With the ever-increasing cost of cycling, sites such as Temu and AliExpress have gained a huge amount of popularity in recent years... but is this discounted gear any good, and can it really match up to pricier gear from more established brands? To find out, we bought a haul of cycling-related products from Temu.
What if there was a place where you could get cycling kit, bike components and all kinds of accessories for a fraction of the price? Nope, we’re not talking about the deep discounting at troubled retailer Wiggle currently, but rather Temu, the latest Chinese online retail giant to emerge following the likes of Aliexpress and Wish. It's even been dubbed 'China's answer to Amazon' already.
Despite ethical concerns and other potential issues relating to compliance and tax evasion (a US congressional report published in June 2023 raised significant concerns about Temu's association with forced labour), you'll find some riders rely heavily on such sites, and it's more understandable when you see the prices of some products. A quick trawl through Temu quickly revealed a wide selection of cycling-related items, often up to about 80% cheaper than what's available from established UK firms through online retailers or your local bike shop.
But... surely these prices are too good to be true, aren't they? To find out, Dave and I decided to buy each other some bargain gifts. We would then use the bike components and accessories as we usually would before deciding which, if any, are actually worth buying...
We'll kick off with the most expensive item that we purchased from Temu. The shoes appear to look very similar to Fizik's Tempo R5 Powerstrap, yet are less than half the price.
I was quite impressed to find that they did indeed fit, although they were tight in some funny places. They also claimed to be supplied with cleats, but these were missing from the order.
After a couple of rides, it's safe to say that they do work as cycling shoes, but the stiff sole combined with the inflexible upper began to cause discomfort, and left a lot to be desired.
There are certainly elements here that are a success, but I'd be more inclined to spend £30-£40 on a set of cheap cycling shoes from the likes of DHB or Bont, to name just two established brands. They work, but even with that cheap price, they're not making our cycling shoes buyer's guide.
Dave isn't well known for his drivetrain cleanliness, so I thought I'd treat him to a new cleaning brush to try kickstart some good bike maintenance habits.
This double-ended brush is certainly cheap, worked as it should and left Dave's chain and cassette much cleaner than when we started. The bristles are very stiff, so it's important to only use this on non-painted metal components. Overall, though, it did its job and we'd happily use it on a regular basis.
There are not many cycling jerseys that you can buy for around a tenner!
Ignoring the polarising graphics (there's lots of colours and designs available) the jersey has a full-length zip which worked without getting stuck, and a breathable material that did indeed breathe, albeit not as well as more premium offerings. We also found the three pockets on the rear rather small.
The fit wasn't horrendous, and was as good as you could expect from a cheap unisex jersey - although it did come up small and was particularly tight around the sleeves.
The rubber grippers and elasticated cuffs performed as they should. Both Dave and I were impressed with the stitching, which has survived a fair few washes.
Overall, if you're just getting started with cycling then something like this will serve you well, as long as you don't expect the same quality and refinement as more expensive jerseys.
Before starting my job at road.cc, I was guilty of purchasing a fair few discounted pairs of cycling glasses, that I can only assume were imitations rather than the real thing. Some of them were excellent, others less so.
These oddly-named SCVCN glasses sit somewhere in the middle. They're certainly cheap - in fact, you could purchase 20 pairs or so for the same price as most premium cycling glasses!
The image clarity is good, the field of view is excellent and they fit my face quite well. The nose rubber isn't adjustable and feels noticeably cheap, and there's also no rubberised bits on the arms. Out riding, they definitely fogged up easier and the lens has scratched already despite me being quite careful with them.
We have no way of testing the claimed UV400 rating which is the most worrying part, although this isn't necessarily challenging to produce, so we can hope. If you're willing to take that risk, then these will save you an absolute fortune.
Verdict: Hit (just about)
The two AA batteries to power this rear bike light cost us more than the unit itself. It's not the brightest, but does do enough to get you seen in dark conditions. The lasers do indeed create a virtual lane for traffic to avoid.
A quick-release clamp is included, and while not of the highest quality, it did hold the light semi-securely, and we were unable to bounce it off while riding over through potholes.
Sadly this is where the good news ends, as the laser lane lines are barely wider than the handlebars. This surely defeats the point...
Undoubtedly, the biggest failing of this light is the lack of any waterproofing or sealing. The battery compartment on the underside of the unit is without any rubber O-rings or seals, so after just one wet ride (with mudguards) there's already a fair bit of water ingress. This means its life expectancy can likely be measured on a stopwatch rather than a calendar...
Surely there's not a lot that can go wrong with bar tape... other than Dave ordering me the wrong colour.
