Christmas is coming and the Motor Cycle Industry (MCI) is warning 'buyers beware' and encouraging extra vigilance when buying mini bikes for children.
MCI is aware that there has been a massive increase in the import of poor-quality copies of these very small 2-wheelers, from around 7,000 in 2001 to 70,000 in 2004. These machines are often sold at very low prices, from as little as around £100, via mail-order or internet outlets with no local retail presence or specialist training.
A bike purchased from a well known manufacturer will cost from around £1,000 upwards. This price is a guarantee of quality, service and after-sales support, so anyone who is considering purchasing a bike for a very low price should be extremely wary, as you usually get what you pay for.
A growing concern is that some of these suppliers are selling products using the branding of reputable products and to the untrained eye it can be almost impossible to differentiate between a copy and a legitimate product, especially if the purchase is made online. However, if a product is retailing for a significantly lower price than the manufacturer would sell it for, alarm bells should start ringing.
Basic safety features, on some of these cheap imported products are often omitted to minimise costs; for example some lack rear chain guarding which is designed to prevent possible injuries in the event of a spill. Customers buying bikes for children should ask the retailer if the model they are considering complies with the British Standard 7407: 1991.
Craig Carey-Clinch, MCI's Director of Public Affairs said, "While there are less well known makes that offer good value, in this sector price and branding are a guide to quality. Products being offered at prices well under those of the international makes must be considered with caution.
"It is also important to remember that these off-road bikes are only for use on private property, with the permission of the landowner. Parks, playing fields and grassy areas can not be used by children on these bikes, as they are public rights of way. Anyone caught using them illegally risks fines or confiscation of the bike.
"Mini-bikes are designed for young people to enjoy their first experiences of motorcycling and it is imperative the machines are safe and used in the correct environment. The misuse of mini-bikes creating a negative image of motorcycling and having a detrimental effect on responsible, committed riders, and parents must help to keep their children safe and legal."
Peace of mind for the customers of MCI member companies is offered by the Motorcycle Industry Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme which can help to resolve difficulties between customers and suppliers. To view the companies who are members of the MCI go to the public section on the website www.mcia.co.uk.
For information about where to ride a bike legally people can contact the ACU at www.acu.org.uk, AMCA at www.amca.uk.com and BSMA at www.bsma-motocross.co.uk.