A few words on cheap bikes

Discussion in 'Motorized Bicycle General Discussion' started by bairdco, Apr 25, 2017.

  1. bairdco

    bairdco a guy who makes cool bikes

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    I've always had a strong dislike for cheap, dept. store bikes, and voiced my disapproval many times on this forum, and now I have some experience to add to this "argument."

    First off, I believe it's a good idea to start with a cheaper bike when you first get into this whole motorized bike thing, and I feel the best way is to buy a used 70-80's cruiser off craigslist, like an old schwinn, or other "quality" cruiser, with american, japanese, or even older Taiwan parts.

    Fix that up as a bike first, learn how it works, then upgrade parts as needed, and graduate to a better bike for your second build as you learn more about how this stuff works.

    For the past few months, I've been working as a bike assembler at various big box stores. The pay is great, paid by the bike, and I can assemble 25-40 a day. The hardest part is unpacking the darn things.

    The brands I deal with are Kent, Huffy, Schwinn, Dynacraft, BCA, Next, Mongoose, and a few others.

    All made in China, and all have similar parts.

    So, based on my experiences assembling them, here's my observations.

    Kent bicycles are the worst. Nothing fits, mismatched parts for the same models, bent wheels, brakes that don't work, horrible welds, and the cheapest parts.

    Some of their bikes have marks and scratches on them that look like they were previously assembled. Nuts and bolts that have already been marred by wrenches, dropouts with previous scratches, as if they were bought, returned, and refurbished.

    Wheels that don't align properly in the forks, and stems that don't hold the bars or stay tight in the forks.

    Kent bikes make up the most of my defective pile, which are bikes that I can't complete and can't be sold, and I rob parts off them to finish other bikes.

    Huffy bikes like the Cranbrook are arguably the most popular bike for beginners here. Without being biased, here's the pros and cons as I see them.

    Their wheelsets have improved, many come with 12g spokes, and are usually straight out of the box (most assemblers true the bent ones with a large rubber mallet, or by wedging the wheel between something and tweaking it back into shape.

    But the coaster brake is garbage. there's no other way to say this. These bikes routinely come back within days or weeks with clicking noises, no stopping power, or blown completely apart. And these come from your casual rider, not your thrashers. The rest of the bike will look brand new, but it goes in the graveyard to be returned.

    Grease it up all you want. They're junk.

    Overall, the huffy could make a decent starter bike, with an upgrade rear wheel, but don't expect any of these to last with a motor on it.

    Mongoose bikes are a little better. Mostly I build bmx, fat tires, and mountain bikes, and not really any cruisers, but they still suffer from chinese parts. Poor quality brakes, low budget hubs, and cheap parts.

    Dynacraft makes Next bikes. These aren't too bad. Weld quality "looks" good, parts fit together right, and overall, not a bad budget bike. Would I motorize one? No. But that's just me.

    Schwinns, I gotta say, are looking better. They seem to have a higher standard of quality control. Finish, welds, usually look good, wheels are usually straight, and parts fit well. Their cruisers are my least favorite to assemble. That and huffy, with fenders, baskets, cup holders, etc, take time and time is money.

    To generalize, on ALL bikes, no matter the maker, the fenders are junk. Flimsy mounts, always crooked, and should be removed, or heavily reinforced before adding a motor.

    If you plan on using ANY bike from a big box store, DO NOT ride it without completely regreasing every part, and checking every single nut and bolt for tightness.

    I like to think I take a little more time and effort when I assemble a bike, but the facts are, these bikes come over seas in a container, are thrown around during transport, are NEVER stacked upright as the box suggests, were partially assembled in china, and completed at the store by someone in a hurry to build it and get their money.

    Bike assemblers get paid by quantity, not quality. If you can't build 25+ bikes in a 5-6 hour day, you won't make any money.

    No one takes the time to double check what the chinese assemblers have already put together, unless it's obvious (except me. I adjust gears, brakes, etc, but only to a point. The average customer isn't buying a quality bike, and they know it.)

    And a final word about grease. There is none. I can build 50 bikes in a day and not get dirty. The only oily part on every bike is on the pedal threads, which use a clear, light oil that seems to evaporate once it gets on your hands.

