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  1. #1
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    Cheap beater bike article in NY Times!

    This is a pretty cool acticle about the comeback cheap beater bike are making in New York City:
    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/20...es-of-cycling/
    Get free gift certificates that can be redeemed for free bike gear! Click here for more info:
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  2. #2
    Daily Rider Robert C's Avatar
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    In the comments, to the article, there was a question asked several times that was unanswered. Is a beater bike really a better choice than a *mart bike for a typical consumer? Both bikes will require the rider to know how to turn a wrench for extended use. Both will use parts that are not commonly found.

    I look at what I ride, an '84 Schwinn with 4130, and sometimes wonder if it really is any better than the bikes I see at Target. I am not likely to replace what I have; but, if I ever have to, it is something I would consider.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Kimmitt's Avatar
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    The big reason I prefer a beater to an xmart bike is that I can actually fix the beaters.

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    Actually, the quality of the bikes at Walmart get better once the price reaches $350.00 or more. So if you're going to spend that much for a 1970's beater or a Walmart, I would suggest buying new at the LBS.

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    I see bikes from the 1986 to 1990 era that have pro quality frames and forks, pro quality wheels, and Dura-Ace and Ultegra components selling for between $25 to $250. These bikes provide a ride quality similar to a new bike costing $900 to $1,500. In contrast, a $250 Wal-Mart bike is always going to weigh more, have generic brake calipers and hubs, and have numerous "non-standard" parts that will be difficult or impossible to replace.

    I read an industry estimate that the typical Wal-Mart bike is actually "on the road" less than six months and less than ONE HUNDRED MILES during its total lifespan. The makers, understanding that, design the hub bearings, pedals and headsets for last for about one hundred miles of hard riding. A "pro quality" bike from 1986 will provide 25,000 to 40,000 miles of hard riding... by the mile, a 25 year old "pro quality" bike is a zillion times cheaper than a new bike from Wal-Mart.

  6. #6
    Faster than yesterday
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    if you don't know what to look for, buying an old beater can turn out to be a money pit. If you do know what to look for, you can get a good bike for not much money.

  7. #7
    Daily Rider Robert C's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tadawdy View Post
    if you don't know what to look for, buying an old beater can turn out to be a money pit. If you do know what to look for, you can get a good bike for not much money.
    That is undisputed, I see people here (on this forum, possibly not this sub forum) bragging about the "killer deal" they found on craigslist pretty regularly. Rusty old bikes says, "I see bikes from the 1986 to 1990 era that have pro quality frames and forks, pro quality wheels, and Dura-Ace and Ultegra components selling for between $25 to $250."

    However, I watch craigs list pretty regularly and I never see those deals. I see x-mart bikes selling for close to what they sold for new. There is one dumpster diver doing a business of finding those x-mart bikes at the end of the semester and cleaning them up then reselling them for reasonable prices; but other then that they are new x-mart bikes and old x-mart bikes, both being sold for no less than half of what they sold for new.

    The bikes that people here dream of finding for $25 are seldom seen for under $500.

    For the typical bike buyer, buying a used bike is a true pig-in-a-poke. They will select the least rusty on in the pile. I have seen few typical buyers (people here are, generally, not typical buyers) get a real good deal on used bikes. The worst way to get a bike is to realize that one is in need of a bike and go get a used on on a given weekend. Buying a used bike must become a hobby in itself. At the point that the buyer is a hobbiest, and will ing to treat purchases as such, then the killer deals do materialize because the buyer is willing to wait for months (sort of like a vulture).

    OK, back to better deal, I went to a bike shop with my wife (she does not ride, yes it irritates me). First I will say that the sales man was correct in showing her bikes I was not considering, he went for this weird geometry thing that has really high bars, a Raleigh Route 3.0 for about $400. I think I can find a similar thing for a bit less at bikes direct; but then, I have a bike stand and tools (and some, limited, knowledge as to how they are used), so I don't count as a typical buyer. (I hate to say it [sort of shoots a hole in the argument I am making], but as I look at walmart and Traget sites, for comparable bikes, the Raleigh looks like a pretty good deal).

    A lot of people are going to balk at the $400 price, people who are not regular riders expect bikes to be about $100-$2000. They are going to see that $400 buys the cheapest thing in the shop and walk out. That is where the used and x-mart bikes come in. I fond it hard to believe that every single model is junk, this one has been discussed before as a good value. There is someone here who, as an experiment, used a walmart denali for a year.

