Walmart “Commuter”

At $132 retail, this is probably the least expensive bicycle on the market being sold specifically as a “commuter”. It’s interesting they’re marketing it as a commuter; that tells me the idea of commuting on a bike has indeed reached fairly far into the psyche of middle-class America. You can be sure the marketeers at Walmart don’t do this kind of thing unless they think it will make money.

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44 Responses to “Walmart “Commuter””

  • Helton says:

    At least it seems indeed well made. What caught my atention is the quite low BB, the small ring, the blade-type fork and the long steerer tube. By the other side, where are the fenders? Perhaps only one pair of bottle braze-ons?

  • placid casual says:

    they saved money by not fitting spokes to the front wheel!

  • bongobike says:

    The website navigation bar shows exactly what they think about bikes: “toys> bikes, scooters and skates> bikes> cruisers and comfort bikes”

  • Dale says:

    This is just toooo scary.

    I know that I’m gonna get righteous indignation spewed back at me for what I’m about to say – but I just would NOT being doing ANYONE any favors by allowing you to go forth from here thinking, for one minute, that this is a “bicycle”. Alan, I’m shocked that you, of all folks, would put something like this on your site.

    I have had extensive experience with BIG-BOX retailer’s inventory of “COUNTERFEIT” bicycles. Folks, these ARE NOT BICYCLES. They are great piles of crap made to LOOK like bicycles: And they are worth just as much as an equal denomination of counterfeit currency.

    REALITY CHECK. People get hurt on these from all manner of instances of parts failing – often the FIRST time they try to ride them: Handlebars folding under the rider’s weight, seatposts folding/seats collapsing, cranks breaking, wheels coming apart, chains breaking under very little pressure, frames breaking, etc., etc.

    REALITY CHECK: Just think about it – there’s NO WAY anyone can manufacture a viable vehicle, pay to ship it across the ocean, and sell it to a retailer for the $50 or $60 that these stores buy them for.

    I realize this bike has the “Mongoose” name on it but DON’T let that fool you, it’s not worth the grief it will give you from day one. You’d have far less trouble out of $132 if you’d just walk by a trash can and throw that much of your hard earned money into it, keep walking, and don’t look back.

    I repeat, I’ve had extensive experience with these, so I KNOW of which I speak. Fore warned is fair warned – that’s all I can do to help my fellow cyclists. If you’ve got any sense at all, you’ll heed my words and avoid these big-box ???bikes??? like the plague they are.

  • Alan says:

    @Dale

    Well, you get what you pay for, and I respect the intelligence of my readers enough to know they understand what they’re looking at when they’re looking at a $132 bike from Walmart.

    When my daughter was young and taking violin lessons, her teacher called cheap violins “VSO’s”, or “Violin Shaped Objects”. Maybe bikes from Walmart should be called “BSO’s”, or “Bicycle Shaped Objects”.

    Alan

  • Croupier says:

    If you have a steel or aluminum Bianchi, Trek, or Fuji that was made in Taiwan it was probably built in the same factory as this bike’s frame.

  • 2whls3spds says:

    @Dale…I have actually had my hands on one of these bikes and it is probably the best value in a bike from a big box store. It is pretty well made, but don’t trust the WM assembly. Biggest drawbacks are the goofy handle bars make it hard to mount lights too, it only comes in one size, pedals are super cheap and most likely will break pretty quickly, fenders are going to be tricky IIRC it uses 700x48c tires. Other than the fact WM is selling it and they are assembling it, it is a good value for the dollar. Unlike the double suspended MTB’s for $69.95…

    Aaron

  • Kenneth Rhodes says:

    I rode cheap WalMart bikes for years with no problem. Not everyone can afford to pay $600 – $2000+ for the “real” bikes some of you ride. Hundreds of thousands of High School students could use such a low end bike to commute 5 or six miles to school.

