June 27, 2018

"That fact that we’re at Walmart is pretty irrelevant. It could just as easily be Target, Amazon.com, or even Canadian Tire. They all offer the same thing..."

"... bikes built and assembled to the lowest spec possible. With names like trouble, wipeout, ambush, and carnage, these bikes deliver what they promise, but today we’re staying optimistic.... We settled on a pair of Genesis V2100’s.... We’d be relying on these bikes for over 5000 feet of elevation change..... For $149, Alex and I were taking part in an activity enjoyed by the likes of dentists and jewelers, with their pretty $6000 bikes. What do those bikes do that these can’t anyway?..."

70 comments:

etbass said...

Indeed, but Amazon probably has a larger selection.

rhhardin said...

My bike is $149 too. At some point enough parts need replacement at once that it's cheaper to buy all new parts in the form of a new bicycle.

Comanche Voter said...

It's not the tool. It's the fool who is holding it (or riding it).

At some price or value point any tool is "good enough" for the person using it. We all (RUBBIES or Rich Urban Bikers included) tend to buy or pay for more than we can actually use.

rhhardin said...

The current bike has been through 4 freewheel, chainwheel, and chain changes, unnumbered cable changes, several sets of brake pads and three rear axles.

Rear axle breakages are the result of freewheel rather than casette cog clusters.

Roy Jacobsen said...

Not sure a $6,000 bike is really worth that, but regarding Walmart bikes, you DO get what you pay for.
https://finance.yahoo.com/news/downhill-racer-destroys-walmart-bike-210000470.html

Ann Althouse said...

Watch the video. It's very amusing (and fair about the pros and cons of a very cheap bike).

Ann Althouse said...

"Not sure a $6,000 bike is really worth that..."

I think it depends on what kind of riding you are doing.

I must say that my mountain bike is better than I deserve (in the sense that I'll never do the things that prove the bike is worth more than a bike that is a level cheaper), but Meade can tell the difference in his bikes (I think!!).

Meade said...

$149 is a lot to pay for what amounts to a 1 day rental that beats up your hands, shoulders, back and ass.

Unknown said...

law of diminishing returns: a $200 bike (selected based on specs) probably beats a $150 bike, a $300 definitely, and yea a $6000 bike is better. But the difference between a $500 bike and a $6000 bike is probably not detectable to most riders.

Achilles said...

I ride these bikes when I commute. The last one didn't have disc brakes. The next one will.

There were some hills I couldn't ride down with rim friction brakes.

If I ride the piece of shit every day I will be stronger than if I ride a 1000-6000$ bike. Save a bunch of money too.

Meade said...

The old rule is: "lighter, stronger, cheaper: pick 2"

My new rule is: the kids are all grown and raised and you aren't getting any younger -- indulge yourself!

Henry said...

There's a lot of truth to the critique. Those bikes are pretty crappy. It's not mentioned on the video, but the cheap bikes also tend to be heavy.

One factor here, that Walmart alludes to, is that mountain bikes sold at the Walmart price range are more likely to be used as a general purpose bike for a teenager than for actual mountain biking. Parents buy the mountain bike-style models because they figure they are more rugged and versatile than general-issue road bikes.

But $149 is too expensive. The best price is free. Just check Craigslist.

* * *

My general-purpose bike is a 7-speed Dahon folding bike. It cost $450 new. I put about $50 into it every year for chain, brakes, and cables. I've replaced the shifter twice in the last 7 years and the derailleur once. Very inexpensive to maintain.

I do not go on trails.

tim maguire said...

I think unknown has it right--cheap is cheap because the parts and labor are cheap. But there comes a point where there is not a useful return on additional investment. That point is probably between $1,000 and $2,000.

Robert Serio said...

I could definitely feel the difference between my $600 bike and a $1200 bike, but couldn't feel a difference between a $1200 bike and a $2000 bike. So I bought the $1200 one.

Henry said...

