I’ve been getting a lot of questions about department store bikes. These bikes are readily available at places like Walmart for as little as $100. Can a bike that cheap really be ridden on the trails? Is it fine for a beginner? What about bunnyhops, manuals, and other techniques? How much of that can one of these bikes take?
Well, there’s only one way to find out. In the name of science, I picked up this mongoose at Walmart. It’s a full suspension, 21 speed mountain bike with lots of bells and whistles––oh and it costs less than my dropper seat post. With Florida State Sales tax and a Dr. Pepper, I still paid less than $150.
The first thing I did was put the bike up on the stand for a comprehensive safety check. Whoever assembled this bike either didn’t know how, or didn’t give a shit. I think it may have been a combination of both.
The gears and brakes were ridiculously bad, but I already expected that. I didn’t expect the bars to be out of alignment with the forks, or the wheels to be completely out of true. Also the steering was indexed, which means the headset was overtightened during assembly. I tried to fix this to no avail, so I left it tight with the best case scenario being that it breaks in.
The spokes were like spaghetti, which leads to bent rims. I tightened every spoke on both wheels, and then did a standard truing to get everything dead straight. After I did my 2 hour tuneup I brought the bike down Elmo at two& for a professional opinion. He greased the mechanism in the quill stem, and dicked around with the gears and brakes. Thanks to Elmo, I might not die on this bike.
The things I found wrong on this bike were pretty serious. Most of the issues would have quickly led to mechanical failure or even injury. For instance, without greasing the stem, the bars were easy to move independent of the front wheel. Maybe this isn’t always the case, but I can only base my experience on this bike. So if you’re buying a bike from a department store, don’t ride it without a thorough safety check.
A bike you get at a shop, on the other hand, will leave in perfect working order, and usually include a free tuneup after it breaks in. So, yeah, keep that in mind too. There are hidden costs to buying a department store bike.
Overall, the bike is pretty impressive for $140. Everything works now, the suspension is….plush…and the saddle is actually pretty comfortable. The bike doesn’t even look that bad. I can’t wait to beat the shit out of it, but one thing at a time.
In the next video, we’ll take my Mongoose to Amelia Earhart Mountain Bike Trails to see what it can do. Thanks for riding with me today and I’ll see you next time.