    The basic DF frame is a marvel of structural simplicity and strength. The main problem I see is upgrading or putting new components on them as WalMart is not a bike shop and dedicated bike shops probably won’t touch them in order to protect the price value of the bikes they sell. I suppose if they sell enough of them then a market for servicing them and upgrading them could develop.

  • 2whls3spds says:

    @Kenneth Rhodes…usually people that buy bikes at WM won’t pay the price for upgraded components. I run into it all the time. They cannot understand how an inexpensive wheel from an LBS costs more than the entire bike from WM, so they just trash it and go get another BSO from WM.

    Aaron

  • beth h says:

    @ Croupier: spot on. I got a rep to admit this much to me at Interbike last fall. I wasn’t shocked or anything; it felt good to hear some truth being spoken at the trade show.

    @ Dale: some people simply don’t earn enough money to afford “reality”. Yet, they still choose to ride a bike for transportation. (I sold my one and only car almost twenty years ago because I couldn’t afford to fuel, repair and insure it anymore. I bought a used department-store bike from a neighbor and was on my way to living car-free. I’ve been riding a bike ever since.)

    I am a co-owner in a cooperatively-run bike shop and we no longer sell the lowest common denominator (i.e., bikes that now retail for less than $350.00 new). We stopped selling low-end bikes because they were fraught with mechanical issues that were indicative of their lower quality standards. We’ve also lost a LOT of customers who used to shop with us but who now buy their bikes at department stores. At less than 150 bucks in a toilet-bound economy, we just can’t compete on price.

    Will that spell the end for us? No. Not yet, anyway. There are still plenty of folks here in uber-chic, over-educated PDX who are quite happy to plunk down a thousand bucks on a quality touring bike. And while I’m happy to take their money and provide them with the best service possible, I still ache at the folks we’ve turned away by our decision. Wallmart — like K-mart, Penney’s and Sears before them — is providing affordable bikes (yeah, they’re bikes. They may not be great bikes or even cool bikes but they’re still bikes) to a new generation of poor people who will ride them and perhaps move onto something better when their lot improves. That’s how it played out for me, after all.

  • Thom says:

    I think buying an old bomb-proof steel Schwinn, Raleigh, Peugeot, etc. from Craigslist for $100-$200 is a far better way to go for cash-strapped buyers than anything sold at Wal-Mart. These rolling disasters are not the same as older department store bikes, and the main difference is quality. The older bikes were simply better-built and intended to last longer. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: doing your homework and finding a good, cheap old bike from CL or a garage sale is the most economical way to get yourself on a bicycle. And the process of fixing it up teaches valuable skills that you can use to keep it running. There’s no excuse for buying a bike from Wal-Mart.

  • Barturle says:

    Well, much as I hate to say it, something like this could become my next grocery bike…I was looking at a KHS Green, but if I can check this out in person, it just might get a spot on my bike rack instead…

  • Thom says:

    @ Barturle: If you hate to say it, then don’t do it! :)

  • beth h says:

    @ Thom — I think the bikes you mention — the Schwinns and Peugeots and such — are getting harder to find at bargain prices, especially in the most bike-hip cities. Most have become collectors’ items; many more sellers realize what they have and are charging more for those “vintage” bikes. The bike alone could cost 100 bucks. if the person doesn’t have the time, tools or wherewithal to fix it up, they’ll spend far more getting help and parts from another source.
    I cannot totally diss the department store bike. It’s gotten too many of us off to a good start.

  • Steve Parkes says:

    Do you guys commute up the side of the building. You could with that chainring :)

  • sc says:

    thats bike might actually sell well – and probably offer up plenty of servicing potential to real bikes stores – due to poor assembly and shoddy materials.

    if you think that bike is scary – have a look at this – http://www.sears.ca/gp/product/B0019HZFNU/sr=1-10/qid=1236178969/ref=sr_1_10/181-4336771-1199718?ie=UTF8&searsBrand=core&mqnodeid=396561011 – i find it hard to believe that Sears thinks they can sell $3000+ bicycles, but if they do – again – plenty of servicing potential for real bike stores.

