Bike Shaped Objects

Funky bikes and news
The unreviewable bike review

The sadness of the unreviewable bike.

unreviewable bikeOne of my goals for this site is to review cheap bikes so that when people go to big box stores they won’t be totally clueless. Long time readers may have noticed that I haven’t reviewed a bike in quite some time. Turns out that many cheap bikes are unreviewable.

It has been several months since I’ve come across a bike at a big box store that I would recommend anyone ride. Many of them made me want to go to the local TV consumer reporter to warn people not to buy these bikes.

One big problem, especially on disc brake bikes, are the tiny brake levers. Apparently the idea is that disc brakes need less effort so you only need a couple fingers rather than your whole hand. This might be true on a precision machine but not on these bikes.

The shifters use way too much plastic and the metal they use is easier to bend than it is to pull the brake lever. The seats are uncomfortable and in several cases just a hunk of plastic stapled, yes stapled, to thin metal rails.

Of course it’s not always the manufacturer’s fault. The quality of the assembly has taken a major dive lately. Disc brakes are perhaps the biggest offenders. I don’t know why the concept of putting the disc between the calipers and not up against them is so difficult to grasp.

All is not lost though. There are several new cheap bike models that should be appearing in the stores before Christmas. Also, some of the better cheap brands are showing up in discount sporting good stores. I’ll be checking those out shortly.


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My favorite bicycle magazines

I’ve read many bicycle magazines over the past several years. Below is a list of my favorites.

Bicycle Times
This is my favoritest of all. It covers bikes ridden by real people rather than a bunch of spandex-clad racer wannabes. The bikes covered still tend to me more expensive than what I like to pay, but I’m a cheapo. They also don’t take themselves too seriously.

This is the magazine for the spandex-clad. The bikes they review are way above what the average cyclist buys. I guess it’s like the car magazines showing Ferrari’s to us Toyota owners. They do however have regular exercise and nutrition information that I find useful. I think I stay subscribed because I’m afraid of missing something.

Adventure Cyclist
This is the stuff of dreams for those of us with severe wanderlust. Stories of people roaming the country and the world on their bicycles. Unfortunately some of the stories are not so much, “wow this place is cool,” but more, “this sucks but I’m living through it so that makes me better than other people.”

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Review of Nashbar Flat Bar Road Bike

A bike called IrvingAfter losing my beloved Lamborghini Rapido I didn’t expect to immediately like its replacement. And I didn’t. It was just so, different.

Now, several weeks and over a hundred miles later I’ve changed my mind. There is nothing amazing about this bike. There is nothing very wrong with this bike. It is what it is, a cheap all-around good bike.

The biggest adjustment for me was the straight handlebars. Being a wanna-be bike snob I’ve always gone with drops for road bikes, but my 53 year-old back really likes the new position. While I can’t corner as aggressively as before, I have a much easier time on the bumpy stuff.

Next come the mountain bike type thumb shifters. Awkward at first but I’ve come to love not having to move my hands to shift. I also like the one step above the cheapest Shimano drivetrain. It shifts ever so slightly smoother and quicker than the cheapest Shimano drivetrains that I’m used to.

Speaking of drivetrains, The gearing on this bike is great for the varied hills of San Francisco. All the rear gears, third and above, are very close in size, so you’re always able to find just the right gear. Theoretically it looses a bit on top speed, but since I’m not strong enough to hit anywhere near top speed except on steep descents, not a problem.

The one hesitation I had was buying a store brand bike. Seriously, this thing could be made anywhere out of anything. The reviews swayed me though and at $299 it was less than half of similar named bikes. So far so good and according to a guy in the park who claims to know about such things, what I’m riding is an exact copy of a discontinued Trek model. Who knows.

In summary, this is a good cheap bike for people like me who need more comfort but aren’t yet ready for the cruiser lane mosey.

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DK Cincinnati BMX bike – quick review

This bike is another great example of how many people who review bikes forget that everything is relative. While the Cincinnati does not hold up to the top end DKs which cost two to three times as much. It is the best built BMX bike you can buy as Wal Mart. (Or at least it was the last time I visited Wal Mart.)

At $160 it was only ten dollars more than several other brands of BMX bike, and it was much better than those in any measure you’d care to choose. Even the welds were better-looking than the other bikes. The seat was more comfortable. The frame didn’t feel like it was going to snap under my 220 lbs. Impressive.

Now we have to deal with the cheap bike conundrum. While this was the best BMX bike I found at Wal Mart that day, it was far from the cheapest. There were several useable bikes from under $80. So if your kid isn’t going to be excessively harsh in riding, the much cheaper bike is a better deal. Though if you expect more punishment the better, more expensive bike would be worth the money.


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Mongoose Hex Review

mongoose hexThis bike, the Mongoose Hex, caught me by surprise on my last visit to Walmart. It’s cheap, simple, rugged and I want one. Not that it I think it’s a great bike or anything like that, but it fills a need I hadn’t previously imagined.

It is the perfect “second” bike. When traveling in my RV I have a folding bike which is great for paved roads and OK for smooth, flat dirt roads and trails.

However I’m often encountering roads and trails too rough for the folder. The Hex would be the perfect bike for such occasions. It’s not so expensive that it would be a waste leaving it strapped to the back of the motorhome or worry about trashing on some mountain trail.

The second bike function might also carry over to someone with a nice road bike that occasionally wants to take to the turf.

My quick ride around the aisles went well enough. The 29 inch tires rolled over bulky stuffed animals with no difficulty. The gearing is low enough to tackle the kind of hills I’d be likely to tackle, but might be lacking for a true mountain biker. I even managed a quick wheelie before attracting too much attention from one of the blue vests.

My first reaction was that it would be better with a coaster brake, but imagining coming down a rough trail I can see the logic of the hand brakes. As with most bikes lately the levers were too small for comfort. Or maybe I just have fat hands. Either way if I did but this I’d probably swap in longer handles.

I read several other reviews online and the only consistent problem seems to be the lack of proper lubrication during assembly. That can’t really be blamed on the bike.

There were some other problems listed but they were mostly bike snobs and misinformation. One site didn’t like it but called it a fixed-gear, which it isn’t.

To sum up, if you are looking for a cheap second bike this might be the one. If you’re looking for a serious mountain bike, this isn’t it.


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