The difference between the $500 Dahon and a $1300 Brompton is mostly weight -- aluminum vs. titanium.

surfed said...

I'm a beach cruiser bike guy. My one required spec is an aluminum frame and parts. No rust from the salt water/air. A good aluminum beach cruiser is $4-500.

AP said...

I watched most of the video, but I don't understand what they were trying to prove. Its like buying a Nissan Micra and complaining it doesn't do well on Alaskan ice highways. Sure, I get it, but what did you expect?

Even most SUVs are not intended for off-road use, they're just for suburban driving and highway cruising. That's the case with low-cost mountain bikes - perfectly fine for suburban bike trails and city riding, not so much for actually riding down a remote mountain. We have enough gravel/dirt trails in our neighborhood that a road bike is not appropriate, but any decent low-cost mountain bike is fine.

I don't think any reasonable person would actually think the $150 "mountain" bike from Wal-Mart is actually intended for use on real mountains. That's a strawman. What's next, a video showing how hard it is to text on a $25 flip phone? And that justifies a $1000+ iPhone?

Yancey Ward said...

I have hiked those trails before (or at least similar ones on the NC side). I doubt that more than 0.5% of the "mountain bikers" ride the bikes the way these two riders did. I would guess the two bikes are appropriate for the other 99.5%.

FullMoon said...

Meade said...

$149 is a lot to pay for what amounts to a 1 day rental that beats up your hands, shoulders, back and ass.
6/27/18, 11:30 AM


Elliot Spitzer disagrees.

Yancey Ward said...

AP,

I watched the entire video, too, and I think their goal was just to test whether or not a cheap mountain bike would hold up under such rough conditions. They didn't seem to complain about the result, or even tell us that the bikes were worthless- just that they have their limits. Were I a usual "mountain cyclist", I think I would be perfectly comfortable buy one of these cycles for that purpose, and I think that was the message the two intended to convey at the end.

Nonapod said...

One not uncommon thing for many of the bigger youtube hobby personalities to do is to buy some of the cheapest instruments of their hobby and test them out. More often than not they find out that they're nowhere near as bad as afficiendos may think. One of my favorite examples of this is bassist Davie504 playing a $100 Bass Guitar and a $10,000 Bass Guitar.

DKWalser said...

I don't think any reasonable person would actually think the $150 "mountain" bike from Wal-Mart is actually intended for use on real mountains. That's a strawman.

Well, if you had watched the entire video, you would have heard him say that the bike comes with a warning that it's NOT to be used on mountain bike trails. So, what was the point of the video? Maybe to show how just unsuited something that looks like a mountain bike and that is called a mountain bike is for being used as a mountain bike? A lot of people are new to biking and cannot fathom why they should pay so much more for a 'real mountain bike' when they can get one that looks just as good at their local big box store for so much less. Sure, the one at the big box store says its not supposed to be used on mountain bike trails, but that's just the lawyers trying to keep the store from being sued, right?

At least, when I was a scout leader and we took our troop to Moab for a week of biking, a lot of kids came with Walmart bikes. These kids came from families that could afford more, and we'd told the parents that the Walmart bikes wouldn't hold up, but that's what they bought anyway. Why? They couldn't see the difference. I wish we'd had this video back then.

Achilles said...

AP said...

I don't think any reasonable person would actually think the $150 "mountain" bike from Wal-Mart is actually intended for use on real mountains.


Looks like the bike did fine.

It is the human on the bike that broke.

He spends a few more dollars on tires and tightens up the suspension and he would be whining a bit less.

Shouting Thomas said...

There’s a lot of room in between.

I bought a $700 Cannondale Trek.

Great, durable bike. I do my miles on the open road and on dirt trails.

Never a problem.

chuck said...

> and you aren't getting any younger -- indulge yourself!

Good advice, why scrimp and save when you have, maybe, 15 years left. Might as well have the comfort of quality if you can afford it.

AP said...