  • Larey says:

    I bought a “Deparment Store” bike in the early 80’s and rode it for two years until it was stolen. After that I went to a bike store and bought a much better bike, moderately priced at the time (<$400) and didn’t flinch at the cost because I knew I would ride it. You have to start somewhere and your first bike doesn’t have to last forever.

  • Streetsblog » Just Words, Mr. President? says:

    […] idea of a traffic congestion "tipping point," courtesy of a post at CEOs for Cities. And EcoVelo thinks it’s some kind of a sign that Wal-mart is marketing a $132 bike as a "commuter" […]

  • Cezar says:

    The one thing I noticed from the specs on it is that it has 36 spoke rims. Which does knock it’s quality up a bit. If the frame is good and the rims are ok, then it’s worth buying it and replacing the crappy parts with some quality used parts.

  • Roland Smith says:

    Cheap bikes will have cheap components to save on costs. I wouldn’t trust my life let alone that of a loved one to a such a contraption.

    In 2006 the belgian Consumer News tested 15 cheap bicycles (less than €200). The results weren’t pretty for the most part: Of the 15 bikes, only three were delivered ready to ride. The others had to be partially assembled. Four of the fifteen bikes were not road legal due to missing components (e.g. reflectors and bell which are mandatory in most of Europe). Most bikes needed adjustments to the brakes, tyres or gearing to be usable. Positive was that all bikes had sturdy steel frames.

    And last but most important: six of the fifteen bikes had brakes that were insufficient to meet minimum legal requirements! Six others required extraordinary force on the brake levers to generate sufficient braking force.

    Imagine that you or a loved one gets hit by a car because of a cheap bike with crappy brakes that couldn’t stop in time. That would be an extremely painfull lesson on the dangers of false economy.

  • Michael says:

    The weird thing about that bike is that if one made it a single-speed with fairly low gearing, one could easily upgrade the components a bit, maybe even add fenders. I don’t agree that a passable bike has to cost $600; I’m increasingly convinced that there exists a $200 baseline bicycle that is adequate for twice-a-week usage in our technological capacity.

    LBS’s would be wise to offer “commuter upgrade specials.” Bring us your Wal-Mart commuter after it has broken, and trade it in for $50 off this here bike which is JUST LIKE the commuter you’ve decided you kinda like, but has all these lovely upgraded components, ergonomics, etc.

    LOL on the chainring, tho. Maybe it makes the chainguard easier to pull off so fewer slips?

  • Surly John says:

    (so as not to be confused with all the other Johns ;-) ) I believe the most important factor here is not whether or not this is a viable bike but simply that Walmart is putting it forward. I can only guess what the minimum number of units sold would have to be to but it is HUGE. That Walmart anticipates a demand for tens of thousands of these bikes seems like a posative indicator for utility bike riding in general. And, on a more pessimistic note, probably a negative indicator for the economy as a whole. John

  • charlie says:

    Here’s one with fenders and perhaps a little better spec. http://www.walmart.com/catalog/allReviews.do?product_id=9207802

    I agree that you can’t count on proper assembly from walmart. And there are some quality compromises. But these are decent bikes, unlike the $99 dual suspensions, and unlike all-steel dept. store bikes of 10-20 years ago. Stop by and take a look, and read the reviews on the walmart site: I don’t see any evidence of any real problems beyond setup.

    There was a sweet $250 schwinn Al speed with fenders and chainguard there a few month ago–sadly , it seems that ‘s been dropped.

    For the craigslist fans: how do you avoid supporting the bike-theft industry with your purchase? (honest question, not rhetorical)

  • Thom says:

    @ charlie: on the Craigslist question, the answer is to use common-sense. Ask specific questions in the initial email or phone call (i.e. how long have you had the bike, where did you get it, etc.), pay attention to how much information is provided in the ad, how detailed the photos are, and even little things like whether the photos were taken in a well-maintained front yard, or do they look like they were taken in an alley. You can also usually tell by looking at a few days’ worth of postings whether a seller is a regular bike “flipper” or amateur dealer or just some guy cleaning out his garage. When you go to look at the bike, be aware of similar clues, and ask similar questions. If the answers change, or seem “off”, don’t buy it.

