bike purchased at a bike store vs. a big box store.  In adult bikes, the extra money makes a HUGE difference in quality, ride-ability, durability and repair-ability. Kid's bikes, without hand brakes or shifting, there just isn't that big a difference and it is difficult to make a business justification for spending $300 on a new kid's bike, $200 on a Coco's warrantied kid's bike or $109 on a bike from Target.
    5. Like many very cheap imports, kid's bikes are considered disposable  - not to be handed down or repaired.
    6. We can not economically fix a faded, rusty, cracked tire, flat tubed kid's bike and sell at a price lower than new big box bikes


Coco's accepted the above bike on trade-in even though we knew that we were not going to sell it. We have a philosophical position of accepting trade-ins. When we are buying, we are much more picky.

The bike is not in that bad shape. It needs a chain, a saddle, grips and a LOT of cleaning. The brake will need to be pulled apart, cleaned, lubed and re-installed. At a minimum, the brake cable needs to be removed from the housing, cleaned with steel wool, lubed, re-attached and tuned. It may or may not need new tubes, brake pads and brake housing. This is shade tree, home rehabbing I am talking about, which is what this bike needs and is appropriate for the quality of the asset and the intended purpose.


If we were build it to sell, we would do much more. We don't want to Mickey Mouse bikes that we sell. To offer our full warrantied store experience, we would strip it down, replace the chain, brake pads, grips, saddle, brake cable and housing, 2 new tubes and 2 new tires. We would disassemble the brake, ultrasonic clean it and reassemble. Given the amount of surface rust, I would not be surprised if we needed to repack the hubs, bottom bracket and headset. When a very similar bike is at Amazon for $109, how much time and money can we put into this bike and make a profit? Even after all that work, it is likely to look pretty crappy as weather exposure is quite detrimental.

What should you do? Personally, I abhor the disposable bike concept. Or a disposable DVD player, toaster, car, etc. I think it is unconscionable to build and buy semi-durable goods, not maintain them and then throw them away.


A five-parter alternatives section:

  1. Buy a used bike store grade bike from Coco's Variety or another square shooter. We DO have kid's bikes sometimes (example) but it is rare for us to find a bike store grade bike that is in good enough condition to warrant refurbishing.
  2. Buy a used kid's bike from a thrift store. They are clogged with them. The top picture was taken at Rescue Mission Thrift. Buy the best one that works perfectly as even replacing tubes, chain and grips will make this option uneconomical. That said, the karmic debt has already been paid on these bikes and to save them - at more than new retail price - is a noble thing to do.
  3. Don't make a bike a gift or at least not a shiny, new gift. Let the bike be a modest appliance and don't worry about the impact under the Christmas tree - worry about a safe bike that fits, has a helmet, have a pump at home and keep it working.
  4. Buy a new big box or bike store grade kid's and commit to it. Keep it clean, dry, out of the sun and functioning. Always know that you will find it a home when your child has outgrown it and maintain it so it can be handed off proudly.
  5. If you buy a bike from a big box store or online, assume that you will need to take it to a real bike store or to a real bike friend to have it safety checked. I can't tell you how many Target bikes we have seen with the fork on backwards.

I really, really like the idea of generational bikes. From comparatively richer families to comparatively poorer families and from comparatively older kidded families to comparatively younger kidded families.

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