    I just think that the bike community is doing a disservice, to people who look to experienced riders for advise, by saying "just go find a killer deal on a used bike or get something at a bike shop." That buyer will, most likely, end up with a used x-mart bike for close to what they would have paid in the store or be turned off by the price in the shop and never start riding.

    We could be doing a better service by identifying which budget bikes are a good deal and putting it up as a stickey somewhere. There are x-mart bikes to avoid (anything with rear suspension would be a good start); however, there are probably some serviceable models out there. As many of you know, I lived in China for a while (about three years, with one summer back in the states). The bikes that we would see as x-mart bike quality was seen as pretty good quality. I realize that this forum is leery of doing it; but, I really think that naming serviceable bikes under $200 would be a better service to novices than saying, "just go find a killer deal."

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    I couldn't agree more with the above post. +1 If you know what you're looking for and what size of bike you want, and you're willing to put a ton of time into looking a good used deal, you can find one though you always take the risk of buying something with a flaw you didn't see.

    But you definitely trade your time for money to buy a used bike, and you need to know what you're looking for.

  9. #9
    Senior Member maddyfish's Avatar
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    Well, what I do, I am always on the lookout for a decent deal on a good bike. Or decent parts, or whole bikes from the garbage.
    Not too much to say here

  10. #10
    Daily Rider Robert C's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by maddyfish View Post
    Well, what I do, I am always on the lookout for a decent deal on a good bike. Or decent parts, or whole bikes from the garbage.
    There is not a thing wrong with that. You have made getting the bike into a hobby. However, it is not a solution for the, typical, person looking at replacing some car trips with a bicycle.

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    I wrote a couple of paragraphs to put in this thread last night, got tired, tried to save it (to finish it later), and lost it. I'll try to make this short and post it.

    I have an '86 Schwinn Traveler that I got off ebay about two years ago. It is far from mint but with a total investment of around $200 (bike, shipping, new tires/tubes, some maintanience from a bike mechanic) I am very happy with it. When I'm adjusting things, fixing flats, etc., looking at the parts I feel I'm dealing with a quality machine that is made well and made to last a long time.

    I bought a Denali for under $70 about 15 months ago (I was curious and I'd been reading the cigtech/denali thread). Its functional, but I don't get that same sense of a qualty machine that I get from the old Schwinn (there are some specific negatives with the bike I have).

    I could write more details but I'll wrap it up. I also have the entry level Dawes Lighting Sport roadbike that sells new (including shipping) for around $240 on ebay. It is very similar to my old Schwinn (chromoly frame, stem shifters above the steering tube). It is a 59 cm and weights around 29 lbs. I like it, enough so that I am about to get a shorter/taller stem to get a better fit on it.

  12. #12
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    i was surprised when i flipped through the paper and found sportchek selling hardtail mountain bikes for 120$ brand new. It's not a real mountain bike or anything, I know, but it'd certainly get you from A to B, eventually. I suppose for 120$ that's not a bad deal!
    -- Zan

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    Quote Originally Posted by tadawdy View Post
    if you don't know what to look for, buying an old beater can turn out to be a money pit.
    A very shallow pit, though. It's an old bike, not an old car.

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    fwiw, i think that used bike shops are probably the best bet for a lot of people. our local used shop (there's a regular LBS here too) has quite a bit in the $100-200 range and its all nicely set and up and ready to ride out the door.

  15. #15
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    that raleigh at the top of the article is schweet deal for 30 bucks.

    you can find cheap, 'beater' bikes. Golden era mountain bikes are 'beaters' now. I recently bought a Univega Alpina Pro for 50 bucks, original tires and everything pretty well maintained.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  16. #16
    Daily Rider Robert C's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    that raleigh at the top of the article is schweet deal for 30 bucks.

    you can find cheap, 'beater' bikes. Golden era mountain bikes are 'beaters' now.
    Right, and they go for $300-$500. I make Craigslist watching into a bit of a hobby.

    The occasional "killer deal" does not serve the accidental bicyclist well. This person, the accidental bicyclist is the most likely new entrant into bicycling (and if you doubt that their presence helps us then I can go into that later).