"A lot of people are new to biking and cannot fathom why they should pay so much more for a 'real mountain bike' when they can get one that looks just as good at their local big box store for so much less."

I acknowledge that some people might not be able to tell the difference, and purchase the cheap bike out of ignorance, even for actual mountain biking.

But I suspect most people can tell the difference and despite having the capacity to pay more, they're cheap when it comes to equipping their kids. From my experience, this is the more common case among affluent people, and for them, a video like this won't help.

Larry J said...

Unknown said...

law of diminishing returns: a $200 bike (selected based on specs) probably beats a $150 bike, a $300 definitely, and yea a $6000 bike is better. But the difference between a $500 bike and a $6000 bike is probably not detectable to most riders.


I don't know enough about mountain bikes to comment specifically, other than to say you may be right. High level riders might very well be able to tell the difference between a $500 and a $6000 bike because they push bikes to their limits. Most people aren't that skilled, experienced, or daring so they'll likely never know.

I do remember back in the heyday of consumer electronics home entertainment systems, people would get spec-happy. They'd brag about things like how low their THD (total harmonic distortion) was when in fact the human ear couldn't distinguish the difference. I've read similar things about wine snobs being unable to tell the difference between cheap and expensive wines when given blind taste tests.

Carol said...

I think I paid $1000 for my Specialized Diva back in 2005. Boy what a difference dual suspension and disc brakes on a good bike make! Especially going uphill like they say. Every trail here seems to start with a little whoop-de that takes some finesse to climb. For some reason the two shocks work for this much better than a hardtail rig.

The spouse and I went crazy single-track riding in the Rattlesnake that summer until we simultaneously burned out.

Good times!

robother said...

I am suspicious that only one of the bikes (the one ridden by our narrator) got completely trashed out. It almost seems like he was determined to ride in a way to make his point. (Wouldn't even the $6000 bike derailleur be wrecked by bottoming it intentionally?) Same with the shocks. Why didn't the other guy's shocks do the same thing?

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

In a previous existence as a photocopier service manager, I recall telling the customers about paper failure to feed, double feeds, misfeeds due to paper dust accumulation on the photosensors, etc.:

You do not need to buy the most expensive paper, there is a wide selection of good papers in the medium price range. But if you go looking for the cheapest paper you can find - you are going to get really crummy troublesome paper.

Carol said...

I am suspicious that only one of the bikes (the one ridden by our narrator) got completely trashed out.

It be poor production resulting in inconsistency. Also the bikes are assembled at the store by the Associates. I love my Walmart but I wouldn't want them putting my bike together.

I assumed these guys would have checked them over before taking them up the hill.

Carol said...

...it COULD be.. not doing Ebonics here..

chuck said...

But the difference between a $500 bike and a $6000 bike is probably not detectable to most riders.

I think $500 is a bit on the low end, a couple of hundred more will buy disc brakes, better suspension, etc., so maybe $800 or $1000 on the lower end.

Nonapod said...

Yeah, I think most hardtails start at 700ish, don't they?

Begonia said...

All these people are saying that most people can't tell the difference between a $500 bike and a $5000 bike...have obviously never even bothered to lift a bike worth more than $500, otherwise they'd know what a difference the price can have on the weight of a bike.

Robert Serio is more on the right track. I think for bikes, the law of diminishing returns starts to apply above $1000. Even so, I would argue that the components (shifters, deraillerus, breaks, wheels, suspension) on a $5,000 bike are going to be much more durable than those of a $1,000 bike. When riding a new $1,000 bike and a new $5,000 bike, you might not notice much of a difference in shifting quality or braking power, or suspension. But after 2,000 miles the components on the $1,000 will start to wear out much quicker than the $5,000 bike.

For another analogy: I know about bikes. I don't know anything about cars. But I bet I could tell the difference between a $20,000 car and a $50,000 car.

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

cheap bikes, whatever--

...were you able to smell the Trump supporters?

