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Department Store Frames

Old 06-02-13, 08:35 PM
  #1  
MEversbergII
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Department Store Frames

So pretty generally big box store and other lesser bikes get a bad rep for having low quality parts. A number of no-name brand bikes use Hi-Ten steel frames, which in combination with cheap parts usually gives them the verdict of not worth it completely, or not worth the price even if it's relatively low.

But what about these "low end" bike frames? Is it worthwhile to get, say, a 250USD or 300USD bike from someone like Schwinn or the other mass produced labels and, over time, upgrade the parts to something more proper? Is there something about the frames that are unsuitable? Every moving part's going to wear out eventually, so is getting one of these lower dollar bikes with upgrades in mind a good approach or not? What are principals of good frames?

After all, the bones of a bike is the frame, so I think it's something worth scrutinizing - it'll be around longer than anything else.

This is less for, say, $80 Huffey POS MTB's and more for the high-end-low-end stuff, that usually seems to start somewhere around $200. I'm kind of tempted to get this $300 single speed "Roadster" style I've seen that has an Alu frame, as a hold over until one day owning an Opa, or something similar.

As an aside, why is Hi-Ten steel frames specifically bad, while I've seen other steel frame bikes get good marks? Same question goes for "gas pipe" frames. I get they are bad, so I have no hope for them, but I think it's good to get the Why so I can explain to others.

Thanks,

M.
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Old 06-02-13, 08:41 PM
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Generally, the drawback to cheap steel frames is weight. Then, too, a lot of bikes at that price point are one-size-filts-all, so if you don't fit that "average" size frame, you're out of luck.

You might check into some of Nashbar's frames, some of them get pretty cheap.

If you buy a bike as a package, you'll generally have better pricing than if you bought all those same components and assembled them.
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Old 06-03-13, 07:01 AM
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Originally Posted by MEversbergII View Post
Same question goes for "gas pipe" frames. I get they are bad, so I have no hope for them, but I think it's good to get the Why so I can explain to others.
You seem to have answered the question yourself already.

Crap material for one, also crap parts.. most are also missing industry standard dropout locations and stuff that higher end bikes have. Some dep store bikes don't even have dropout hangers. To most, steel is steel and aluminum is aluminum, but that's not always the case. The alloy composition, thickness, geometry all have an effect on the end feel of the ride. There's a reason there are have hundreds of bike manufacturers that all use the same Shimano/SRAM/etc groupsets and usually differ only by frame and fork.

To put it in an analogy, you could buy a Honda Civic and spend thousands do get the performance and handling of a Ferrari on paper, but nobody will ever agree that it meets the overall feel, fit and finish of the Ferrari..
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Old 06-03-13, 07:14 AM
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Originally Posted by kmv2 View Post
You seem to have answered the question yourself already.

Crap material for one, also crap parts.. most are also missing industry standard dropout locations and stuff that higher end bikes have. Some dep store bikes don't even have dropout hangers. To most, steel is steel and aluminum is aluminum, but that's not always the case. The alloy composition, thickness, geometry all have an effect on the end feel of the ride. There's a reason there are have hundreds of bike manufacturers that all use the same Shimano/SRAM/etc groupsets and usually differ only by frame and fork.

To put it in an analogy, you could buy a Honda Civic and spend thousands do get the performance and handling of a Ferrari on paper, but nobody will ever agree that it meets the overall feel, fit and finish of the Ferrari..
Except that comparing a department store bike to a Honda does a great disservice to Honda.
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Old 06-03-13, 07:21 AM
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Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
Except that comparing a department store bike to a Honda does a great disservice to Honda.
Haha, pretty much. For one thing, Hondas will last for more than one drive.
I was going to say Kia/Hyundai but they are making decent cars now too.
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Old 06-03-13, 07:32 AM
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Haha, pretty much. For one thing, Hondas will last for more than one drive.
I was going to say Kia/Hyundai but they are making decent cars now too.

You Still have the Slavic translations of the Fiat 124,127, to pick on, .. Lada And Yugo..

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Old 06-03-13, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by MEversbergII View Post

As an aside, why is Hi-Ten steel frames specifically bad, while I've seen other steel frame bikes get good marks? Same question goes for "gas pipe" frames. I get they are bad, so I have no hope for them, but I think it's good to get the Why so I can explain to others.

Thanks,

M.
I have a hi-ten Miyata 'Racer' circa '72, it's a gem of the bike. The tubes are very narrow to offset the weight issue, hence it may have more flex than my other bikes. Great ride, my commuter and cruiser bike. However, I think the point is no manufacturer these days is putting much design quality into a bike they're making with hi-ten, so the finished product is simply cheap. I'd say it's not the quality of the material, it the quality of the finished product.

Another example, note the turkey wing/suicide brakes on my Racer, Dura-Ace. They work perfectly every time, which hardly the norm.

Hi-ten forks are particularly nice at smoothing out road chatter. Late '70s early '80s there Japanese imports with cr-mo frames and hi-ten forks -> that was a great combination but for the additional weight penalty. So, if I found a quality designed/built frame made out of hi-ten I would not turn my nose up at it. Not sure you are going to see any of these at Wal-Mart.

Frankly, same issue with Al frames. There is very good and there is crap.
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Old 06-03-13, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
You Still have the Slavic translations of the Fiat 124,127, to pick on, .. Lada And Yugo..
True, or any Chinese car.
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Old 06-03-13, 08:41 AM
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Originally Posted by MEversbergII View Post
As an aside, why is Hi-Ten steel frames specifically bad, while I've seen other steel frame bikes get good marks? Same question goes for "gas pipe" frames. I get they are bad, so I have no hope for them, but I think it's good to get the Why so I can explain to others.
Steel is iron with carbon and usually other stuff mixed with it. There are many different steel alloys and they have different properties.

If you make a bicycle frame from a low strength grade of steel, you have to use more of it (thicker walled tubes) to make the frame strong enough. That's going to make it heavier. As you move up the steel alloy food chain, it becomes possible to make a bicycle frame that is not only impressively light in weight, but also has an indescribably improved ride quality that many experienced riders prize. Creating such a bike frame requires more exotic production methods that increase it's cost.

Every buyer gets to choose their own cost/benefit point.
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Old 06-03-13, 11:00 AM
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Hi,

I've bought two cheap "department" store bikes and changed the bits I really
didn't like - seat, tyres, pedals and one of them the crankset. However don't
buy a cheap bike to upgrade it, it is a waste of money. Simply buy a more
expensive bike with better bits, it will be far cheaper in the long run.

Hi-ten frames are not bad, they are good and cost effective, but not light.
Gaspipe frames are not much cheaper, and much heavier, not a good idea.

That cheap bikes use shoddy materials etc is largely a myth, though some
are very bad - its not difficult to spot a sound budget bike that will also
sell well in markets much less rich than the west.

What they don't have is quality control and somebody taking the time to go
through the whole bike and adjust it, fettle it, to work as well as it could.

rgds, sreten.
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