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  1. #1
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    Shwinn Ranger for 9 yo girl - construction question

    Hi folks,

    I'm just a mom, but I'm a big fan of well-made bikes. I have ponied up the big bucks at the LBS for my kids' bikes and I've searched and found well-made kid bikes in classified ads. I've also taught a couple of my kids' friends to ride while their parents watch football games and drink soda. This question is for the most frequently present of those kids. This kid has been riding a truly terrible bicycle up until now, so unbalanced that the kid can hardly ride.

    Her family cannot possibly afford a nice bike-shop bike. They refuse to have anything to do with a second-hand bike (arrrgh). They've chosen to buy a Shwinn Ranger from Target for her next bike. I went to look at it yesterday and I'm pretty worried that it is going to be a waste of money, at best. The rear derailleur has a red plastic sprocket in the pulley (not truly sure of the terms here). How can that last? Won't it begin to warp and stop working?

    Does anyone have any experience with bikes like this? Will this bike be fixable when it breaks?

    Thanks,

    Sharon
    (first time post - glad to find a family bike forum)

  2. #2
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    Generally they are not the best bikes at the box stores. They are generally workable though. They can take some abuse and will ride for awhile. Where they fall behind is in the finish, how well the components work and how durable the components are. Additionally, chances are the box store will not do a very good job setting up the bike. The only problem I have ever seen with the bikes that is not fixable is a bottom bracket problem. However, most problems that might crop up on the bike will not be worth fixing. The repair cost for small items could easily be 1/4 to 1/2 the cost of the purchase price.

    I understand your frustration about a second hand bike. You could probably get a better bike for less in the used market. But at some point, this is not your kid. You may just have to bite your tongue and help out where you can, when you can.

  3. #3
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    There are few “quality” kids bikes around that are in a price range most parents are willing to venture into. It seems that even regular riders have a hard time justifying spending more than $200.00 on their kids bike even when their own bike cost $1000.00 plus. It can easily cost more than $200.00 for a quality set of wheels (the wheels on my son’s BMX race bike are $250.00 and they are only mid-level) so most affordable bikes will have a lot of compromises. Even when you are willing to look into the higher ranges you have few real quality choices in 20 inch wheel sizes and only a few more when you hit the 24 inch wheel size.

    As for the bike in question. The red plastic sprocket (they are called jockey wheels) is going to last just as long as the black plastic jockey wheels that most bikes come with. The derailleur is the ubiquitous Shimano Tourney derailleur that comes on practically every kids bike with gears. The only thing that makes it look flimsier than prior models is that the jockey wheel is much larger than what most people are used to seeing on a derailleur, this was a change in the Shimano low end component groups about 3 years ago. Google Giant STP 225 and you will see that for 350.00 or more you get a bike equipped with exactly the same derailleur. If the derailleur does pack it in buy a new one and throw it on. A new Tourney derailleur can be found for under 10.00 and you can move up to an Altus level for 15.00, it literally takes 10 minutes to do this. The Pro-Max brakes are fine if set up properly, though they usually are not. The bottom brackets are usually cheap heavy ones but they should last unless they were threaded in improperly. The headsets are usually terrible but are strong enough for the type of riding most kids do. The wheels are generally low end machine built wheels that rarely have the spokes properly tensioned, they may or may not stay true, it depends a lot on how the kid rides.

    Bikes typically come in a box with no pedals on, the wheels not installed, the handlebars turned sideways and the seat not in the post. The bottom bracket will already be installed as will the crank. There is very little actual assembly to be done so there is no reason to believe a big box store employee can not manage this. The problems tend to arise as a result of the bike not being tuned after assembly. I would suggest you point the parents at the Park Tool website (www.parktool.com/) repair help section. They have easy to follow instructions on how to tune the brakes and shifting, these are tasks that can be accomplished with a few allen keys and a screwdriver. If they are handy enough to tune the bike themselves then it will be fine.

