Who makes a good cheap bike

Anything your LBS carries will be a reasonable brand.

The mass-production “quality” stuff might be. . .

Trek, Raleigh, Specialized, Giant, Cannondale, Felt. . .

This Trek bike is $260.

This one is $230.

I selected both of the lowest models within each class. You can click on the links up the left side to see the increase in price and the differences in features. Those are both going to be good bikes for a few miles on paved roads. The have the mountain bike type handlebars, but are built for comfort.

As you get more expensive, you’ll get better components. The hubs, the derailleurs, the shifters, the brakes should last longer and may be lighter.

The wheels get better as you go up. . .better materials, lighter.

The hubs and spokes on those Treks will last a lot longer than that Huffy. It will be in better adjustment when you get it from the LBS. If there are problems, they will know how to fix it.

You can’t judge a bike by brand name these days. Many brands that make good bikes also sell crappy department store bikes.

Cheap bike frames are usually made from lower grade material, and have simpler design to minimize production cost. This results in a heavy frame. In addition, cheap bikes have cheap components which don’t work as smoothly and are much harder to adjust, service and replace. For example, high-end shifters and brake levers have slits and holes for replacing the cables; the same job is much harder on low-end parts.

As for how to tell if it’s a good bike - it’s actually not easy. As a rule of thumb, a bike with quick-release skewers on both wheels are usually decent bikes. The number of gears can be an indication as well; 8-speed* or 9-speed drivetrain parts are all fairly high-level components. 7-speed may be decent too, though that’s a bit more dicey. Almost all 6- and 5-speed components made today are cheap ones intended for department store bikes, so I’d avoid those. (The exception is internal gear hubs - 3-speed hubs are pretty nice, and 7-speed hubs even better.) Obviously this doesn’t apply to used bikes - a 10 year old 2x7 road bike may be a high-end bike which, after some maintenance, would perform much better than a brand new 2x7 bike.

*8-speed means 8 gears in the rear. Usually it would also have 2 or 3 gears in front, giving you 2x8 or 3x8 speeds total. Way back when 2x5 was standard for road bikes they were called 10-speed, but we don’t do that anymore. Nowadays 10-speed means 2x10 or 3x10.

My son got a mountain bike when he was six or so. When he outgrew it, my daughter rode the wheels off of it for another six years or so. then we gave it to a neighbor who rode it for another 4-5 years, and it got passed to another kid, at this point I lost track of it. This is what happens when you buy a quality bike to start with.

Technically a backwards skewer is fuctional, but when I see that, it sends up huge red flags. If they did that… OMG! What did you do to that derailluer? :slight_smile:

My favorite things heard at the LBS?

“Bikes come in sizes?”

“But I like my seat pointing up!”

“This color doesn’t match my clothes!”

What’s wrong with that comment? I have a dozen red Coolmax shirts and I’ve paid extra for a frame color that matches.

I finally bought a bike. It came down to the Mongoose Placid, MGX Serif & Huffy Synapse. I got the MGX Serif. Turns out there is a difference between the more expensive bikes and the walmart types (the MGX was originally $230 marked down to $99, so its not a high end bike but not a $70 bike either).

Its 21 speed so I can tell a difference in how fast I can go when going uphill and when riding at top speed (as opposed to my Dad’s 15 speed Huffy). I don’t have a speedometer hooked up yet but I feel like I can comfortably go 3-5 mph faster in top gear on this bike than I could on the Huffy, which is suprising to me. I didn’t think a slightly lighter frame (aluminum alloy instead of steel) and 21 gears instead of 15 would make a big difference. All in all I’m glad I got a slightly higher end bike.

Not that it matters now that you bought the bike, but my local bike shop near work is selling the Raleigh M20 for $199, and Raleigh is a reputable manufacturer, for $199 you get a decent frame and a good basic set of components, the deraileurs can be upgraded once they fail, or you can convert it to a singlespeed…

good basic frame that can grow with you, component-wise

You should try a road bike sometime. Then you can have some speed.

If you can make it to my town, I’ve got 2 Mongooses in my garage I’d give ya.

I bought them at Wal-Mart. They’re fine for what they are. One of them I bought for $70 and rode it quite extensively. Last summer, probably 50-60 miles a week, including on a trail for 10 or 15 miles at a time. It was never as nice as my buddy’s $450 bike, but I kept up with him just fine. Nowadays it won’t shift. It just makes grinding noises when you try. Its probably fixable, but I also only spent $60 on the bike and feel like a years worth of riding got my money’s worth out of it. I enjoy it enough to spend some money on my next bike, and this one is just begging to be given away.

The second bike I bought for my girlfriend. She rode it like 3 times, then we broke up and she left me the bike for some reason.

Anyway, for a casual, non-picky rider, a $70 number from Wal-Mart will do just fine.

Thanks for the offer, but Peoria is pretty far from Bloomington and it’d cost me $60 in gas just to get there and back.

How long did your mongoose last? How many years did you own it? I will use mine mostly for the roads, with minor use on trails so mine could last a bit longer.

It lasted about a year and a half. I used mine about 60% roads and 40% trail, I would guess. The main difference between mine and my buddy’s fancy-schmance bike was the braking, actually. Especially on trails and downhill, my bike has virtually no stopping power. There’s a large hill near my house that I go down with the brakes all the way on, and I still feel like I’m going too fast.

On the rare occassion I’d ride my friend’s bike, I would normally stop hard enough to throw me onto the center rail, smashing my balls and raising the back tire off the ground. I just wasn’t used to the “soft brake”, since on my bike, every time I touched the brake was a “soft brake”.

Oh yeah, and my buddy’s bike tended to shift cleaner and faster. Mine sometimes took shifting, then shifting back, then shifting again before it would actually change gears. And now it doesn’t change gears at all.

Or a high-performance recumbent…


      • I am your allied recumbent rider, but the faster bents are lowracers and highracers, and most say that neither of these are really good “general purpose” bikes… I’d like to get a LWB but I dunno of I’d want a lowracer, or if there were any I could even afford.
  • DISK BRAKES!… If you are paranoid about stopping power, get a MTB that has disk brakes (at least a front disk brake). My recumbent came fitted with what was the cheapest disk brakes available, and they still stop WAY harder than any rim brakes I’ve ever ridden on. And disk brakes lose very little of their stopping power when wet, compared to rim-brakes that hardly stop at all in the rain.
    …I haven’t seen road bikes with them yet but for MTB’s they are common now; for road riding just get some narrow slick MTB tires.

Well, this doesn’t apply to you Wesley Clark but just in case anyone else wants to buy a bike:
I got mine and my fiancee’s at the LBS. We looked through the whole store and couldn’t find anything we could afford. Finally, the owner asked how much we wanted to pay. When we told him about $100 per bike, he brought out two bikes which he had no problem selling for $100 each. Amazingly enough, we each fit on one of the bikes. They’re either 3x7 or 3x8, I don’t remember which. I ride mine about 15 miles a week - if not more. I’ve had it for 3 years and it’s still in great working condition.
The reason they were so cheap? They were the previous year’s model. Sometimes, it really helps to just ask. No one wanted them because they didn’t have the spiffy new look of the newer bikes so they got put in the back room.
We also got a free tuneup after the 1 year anniversary of when we bought them and they also discount service on bikes they sold. I haven’t had to get them serviced at all.