  • charlie says:

    Thanks Thom. That was helpful.

    By the way, I found the Schwinn 3-speed I was talking about. Seems to be droppped by walmart, even though it’s still possible to find it on their site through google, and it says that it’s $270, if you find one in stock at a store. But it’s also on Amazon for $344, list $399. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001ASCQHG

    The comments in the reviews are that wheel build, shifters, and (sadly) fenders are poor quality, but it’s still a pretty good deal–or at least it would be at Walmart.

    It’s also an interesting comparison–makes it seem that a $250 bike from walmart might be the equivalent of a $350 to 400 bike from a bike shop. That makes walmart a good deal if you don’t mind truing the wheels and checking the setup yourself, but for the extra $100 from the bike shop you are getting at least $100 of service…plus either good or bad advice depending on the shop.

  • beth h says:

    @ Michael: 15 years in the industry has taught me this: nothing turns off customers more than belittling whatever they’re riding now.

    On top of that, any LBS that would take a department store bike in trade is throwing money away (what’ll they do with those bikes? Reselling them opens another can of worms).

    At my shop, we are happy to swap in better brake pads or tires as a simpler fix, while advising the customer that this is not a permanent solutiuon. Most already know that; those who don’t usually appreciate our honesty. And nine times out of ten, they come to us for their NEXT bike.

  • christian says:

    I spend a lot of time riding public transit (Santa Clara VTA) among the working poor who depend on Wal Mart style bikes to get them between train stops and work/home. This bike, while undoubtedly flawed, is going to be a much better option than the knock off suspended MTBs I see, mostly because there’s less to go wrong. I don’t much like Wal-Mart, but I do think they’re much more effective at getting bikes into the hands of poor people than most of the other means mentioned in this thread, so I’m glad they’re selling this model.

  • charlie says:

    @ christian: Excellent point, and articulated very clearly!

  • Ows says:

    Folks,
    Let’s break it down: Surely, the more people riding bikes, the better off the next generation will be?
    This is a good thing, regardless of how you view Walmart or this bike’s construction.

    More bikes = less cars
    = Good thing.

    :-D

    Bike happy.

  • Fritz says:

    “BSO” is already long established in the bike snob lexicon.

    I think BSO’s have their place in the bike commuter ecosystem. Secondhand BSOs are especially useful in high theft or high risk of damage environments (think Caltrain in which bikes are jammed together onboard). Winter cyclists I know in the snowbelt go dumpster diving to find BSOs for use on salted roads.

    The Mongoose Paver will probably have assembly issues, but otherwise it seems like a fairly simple and bombproof bike. It even has a kickstand, something missing from most quality bikes.

    You might appreciate the Bike of Doom website.

  • Johan says:

    I have seen the Mongoose Paver in the local Wallymart, and its pretty good.

    Naturally there are some issues with the bike. The pedals are essentially disposable, and ought to be replaced by nicer LBS pedals. As far as assembly goes, the V-brakes and derailer ought to be readjusted by a competent mechanic. The 47mm tires are a tad too big for fenders, and ought to be replaced by 40mm tires in order to fit the fenders. The tires and fenders can prolly be trash picked from a Huffy Magellan.

    Aside from these particular issues, the bike is great buy, especially for taller riders, given the exxtra long seatpost and 700c wheels.

    And interesting note is that 700c tubes with presta valves are now being sold at wallmart

    Talking more in general about department store bikes, the single speed coaster braked cruisers are the better buy, as there are less parts to be broken, and generally have fenders. Maintaining these are easier for the DIYer, as they use a minimum of bicycle specific tools, at most a chain tool, a pump, and a patch kit, and possibly a spoke wrench. The rest of the tools needed can be found elsewhere in a department store.

