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  1. #1
    Cincy Clyde
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    Parts recommendations for upgrading a "mart" bike

    I had originally posted this over in general discussion, and gotten some good responses. After finding the Clyde forum, though, wanted to post over here as well to see if there are any clyde-specific issues that I need to take into consideration.

    FWIW, I'm 6'4, 275.

    My 3 kids pooled their money for father's day and bought me a "15 speed" Wal-mart mountain bike so that we can start riding as a family. Given that they spent their own money on it, and it was a big deal for them, I'm looking to upgrade the bike just enough so that I can safely tool around the neighborhood and some paved trails with them for 3-4 months before upgrading next spring.

    I've read through the threads, and know that even tying to upgrade this bike is probably useless, but hopefully there's SOMETHING that can be done. I'm willing to accept a certain amount of throwing good money after bad given the situation.

    Unfortunately, as is to be expected, the shifting is less than optimal, and both brakes work hardly at all.

    So, what I'm looking for are recommendations for specific component upgrades that will get me through 3-4 months with it. Specifically, I was thinking new brakes, slicks (instead of the knobbies that are on there), and, maybe some help with the gears/derailleur. I know that a lot of the parts on the bike may not be standard sizes, but, hopefully, I can at least get it to the point that I can comfortably shift at least the back gears and stop when needed. Also, being a Clyde, wondering if I should go ahead and replace at least the rear wheel now, or wait until it has issues.

    I went to my LBS last night for advice, but they indicated that they won't work on Mart bikes at all.

    Thanks,

    Mike
    Last edited by tigereye; 06-28-07 at 08:18 AM.

  2. #2
    Chubby super biker bdinger's Avatar
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    What brand/model is the bike?

    That's pretty shady of the LBS, I'd see if I could find a different one. The one I'm going to start working with exclusively I've never actually bought a bike from. But, every time I've gone in there they have bent over backwards to make me happy. Granted, the shop I bought my latest bike from is great in the customer service area, they are just too far away. My new favorite shop was more than happy to work on a older Schwinn (lugged steel vintage sweetness, just for Tom ) that my better half is riding on, declaring it a "sweet old ride". Heck, they even trued up the wheels on the Toys R Us bikes I got for the kids (to much amusement, I'm sure ).

    Anyway, specific upgrades... I'd have to know what the bike is. I'd say brake pads are a must, along with a decent chain. A saddle will always do good, I'm a big fan of the Brooks B-17. Deraileurs are deraileurs, I've put 900 miles on the bottom-end shimano (Acera) on my MTB, and it still shifts just fine. I've never had any trouble with the rear, the front needed a tad of adjustment around 500 miles. Granted the "Deore" on my other bike is much smoother, and I'll probably upgrade, I just won't until it breaks.

    Let us know the make/model, but for now just focus on stuff like slick tires, brake pads, and a good saddle.

  3. #3
    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    Agreed, tires, brake pads and saddle. That's really all you can do, unless a wheel taco's, and then a standard 135 mm hub wheel SHOULD work on the rear (unless you want to rebuild on the original hub), measure the dropouts to be sure.

    Cables: It will have the cheapest cables on the market, this is a given, but these are pretty well universal.....no worries there. Keep the dérailleurs clean and the chain lubed and the shifting should be reasonable. The biggest thing is the bike won't stand up to extreme trail conditions, but I doubt you'll be doing that anyway!

    Other than that, maybe add some bar ends if it doesn't already have them.

    It should be a reasonable bike, no matter what....I put a LOT of miles on an X Mart bike, even doing loaded tours with it. It also will have some value to you specifically because it was bought for you by your kids....sentimental value is an important consideration! My X Mart bike was purchased for me by my Grandfather and thus will ALWAYS be in my stable and repair cost is no object to me for that reason alone.

    EDIT: I'd find another bike shop too!
    on light duty due to illness; please contact my assistants for forum issues. They are Siu Blue Wind, or CbadRider or the other 3 star folk. I am currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes. I am making good progress, happily.


