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  1. #1
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    The Truth...I Can Handle The Truth

    I have spent a lot of hours reading about Department Store Bikes. Most everyone says they suck! I just bought a Schwinn Ranger at Target about 3 weeks ago. I paid $149 for it. I was immediately impressed when I got on it. The ride was nice and it was great compared to the 10 speed I had 20 years ago.

    I am 34 years old and decided to get physically active last Spring. I used to run and decided I would rather bike because I love gadgets. (NOth everyone has remote control lights and cameras throughout their house)

    So in the last 3 weeks I have been riding this bike HARD, 10+ miles per day every day. (in 30 minutes or around that depends on wind) Over 7 of these miles are on loose gravel on a large dike. I am fine with the bike but since I work on things for a living I know that this thing ain't gonna hold up forever. My instincts tell me that the derailleur/chain is going to let me down.

    When I shift everything is pretty cool but it is rough. Lots of catching and grabbing but everything works like it should. So my question is.........Should I upgrade to a bike with a better Shimano group? THis thing obviously has the SS or whatever POS deraillers. How can I convince my wife that it is worth the extra?

    I have looked at some of the Gary Fisher's and Treks at local Bike Store. What will I HONESTLY get with a $500 one of these that I don't already have. Again, I don't want to RAMP, JUMP, or any of that stuff. I just want to ride and have nice shifts. I will never go up a mountain and probably the worst thing I will ever be on is rough gravel. (not hard to find here in KS)

    I know I can fix this Schwinn thing if I need to but I hate the way it shifts. And I know that I have a tensile steel frame. What will a better frame do for a guy like me that rides 10 miles per day on moderate terrain?

  2. #2
    Senior Member brandon14295's Avatar
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    i love the shifting on my trek 4300.
    2004 Trek 4300
    2005 Felt Chasm
    2005 Gary Fisher
    2006 Trek 1000 SL

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bobatin's Avatar
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    Keep on riding that bike until you break it. Then fix it and ride it some more. When you get bored doing the same rides day after day start looking at some bike shop bikes for a bike to take on the trails or out on the road. The bug will get you eventualy.
    So, if you're in the car, waiting impatiently. . . get over it - you're not that special.
    "Its not what you take when you leave, Its what you leave when you go."
    Some country and western song

  4. #4
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    "Keep on riding that bike until you break it. Then fix it and ride it some more. When you get bored doing the same rides day after day start looking at some bike shop bikes for a bike to take on the trails or out on the road. The bug will get you eventualy. "

    That is refreshing advice. It seems very practical and doesn't possess the mob LBS mentality that I keep finding.

    I know I have the bug. I am limited by job and family for time. I just want to go fast and get off pavement. And I don't want to put up with junk. Hopefully someday I will have the time to get in the dirt and play it up.
    Last edited by Portis; 09-10-03 at 06:51 PM.

  5. #5
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    As long as you stick with trek/fisher, giant, or specialized you'll get a solid bike for $500

  6. #6
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    If you're out having fun and getting in shape who cares if your bike came from a department store, LBS or even a ******* jack box.

    The point is to have fun and get in shape, not to come on here and rave about where you got your wheels or how much you paid or what parts are on it.

    If smoother shifting is going to bring you more enjoyment and make you want to ride more then go for it. Having said that, there does come a point where it just makes sense to upgrade the whole bike rather then part by part, but only you can decide that.

    Remember, the real value is what you get OUT of the bike, not what bike you get.

  7. #7
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    Thanks again for another honest response. Undoubtedly you are good for the sport. My question now is....Considering the fact that my riding habits will likely stay the same (50+ miles per week on gravel and pavement) what difference would I notice riding a Trek or Tony Fisher on the same ride.

    Obviously you can't see where I go but, again I ride a 4 mile pavement route, and a gravel route that is currently 6+ miles, that will likely increase to 8+. I don't see this changing for a year or two.

    It seems to me that durability is the concern. How do i predict how much better off I will be in 2 years riding a LBS vs. DSB?

  8. #8
    Senior Member JoeTown244GL's Avatar
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    Sounds almost exactly like I started out. I'd keep that Target bike going with good maintenance while I kept my eye out for a used bike. Used bikes are great deals. Let the other guy pay for the depriciation. You get a good bike at a good price. Either way enjoy.

    I used to live in Western Kansas - the wind was just nuts! What end of the state do you hail from (pun intended)?