    The only issue I take with cruisers may be the gearing which may be inappropiate for the local terrain. Here an LBS can help tremendeously.

  • Rick says:

    To those advocating these bikes, take a serious step back and think about what you are talking about. The company that is offering this product to you views it as a toy…a toy!

    If design, production, and assembly of every single part of the machine (from the frame to all the components) is based on producing the least expensive end product possible, then you can expect the product to be very low-quality. Just because these bikes are manufactured in the same plant as some of the big-name companies doesn’t mean the product is of the same quality. It is, in fact, a different product with different standards put forth by the customer (Mongoose).

    I can go to Walmart and buy a set of inexpensive tools. These tools may last for awhile, but when one breaks, when do you think it is going to happen? Certainly not when it is just sitting there on the bench! Rather, it will break when I put a large amount of stress on the tool…at the absolute worst time!

    Indeed, these “bikes” are much the same. They aren’t going to break when they are leaning against the garage, but when you are actually flying above them on the road. Why risk your life or your well-being riding on a toy when you could easily save for another month or two and get a real bike?

  • Ows says:

    In fairness Rick, Bikes on the Walmart website are also listed under “Sports & Fitness”.

  • Charlie says:

    Rick,

    Actually, I think this bike is evidence that Walmart is figuring out that a lot of the people buying their $99 mountain bikes that were designed as toys were actually using them for commuting. True, that change in thinking hasn’t percolated through their system and they haven’t correspondingly reformed their web site.

    On the other hand, my LBS is clearly selling toys. Ultralight bikes that don’t have room for fenders or mounting points for racks. That’s a toy and nothing but. And their attitude and lack of familiarity with commuter bikes reflects that orientation. I don’t blame them–there’s lots of money to be made selling multi-thousand dollar toys.

    By the way, try some of the Stanley tools sold at Walmart sometime. They might not be the very best money can buy, but they are certainly functional and reasonably durable.

  • nmanhipot says:

    I purchased an $1100 Schwinn touring bike on sale from a Performance outlet store. It was a Taiwanese-made disc brake-equipped touring bike with skinny tires. I put 7,000 miles on it in a year, commuting 40-50 miles round trip most days. I broke seven spokes on the rear wheel (one at a time – had it fixed each time), the bearings in the pedals rusted and failed within three months, the bottom bracket bearings failed, the front derailer came apart, the seat post head broke loose from the CF post, and finally, the frame cracked at the seatpost. It took two months and a lot of arm-twisting with Schwinn to get a warrantied frame (it had a 7-year warranty) and when I got my bike back, they lost my Selle Italia SLR titanium saddle, Polar speed sensor, ditched my top-of-the-line Fizik bar tape and custom reflective bar-ends for cheaper cork and plastic bar ends, trashed my teflon brake cables and sealed housing for generic steel, lost a piece to my fender set, lost the bottom bracket, lost a screw and the rear brake cable dust seals, and lost the stock saddle and seatpost I was forced to surrender. I will never again buy an inexpensive bike. Sadly, this one retailed for $1100. I will also never let this bike shop touch one of my bikes again. It took two months and five trips to the bike shop to finally get things even close to right but I still have the cheaper bar tape, bar ends, cables and housings. Someone had put an inventory sticker on my saddle and put it in a cabinet but the aftermarket seatpost that was attached to it was gone. They’ll never see me again if I can help it and I’ll never buy from this bicycle company again if I can help it. Cheap bikes suck!

  • JeffS says:

    @charlie “For the craigslist fans: how do you avoid supporting the bike-theft industry with your purchase? (honest question, not rhetorical)”

    I won’t buy an item I think is stolen, but also won’t let the fear of supporting theft deter me from buying used. For me, reducing overall consumption/production is a more important goal.

    I’ve been preaching buying quality items used to my friends/family for a while now and it’s starting to sink in. For example, buy a high-quality used stroller for $200 and sell it for $200 when you’re finished with it. Buy a low-quality new stroller for $50 and you might get $5 at a yardsale when you’re finished. Wait… should I be worried about supporting the stroller theft market?

