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  1. #1
    put our Heads Together cerewa's Avatar
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    dept. store bikes

    I've heard a lot of people say they're very unimpressed with department store bikes, but I'm not sure why exactly.

    Many posts imply that reliability is a factor.

    What parts, specifically, do you find less reliable in cheap bikes?
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    Well, the frame, for one.


    It's not just a matter of parts. Who assembles those bikes? A bikeshop mechanic? heck nah. It's some kid who does it.

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    hello roadfix's Avatar
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    You really get what you pay for.......really....
    .cinelli.olympic.surly.long.haul.trucker.kona.ku.surly.steamroller.
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    Senior Member shecky's Avatar
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    FWIW, I saw some dept store bikes up close doing xmas shopping. These are my impressions.

    I was surprised to see what is sold for under $100USD. Kids bikes, BMX, full suspension MTB, beach cruisers, and a few "specialty" bikes. None of the bikes in the store were over $200.

    One thing you see is steel. A lot of it. some bikes had the appearance of a all aluminum full suspension bike. Up close reveals those gigantic tubes were in fact welded steel. The rims from 20 ft away looked like aluminum but turn out to be metallic gray painted steel, same with the bars and stem. Steel hubs, chrome plated spokes. Even the three piece cranks, which looked so impressive from a distance, appear to be gray plastic molded over steel! Most low end bikes had one piece cranks. Derailers are "Falcon" or no name, as is freewheel.

    Some of the $100+ bikes had real aluminum rims that looked servicable.

    Keep in mind that steel isn't necessarily bad. Most parts can be satisfactorily made with steel. But there is a weight penalty. And such budget bikes were designed with price, not quality, in mind. I thought it was interesting how much effort was spent to make the bike look like it wasn't steel.

    I didn't ride any, so I can't speak to assembly/fine tuning. However, I think any of these bikes would do well if someone with decent mechanical skills at least gave it the once over. Off the shelf, I wouldn't be surprised to find poorly tightened nuts/bolts/screws, poorly adjusted brakes, shifters, etc.

    Given a decent assembly, I'm sure most of these bikes would be servicable to the average person prone to buy such things at a dept store. I thought the beach cruisers were probably the best buys, since they're fairly uncomplicated and not usually expected to do strenuous tasks, good enough for that nice ride around the neighborhood on a summer afternoon. They're probably a much better choice than the full suspension bikes around the same price, which I'm sure have many more compromises in almost every area. But for a little more, you could probably find a better quality, better assembled, better supported bike at a dedicated bike store.

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    hello roadfix's Avatar
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    Everytime I see one of these on the road, the very first thing I always notice is a bent handlebar.

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    That is like asking why a BMW is better than a Yugo, both have 4 tires and a steering wheel, so what is the difference?

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    NOT a weight weenie Hunter's Avatar
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    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cerewa
    I've heard a lot of people say they're very unimpressed with department store bikes, but I'm not sure why exactly.

    Many posts imply that reliability is a factor.

    What parts, specifically, do you find less reliable in cheap bikes?
    I am among the huge number of consumers that has bought a $99 bike. But that's not what I'm going to mention, here.

    On a trip to Wally-World to buy some discount items after Christmas, we passed a large flock of bicycles. Some were Schwinns, some Roadmasters, Mongooses, Huffys, etc. I knew about Roadmasters, but the Schwinns I had to see for myself. I had to know exactly what had happened to the Old American Standard.

    On first glance, I noticed a rusting bolt holding the handlebars on. Quickly, I saw the same brown mold growing on the rear cassette.

    Rapid conclusions: not only is Schwinn no longer built with quality, but anyone who sells bikes should never keep them parked outside in front of the store to rust in front of prospective customers.

    Still, I guess low prices impress some folk more than quality.
    No worries

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    Dept. Store Bikes

    Steer clear of these bikes.

    If you plan to tool around the neighborhood a few times a month alone or with the kids then maybe a Schwinn from the local WalMart would suffice but look into a good brand at the local shop.

    Trek, to mention one brand, offers some nice rides in the $199 - $299 range on sale quite often and you get a store that will stand behind the product, service the product, and can usually fit the bike to you for comfort and performance.

    Times have changed somewhat but just a few years ago it was tough to get a dept. store bike that actually worked (shifting & braking) correctly and the overall quality of the bike was fair at best. Besides that the bikes usually weigh upwards of 30 - 35 lbs. and you have to pedal that around.

    Trek, Giant, and many other larger companies usually have an entry level line that is quite affordable.

    Check it out.

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    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    I dunno. For the vast majority of people, the 'under $100' bikes at the department stores fill the need plenty.

    Ya ya, if you are going to be putting on 5,000 to 10,000 or more miles a year on a bike, then you deserve better. However, most bikes don't even roll 250 miles in their total lifetime.