    Even the chains are dry (and usually too tight.)

    So, there ya go. Buy and ride at your own risk.
     
  2. Potato_In_Exhaust

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    I still think cheap department store bikes are awesome. $90 for a brand spanking new bike..... oooh wee! Sign me up! :p
     
  3. bairdco

    bairdco a guy who makes cool bikes

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    Cranbrooks are on sale for 79.99

    Knock yourself out.
     
  4. Venice Motor Bikes

    Venice Motor Bikes Custom Builder / Dealer/Los Angeles

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    I concur about buying vintage bikes from CL!!
    For a few more dollars than a China made POS, you can have something that's solid, reliable (& real cool)! (^)
     
  5. timboellner

    timboellner Member

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    Good Lord I haven't posted for eons on here but I couldn't help myself after reading your post.

    Really good incite on your part. Who would know better than an expert experienced bike builder who does what you do everyday,... build bikes

    I buy bikes and fix em up and sell them on Craigslist every spring till work gets busy. Not really for the money, just because I like bikes and really get satisfaction out of tearing them down, re-doing everything and making them "right" again. Love it. Most people want cheap not quality bikes. I tell them you can have cheap or you can have good but you can't have both.

    It's discouraging and more over dangerous how cheaply bikes are made today.
    I stay away from Magna's, Next's, Kent's, newer Huffy's for all of the reasons you named above. They don't last and nobody wants a used one.

    On the flip side everyone is always willing to pony up for a Specialized, Trek,
    Chicago made Schwinns, or any older well made bikes like Raleighs, or Hercules.

    I just got finished rebuilding my prize 1970 Schwinn Stingray. As I took apart this 47 year old bike you could just tell how well made every damn thing thing was made to last. The red line Bendix rear hub was such a well made piece.

    I don't see them new but I've sure seen them after they get old and time is the true test of quality. I doubt seriously any of the new Chinese bikes will ever become collectable or be around at all in a few years.

    Hey Baird, what do you truthfully think of the Mongoose Dolomite? I have a guy who wants to trade me even up for an old mountain bike I just finished. It's like new and I want a fat tire bike bad.
    TiM
     
    #5 timboellner, Apr 25, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2017
  6. xXNightRiderXx

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    Any chance I could get one of those frames you toss away? Or other parts in the defective pile? I could build whole, working, and quality bikes out of scavenged parts. I'm in Las Vegas, and could probably borrow a bike to get there and pick the stuff up.
     
  7. bairdco

    bairdco a guy who makes cool bikes

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    I don't get to keep the defective bikes. I put them in a pile, and they magically disappear overnight.
     
  8. xXNightRiderXx

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    Ooooh. Wait a minute! If they have a sorcerer on their payroll, why don't they get that person to assemble the bikes? It would be much faster, much more efficient, and no wasted parts as a sorcerer could make anything fit anything! Oh, that's why. More efficient means more money given to workers, but mismatched parts means money back......damn corporate schemes.

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    What its like to be me....
     
    #8 xXNightRiderXx, Apr 27, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2017
  9. bairdco

    bairdco a guy who makes cool bikes

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    New Schwinn threadless crank. Too bad they haven't developed threadless pedals for it yet.
     

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  10. MotorBicycleRacing

    MotorBicycleRacing Active Member

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    JB Weld it!
     
  11. chmn22s

    chmn22s New Member

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    I acually have had good luck with WM bikes. my first was a 700c Kent Adventures roadbike and 49cc'd it up, totalling about 500 miles now with a 150mile road trip. Problems I saw were limited to weak rims, slightly skew now lol then upgraded, kickstand vibrated lose and bars wouldn't stay tight.
    Other than that no trouble and of course I went through all fasteners and greased it up before motorizing.
    ya, they are made in China, assembled by a low-paid associate (Wallymart hourly) but unless your designing a look, as with the China girl 2stroke, you're in it for cheap. then you want to get into what frame to start, which wheels, cranks on later builds.

    I see so many big box store motorized bikes on CL w/ basic stock kit and asking 600+ when you know they have only 250 or less in the damn thing! that's why I built mine. but i have about 600 in it with upgrades now and had fun in the build/upgrading
     

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