another thing about reading reviews, is look at the dates. the cranbrook, for example, most of the glowing reviews were all done immediately after purchase, without riding it for awhile.
besides that, here's a real mythbuster for ya...
the biggest attraction to a department store bike is price. at an average of 100-150 bucks you can get a complete, ready-to-roll bike.
most people agree that some upgrades are in order, whether its personalizing/customizing it, or for better quality parts.
so, HD wheels and new tires, can go on the low side for $100, or all out for worksman wheels and good tires for $300.
then, cosmetically, there's seats and seatposts, handlebars, spraypaint, grips, and lights, and you have a mildly customized "cheap" bike in the $500-600 range.
you can leave it bone stock for 3-400 bucks, but eventually you'll probably have to upgrade at least the rear wheel.
and everyone likes the personal touch, and i know even the people who rail against me have upgraded and/or customized their bikes with new forks, etc...
so, can we agree that the average guy who's built a walmart bike has over $500 invested?
remember you've got shipping charges you paid.
not to mention the things you bought that didn't work out, didn't fit, or changed your mind, but never returned so now it's sitting in a box somewhere mocking you, but you look at it and say "i can use you on another bike" but probably never will and you should just post it up in the swap and shop section and take what you can get for it....
let's not count those parts in the final tally, and let's let the labor slide, too. since you enjoyed building it, it doesn't matter how long it took, unless you lied and called in sick to build your bike, then you need to add your hourly wage in.
anyways, what i'm getting back to is overall average cost of your "cheap" walmart bike, compared to the average cost of a much better used bike.
the major disadvantage of building a bike based on a used bike, is the convenience of buying everything assembled in one place disappears. now, you've gotta go searching for parts.
these parts here where 48 bucks on ebay, and the guy was local and dropped them off at my house for free:
i had to buy wheels, spokes, tires, manic sprocket adapter, spraypaint, copper for the tank, etc..., and it was a lot more work but it was all done using common hand tools.
total cost? between $5-600.
now i have a one-of-a-kind, completely custom, mostly american-made (if that matters to you) 1952 Firestone Cruiser that rides like a dream, that cost me the same as the average upgraded Huffy Cranbrook.
and this isn't an isolated case where all the parts were free and fell into my lap. i can find deals on parts all day long, without skimping on the quality. and the skills required, be they lacing a wheel or building a tank, can all be learned with average intelligence and patience.
hopefully, this post will be my closing argument on this subject.