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Cheap Walmart bike upgrade list

Old 04-14-24, 04:43 AM
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Cheap Walmart bike upgrade list

Hi everyone, not a newbie here, but it's been so long, I feel new. Let's say born again rider. Really glad to be back on bike after cancer and other health issues. I currently own a early 2000s Jamis converted to LHT setup, and a 1987 Fuji Roubaix.

This bike is a recent model Kent Ridgeland Single speed.

https://kent.bike/products/kent-ridgeland

I bought this bike as a package with a helmet, lock, and car rack for $100. I needed the other things so the bike was in essence, FREE!! I love being frugal. This bike will serve as a loaner for out of town guests, my back-up at 6am when I notice a flat tire on my Roubaix, and eventually my commuter (6 miles RT flat) during rain. I'm in PNW.

I'm aware of it's cheap and heavy parts, and although weight is not the primary issue, is important. I hope to upgrade this bike over time to be unique, durable and easy to maintain.

​​​​​​A problem I noticed right away was break squeal. The bike has only been ridden a couple times. Cheap painted rims?

I bought some cheap plastic fenders to go on it in addition to a more comfy seat, yet to arrive, as well as Zinn book on maintenance.

I hope to be able to buy all parts either used (off marketplace) or new off Amazon. I would like to incrementally start with most important items first that will increase durability. Over time there really is no set limit on budget because maintenance is neverending, but don't mind spending 100 here or there when needed.

I'm looking for
ideas where to start and order of thigs
Ideas WHICH parts are good deals and where to obtain
Eventually, how to do certain projects that I currently don't

Can this bike be upgraded in the rear to accommodate gears? If so, best option?
I am not set up to be able to true wheels, so I imagine I'll need wheels soon ish that are indestructo.

Thanks for any help.
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Old 04-14-24, 05:01 AM
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I take a different tack with beater bikes. Basically, I don't do ANY upgrades, save possibly the saddle, and ride until something needs replacement, at which time I'll go with something better.

What's the old Gallo slogan? I replace no part before it's time.
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Old 04-14-24, 05:15 AM
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Okay, maybe an idea of which parts likely to break first? Need to have it reasonably durable by next rainy season. Since, I want parts on the cheap buying when available vs needed will save cash.
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Old 04-14-24, 05:16 AM
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I'd work on the brake noise and forget trying to upgrade anything. The brakes could be noisy due to one or a combination of factors. Hard pads, pads not aligned, or loose parts etc.
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Old 04-14-24, 05:21 AM
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As far as what will break first, I’d replace freewheel and bottom bracket. For safety, the whole brake system ideally. Trying to convert it to a geared bike will be way too costly - sell it and buy another cheap bike if that’s your goal.
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Old 04-14-24, 05:29 AM
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That's a nice blue! I'd say ride it until something brakes, then find another if you enjoyed the ride.
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Old 04-14-24, 05:30 AM
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Originally Posted by robcor2
Okay, maybe an idea of which parts likely to break first? .....
Impossible to predict. Keep in mind that this is a very simple bike without things like derailleurs which may be delicate or finicky.

I'd make sure the wheels are true and tight. Likewise all hardware, since something loosening and falling off is common on big box bikes.

Saddles tend to fall apart, and after that, I'd guess the pedals will go first.

Given the weather, I'd make sure all bearings are well lubricated.

With decent care this bike will.surprise you. It's easy to call them crap, and in many ways they are, but these crappy bikes are the mainstay transport for low pay workers throughout the US, being cheaper than the bus (if there is one at night) and typically last long enough to pay for themselves, and to get replaced outright when broken.
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Old 04-14-24, 05:31 AM
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Originally Posted by bboy314
As far as what will break first, I’d replace freewheel and bottom bracket. For safety, the whole brake system ideally. Trying to convert it to a geared bike will be way too costly - sell it and buy another cheap bike if that’s your goal.
That answers major question, since I don't need gears..... yet, I need another bike also😁😉

​​​​​​Any suggestions on what brakes to look for?
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Old 04-14-24, 06:26 AM
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Originally Posted by robcor2
That answers major question, since I don't need gears..... yet, I need another bike also😁😉

​​​​​​Any suggestions on what brakes to look for?
Tektro will probably have something that works. You need to make sure to get the proper reach, and check whether you need nutted or recessed nut (probably nutted for this bike). Then any decent short pull levers made of metal, and new cables and housing.

If you don’t want to replace the whole system, you could start with just decent pads, like Kool Stop Continentals, and adjustment.

Edit: someone pointed out these are linear pull brakes, not caliper, so the above doesn’t apply. You could try Kool Stop linear pull pads first, but I’d just replace the brakes themselves.

Last edited by bboy314; 04-14-24 at 09:05 AM.
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Old 04-14-24, 06:59 AM
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The brakes on that bike look like cheap, stamped steel linear pull. They would be the first thing I would look at replacing.
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Old 04-14-24, 07:05 AM
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Is there a bike co-op near you? If so, someone there can advise and help you.

From the photo, the brake calipers look like they're made of the cheapest stamped steel, hardly worth working on. You might be able to see them flex under load. A co-op will have a bin full of salvaged calipers of higher quality. As is typical of those bikes, the brake cable housings are a little too long. Correct length will improve performance too.
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Old 04-14-24, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by bboy314
Tektro will probably have something that works. You need to make sure to get the proper reach, and check whether you need nutted or recessed nut (probably nutted for this bike). Then any decent short pull levers made of metal, and new cables and housing.
.
OP's bike has linear pull brakes.
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Old 04-14-24, 07:28 AM
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Not a bad bike for free. I like the colors.

