Who makes a good cheap bike

When I say cheap bike, I really really mean cheap bike. I’m talking $60 at Kmart bikes, not the $500 aluminum framed bikes. I need something to ride for a mile or two at a time on paved roads, but i’d prefer a mountainbike.

I have tried the roadmaster but it fell apart in a month so I returned it to Kmart. I love the Huffy brand bicycle as my family has bought alot of Huffy bicycles at Kmart & Target and most lasted 5 years w/o problems but I’m having trouble finding a Huffy except on ebay and I’d rather buy a Huffy at a store.

So what about the ‘Trek’ or the ‘mongoose’ brand bicycles? Are they any good? Good implying ‘doesn’t fall apart’ not ‘lightweight, aerodynamic, aluminum, shock resistant, etc’.

      • Department-stores only sell the cheapest bikes they can, and these bikes are all built poorly. The name-brand stuck on them is irrelevant.
  • Go to a regular bike shop and look at the cheapest bikes they have ($200-$300 or so, in my area). You are much more likely to get something that will hold up for a while.

That isn’t the case though. My family has bought alot of Huffy brand bicycles for $60 and they lasted several years without problems.

Check out the local pawnshops and classifieds. You’ll get a heck of a lot more for your money used than some extremely cheaply made new thing.

The Highwayman and I purchased some Mongoose mountainbikes a few years back. They aren’t bad for casual use. I don’t think we paid more than $100 for them and he rode his quite extensively at school. But I do second tremorviolet’s suggestion of hitting the classifieds. Just take it to a bike store guy for a ‘checkup’.

Yeah, go to a second-hand store and buy a good old bike-- might put you back 30 bucks for a good bike from 1990, and put on new tires and grease the moving bits and Bob’s your uncle. An old steel Schwinn or Motobecane or Raleigh or something. Any bike you get for that cheap new these days will, like, catastrophically explode like a Chevy Nova. My very favorite bike is from 1960; second-favorite is a fine one from 1982. They don’t make them like they used to, if you want reliable, sans widgets, bells and whistles.

How often did they ride them, and for how long? A Kmart bike will hold up to casual use well but if you’re going to be riding this for several miles a day every day it’s worth putting in an investment. A cheap Huffy might only last two years of hard use, but I know people who have gotten five or more years’ use out of their bikes. There are also better names than Huffy; they make a few good bikes (the higher-end models) but they’re not the best brand.

Many bike shops sell used bikes for a lot less than new, though it’s worth seeing just how used the bike is and weigh that against the money you’ll save. It is a good idea to get a bike at a bike shop since they can fix it for you if it breaks or teach you basic bike maintenance so you can fix it yourself. For many people, a bike is a primary mode of transportation: would you buy a car at Kmart that you had to put together yourself and which, if it broke, could not be fixed by the people at Kmart, all to save a few thousand dollars? You might pay more, but really, I think that a bike (if it is being used as transportation and not just as a toy) is one of the things that’s worth the extra money and attention. People who work in bike shops really care about their products and will try to find a bike that fits you, unlike the people at Kmart who will just try to get you checked out as fast as possible.

If you’re going to be riding on paved roads only, a cruiser will be a better fit than a mountain bike. Mountain bikes are heavier since they’re designed to be ridden on rough trails; a lightweight cruiser will take less energy to power. A good cruiser is also much less expensive than a good mountain bike ($150-200 vs. $500 and up). Here’s a site with some pretty reasonably priced cruisers.

This was before we had driver’s licenses so we were riding 10-15 miles a week.

I’d prefer a mountainbike though. I will not use it offroad much, but I will use it now and again on the local trails.

I have 2 bikes;

my old Fila Taos rigid frame steel MTB that i’ve converted to a road/trail bike (i yoinked off the old Kenda semi-knobbies and put on a pair of WTB Slickasaurus slicks), the Fila is going to be my main road rig

a Trek 4500 mountain bike, i don’t ride really gnarly off road trails, i stick to mainly fire roads / rail-trails and roads, so i replaced the stock Bontrager Jones AC tires with a set of Serfas Vermin semi-knobbies, they have much less rolling resistance than the Jones skins

the roads in my area are usually in reasonably rough shape and not really road-bike freindly, i’d do a lot of swerving to avoid sections of broken pavement, wheras the wider tires on the Fila can handle minor broken pavement with no problems

i see a couple options for you here;

first, decide if you’re going to ride on the road, or off road more;

if you are planning to ride off road more, look at an inexpensive mountain bike (Trek 4300 or 4500), but put a set of semi-knobbies (like the Serfas Vermin) on it

if you plan on spending more time on the road, choose the cross bike (also called a comfort bike or a hybrid bike), it’s got a lighter frame and less agressive tires than a MTB, but the frame is sturdier and the tires are wider than a road bike