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  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    As for the shifting if you are at all mechanically inclined take a look at http://sheldonbrown.com/derailer-adjustment.html its a usefull set of skills to know and not really that hard.

    And I agree about finding a bike shop willing to work with you. I imagine they don't want to work on walmart bikes for liability reasons, but still think that doesn't make much sense.

    Paul

  5. #5
    Cincy Clyde
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    Thanks for your help. To answer your questions so far, it's a Magna, don't know the model, but not sure that it matters much. Like Tom said, I don't mind throwing money at it since they bought it for me, but it sure isn't what I would have chosen.. ;-) They knew I was looking at bikes, so they went with what they could afford.

    I've already replaced the saddle with a sprung schwinn from Target. May not be the best, but definitely a lot easier on the sensitive areas.

    As far as the derailleurs and shifting are concerned, they are probably less of a concern now than when I wrote the original message in the other forum (pasted here). I spent some time on it last night riding up and down the street just to get a feel for the gears. Looks like the main problem is that the indexes on the rear shifter aren't accurate, and the front shifter just takes a little more movement to get the derailleur moving than I was expecting. With that in mind, I can probably make do with them as they are, for at least a while.

    As far as the shop is concerned, it was a little disappointing because they are a local chain of bike shops and they pretty much have the market around here as far as I know. There is another one of their stores a bit further away that I may check out, but other than that, I'm not sure what else is around.

    Thanks again,

    Mike

  6. #6
    Neil_B
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    Quote Originally Posted by tigereye
    I went to my LBS last night for advice, but they indicated that they won't work on Mart bikes at all.
    Understandable. They don't want to work on something that's of so poor quality that their repair work might not hold up. Or deal with complaints like "the brakes worked fine before you put new cables on." There's no warranty either, I bet.

  7. #7
    Solo Rider, always DFL
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    If the saddle works, don't bother replacing it. You may find your tastes change over time. If it's no good for you, then switch judiciously. Tires and brake pads couldn't hurt...

    You'll also want to replace all marginal bolts with titanium ones, shaving several grams off the complete bike weight
    "Having modest aspirations RULES." --patentcad
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  8. #8
    Senior Member JumboRider's Avatar
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    I highly recommend that you keep an eye on craigslist and ebay for old bikes with great frames.

  9. #9
    SNARKY MEMBER CardiacKid's Avatar
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    Get some Kool Stop brake pads and then don't worry about it anymore. Just ride the heck out of it, until it breaks. It might take all summer. Tell the kids how sorry you are that you broke their wonderful present and that you are going to immediatley go get a new bike, because the best part of the present was being able to ride with them.
    Take the pads off before you give it to Goodwill.

  10. #10
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    My gf likes to joke that I've cannibalized my x mart bike, but I've turned it into a nice commuter.

    If your riding on roads, I would suggest changing the nobby tires for slicks. I got a set of specialized slicks that were 1 1/2" instead of 2 1/4" and they are GREAT! Makes riding it MUCH easier.

    Sounds like you did a new saddle already, good job there. Don't be afraid to try others out as well.

    I put SPD pedals on the bike, and I'm not pushing you to, but if you decide you want different pedals you MAY have to look into a product call "knee savers". Basically it's an adapter bolt to change the bike's crack from exercise bike pedal size to regular crank pedal size.

    Keep trying to find a shop that will work with you. And don't settle for shotty service. I once took my son's bike to a "chain" sporting goods store for a tune up, got the bike back, great. Then took it back at the end of the riding season (about 500 miles later), and the mechanic (the same one as before) asked who did the brake work becasue it was sub par and he thought dangerous. Boy did he change his tune when I pointed out it was his work. Needless to say, I don't use that shop anymore, and the LBS here has gotten quite the laugh out of that story.

    Other "non standard" parts I've run into over time. Not that any of them have caused problems, just something to keep in mind.
    Seat post unique size in diameter
    Pedals unique size nuts
    Tried replacing the bolt on wheels with quick release skewers....that was a mistake, and a trip to the shop!

