of bikes rolls
out at Costco
By T. Foster Jones
IN THE CYCLING world, snobbery reigns.
One measures oneself against others not only
by bike prowess, but also by the brand of the
bike as well as the cache of components and
the array of accessories.
Purchasing an unbranded bicycle from a
big-box store is anathema to a bike snob. It’s
like offering a K-car to Mario Andretti.
Not that this prejudice hasn’t been warranted. Bikes sold in some of these environments are often cheaply constructed with
inferior-quality parts and bottom-of-the-barrel components, and slapped together on-site by somebody who can’t tell a kickstand
from a handlebar.
Although this hasn’t been the case at
Costco, when I—a self-professed bike snob—
was asked to look at a new line of bikes that
were being built exclusively for Costco, I was
still a bit skeptical, to say the least.
What did I find? Here’s a look.
Each one of Northrock’s models is well
constructed with lightweight 6061 aluminum,
for frames that are strong, stiff and light and
can weather the elements without rusting. The
frames feature a clear-coat paint finish that
further protects them from weather elements.
Northrock’s CTM model (above) is designed
for comfortable short or long rides on pavement or gravel terrain.
I was happy to see that the Northrock
technical team uses reliable and performance-based brand-name components from well-respected manufacturers such as Shimano,
Suntour, WTB, Velo and SRAM. With these
higher-end, widely recognizable components,
riders can be sure their bicycle is compatible
when repairing or replacing parts. (It also
makes it a lot easier to compare prices.)
The private-label line of bikes being built
for Costco is rolling out under the Northrock
Who makes Northrock bicycles? I was
impressed to discover that Northrock is a
highly reputable U.S. company with years of
experience and a well-deserved reputation for
excellence in bike design and construction.
The bike line includes six styles: OC
men’s and women’s single-speed beach cruisers, CTM and CTL men’s and women’s “
comfort” road bikes, the XC6 mountain bike and
the SCR1 road bike. (Not all bikes are available at all Costco locations.)
To reduce assembly error, bikes are
shipped from Northrock to Costco nearly
assembled. Costco employees responsible for
finalizing assembly are given detailed instructions. Hangtags on the bike provide information to Costco members so that it’s easier to
identify what the components are, what they
do and what they should look like.
The frame, or chassis, of the bike is where
a manufacturer shines or dies. Components—
what goes on the frame—can come from a
variety of sources, but the manufacturer is
almost always directly involved in the frame’s
engineering, design and construction.
Each frame style is designed with a geometry that complements the rider style, performance and intended use of the bike.
The CTM and CTL are intended for
cross-terrain riding (pavement to gravel), and
use 26-inch wheels, which give a lower center
of gravity. The cross-terrain tires provide grip
on gravelly surfaces and are smooth enough
not to cause too much resistance on paved
surfaces. A feature I like on both the CTM
and the CTL is the adjustable quill handlebar
stem, which allows you to really dial in the
most comfortable riding position. Front fork
suspension smoothes out terrain. This is a
bike that would easily cost between $400 and
$500 elsewhere. Costco’s price is $299.
Built rugged to perform on mountain
trails, the XC6 is equipped with a 24-speed
Shimano Acera drive train. Noteworthy are
the adjustable Suntour front fork and a dual
disc brake system, items usually found on
higher-end bikes. I would expect this bike to
cost between $500 and $600. At Costco, it is
priced at $299.
Equipped with Shimano Tiagra and Sora
(front and rear) derailleurs and Shimano Sora
STI shifters, the SCR1 is designed for speed,
performance and reliability. The carbon fork is
a high-end addition that not only lowers the
weight of the bicycle but also absorbs road
vibration for greater comfort over long distances. The combination of frame and brand-name componentry would cost close to $1,000
at retail. At Costco the bike is available for $599.
The single-speed OCs are all about comfort and ease, with lightweight alloy rims,
upright handlebars and a Velo comfort saddle.
Something you don’t often see are the dual
fenders, which are both stylish and functional
and add to the overall classic cruiser look. I
had forgotten how much fun it is to ride a
single-speed. These bikes are priced at $249.
MAY 2011 ;e Costco Connection 81
Built to be better
My impression overall is that this bike
line is resetting the bar for bicycle quality in a
retail arena where one doesn’t necessarily
expect to find a high level of bike quality.
These are “real” bike-shop bikes, with solid
workmanship and components. They will
appeal to bikers at all levels—from the entry-level rider to someone with enough miles
under his or her belt (in other words, a bike
snob) to recognize what a value each one of
Northrock’s motto is “Built to be better.” I
would say they have achieved this. C