1; go to your LBS (Local Bike Shop) and look at some inexpensive mountain/cross bikes, ride them and see what bike fits you better, you’ll know when you find the right one, it’ll just feel right

2; go to a secondhand store/pawnshop/check the want-ads for a decent older bike, it may take some tuning up to get it back into rideable shape, but you’ll get a good reliable bike

3; get a wally-world bike, but be prepared to replace it in a year or two

the problem with #3 is that you won’t enjoy biking as much as you would on a better bike, a good, reliable bike that’s well maintained should last a minimum of 8-10 years, the initial investment will pay for itself over time

most of the common brands are decent, Trek, Raleigh, Gary Fisher, Cannondale, Giant, Felt, Fuji, Specialized, personally i like Trek, their frames have a lifetime warranty, and the components typically have a 1 year warranty, Giant and Fuji are decent too and are typically less expensive than the other “big” brands

i haven’t ridden one in well over 15 years, but Schwinn bikes are decent, if it was a choice between a “wally-world” special and a Schwinn, go with the Schwinn

here’s my Trek, mine’s a couple years older and doesn’t have disc brakes, just rim brakes, but they work just fine, discs can be a little “grabby” if you’re not used to them

my previous MTB was a Giant Boulder SE

if i had to buy a MTB right now, i’d either go with another Trek 4500, or a Raleigh M-80

I have a GT mountain bike that I think I spent around $350 on 4 years ago. Since then, I’ve put no money into it. I ride it currently about 30 miles a week to work. I did some light trail riding on it when I first got it, but not so much now.

The down side is rolling resistance. I wish I had a cruiser or even a hybrid. The smooth tires make it so much easier.

I would advise spending more on a bike that you’re comfortable on and that will last. A small locally owned bike shop is the way to go. All my bikes from my first one 25 years ago came from the same shop owned by the same guys. If I ever had a problem, I just brought it into them. Too bad I moved 3000 miles away from them.

Another thumbs up for the guys at the LBS.
Here is a little experiment. Go to Wally World and find one of their nice shinny bikes. Pick it up with one hand and hold it out at arms length.
now go to a bike shop and look at an entry level hybrid or mountain bike. Repeat the test. All that weight you are not picking up at the bike shop is pure enjoyment gained when you ride. I have seen shinny department store bikes that tipped the scales at over 50 lbs! For a comparasion my new full suspension mountain bike, ready to ride is about 26lbs, my road bike is about 18. An extra 20 lbs might not sound like much until you try to ride it.
One other reason to buy a quality bike. The components used on a dept store bike are many times unavailable in the aftermarket or are some how not standard so when something goes south, you can’t get it fixed, or the fix requires an up grade that cost more than the bike is worth.

I would first like to state that I know of which I speak. I sell bike parts for a living. I have seen all types of bikes, and there are some great deals for a knock around, don’t care if it’s stolen, piece of crap bike.

All bikes in mass market stores (Wal-Mart, Target, KMart Costco ect.) are all made by a place in China. The name changes depending on who placed the order, but they are all built by the same little chinese people. The main diffrence is in the parts.

Everyone has really good ideas for buying a quality bike for a fraction of the cost. Garage sales are always good. Pawn shops are usually pretty bad. Bring someone with you who has a passing knowledge of componants and quality. Get it tuned up by your local bike shop!!! They are tighten, adjust, and finagle just about anything.

A good tune up can be a little pricey, but it is so worth it. It sucks going along at a good clip, and having your fork fall out. I always tell people, “How much health insurance do you have?” :smiley:

The biggest worry about a off the shelf mass market bike is how it is assembled. I have seen skewers put in backwards, wheels totally out of true with spokes loose from shipping, and headsets that would pop off at the first bump. Remember, the people putting these things together are usually minimum wage earners that could care less about doing it right.

Become friends with your LBS if you think you’re gonna get into it. They often will give you little check-ups for free to get your buisness. If you buy some clothes or a helmet from them, they will usually throw in a water bottle or a patch kit.

Whew! This is obviously a subject near and dear to my heart. Bikes, even cheap ones, can be a contiuing source of fun.

You can get slicks for your mountain bike for $10-25 a tire. It’s so worth it! And it makes your MTB much more flexable. I keep a set of tires for aggresive conditions, (compleat with brake pads) some slicks, and a in-between pair for a little bit 'o both.

All you have to remember is your rim size. Look on your current tire wall to see what size that is. (Am I getting teachy? If so… Sorry! I really can go on about this…)

Quick release skewers? This really isn’t the end of the world, is it? Convention aside, is there any particular reason to put the skewers in the ‘right’ way?