    Bottom line is go out and ride the crap out of it! I've got about 2200 miles on my X Mart bike, and while I don't like it anywhere near as much as my nice Trek road bike, it's still been good to me, and it still runs great as long as I keep it lubed and clean! Don't be afraid of it, or think it's crap just because it's an X Mart. You might not get thousands of miles on it, but it will serve you well for the purpose, and you can always upgrade it when you ride it so much it falls apart. I think the kids will understand you upgrading when it does! Don't be surpirsed if they catch the cycling bug in the process. My son (13) has his eyes on a $3000 road bike, and get's upset with me every time I tell him no. However, he still goes out and rides with me on a regular basis on his more reasonably priced bike. It's a GREAT family activity if you can get them involved with you!

  11. #11
    This Space For Rent Stujoe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CardiacKid
    Just ride the heck out of it, until it breaks. It might take all summer. Tell the kids how sorry you are that you broke their wonderful present and that you are going to immediatley go get a new bike, because the best part of the present was being able to ride with them.
    That sounds like a great plan to me!

  12. #12
    This Space For Rent Stujoe's Avatar
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    I am not sure there is too much you will have to do for general around the nieghborhood, family rides. The biggest thing is that I bet the bike is a bit small for you and will be a tad uncomfortable. Again, probably not a huge issue for family rides unless you last name is Armstrong or something.

    I got an Xmart bike several years ago to go tooling around with the younguns when they were learning to ride and it was really fine for that. I was probably within 5 or 10 pounds of where you are at weight wise too. The problems really only became apparent when I started riding longer and faster by myself. That is when I upgraded.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Wogster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tigereye
    I had originally posted this over in general discussion, and gotten some good responses. After finding the Clyde forum, though, wanted to post over here as well to see if there are any clyde-specific issues that I need to take into consideration.

    FWIW, I'm 6'4, 275.

    My 3 kids pooled their money for father's day and bought me a "15 speed" Wal-mart mountain bike so that we can start riding as a family. Given that they spent their own money on it, and it was a big deal for them, I'm looking to upgrade the bike just enough so that I can safely tool around the neighborhood and some paved trails with them for 3-4 months before upgrading next spring.

    I've read through the threads, and know that even tying to upgrade this bike is probably useless, but hopefully there's SOMETHING that can be done. I'm willing to accept a certain amount of throwing good money after bad given the situation.

    Unfortunately, as is to be expected, the shifting is less than optimal, and both brakes work hardly at all.

    So, what I'm looking for are recommendations for specific component upgrades that will get me through 3-4 months with it. Specifically, I was thinking new brakes, slicks (instead of the knobbies that are on there), and, maybe some help with the gears/derailleur. I know that a lot of the parts on the bike may not be standard sizes, but, hopefully, I can at least get it to the point that I can comfortably shift at least the back gears and stop when needed. Also, being a Clyde, wondering if I should go ahead and replace at least the rear wheel now, or wait until it has issues.

    I went to my LBS last night for advice, but they indicated that they won't work on Mart bikes at all.

    Thanks,

    Mike
    Find a new LBS, many LBSes do work on cheap bikes, because the owners of such, once they get bitten by the bike bug, are likely to upgrade, and guess where they go when they do. Besides good bike shops are like car dealers, they make most of their income on repairs and accessory junk.

    The first thing it needs is a proper tuneup done by a bike mechanic, once the gears and brakes are adjusted properly, and the wheels are trued, then it will be easier for you and your mechanic to see what you have to work with. For 3-4 months, that may be all it needs. You see x-mart bikes are usually assembled by an untrained chimpanzee who otherwise mops floors and stocks shelves, they often don't know how a bicycle should be assembled, and follow the instruction book at comes with it, which will say something like "adjust brakes", chimp doesn't know what they should be adjusted to, and ignores that step, because his manager tells him to.

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