The thing is, if you start throwing money at it, it's not free anymore. It's sort of a "white elephant" - something you get for free but struggle to maintain.

I would suggest only buying parts for it that you can be reasonable certain can outlive the bike. Start with the seat and pedals.

Also, the free stuff helps a lot on any bike - good lubrication and air pressure.
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Old 04-14-24, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by alcjphil
OP's bike has linear pull brakes.
Didnt notice that. In that case, any Shimano, Avid or Tektro brakes would be an upgrade, and cheaper than caliper brakes to boot.
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Old 04-14-24, 07:53 AM
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Brakes it is!!!
there is a co-op about a dozen miles from me. That'll be where I start. I really appreciate this.
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Old 04-14-24, 08:01 AM
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I would leave the bike as is minus a full tune up to make sure everything is as safe as it can be on a bike like that and then ride it into the ground and dispose of it as it was designed for. During that time you will save money that you would otherwise spend on the bike and eventually put that money towards the bike you want that you don't need to upgrade. In this case the bike would be an upgrade as the wallymart thing was not designed to be upgraded or to really be ridden much. It is an expensive stop gap till you get the right bike for you.

If you are absolutely desperate to throw good money towards bad then about the only thing I might do is put on some nicer brake pads. Kool Stop or SwissStop are what I would generally recommend. A saddle is something I would only replace on a bike after I had ridden on it for a while after adjusting it for me and then deciding it didn't feel right. Beyond that replacing a saddle because you took a brief glance at it and said that has to be uncomfortable because... and whatever comes after that makes no sense ever (again barring some odd saddle with nails or something silly) because you haven't ridden on it for a long enough period with it properly adjusted for you. I am not saying that a wally-mart saddle will be of any sort of comfort but I can also not say it will be completely uncomfortable either as I have not ridden on one at all save for maybe a minute or two.

If you are building a commuter bike this is not a good starting point. It is a good starting point to figure out what you really hate on it and maybe what you like and then find a bike that fits those parameters but beyond that just ride it and save up for what you want. If you want a geared bike, get one as this is not designed to be a geared bike and while there was a kit to make a single speed into a geared bike the cost of it is way more than that bike could ever be worth even a whole pallet of them so it is not a sensible modification to do.
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Old 04-14-24, 08:14 AM
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Originally Posted by alcjphil
The brakes on that bike look like cheap, stamped steel linear pull. They would be the first thing I would look at replacing.
Totally agree. It's worth getting some stout brakes with salmon-colored Kool Stop brake pads (which are better in the wet weather we get in the PNW.)
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Old 04-14-24, 08:25 AM
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Originally Posted by robcor2
Okay, maybe an idea of which parts likely to break first? Need to have it reasonably durable by next rainy season. Since, I want parts on the cheap buying when available vs needed will save cash.
The most likely part to go first is the bearings and spindle in the bottom bracket, based on my past experience at the co-op. The bottom bracket in these bikes are made of a steel that really isn't. The bearings crumble to dust and the spindles tend to crack. The cups on the bottom bracket may pull apart when you try to remove them. The cranks themselves are also made of a similar material and tend to fall apart as well. The pedal threads are particularly delicate. The frames are usually okay as are most of the other bearings.
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Old 04-14-24, 09:06 AM
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Kool stop pads, look for a 3 speed IGH rear wheel.
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Old 04-14-24, 09:16 AM
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remember the front brake does about 70% of the stopping effort so if you can't find a full set of brakes, just a pair, installed on the front, will help. And you might look for levers too, bikes at this level generally have very poor levers.

good luck

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Old 04-14-24, 10:20 AM
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Another thing I just thought of is the chain. The last Kent I had to work on had the worst chain I've ever seen and it wasn't just because the owner neglected the bike.
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Old 04-14-24, 11:18 AM
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Sorry to rain on OP's parade but: I would not spend any money on this, save to get a a higher quality bike.

by the time you put money in like wheels etc your at a new bike price soon

Consider a used bike if needed

The way this could be sold for $100 is that every single part is the cheapest, lowest quality possible....look at how thin the brake arms are as an example and assembly is rarely done correctly

I have worked on a lot of bikes like these.....(friends, neighbors, relatives, bike charity) and parts strip, nothing stays fixed, and overall are a pain to work on as you get them working and 10 minutes later they don't

here are ideas for similar, some with gears some without.... lowest price with a ok level of components.... .(choose REI as example as they pretty common )

https://www.rei.com/product/100808/e...step-over-bike

https://www.rei.com/product/100808/e...step-over-bike

https://www.rei.com/product/184505/c...e-quick-6-bike

https://www.rei.com/product/184505/c...e-quick-6-bike
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Old 04-14-24, 11:41 AM
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I'm with squirtdad above. consider if you really want to put the time and effort into this bike

look at your local Craigslist and see what you can find for $250. Find somebody who can help you evaluate a used bike.

and bargain hard.

you could spend several hunbuck and many hours on this bike and it will probably disappoint you, or at least lead you to the place where you say "heck I'm going to step up and buy a better bike to start with".

most of us have been there :

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Old 04-15-24, 02:40 PM
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Find a bridge with a deep channel, look down to make sure there are no boaters or swimmers down below (kayakers are ok) and chuck that thing where it belongs, at best it will leave someone stranded, and at worst it will get someone hurt or killled.
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Old 04-15-24, 03:09 PM
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Ignore the naysayers, many of which are too young to remember when "good" bikes were not much better than this.

I wouldn't spend dough upgrading, but this bike has lots of potential miles in it. All it needs is a rider.
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