    I have seen plenty of the cheap bikes. Yup, they are heavy, and yup, I have seen some atrocious quality issues, but quality isn't that big of an issue for a bike that isn't going to be used much
    Mike

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    depends on the store

    I admit, i got one of the wally-world special. cost was the biggest factor. I wanted a bike, so i could ride some local trails, and see how much i would actually use one. They do take some tuning up, and the gears tend to shift rough, but for those who dont ride a whole lot, they are decent. The bike tech putting them together was pretty good. He checked things over before i walked out the store. I had the rear bearing go out, after less than a year, and i got a whole new rear wheel under warrenty. I guess some of that would depend on the actual store.

    Next year, I hope to be able to affoard a fairly decent bike.

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    Several months ago I found a cheap beach cruiser abandoned in the bushes so I spent about an hour fixing up the rear wheel and have been riding it around some lately as a change from my touring bike. It is very cheaply made but at the same time uncomplicated being single speed so I have confidence in being able to fix anything on it.As I tend to overdo things I routinely ride it 30-40 miles to get to the beach to do some cruising.I like the nice cruiser tires compared to a road bike and spend a lot of time standing and pedalling on it like I suppose mtn. bikers do.My main complaint would be every time you brake too hard or go over a curb etc. too rough it knocks the rear wheel out of line so I have to stop and fix it.For this reason I usually ride it about half the time on the sidewalk (in heavy congested traffic)which I never do on my tourer.I do enjoy riding it and it has made me want to get a better quality cruiser or perhaps mtn. bike or maybe get a better touring bike and convert my existing one into a single speed.
    So I guess I agree with shecky on a cheap bike the beach cruiser is probably the best value with less to go wrong but if I was spending money unless I was just starting out and unsure of my committment or only doing limited riding I would probably spend a little more to get more reliability than a bottom of the line bike and I am assuming this would be even more true of the derailler bikes.

  13. #13
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RWTD
    Several months ago I found a cheap beach cruiser abandoned in the bushes so I spent about an hour fixing up the rear wheel and have been riding it around some lately as a change from my touring bike. It is very cheaply made but at the same time uncomplicated being single speed so I have confidence in being able to fix anything on it.As I tend to overdo things I routinely ride it 30-40 miles to get to the beach to do some cruising..
    Holy, cow! Do I understand that you ride 30 to 40 miles on a heavy single speed beach cruiser and THEN do some beach riding? THen you you ride back home?

    That would be a century on a Wally Mart beach cruiser. No kidding - Folks, I think we have found the new Lance Armstrong!
    Mike

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    No the 30-40 miles was total both ways and probably includes a couple of miles pushing the bike because I'm trying to get some hiking miles in as well these days.You do get a workout on a lot fewer miles on that bike though.The brakes are so bad though I usually have to use my foot to stop.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Don Cook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleBigMan
    I am among the huge number of consumers that has bought a $99 bike. But that's not what I'm going to mention, here.

    On a trip to Wally-World to buy some discount items after Christmas, we passed a large flock of bicycles. Some were Schwinns, some Roadmasters, Mongooses, Huffys, etc. I knew about Roadmasters, but the Schwinns I had to see for myself. I had to know exactly what had happened to the Old American Standard.

    On first glance, I noticed a rusting bolt holding the handlebars on. Quickly, I saw the same brown mold growing on the rear cassette.

    Rapid conclusions: not only is Schwinn no longer built with quality, but anyone who sells bikes should never keep them parked outside in front of the store to rust in front of prospective customers.

    Still, I guess low prices impress some folk more than quality.
    LittleBigMan, its truly a shame that when Schwinn went out of business approximately 2 years ago, their name wasn't burried with them. Instead the rights to trade on the Schwinn name was passed off to another company. The iron workers that are putting "Schwinn's" in the local department/discount store
    today, aren't even remotely connected with American Schwinn.

  16. #16
    Licensed Bike Geek Davet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cerewa
    I've heard a lot of people say they're very unimpressed with department store bikes, but I'm not sure why exactly.

    Many posts imply that reliability is a factor.

    What parts, specifically, do you find less reliable in cheap bikes?
    It's not necessarily the parts. Cheap can be good if used withing it's proper context, and a dept. store bike can be a good starter.

    What I find disturbing about dept. store/wally-world bikes is, and this is a true story: I used to be a vendor in Wal-Marts in Washington state. I serviced a product and visited various Wal-Mart stores on a regular basis. Several years ago, right around Thanksgiving, I was in the back stock room of a Wal-Mart and noticed a 'team' of guys assembling bikes. They worked for a company called Huffy Service First, and they were paid to go to all the Wal-Marts in a region and build up bikes for the Christmas season. They visited a store a day. They all had tools, work stands and whatever else it took to assemble bikes. They also had, and were using small air compressors for air-driven tools. They were paid by the piece, in other words they were paid X dollars to assemble each bike. Therefore the faster they could assemble the bike, the more bikes they could assemble in an 8-hour shift, the more they would get paid in a day. There were four or five assemblers and the pace was frenetic, to say the least. They were having 'contests' amongst themselves to see who could assemble a bike the fastest. There didn't seem to be any finesse, care or attention used in assembling these bikes. It was pure speed.