The tape is exactly as you would expect. It's a gel cork tape with a small strip of double-sided sticky tape down the centre. This is around a quarter of the price of the cheapest options from the biggest UK retailers, and it's hard to see what the extra money would get you.
The included plastic bar plugs are cheap, but the tape itself provides grip in both the dry and wet, has an ok amount of vibration damping and is easy enough to wrap.
When I'm looking for cheap bar tape in the future I'll happily use something like this. The biggest issue I foresee is the extended delivery time - I only seem to order bar tape when I needed it yesterday!
The cheapest gift purchased was this little bike bell, which looks suspiciously similar to a Knog Oi. Like the Oi, it isn't the loudest but does have a clear, distinctive sound that is capable of warning passers-by of your presence.
We did overlook the fact that this only fits bars up to around 26mm diameter, which meant it wouldn't fit my standard 31.8mm bars - but in fairness, that was our mistake rather than Temu's.
We were disappointed to find a clamping bolt with a Phillips head rather than hex head, and it could do with some rubber adaptors to make it fit a wider selection of bars and prevent the bell from scratching them.
On the whole it's not perfect, but it works. None of the issues are going to endanger your life, and this bell is very, very cheap.
These small pliers are designed to complete just one job, namely opening the quick link on your chain. The tolerances aren't the best, but they did work and you even get a chain hook included to stop the chain being at the mercy of the derailleur cage tension.
Will they last a long time? Probably not. Are they good enough as an emergency set for riders who only remove chains irregularly? Yes, absolutely.
Cheap bike accessories are all well and good, but what about components? Well, I thought I'd treat Dave to a brand new 11-speed cassette to replace his rather worn Shimano XT one.
For about a third of the price you're looking at about a 15% weight increase, but the biggest question that needed answering was: how well would it shift?
The all-steel construction promises "durable performance", but initially we were less than impressed with the shifting quality. However, after a new chain (Not from Temu) our impression was a lot more positive. The shifting was perfectly acceptable, even if it's a little noisier than the Shimano equivalent. It does work though, and it's hard to see how the steel will wear out too quickly.
Overall, we'd be wary about ordering extremely cheap components, as the consequences are pretty severe if something was to go wrong - you could even end up ordering counterfeits. In this case though, we have very few complaints.
Clutter-free is not a term I would use to describe Dave's bars. He has a camera, an out-front computer mount, a front light, sometimes a bell, and when exploring the country on Audax rides, even more than that! Extension bars are a great way of increasing your bar's real estate, and this one was an absolute bargain.
Made entirely of aluminium, this one mounted easily, stayed put while riding and was very successful at its primary function. The clamps appear to be well made, the hex heads didn't round off and rubber O-rings are included to protect your bars.
This one is hard to fault, and Dave is confident that it's every bit the match for much more expensive options that he's used.
Verdict: A definite hit
The short answer is yes. The company is legitimate, the items aren't fakes and just like us, you will (most probably) receive them. The prices are kept so cheap and just above wholesale prices because just like Shein, AliExpress and Wish, it relies on China’s very low factory costs. The downsides are because you're buying directly from Chinese suppliers the products can take several weeks to arrive, and those ethical concerns we've already highlighted.
What about the products themselves? Well, both me and Dave agree that there are plenty of items that we would happily use out on the open road, but there were a couple that we wouldn’t touch with a bargepole.
I think that sums up buying off these sites pretty well, i.e. ridiculously hit and miss. Sometimes you’ll find a winner straight away, and other times you’ll have to spend the same on cheap tat before you find a product that can even begin to rival those from more established brands and manufacturers.
If you do purchase from an online retailer like Temu, it's worth bearing in mind that returning the items is going to be trickier. The products can be inconsistent and change regularly, so just because you bought something once, it doesn't necessarily mean the same thing will turn up again. It's also worth bearing in mind that in general, it's often the quality control that is first to go when it comes to cheaper stuff, which increases the risk of failures.
In conclusion, there are some cheaper products from the Far East, such as my FarSports handlebars and £7 TPU tubes, that I've been very impressed with. Other components, however, have been far less successful, with bolts and aluminium components made out of what might as well have been Swiss cheese.
Our advice would be to proceed with caution. If you're looking at a component that could jeopardise your safety if it were to fail, then you need to weigh up whether saving a few quid is worth that risk.
Would you buy any of these bike upgrades, or would you rather save up for the 'real deal'? Let us know in the comments section below.
Jamie has been riding bikes since a tender age but really caught the bug for racing and reviewing whilst studying towards a master's in Mechanical engineering at Swansea University. Having graduated, he decided he really quite liked working with bikes and is now a full-time addition to the road.cc team. When not writing about tech news or working on the Youtube channel, you can still find him racing local crits trying to cling on to his cat 2 licence...and missing every break going...