  9. #9
    Yes that's Me lamajo25's Avatar
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    Ranger, I just bought a Schwinn Sidewinder from Wal-Mart. Paid $130.00 for it and am very impressed. I had a Roadmaster 18 speed that was nice but much heavier. It has the Shimano 7 speed rear index and the 3 chain rings that are also index shifting. My Roadmaster had index shifting but wasn't the best, the Schwinn is much easier to shift and much better. It has front suspension that is a bit stiffer than my Roadmaster was. The top mounting bracket for the front beefier and I trust it much more. They had another bike almost exactly like it but it had a different Shimano system, and looking at the rear derailure the two very small gears almost looked plastic. I'm sure they weren't but the price is what sold me on the Sidewinder. I'm very pleased and it's got more sturdy parts than the Roadmaster that I had. I ride quite frequently on trails the only thing I am planning on changing is my tires asap. I'm getting used to the riser handle bars but if I really want to I'll change them.
    If you don't know. Don't say anything.

    And for God sakes Quit hating on Police Officers.

  10. #10
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    all i can say is you get what you pay for, buy a cheap bike and it will shift like one. upgrading your drive train will cost more than you paid for your heap of crap schwinn.

    true story.

  11. #11
    Super Biker Mtn Mike's Avatar
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    For around $300-400 you'll get a lighter bike that shifts more smoothly, and is generally put together with higher quality parts. After putting some miles on your dept store Schwinn, you'll probably be good enough to notice the difference in the weight and quality of a better bike.

    I agree with copper RS, but wont say it so bluntly. It's probably not worth updating the drivetrain. If you like analogies like I do, "It would be like putting a 6 speed Porsha transmission in a Ford Escort"; sure it will shift better, but who cares. (Not that there's anythign wrong with Ford Escorts, mind you).

    As for the LBS, heres the scoop, again in my opinion. When you buy a bike frome the shop you're also paying for a certain amount of after the purchase support that you definitely wont get at Target. This could include tune-ups and minor repairs (which you'll need on any bike), advice on riding position, advice on places to ride, and general moral support. Also, when you buy from the shop, you’ll presumably get a bike that was put together by a professional. The value of a local bike shop is somewhat intangible to the non cyclist. It's like any other avocation I guess, in that people that are serious about cycling just gravitate to the LBS. Ok enough rant.

  12. #12
    i chew straws stinkyonions's Avatar
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    i'll agree with everyone that the price you will pay upgrading your drivetrain will catch up quickly to the cost of the bike. it's awesome that 'the bug' has hit you as cycling can bring many joys. i was in the same situation about 10 years ago when i started biking on my department store ride. i rode it hard until i realized i was hooked on biking and saved all my pennies to get a schwinn. while tires are a fairly cheap upgrade, i would lay off on the drivetrain and look into a used bike down the line like JoeTown244GL said if you don't want to fork out the big bucks. by then you should be able to determine if it's something you want to stick with. you can even convert your target bike into a commuter bike and just use it to run errands or for a quick cruise around the block. that's what my old bike turned into. but welcome aboard and feel free to post any other questions you might have.

  13. #13
    Donating member Richard D's Avatar
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    Bikes are like most things - spending more is a law of diminishing returns and at what point cost vs return ceases to be worth it depends on you. I'd keep riding your existing bike until parts break or you decide that you need/would like better performance. I agree that upgrading parts isn't a good economic proposition - a complete new drive chain of Deore quality for example would certainly be more than the cost of your bike.
    Currently riding an MTB with a split personality - commuting, touring, riding for the sake of riding, on or off road :)

  14. #14
    cycle-powered nathank's Avatar
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    i agree. upgrade only things that area really inexpensieve or you could also use on a new bike (saddle, tires, etc)

    as suggested, ride it and keep it alive. then look for a used bike, or save for a new LBS bike. the more you ride, the more you will know what you really want/need.

    i personally never buy cheap - i buy either good new (not the best) or really good but used (first MTB was an '89 Stumpjumper i bought in '92 for $350 - new cost was $1300)

    a higher quality bike will be lighter and most likely have a better design and just all round better quality (shifting, brakes, smoothness, wheels, etc). because i ride a lot i know/feel what's good and not. i would rather ride a well-used quality bike than a POS - note: my '89 stumpjumper is still going strong - BB replaced, chain, wheels and tires, broke the fork in a crash, etc... but the crank/deraileurs/shifters are ORIGINAL. sure the design is out of date, but it is QUALITY!
    why drive when you can ride?
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  15. #15
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    If you are just concerned with the quality of the shifting at this point, then I have to disagree with some of the advice given here. If you decide to ride that bike for a while, there are some things you could do to make it shift better. I'm going to assume that you have an 8 speed cassette, and if it's 7 you can still do the same thing, you'll just have to look a little harder for the parts. If you upgrade your cassette to a Shimano XT, you'll get ramped gears that have been optimized for smooth shifts. Right now Colorado Cyclist has these cassettes for 29.99. Another thing I would do is change the rear derailleur cable. Any hang ups in the cable will cause degraded shifter performance, and a good Shimano cable will work much better than some really cheap generic cable. The derailleur is basically a dumb spring tension device, and it either works or it doesn't. The brains of the thing are in the shifter, so don't bother upgrading the derailleur right now. Put a good chain on it, learn how to tune it, and I think you might be surprised at how much better the shifting can be. Ride it for a while. When you do upgrade your bike you will have a better understanding of how it works, and what you need. I do agree with everyone about one thing, when you move up to a quality bike, it will be on a totally different level than the one your riding now.
    1 Chainring; $35, 1 Cog; $25, 14 Gears; Priceless.