Virgil Hilts said...

I have purchased several expensive bikes since I started making $ (nothing over $3,000), but the Viscount bicycle I purchased as a teenager in Nebraska for about $175 was the fastest and most balanced bicycle I have ever owned. It was made with aerospace tubing and incredibly light. Turns out (though) there was a design problem with Viscounts called the "death fork;" my fork never snapped in two while I was riding so I still remember it with incredible fondness.

Michael said...

As a onetime mountain biker and current hiker I can tell you that guys like that are a menace to anyone on foot. They cannot stop in time and given the choice of hitting you or going over the side they will hit you every single time. When my mountain biking routes were discovered by hikers I realized the game was up. Occasionally I will haul one out to take me to a fishing spot far from those close to the parking spots but I am traveling and not slamming it downhill.

Robert Cook said...

"My general-purpose bike is a 7-speed Dahon folding bike. It cost $450 new. I put about $50 into it every year for chain, brakes, and cables. I've replaced the shifter twice in the last 7 years and the derailleur once. Very inexpensive to maintain."

Mine is a 7-speed Tern bike with an internal gear hub and dynamo front light. Also a folder. (Tern was founded by the son and ex-wife of Dahon's founder, David Hon.) $950.00 new, it's now a bit over two years old. I need to have the brakes tightened, but otherwise it hasn't had any maintenance, except for a tune-up a year ago. (The bike shop offers free lifetime tuneups for people who buy bikes from them.)

It's a very good bike, sturdy and tough. I'd like to get a Brompton one day.

Roughcoat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roughcoat said...

I want to buy an electric bike but I don't know anything about them. I only know that the bike must powerful enough to transport a big guy.

Virgil Hilts said...

Roughcoat, if you have lots of $ buy a Trek like Ann did. If you are of more moderate means I think the iZip bicycles are well built and great buys. Also, you don't necessarily have to buy at a shop. I purchased mine from a store in Long Island that shipped free.

PackerBronco said...

This video reminds me of the time my friend Paul and I were in Scotland and we rented some cheap tandem and went on 55 mile ride up and down the highland hills. We totally trashed that sucker and it was making some very bad noises when we returned it.

Danno said...

I don't ride technical mountain bike trails or mountain bikes, but I agree that the price point where the quality is fastly diminishing is around $1,000.

My ride is a Trek cyclo-cross bike so it is capable of riding on gravel, limestone or grass, but also rides great on trails and on streets and roads.

After Ann mention her new e-bike, I saw that Trek now offers an comparable e-bike, i.e. the CrossRip+, that can go 28 mph with maximum pedal assist. I am tempted.

n.n said...

Product and service. Whether it is Walmart, Target, or Amazon; Peter, Paul or Mary; matters.

mikee said...

I, for one, don't try to wear Walmart pants to a formal wedding.
I don't try to find Henry Moore sculptures in the Walmart garden department.
I don't try to find Louis Vuitton luggage or Hermes scarfs there.

I'm damn sure not gonna risk my safety on a mountain trail on a Walmart bike that was designed & built solely to roll gently around suburban sidewalks.

This was an interesting experiment, but not as interesting as trying to use a Walmart pool float to row across the Pacific.

Fernandistein said...

I had a $200 Wal*Mart bike and I rode it about 2 miles and got a disinterested retina. A fancier bike probably wouldn't break your eyeballs.

Larry J said...
I've read similar things about wine snobs being unable to tell the difference between cheap and expensive wines when given blind taste tests.


It's the same thing with stereo stuff; above a pretty low price level, everything except for speakers sounds the same in blind/ABX tests.

Dance...dance to the radio said...

A hundred dollar bike gets stolen the same as a thousand dollar bike.

Roughcoat said...

Virgil:

Thanks for the info. I'll definitely look into it.

As for you: "Cooler!" :)

Roughcoat said...

Danno:

Also, thanks for the info!

buwaya puti said...