  4. #4
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    This is all sort of relative. I think most of us concede that a bike shop bike is a better purchase for us personally. We realize the long term gains that will be made by spending more at the LBS. But I'm not convinced that this really applies to kids as much.

    I bought my son a nice Giant 20" bike a couple years ago. I got it used but it was just like brand new. A funny thing happened after that. All of his buddies ride the flashy Walmart bikes and he could never accept that his bike was "better" than their's.

    Despite me repeatedly explaining, he still was more excited by the Wally bikes. This taught me something. He's a kid. Sometimes kids just need to be kids and it doesn't always need to make sense to us as adults.

    My son still owns his Giant, but I'm not positive that i will get him another LBS bike when he moves up in size. He doesn't ride a LOT and he has always seemed more enamored with the junk bikes. And besides, if I would have gotten a Schwinn Ranger (or some similar Walmart bike) when I was 9 yrs. old I would have been proud as punch.

    I always road used bikes or hand me downs. So let's not treat the poor child like she is getting neglected.

  5. #5
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    When I do what I call a charity rebuild, if the family is as unappreciative as you describe, the bike goes to someone else. Refusing a good bike because it is second hand and rebuilt when you have nothing is tacky. I think I'm channeling my late Grandmother, as she always said to use your talents to not just support you and your own, but to help those that need it.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

    If your bike has breaks, don't ride it.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for all the replies. I'm encouraged by some of the responses. I just hate to see the girl get more discouraged. All the falls & wobbling have been very hard on her self-esteem (while my own kids go whizzing past her). I'm hoping that the Schwinn will be much more rideable than her terrible Huffy from H*ll.

    Meanwhile, I got my kid's next bike while looking for one for the friend. I was willing to pass the deal on to them. But hey, if they didn't want a second-hand bike, I was delighted to get a like-new $280 Trek bike for $80.

    Thanks for all the help.

    Sharon

  7. #7
    Senior Member Fibber's Avatar
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    As Andy stated very well in the post above, this is a decent kids bike made up of an appropriate class of components at a very good price.

    If you scan down thru the various threads in this section, the subject of big box store vs. LBS bikes has been covered in detail. Pacific Cycle markets the Schwinn brand thru both channels. The Ranger (Target, around $125) is a near copy of the Voyageur sold thru bike shops at about $120 more. The big difference being assembly quality and after sale support. If a member of the family, or you as a caring friend can put it together and keep it maintained, it should prove to be an excellent value.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Sci-Fi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bessieheath View Post

    Her family cannot possibly afford a nice bike-shop bike. They refuse to have anything to do with a second-hand bike (arrrgh). They've chosen to buy a Shwinn Ranger from Target for her next bike. I went to look at it yesterday and I'm pretty worried that it is going to be a waste of money, at best. The rear derailleur has a red plastic sprocket in the pulley (not truly sure of the terms here). How can that last? Won't it begin to warp and stop working?

    Does anyone have any experience with bikes like this? Will this bike be fixable when it breaks?

    Thanks,

    Sharon
    (first time post - glad to find a family bike forum)
    The Schwinn Ranger bike is decent quality and would be a good choice for recreational riding. Lot of the parts used is considered "old tech" but it works just fine. The color of the derailleur wheels doesn't affect the performance or longevity of the derailleur. The "low end" Shimano derailleurs works fine...I remember replacing a XTR with a Tourney as an emergency temp fix for a friend and it's still on there...lol. The key factor is assembly and adjustment of all the components. Read of some LBS's that recommended their customers buy the Ranger bike at Target and bring it to them for (re)assembly and adjustments. At minimum, I would have the wheels checked for trueness, proper spoke tension, and if the rear wheel was dished correctly.

  9. #9
    Stuck in Toeclips
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    Sharon: Concur with the others. I've had a Schwinn Ranger for three years and have ridden it a few thousand miles: it's been flawless. The parts are not high-end, but I'd rank the overall quality of the bike up there with brands costing loads more. Best hundred-&-some bucks you can spend in bicycling, IMO.

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