  16. #16
    Donating member Richard D's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Buzzbomb
    If you are just concerned with the quality of the shifting at this point, then I have to disagree with some of the advice given here. If you decide to ride that bike for a while, there are some things you could do to make it shift better. I'm going to assume that you have an 8 speed cassette, and if it's 7 you can still do the same thing, you'll just have to look a little harder for the parts. If you upgrade your cassette to a Shimano XT, you'll get ramped gears that have been optimized for smooth shifts
    I would have thought it more likely that a bike of that price would have a freewheel that can't be upgraded easily, but even if it doesn't then I'd disagree with the performance gains in going up to XT. Shifting performance between XT and Deore (and even Acera isn't bad) is barely noticeable, the bigger difference is weight and arguably the biggest influence on shifting quality is the shifters.
    Currently riding an MTB with a split personality - commuting, touring, riding for the sake of riding, on or off road :)

  17. #17
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    You may be right about that Richard. The catalog I had only had XT. I guess the most important thing is to get a ramped cassette. I've seen the cheap stuff, and it's flat! No wonder the shifts are not good. Shifters control index, and I agree they have a lot to do with the feel of the shift, but as long as the cable is smooth, and the index of the shifter is correct, there is no reason that the shift itself shouldn't be crisp.
    1 Chainring; $35, 1 Cog; $25, 14 Gears; Priceless.

  18. #18
    Donating member Richard D's Avatar
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    If it's a freewheel rather than a freehub I wouldn't have thought he'd have much luck getting a better quality freewheel, and replacing it with a hub and cassette costs a few $$
    Currently riding an MTB with a split personality - commuting, touring, riding for the sake of riding, on or off road :)

  19. #19
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    I agree there as well, probably should have listed a freehub as another assumption. However, being the bike geek that I am, I would have no problem getting a wheel for 30-40 bucks and then when I got a new bike, I'd have a spare.
    1 Chainring; $35, 1 Cog; $25, 14 Gears; Priceless.

  20. #20
    NCAA - DUAL CHAMPIONS! a2psyklnut's Avatar
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    I am continually surprised by you guys. The advice given above makes me want to make this a permanent thread. You make me feel like a proud Papa!

    Honest, sincere and uninsulting replys to a POS question. You've brought a tear to my eye.

    O.k., enough mushy stuff.

    Ranger, the above advice is SOLID. Keep riding that bike, ride it proud. For the type of riding you're planning on, it's a decent enough bike. The best advice is to learn how to do a lot of your own maintenance. This in itself will save you $ and headaches down the road.

    If and when you do decide to tackle some challenging off road trails is the time to get a new bike. The one you have simply will not hold up to the rigors of actually riding the bike off-road.

    A few of the differences between a $500 shop bike and yours are as follows:

    1) FIT: Most X-Mart bikes come in one size "Medium", all shop bikes come in 4 or 5 different sizes to match your body dimensions. A bike that fits properly will be more comfortable and will be ridden more often.
    2) WEIGHT: X-Mart bikes are usually low grade Hi-Tensile Steel or Heavy Gauge Aluminum tubing. X-Marts bikes weight close to 30 lbs ++ for a hardtail (HT), meaning just front suspension. Shop bikes will be closer to 26-27 lbs, and as light as 24 lbs. You can get a super expensive race bike to weight as little as 20 lbs, but I consider that "Stupid Light".
    3) SUSPENSION: the quality of a cheap fork is very low. It consists of some elastomers that act as cushions and the fork reacts similar to a pogo stick. Higher quality forks will have numerous adjustments to them to control the amount of initial preload on the springs (metal coil springs or air), then there is an oil damper to control the rebound (how fast/slow the fork springs back to full extension.)
    4) DRIVETRAIN: this is a tough one to understand/explain. As the price goes up the shifting is quicker, more precise, more "instant". The weight of the components also drop reducing the total weight of the bike. However, you get to a point where the weight is so low that durability is compromised. However, you're talking the top of the line "Race" level components.
    5) WHEELS: Cheap wheels flex, are very heavy and have poor quality bearings. Shops bike will be lighter overall, and the "rotational" weight savings will feel dramatically different. Rotational mass savings will make the bike "Feel" faster. The wheels will stay true longer (if not abused). And the hubs will roll smoother.
    6) BARS/STEM/SEAT/POST: This is where X-Mart bikes really suffer. These parts are VERY heavy low quality. I've seen too many X-Mart handlebars bend just from casual riding. These parts make the bike really really heavy.
    7)CRANKS/BB/PEDALS: Cheap cranks have chainrings made of steel and are usually pinned to the cranks (permanently attached), they are cheap grade aluminum and flexy. The bottom brackets (bb) are very low quality bearings and very heavy adding to the total weight of the bike. Cheap pedals have axles made of cheap steel and bend downward in just a few months of use, not to mention cheap bearings. Shop quality bikes have cranks will aluminum chainrings that are replaceable if damaged or you want to change your gear ratios. The cranks "feel" stiffer and are which transfer more power to forward propolsion.