Hmmm.

An arbitrage opportunity?
There are those mountains of abandoned Chinese rent-a-bikes that someone could buy by the ton, probably.

And sell here for $50 apiece.

buwaya puti said...

"I don't try to find Henry Moore sculptures in the Walmart garden department."

You don't?
Quite a lot of the Walgreens merchandise should pass. Just spray paint it patina-bronze.

Scott M said...

I bought a $400 Schwinn moun just before I got out of the Air Force back in 1994. I rode it extensively until about 1998. It was in storage as I moved around the country and I got it back in 2004. I put about 200 worth of work into it, including new tires and such, but I've been riding it with minor maintenance only since then. Yeah, it's heavy, but it's rugged and I've beat the hell out of it on trails the first couple of years. Now, it's a general purpose bike and my wife often rides it when she lets our 14yo use her Trek...which is MUCH lighter, but twice as expensive. She calls mine a tank :)

All in all, that bike is among the best $400 I've ever spent.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

You can buy forty of these $149 bikes for the cost of one $6,000 bike. I wonder how the rider would have fared with a $6,000 bike on the same trail. He might have had similar results. Or, he might have taken it easier on his $6,000 investment.

Caligula said...

"A lot of people are new to biking and cannot fathom why they should pay so much more for a 'real mountain bike' when they can get one that looks just as good at their local big box store for so much less."

Discount stores have always sold cheap bicycles. And those who buy them know (or really should know) that these are, well, cheap bicycles.

Further, these bicycles often are not well-assembled. Sometimes this is because they're assembled by the auto techs who really don't want to do it, and sometimes it's because they gave the job to a new-hire who's just never had much interest in bicycles or wrenches or anything mechanical.

Overall they're probably good enough for something that's seldom used, or for a don't-care teen to destroy on urban or suburban streets. And you really want to check it over when you bring it home to see that all is assembled and adjusted correctly.

For about twice as much you're still getting a low-end bike, but it'll still be a far better bike than you'll see in a discount store. And if you intend to ride at all frequently (no matter how non-competitively) it'll be well worth the extra cost.

But, these cheap bikes serve a purpose and, really, I doubt anyone's fooled into thinking they're actually high-quality bikes that just happen to be cheap. Further, they're mostly better than the cheap bicycles sold in discount stores in decades past.

mockturtle said...

Tweakers don't care how much you paid for your bike.

Jim at said...

I paid $450 for a nice Gary Fisher more than 20 years ago. Put at least 8,000 miles on it. Replaced the tires twice and the brakes once. Thirty bucks for a 'tune-up' at the start of each spring.

I'll never need another bike.

Will Cate said...

Jim I also had a Gary Fisher Marlin -- paid about that same amount for it.

It got stolen. Tried to make do with a WalMart bike for about a year but it was awful -- I'm back to riding a nice bike again.

Pettifogger said...

The different price points on bikes reminds me of a shooting-sports expo I attended. My shotgun probably cost about $300 when my father bought it years ago, I was amazed to see shotguns costing $1,000; $2,000; and even $3,000. And I'm sure that these guns are better than mine. Then I saw on display a shotgun costing over $70,000. How much better is it possible for that gun to be than the $3,000 one?

I'm pretty content with what I have.

Zach said...

I have purchased several expensive bikes since I started making $ (nothing over $3,000), but the Viscount bicycle I purchased as a teenager in Nebraska for about $175 was the fastest and most balanced bicycle I have ever owned. It was made with aerospace tubing and incredibly light. Turns out (though) there was a design problem with Viscounts called the "death fork;" my fork never snapped in two while I was riding so I still remember it with incredible fondness.

The Viscount was a fantastic bike for its era. I rode a 30 year old Viscount in college, and it's still rideable today. Not as light as the carbon fiber frames, but very stiff and well proportioned.

Zach said...