  • Capateto says:

    (Apologies for being late to this conversation, but …)

    @Thom: Craigslist/eBay is a viable alternative for cheaper-than-new bikes only for those middle-class bicyclists with ready access to the Internet and/or credit cards. If all you have is cash and you have to do your ordering off a library computer, it’s probably not so easy.

    I see a lot of those “BSOs” plying the streets of New York City ridden by restaurant delivery people. They get the job done, the distances are never too far and they don’t tempt would-be thieves who would much rather get their mitts on vintage three-speeds and hipster fixies which they can then fence to you and me on Craigslist and eBay (see http://ridingpretty.blogspot.com/2009/03/looks-like-my-stolen-bike-is-on-cl.html).

  • Raiyn says:

    The broader point is this: If you have access to the internet, (be it home or library whatever) DO YOUR RESEARCH. Craigslist deals aren’t all bad, but it helps to know what you’re looking for. I’ve gotten a couple of really good used bikes for commuter use via craigslist and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back and wade through the garbage for another diamond in the rough.

  • brian gerard says:

    In places where large numbers of people ride bikes daily, Amsterdam for instance, none of these concerns about “cheap bikes” would come up. A guy I’ve talked with there never pays more than $25.00 US for a bike because a basic bike is what it takes to get from point A to point B in an urban area. That’s what a “commuter” bike is for. More people will stop driving and get on a bike when reliable, inexpensive bikes are generally available. It also seems like a good many commenters are really into being regarded as “cyclists”. And love to get all invested in gear. Whatever. I use a bicycle because it is practical, healthy and conservative. Go walmart.

  • Doug R. says:

    Hey Alan, I agree with the majority of the bloggers on this one! Walmart bikes harken me back to the days when I worked at post tools. The drill presses and other tools came from Wang fo or Pakistan and we would break them trying to assemble them!
    The metalurgy is carried out by sacrificing chickens in a bonfire and dim and dumb temper the metals by pissing on the molten crap! I have students who regularly come to me for help with their broken next, pacific or such other POS. I tell them to throw it away! I even saw one mountain bike example where the aluminum head tube had literally split away from the frame!! holy crap!
    Just try to tune the derailleur, and the screw strips out with the slightest touch of a phillips head screw driver! Melt them all down and remake them into coke cans please! Rude Rat.

  • Alan says:

    I hear ya. We had a Pacific when the kids were little and it was a POS. My point wasn’t so much to promote Wal-Mart bikes, but to make the point that when a biggie like WalMart uses the word “commuter” when referring to a bicycle, you know we’re making a little progress.

  • Johnny says:

    Good points, Christian. I was going to say that:)
    I think folks who purchase this bike will do it instead of riding around on a spring-on-wheels. That’s a good thing.

    FWIW, there’s a student in my neighborhood I see riding this bike all over the place. He looks like he’s having fun, and in Baltimore, anyone who cycles instead of driving is cool in my book. :)

  • Thomas Bailey says:

    I’ve had my Mongoose XR75 for only one year, and already needed both pedals replaced, the rear wheel replaced twice, and the brakes are not working right. The right pedal broke off after only two weeks. I thought Mongoose was a good make, but I found out when the wheel needed to be replaced that Mongoose sold one of its factories to another company that does not have good quality-control. Schwinn did likewise. When I saw “made in China”, I would expect better, as the Chinese ride bikes all the time, and the bikes they ride are built to last a lifetime.

  • Charlie says:

    The XR-75 is a $104 full suspension MTB. The commuter bike, simpler but more expensive, can be expected to be better quality.

    It’s true that the low end of the wallmart brands include some real junk. But more and more they are carrying better bikes as well, up to full suspension MTBs in the $500 range. Those have real name-brand components throughout. You can’t trust the Mongoose name to provide good bikes, but they aren’t all as bad as the $100 full-suspension MTBs, which are the worst of the whole line.

 
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