    This person may be looking at a car repair bill and saying to themselves, "well, I can get a bicycle to get me through at least till next pay day before I can afford the repair." then if the riding was not humiliating and hellish (remember, in their perception, not ours) they may put the repair off for another month or so.

    This is what happened to a roommate of mine several years ago. His motorcycle broke down and he asked me for the money to fix it so he could get to work. I didn't give him the money; instead, I offered him use of one of my bicycles (a pre wal-mart mongoose). A few months later I asked him about his motorcycle. He told me that what he discovered was that there was nothing that he needed and wanted to do that he wasn't able to do on the bicycle and the bus system. This was an accidental bicyclist.

    There are a lot of accidental bicyclists. The question is how to best serve them. Of course, the first answer is to send them to a bike shop at a low estimate of about $450 - $550 (bike, helmet, some kind of rack, kickstand [and little turns off on-bicyclists like the realization that bike-shop bikes don't come with a kickstand]). For that amount they are considering fixing the car, which is what they plan to do anyways. Very simply, that is an a "get me to the end of the month" sum.

    The next problem with the $400 bike is that it is the cheapest bike in the shop. Pricing theory (which works) says that people associate price with quality; but, that they do so within a small reference. So, if that $400 bike is parked in a shop with significantly more expensive bikes, the buyer will assume it is of low quality and gravitate away from it. If, on the other hand, it were parked in a shop of less expensive bikes, the buyer would see it as being higher quality. (It seems to me that this theory says that a bike shop would be well served to have some used bikes on hand, even if they never sell, in order to set a price reference).

    So, instead, we all know what happens, said accidental bicyclist goes to x-mart and buys something totally unsuited for the use it will see and fixes their car, or gets their license back, as soon as possible. They then stop using that bike and scorn bicyclists even more. They now know that the only people riding are even poorer than they are, or were not able to get their license back because no one would do that by choice. That and of course the smattering of "rich" people on those "expensive bikes" (because that is what the person remembers about the bike shop) who are "telling other people how to live their lives."

    To them, they know what bike commuting is about because they have done it. They will tell their friends how terrible it was. They, and their friends will continue to scorn you, the bicycle commuter as being either dirt poor, a drunk, or a rick snob, none of which deserve consideration and courtesy in traffic.

    Now, we as bicycle commuters can not effectively influence the shops (even if we had a, collective, great idea); because, we have already purchased our bikes and the next bike we will purchase probably will not be a low-end commuter bike. We can not affect x-mart because there are not enough of us, even if we wanted to. So, what can we do?

    We can start by not telling accidental bicyclists, oh, just wait a couple of months and eventually a killer deal will fall out of the sky." They need to get to work the next day. By the time that killer deal materializes they will have lost interest, gotten their license back, fixed their car, or purchased a totally unsuitable bike (proving the corollary of, "the best is the enemy of the good," in the form of, "the barely serviceable is the enemy of the suitable"). These people have to be grabbed when they are ready, not told to wait a few months.

    We can form lists of suitable commuter bikes, starting with as low a price reference as possible, and making it a sickey. So that when people do stumble in here, by accident, they can easily find what they were looking for (without searching and spending two days reading). What they are looking for is, "what cheap bike should I buy."

    There is nothing wrong with listing the pros and cons of these cheap bike; but, it needs to be done in such a way that the accidental bicyclist does not read the two things that these forums repeat and drill. The first lesson that a frequent forum reader gets is that you need to spend years learning about bikes and then wait patently and then you may be able to purchase a bike at a fair price. The second lesson is that any bike you feel you can afford is total junk and you are better off borrowing the money and fixing your car. We need to reject both of these and give relevant, easy to find, advise. not "just wait for a killer deal."

  17. #17
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    from the Times article

    "Luckily for Mr. Arora, there were beaters to be had at the Brooklyn Bike Jumble, and they were cheap.
    ......Two hours into the event, most of the beaters.... parked under a tree were sold, most going for less than $50.