    I haven't even gotten to the FRAME, to me, the FRAME is the heart of the bike. The MOST important thing. A quality frame is light AND strong. There are differences in tubing material aluminum, carbon fiber, chromoly steel, titanium, scandium...etc. I can't begin to tell you the difference between a cheap X-mart frame and a shop quality frame. I don't have enough time to type that much!

    Hope this helps.
    L8R
    "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "WOW, What a Ride!" - unknown
    "Your Bike Sucks" - Sky Yaeger

  21. #21
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    Thanks for all of the great advice. I think I will keep riding the Schwinn DPS bike for awhile. It will give be a chance to learn the mechanics of a bike in preperation for owning a more expensive one.

    I neglected to mention one other aspect. I am fairly tall, 6'2". This does make the DPS bike too small. A 26" isn't a 26" they vary greatly in frame size. I would like a bigger frame.

    Lastly, since I keep mentioning that I like and want smooth reliable shifting, what bikes can you recommend that would suit my riding habits and have a great shifter and Shimano group? I will be looking at bikes in the months to come and would love advice. Please consider that I plant to ride 10-15 miles per day on 75% gravel path and 25% pavement. I ride hard (aggressive, not out for a stroll).

    I won't spend over $500, but will consider anything up to that. Also my only LBS only carries Trek and Gary Fisher. I want to buy from them because of service support. Any of these manufacturer's have a bike for me???

  22. #22
    NCAA - DUAL CHAMPIONS! a2psyklnut's Avatar
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    I'm not too familiar with the Trek line, but since Trek owns Gary Fisher they have similar bikes at each price point.

    I highly recommend the Tassajara. It's a little more than you may want to spend, but the component group is solid and shifts well. The frame is good quality aluminum and the fork is "so-so" but way better than what you currently have.

    It's a little out of your price range, but what I would consider an "entry-level" race bike. Meaning you could easily race this bike without any modifications and be competitive and have the bike hold up.

    At 6'2" I'm guessing your seat is at full extension and you still feel like your knees are hitting your handlebars. You're gonna want to get a 21" frame to start with. Height is less of an issue, whereas inseam lenght is. I'm 6'0" but have these short stubby legs, so I'm border line between a medium and a large frame. So, if your legs are short, you may feel more comfy on a Large, but may need an extra large. Make sure you test ride as many different sizes as possible. "AND" as many different brands as each manufacturer builds their bikes to different geometries, so they look similar they ride significantly different.

    L8R
    "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, "WOW, What a Ride!" - unknown
    "Your Bike Sucks" - Sky Yaeger

  23. #23
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    Don't rush into buying another bike. Learn how to maintain this one. The rough shifting could be caused by dirt buildup from those gravel roads. Keep your drivetrain clean and it should work better. Check Barnet's Manual, in the Mechanic forum, to learn about tightening the cables and adjusting the DR's. If you learn how to do the maintenence on this bike, you won't have any trouble moving onto another "fancier" bike.
    lj

  24. #24
    Super Biker Mtn Mike's Avatar
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    Any of these manufacturer's have a bike for me???
    Yep, just about any bike shop bike will be of decent quality. As for your bike shop, it's surprising that they only have those two brands. Gary Fisher is actually owned by Trek. Although their frame designs are completely different, you'll find that the components are similar or identical in that price range. You'll get some varriation of Bontrager (also owned by Trek), Shimano, and SRAM components on just about any of these bikes. Whats more important than the small details of the component mix is how well the bike fits you and rides.

    Go ahead, try one out. LOL, you'll be hooked.

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    AAAHHH! RUN AWAY! Your chances of riding your old bike for very long go right down the toilet as soon as you test ride a new bike. I know.
    1 Chainring; $35, 1 Cog; $25, 14 Gears; Priceless.

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