    Because so much about bicycling involves safety, great care and attention has to, and should be, given to those aspects of a bicycle. I personally do all the wrenching on our family bikes, and because I'm responsible for the welfare of my wife and son, I make damn sure everything is as it should be. Unfortunately a lot of dept. store/Wally-World bike assemblers don't know, or don't care, about the 'responsibility' of someone else's welfare, it often leads to careless, sloppy and in some cases dangerous assemblage of bikes.

  17. #17
    Senior Member johno's Avatar
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    A few of us decided to do the MTB thing a couple of years ago. One bought a wally world Mongoose bike, I opted for a somewhat used Trek Y22.

    His mongoose did pretty good for about three months. Then, things started to break. A brake lever snapped off. Fork came loose. Pedal bearings fell out. Rear suspension pivot developed a lot of play. BB bearings self destructed. Before the end of that first season, the mongoose was pretty much toast. He replaced it with a Specialized FS bike, which he still has today.

    The Y22? I had to replace brakes and shifters, because one shifter was broken before I got the bike. Otherwise, the only parts changed were upgrades. Still going strong - a decent bike once you put a locking shock on it.

    So in the end, I paid around $600 - $400 for the bike, $200 to replace shifters and brakes with XTR. He paid $250 for the Mongoose, plus $650 for the used Specialized.

    If you're going to do anything other than ride around the block once a week, you will buy a decent bike. You can buy it now, or you can buy an ill fitting dept store bike, have it fall apart after a season of riding, and then go buy a decent bike. Save the money and buy a decent bike now.

  18. #18
    Tiocfáidh ár Lá jfmckenna's Avatar
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    Cheap is more expensive!
    Wal-Mart business mentality is for stock holders not customers!

    You really do get what you pay for...

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    Quote Originally Posted by mike
    However, most bikes don't even roll 250 miles in their total lifetime.
    Ain't that the truth!

    Regards.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Avalanche325's Avatar
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    The thing that scares me on the Xmart mnountain bikes is that they are not really mountain bikes. They are nieghborhood cruisers that look like mountain bikes.

    Look at the flimsy dropouts for the front and rear wheels. Also, look at the poor quality of the welds.

    The brakes that are stamped out of a thin piece of low carbon steel are a downright hazard.

    As far as build quality. I don't trust anyone, dept store or LBS. I put a wrench on EVERYTHING on a new bike. My friend went over the handlebars on his new LBS built bike when the stem was not properly tightened on the steerer. No injury though.

  21. #21
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    If you just want a bike to ride a few miles to work for 6 months then they can be good value if you know what to look for and avoid the cheapest ones.

    Provided you can still get one with a rigid frame and fork, make sure it's safe to ride and keep it in the dry they can have a good life span.

    If you are looking for a bike that will last a while and will do a lot of miles or have to withstand anything more than the odd kerb they are best avoided.

  22. #22
    NCAA - DUAL CHAMPIONS! a2psyklnut's Avatar
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    No one has mentioned what I think is the most critical point in enjoying cycling: FIT! X-Mart bikes are all Mediums. That's great if you need a medium. If however, you need a large or X-Large, too bad, you get Medium.

    An ill fitting bike is one that won't get ridden very often or very far. It's just not comfortable.

    Go to a bike shop and even your no-suspension comfort bike will come in 4 or 5 different sizes. Not to mention pass-thru frames (ladies bikes (NON PC TERM)). And hopefully a qualified sales associate to put you on the right size frame!

    L8R
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by cerewa
    I've heard a lot of people say they're very unimpressed with department store bikes, but I'm not sure why exactly.

    Many posts imply that reliability is a factor.

    What parts, specifically, do you find less reliable in cheap bikes?
    1. Deraillers. There is a big difference in derailler performance between DSB's and LBS bikes.

    Many can't believe that it is worth spending extra on a Local Bike Store bike. Most just assume that since a mass merchandiser like WalMart can buy so much more cheaply than they will get the same thing at Wally World for a couple hundred less. WRONG!

    Then again, there is the other side. If you buy a department store bike and never ride anything better you will never know the difference. What you don't know can't hurt you?

  24. #24
    opinionated SOB cycletourist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleBigMan

    Still, I guess low prices impress some folk more than quality.
    Actually, most people are unaware they even have a choice.

  25. #25
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    The point is: these bikes are not made for serious riding. They should not be allowed to call them, "bicycles."

    Does anyone remember the Yugo?
    No worries

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