    Mr. Arora bought one Mr. Flood’s beaters, a teal Raleigh mountain bike with a bit of rust on the spokes for $30."
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  18. #18
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert C View Post
    We could be doing a better service by identifying which budget bikes are a good deal and putting it up as a stickey somewhere. There are x-mart bikes to avoid (anything with rear suspension would be a good start); however, there are probably some serviceable models out there. As many of you know, I lived in China for a while (about three years, with one summer back in the states). The bikes that we would see as x-mart bike quality was seen as pretty good quality. I realize that this forum is leery of doing it; but, I really think that naming serviceable bikes under $200 would be a better service to novices than saying, "just go find a killer deal."
    I wonder how repairs are generally made in China with some of these models. In my experience, Wal-mart bikes tend to fall apart pretty quickly and all parts seem to fail at once. So when you get this type of bike the bottom bracket is falling out, half the spokes are loose and ready to fail, the derailleurs are kaput... that sort of thing. Is there a strong after-market of good parts? Cause I really don't see how commuters in China would ever make it to work on some of the Walmart bikes that I see. (Or -- I suspect -- are there two types of bike -- one for export and one for local use?)

  19. #19
    Daily Rider Robert C's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    I wonder how repairs are generally made in China with some of these models. In my experience, Wal-mart bikes tend to fall apart pretty quickly and all parts seem to fail at once. So when you get this type of bike the bottom bracket is falling out, half the spokes are loose and ready to fail, the derailleurs are kaput... that sort of thing. Is there a strong after-market of good parts? Cause I really don't see how commuters in China would ever make it to work on some of the Walmart bikes that I see. (Or -- I suspect -- are there two types of bike -- one for export and one for local use?)
    Based on my observation, having only been back in the states less than a year. The bikes sold here as x-mart bikes are significantly better quality. I have looked pretty close at both Target and wal-mart. some of the bikes there are the same as those sold in speciality bicycle shops in China (there are a few points I looked for to determine if I was looking at the same bike at different shops, under different names while shopping for bikes in China).

    That is a large part of why I seem so skeptical of what people here say. I saw bikes that make the bikes you are scorning seem like mid grade bikes being used for daily transportation and sport riding. I had several bikes while in China (it became a hobby, looking for the perfect bike). Even the Giants which are high end bikes in China were of a grade that would place them in x-mart here in the states. There were some very good bikes, they would compare with low end bike shop bikes (and after converting the currency, cost about the same). However, that is not what people ride on a regular basis.

    Further, the bikes get very little maintenance. it is uncommon there to even know how to, let alone have the tools to, patch a tube. I am not trying to be mean, it is just a different culture. People there specialize much more than we do.

    As i have said, I feel we, as the bicycling community, do a disservice to the accidental commuter. It makes us feel good about our superior knowledge and equipment; but, we alienate the very people we should be leading. We present the cost of bicycling as being very high, in terms of money, or commitment of knowledge and time. Back before I got into bicycling I purchased both junk used bikes (I really did not know how to identify the wheat form the chaff) and junk x-mary bikes. I stayed committed and finally learned and found better bikes (it helped that I found my old schwinn from highschool and was able to ride it again during my learning curve).

    In simple terms, I think it is possible to find a serviceable commuter bike for under $200. I think if I looked closely at the ex-mart sites I would be able to fully outfit a rider (bike, lock, rack, leg strap, and because it is the fad, a helmet) in something serviceable for that. It will be better than what millions of people commute on daily all over the world. Again, having looked closely, many (not all) of the x-mart bikes are better than those used by daily commuters in China (the heavy Chinese utility bike" is actually not sold very often).

  20. #20
    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert C View Post

    Further, the bikes get very little maintenance. it is uncommon there to even know how to, let alone have the tools to, patch a tube. I am not trying to be mean, it is just a different culture. People there specialize much more than we do.
    So in China if I am commuting to work and get a flat, I would look for a bike repair shop to replace or patch the tube. If my bottom bracket falls out, the same shop will repair it...somehow.

  21. #21
    Daily Rider Robert C's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gerv View Post
    So in China if I am commuting to work and get a flat, I would look for a bike repair shop to replace or patch the tube. If my bottom bracket falls out, the same shop will repair it...somehow.
    Been there, done it. Yes, that is exactly what you would do. Remember that a shop is very likely a guy working out of a cargo bike that has set up on a promising section of road (yes, if you are close to a real shop you may walk it there). You will probably leave the bike with him and pick it up, repaired, after work.

    You would cringe at the work being done (for example, patch sections are cut from old inner tubes); but, it seemed to work. The grease was not special bicycle grease, it was plain old grease. Cooking oil was considered fine as chain lube (in practice, very few of the chains were oiled at all). Like I said, it seems to work.

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