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Old 08-13-05, 02:18 PM   #1
rs_woods
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So I rode a cheapie bike today...

A friend of mine in Chile has been giving me flack for paying $600 for a bike when his wal-martish cycle gets him around perfectly fine. He claims that cheapie bikes are good enough for anybody, and regardless of how I tried to explain it he just said "having an expensive bike does not make you an authority." So I decided to ride a cheapie bike.

When I first started looking into bikes as a means of transportation, my pal told me not to spend over $50 on a bike, and said, as a matter of fact, that he would give me a bike. It's an old roadmaster mountain bike that had been sitting in his garage for "who knows how long", said he only rode it for about a week before he got his first car. I accepted it and promptly bought a Trek T80 without even riding the roadmaster. It sat in my garage all summer. However, feeling the desire to ride down an old dirt trail that I haven't gone down since I started cycling, I decided to pull the roadmaster out and give it a spin despite the fact that it didn't fit me at all.

The first thing I noticed is that the rear tire is crookedish and brushes up against the kickstand and makes an obnoxious noise. Also, the shifting is wacky. The grip shifters have springs built in so that if you shift past the 3 on the left grip, it'll bounce back onto the three. The problem with this, was that when the grip shifter was in the 3 position, the chain would be pushed over just slightly towards the third ring, but not quite make it. In order to get into the third ring you have to continually twist the grip, resisting the spring. If you let go you'll bounce back into "second and a half" gear. Not to mention the brakes in the rear and in the front were completely ineffective. The ones in the front made a squealing sound like schoolbus breaks, but still no stopping power.

It did bring me down that trail in a satisfactory manner, and it was a fun ride despite the poor vehicle. However, on the way home I passed a group of kids. Two of them yelled requests for the bike I was riding ("Hey, gimmie that bike!"). Kids these days.
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Old 08-13-05, 03:10 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by rs_woods
The first thing I noticed is that the rear tire is crookedish and brushes up against the kickstand and makes an obnoxious noise. Also, the shifting is wacky. The grip shifters have springs built in so that if you shift past the 3 on the left grip, it'll bounce back onto the three. The problem with this, was that when the grip shifter was in the 3 position, the chain would be pushed over just slightly towards the third ring, but not quite make it. In order to get into the third ring you have to continually twist the grip, resisting the spring. If you let go you'll bounce back into "second and a half" gear. Not to mention the brakes in the rear and in the front were completely ineffective. The ones in the front made a squealing sound like schoolbus breaks, but still no stopping power.

Nothing that can't be fixed!

Is the rear rim bent? Or is the tire just seated poorly? If the rim is bent, check the spokes, they might need tightening or replacing ... an inexpensive repair. If the tire is seated poorly ... take it off and put it back on properly.

The grip shift thing is a small adjustment with a screwdriver or by turning the barrel adjuster.

The brake pads likely need changing. They are quite cheap and very easy to change. Make sure you toe them in so that they don't squeal.

You could easily have similar problems on a more expensive bicycle.

Last edited by Machka; 08-13-05 at 03:54 PM.
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Old 08-13-05, 03:21 PM   #3
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I have two questions:

1. Is fun a major objective of bicycling to you?

2. Was it as much fun to ride as your regular bike?
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Old 08-13-05, 04:17 PM   #4
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That's very ironic what the kids yelled as your rode by ... do you think they meant or were being sarcastic?

The universe is trying to tell you something - first with your friend in Chile, then the kids, and you did act on it. And you shared it with us. Thanks! : ))))

As Lance says, "It's not about the bike."
Yeah, it's about the fun ... and so much more.
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Old 08-13-05, 04:53 PM   #5
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I'm pretty sure the kids were serious, but not in a good way. They were punks and just wanted to try intimidating someone out on the street. It's one of the negative aspects of cycling regularly. You're more in touch with your community than you are when you're in a car, but unfortunately that includes the bad part of your community.

As for Retro Grouch's (hey, I'm a retrogrouch too!) question, no. Fun is not a major objective. The object of most of my saddletime is to get between school, my house, and the library. This ride was different, in that I intentionally went out looking for fun. So yeah, I guess it was more fun to ride than my regular bike. However, I think a proper name-brand mountain bike might be even more fun to take on weekend rides! I don't know though, since I don't have one and probably won't buy one as long as I can fix up this roadmaster.
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Old 08-14-05, 12:41 AM   #6
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Fun is not my major objective either. (Although even a "utility"/commute ride CAN be fun, in its own way.) Reliability is!

Cheap bikes are simply not reliable...unless you want to "tweak" them all of the time AND love to replace them...every month or so. My first bike, as an adult, was one of these. Guess what I did within a couple of months? Bought a good bike--lower-end, but still a major brand, LBS bike--never looked back!
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My discussion board, another resource for the "utility" and commuter cyclist: "Two Wheeled Commuter: The Everyday Cyclist"

Last edited by Black Bud; 08-14-05 at 12:42 AM. Reason: Bad typos needed correcting.
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Old 08-14-05, 01:58 AM   #7
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Before I bought my Giant, I looked around including at ebay and Kmart cheapies. Due to lack of knowledge, the cheapies looked quite good, but luckily I first bought 3 used bikes for my family before I got one for myself. By that time I had built up some knowledge and realised that the cheapies are altogether different than those 2nd hand bikes in quality.
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Old 08-14-05, 07:32 AM   #8
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You can do just fine on a cheap bike, that's for sure. I have a friend with a Wal-Mart special that works for his around-campus needs.

But there is also something to be said for fine craftsmanship, too. For example in 1983, I bought the best lugged steel, hand-made touring bike I could find. It cost $700. I've taken the bike on countless tours and still use it as my commuter. I'd say that in this case, at least, the price was more than justified. Speaking for myself, I can't imagine an investment that could have paid a better return.
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Old 08-15-05, 06:14 AM   #9
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LOL.....a reminder that a cheap bike is a cheap bike, no matter what is paid for it. Aren't you glad to own a "real bike"?

I look back...remember the 12-spd Huffy I bought back when I first started college. The shifting got major stiff within about 2 months, it clanked and made noises, etc.... It's almost a "blessing" that it was stolen.
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