I'd say the point of diminishing returns for a mountain bike is ~$1500 -- just beyond the point where you can get a good set of disc brakes and a good shock absorber for the front.

Below that point, spending a little more money gets you much better components -- drive chain, brakes, pedals, seat. Above that point, the money mostly goes into the frame. You get weight savings, but the riding experience is mostly the same. And a $1500 bike already has a pretty good frame.

Fred Drinkwater said...

We buy our bikes at swap meets.
Recently, a $4000 Look carbon frame with duraace carbon wheels for $1400, a $1200 Specialized Stumpjumper dual shock for $450, and a $2500 Specialized S-Works hybrid trail bike for $600.
Go with a friend with some experience, and get more value for your money.

Jay Vogt said...

In the Trek FX line (which is my most recent bike) to go from an aluminum frame with a carbon fork to full carbon bike is about $650 of upcharge. Worth it? Maybe yes, maybe no. The full carbon frame is a very silky ride - notable difference, but not dramatic. Oh, and you do lose just over half a pound of bike weight.

In the end, I opted for the aluminum frame/carbon fork version. A big reason was that the diminishing marginal return of bike dollars was pretty thin above a grand, but more importantly the full carbon bike practically screamed, "STEAL ME!".

Fred Drinkwater said...

The basic problem with the $149 bikes is that they are not maintainable. Badly machined parts, poor design, cheap, rust - prone metals.
Buy one planning to throw it away in a year.

Danno said...

Jay Vogt, A 2002 Trek FX 7500 is my back-up bike. Back then, all were aluminum. But a great bike nonetheless. I have about 15,000 miles on it I figure.

bobby said...

Obviously, a couple of white supremist elitists looking to keep the "wrong people" out of their exclusive hobby by manufacturing barriers to entry that are unreachable to all but the wealthy.

"Don't even try to come mountain biking unless you shell out $2000 or more for your equipment, you hick barbarians."

"You can't live near me unless you construct a house built to minimum standards of safety for at least $750k."

MadisonMan said...

Canadian Tire is an awesome store. Found one in Toronto last year.

gilbar said...

cheap is cheap because the parts and labor are cheap. But there comes a point ...
there's A Lot to be said for the second cheapest item; never the cheapest.

a $200 fly rod is A LOT more better than an $100 one. Is a $800 Helios worth 4 times more than that? Hard to say. It Does come with a 25 year UNLIMITED warranty* which i've now used 4 times in 10 years (it's in the shop: as we speak). That would have been my 4th $200 rod, and it Does cast like a dream. Some people say, maybe i should just learn to Take Care of things: Yeah, like That's Gonna Happen

Unlimited Warranty*
The 1st time, i shut my trunk lid on it (replaced)
2nd time, it was leaning on my guide's truck and trailer drove over it(replaced)
3rd time, i splintered the tip, while shoving it into the travel tube (repaired)
4rd time (last monday), was strapped to guide's bass boat and somehow broke (hairline crack?) while bouncing through wakes on Fontana Reservoir on the way to Hazel Creek

mockturtle said...

a $200 fly rod is A LOT more better than an $100 one. Is a $800 Helios worth 4 times more than that? Hard to say. It Does come with a 25 year UNLIMITED warranty* which i've now used 4 times in 10 years (it's in the shop: as we speak). That would have been my 4th $200 rod, and it Does cast like a dream.

Sounds like my father's Mercedes that was always in the shop.

Lost My Cookies said...

It's the brakes, wheels and fork that make a Wal-Mart bike scary to ride downhill. Those trails are steep, the go pro effect flattens out the hill and gimballs even out the bumps and you aren't seeing what he's seeing. You can tell that the rim brakes just gave out.

I bought a modern XC hardtail after years of upgrades and break-fix on my late 90's trek and the difference is astounding. Not just in weight, but in confidence. I can stop in the wet, bigger wheels roll over most anything and wider tires let's me use lower pressures, so trail riding is a lot more comfortable.