My department at work raised a bunch of money for the annual Toys for Tots campaign. They decided to buy a bunch of bikes from Walmart and got a deal on 55 bikes (yes, fifty-five of them!).
The bikes cost between $25 and $40 each with $40 for a 26" multispeed "Mountain Bike". They were all Quest branded bikes.
Yes, I know that they could have bought real bikes, but they obviously wanted to get as many as possible. Still, I find it amazing that a multispeed bike can be built and sold at a profit for $40.
Nonetheless, today I got the esteemed honor of assembling some of these bikes. They came to us still in the box so I got to see just what assembly is required at Walmart and what kind of problems are encountered with the bikes. So far, I have assembled about 10 of the multi-speed models so I have a pretty good sample. Since there is much discussion of xmart bike assembly here, I thought my experience would be enlightening, if not entertaining.
The bikes come almost completely assembled with the front wheel and handlebar/stem strapped to the frame. the rear wheel is already bolted on. The seat and seatpost are bolted together and come loose in the box. The front fork is turned backwards to shorten the required box size. The pedals are shrinkwrapped together and rubberbanded to a spoke on the rear wheel.
Assembly simply requires separating the front wheel and pedals, installing the handlebars.stem, seatpost, and pedals. The front brake cable comes threaded through the pinch bolt, but the bolt is not tightened so the front brake needs to be adjusted. This appears to be intentional and assures that the front wheel will clear the brake pads. This is the only adjustment intended other than handlebar and seat height.
Finally, the tires need to be pumped up. That's all that is required.
Of course, as we all know, xmart bikes need more than the nominal assembly to be properly assembled and safe. Here's what I found:
The front brake caliper usually needed to be adjusted or the right side pad would rub the rim. Most of the front brake pads were not correctly oriented or tightened and so needed adjustment. Curiously, the rear calipers were usually close enough. Only two of the ten bikes need a rear brake adjustment to be safe though all of the rear calipers needed adjustment to optimize their effectiveness..
The seatpost clamp bolt was often very loose and the nut and washer were missing on one bike. A couple other nuts were loose in the bottom of the box and could easily have fallen out with handling.
The reflectors came preattached to the handlebar and seatpost, but were usually not correctly positioned. Several bikes had broken reflectors and some had the mounting screws loose in the box.
The brake lever clamps were not tight enough to keep them from slipping on the handlebars. All the levers required tightening even though this was not one of the intended steps.
The tires fit a bit too loose on the rims and it was hard to get the bead seated all the way around when pumping them up. I had one tube blowout because of this.
One of the wheels was horribly out of true and needed a quick adjustment with a spoke wrench. All of the wheels were poorly constructed and had too little spoke tension. But all but one were true enough to be usable.
Overall, I was actually surprised at how easily these bikes went together. There is really very little assembly time required as most of it is done prior to shipping. An experienced assembler could easily put one of these together in about 5 minutes assuming no unplanned adjustments were required. The biggest problem area I saw was with the brake adjustment. This is, of course, a critical component that needs some attention in the assembly. So far, the only outright broken items were reflectors. However, I have not yet checked the gear adjustments.
Make no mistake, these are cheap, cheap, cheap bikes. Do not mistake my comments as any endorsement of the bike's quality. I'm only reporting on the assembly required and my experience with the condition of the bikes as received from the factory.
I'll update this as I finish checking out the gears.