I always liked giving local bike shop employees a hard time when I spot a directional tire put on backwards.

      • If you are going to use a MTB on pavement, putting on narrow slicks does improve the riding experience a lot. Normally these are narrower than the knobby tires, and so you need narrower tubes as well. Regular MTB off-road tires are 2.1 to 2.5 inches wide, and the narrow slicks are 1.5 to about 1.75 inches wide, and if you use the wide tubes inside the narrow tires, the wide tube will develop folds that you will feel as bumps in the wheel as you ride. Also in some cases the wide-tubes-in-narrow-tires can develop leaks or tears. …And narrow tubes in wide tires will tend to tear if they suffer a puncture. So get the right-width tubes fo’ yo’ tires.
  • This is very true. In particular the bearings on dept store bikes tend to be the lowest-quality, and they wear out relatively quickly, and often cannot be replaced. …So instead of jsut replacing the bearings in a hub or the crankset, you end up buying a whole new wheel, or a whole new crankset. --The president of Huffy said in an interview some years back that their research showed that 95% of people who bought bicycles at department stores rode them for less than 75 miles total (that is–total–before throwing them away), and so he tried to build the cheapest bikes he could that would withstand being ridden 75 miles.

Also–ummm, how can I put this gently? If you buy a department-store bike and then take it to a local bike shop to get it fixed, do not expect any breaks on service. Real bike shops do not like working on POS’s that you bought from the department store, and they also don’t like having to deliver all the ugly truths to you that center on the fact that for what it would cost to “fix” all the things wrong with a dept-store bike, you could have bought a much better bike from them from the get-go that likely would not have come with such problems included.

Wes – I totally agree with what other people are telling you.

The thing is, for the cheapest hybrid that you’re gonig to ride out of a bike store, you’re still going to paying about $300.

And, I’ve read your posts. . .I know you’re thinking, “well, I can buy 6 bikes from Walmart and throw them out when they break for that much.”

Well, that’s true and maybe that’s how you want to play it. . .but you’ve already said that you broke a bike in a month you got from a department store. That’s going to happen again and you’re going to keep that $300 Trek for a lot longer than 6 months.

My advice is also to try to find something used, particularly from a local bike store, instead of a garage sale or pawn shop, because they’ll have an idea of if it fits or not.

This is a bike I got for $100 from a local bike store last year. It’s a steel bike from the late 80’s with sturdy rims. It rides as nice today as it did back them, has Shimano components on it, and is a beauty to look at.

From the same LBS, my wife got an Aluminum Trek 1200 Road Bike for $90 (it needed a front wheel, which we got for like $40).

They adjusted the brakes and shifters and made sure it was rideable when I took it away.

The answer to your question: no one makes a good cheap bike.

I have a Raleigh C30 hybrid that I bought 4 years ago for about $250, and it’s held up under my massive ass quite well. You can probably find a good used one for less than $100.

Here’s another shout-out to the local bike stores. I got a moutain bike for my birthday when I turned twelve. I remember my dad taking me around to three different shops. We were able to tell the people helping us exactly the sort of bike we were looking for and note that it was meant to last a long time (as a side bar, I’m turning twenty in a few months and I’m still riding the same bike…it’s been on quite a few trails too!). The major pluses I noticed was that one: I was able to ride around on the bikes for a bit to get a feel for them…I had never even tried grip shifting before, but I ended up really liking it; and two: the people at the LBS will remember you! Whenever I take my bike in for a tuneup, if the guy who sold me my bike is there, he says ‘hi’ and asks me if I’m still enjoying my pruchase. I’m a sucker for personalized service, so the fact that someone remembers me and my bike eight years after I got it is a major plus for me.

Aside from my lovely LBS experience, I know of atleast one in my area that sells used bikes. Go to a bike shop if you’re buying used. Like half of the other posts have said, bike people will be able to tell you if a used bike is any good. They’re generally not just looking to make a sale, they’re looking to get you on a bike that fits you.


I went to the bike stores in Muncie yesterday but the problem is I have no idea of knowing what is a good bike at a bike store either. I am uneducated on bikes, I can’t tell the difference between a $500 bike at a bike store and a $60 bike at Kmart. What makes one better than the other, what are some reasonable brands?

You know where I got a GREAT $500 bike for $50? Goodwill. If you hunt around, especially in nicer towns/areas, you will often find Goodwills / Salvation Armys/ etc with barely used high-quality bikes. Owner buys because they look cool, but then it sits in a garage for a year or two, then gets donated as a tax write-off.

Worth a try.