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TL;DR Buy a Trek from your local Trek shop.
I have bought about a dozen bicycles in Thailand; five for me and seven as gifts for others. I have bought from local bike shops and I have privately imported bikes. Here is what I found at the higher end of the market for bikes priced around $6500 USD.
Trek Thailand – Good bikes, great support
The best brand of bike to buy in Thailand is Trek. Not because Trek makes the best bikes in the world, they are very good but I prefer my Specialized. Rather because Trek has the best importer with the best network of local bike shops and the best service and support in Thailand.
Trek’s Thailand importer is Probike, their main showroom is at Lumpini Park Bangkok, but all Trek shops in Thailand are part of their network. Their website shows the bikes they have in stock which you can buy right away, but you are not limited to those bikes. You can order any bike that Trek makes and they will get it to you within about six weeks.
Probike also do an excellent job of choosing which brands of accessories to sell. They get the balance right between quality and affordability. All the accessories are well made and good value.
From my local Trek shop I have purchased kids bikes that were in stock in Bangkok, so they took a couple of days to get to me. As well as Trek bikes that Probike does not normally import, so I had to make a special order and wait six weeks for those to arrive.
Privately importing a bicycle to Thailand
Here is a post about overseas shopping and ship forwad to Thailand in general.
In the middle of the covid supply-chain crunch, the wait time through Probike for the Trek Checkpoint SL 7 was eight months! Meanwhile it was for sale at an online bike shop that would deliver anywhere in the UK.
So I purchased it from the UK shop and had them send it to my UK shipping forward company, who then sent it to me. I had done this before with a Specialized and it worked out okay. This time by the end of the process I wished I had waited the eight months instead!
For shipping forward I use MyUS. They are pretty good for forwarding packages from the USA, but they are lousy from the UK. The bike was also on sale at bike shops in the USA but both Trek and Specialized do not allow home delivery of bikes in the US; you have to go to a shop and pick them up and I could not find any private shopper who would do this.
MyUS’s UK center did not notify me when the bike arrived and were very unresponsive when I contacted them. With MyUS from the USA you get multiple shipping options, from the UK there is only one and it was more than $2000 USD.
When the bike finally got to Thailand I got the import duty bill and it was almost as much as the bike itself! They had incorrectly classified the bike as electric which meant it attracted 67% import duty instead of the correct 37%. That’s a big difference on a $7000 bike. Plus the duty is calculated as a %, including the cost of shipping, which is a total ripoff but not a surprise when dealing with the government.
The shipping company would not reclassify the bike correctly because it had electronic gears so electrification was mentioned in the product description and “e-tap” in the product name itself, which sounds electrical. It took multiple emails and phone calls over weeks to convince the shipping company and Customs to correct the misclassification. When they finally did, Customs charged me for storage during that time!
Worst of all, the bike did not feel right to ride, but I could not figure out why. I took it to my local Trek shop (the good guy in every bike story) and after a thorough check he found that the wiring had been done incorrectly by the Trek shop in the UK!
For what it’s worth, after fixing the wiring, changing to a seat that fits me better, changing to narrower faster wheels and replacing the rigid stem with a Vecnum freeQENCE suspension stem, I love the bike. Next time I will just buy from my local Trek shop and wait.
But what if there is no local importer (Canyon) or the local importer is worse than useless (Specialized)? I have bought both of these brands and here is how it went.
Specialized Thailand – Great bikes, bad support
I wanted to buy a Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon. I sent half a dozen messages through email, facebook and Line to the Specialized shops in Thailand asking if they had one in stock and if not letting them know that I would be happy to pay a deposit and wait for it to arrive. The only replies were a couple of “can not”s, so I hit the phones.
Over the phone I got a confused run around. Things like, “call back later” and “call this other shop” trying to pass me off to be someone else’s problem. One of the shops I messaged and called was Specialized’s Thailand importer, Sport For Life. They were no help.
I also visited my local Specialized shop and they said they could not sell anything that was not already in stock. They also showed a concerning lack of knowledge of Specialized bikes when I asked them questions.
So Specialized Thailand was not going to sell me the Specialized bike I wanted but I saw it for sale at an online bike shop that would deliver anywhere in the UK. So I purchased it from the UK shop and had them send it to my shipping forward company, who then sent it to me. It should have been simple, and it was!
And I love the bike! I have done multiple 200km days on it including Khao Yai to Buriram and Ayutthaya to the other side of Kanchanaburi.
So happy ending right? Well yes except that when I upgraded to a very expensive saddle purchased from Sport For Life, and it broke within the warranty period; they would not honor the warranty!
So Specialized’s Thailand importer are no help when trying to buy a bike that is not in stock and do not honor the warranty on Specialized parts that they sell! My local Specialized bike shop is also not helpful or knowledgeable. So I can not recommend buying a Specialized bike in Thailand. Even though I love my Specialized more than any of my other bikes!
Canyon Thailand – Bad bike, bad support
Canyon has a direct to consumer sales model that cuts out the importers and bike shops. This lets them sell bikes of similar specs to Trek and Specialized for slightly lower prices. The bikes and accessories are sleek, cool, modern, minimalist and look fast.
When researching to buy a Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 in Thailand I found this Facebook page calling itself Canyon Bikes Thailand acting like an importer or at least a Canyon bike shop. I asked him the difference between buying through him and buying direct from Canyon, he said
“Actually you can buy directly but you need to taking care of the custom and the shipping process. And price will be from web price +350$ plus 37%. My price is around 17%.”
I decided to buy directly from Canyon since that is their business model. This Facebook page seemed a touch opportunistic, sort of posing as an official outlet while just making orders through the Canyon website like anyone could. But then the bike I bought directly did take a long time to get through Customs and the import duty was extremely high. Two years later that Facebook page is still helping real people get real bikes and has 18k likes. I guess he is legit and if I were to buy another Canyon bike I would do so through him.
I will most certainly not buy another Canyon bike though! I hated this bike and the lack of local service and support.
The bike had mechanical problems from day one. I contacted Canyon and they went through the basic motions of the obvious troubleshooting, but when that did not help they told me the problem was not with the Canyon bike, but rather a component from a supplier so they were not responsible and I would have to contact the component supplier for support or replacement.
The component supplier was Shimano who have no consumer facing support. So that’s that, a dead end and an unusable $7000 bike. Luckily my local Trek shop (the superhero of all my bike stories) is a Shimano retailer so he fixed the problem with the component.
I still hated the bike though because it has a stupid custom handlebar that can not be adjusted and can not take standard accessories. The bike fitter confirmed I had made a mistake. Also electronic gears suck, particularly Shimano.
So between not getting any chance to test-ride bikes, not getting any local support, and having to deal with Thai Customs (or a random bloke on Facebook), I can not recommend buying a Canyon in Thailand.
On the other hand if you are 100% sure you have to have a Canyon and there is no Trek model that could substitute, and your local bike shop can help you if it has problems then let that Facebook page get it for you with 17% import duty. Canyon makes some compelling and good value bikes.