Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Can A Decent Bike Be Found For $200-300?

Huffy cruiser model #26744 goes for $160 and is available at Sports Authority and on  Photo courtesy of
From our bikes4restofus[AT] inbox, we received this inquiry.  My response follows, and you can respond in the comments.


I just recently discovered your blog and think it's the best biking blog I've ever come across.  Reading your posts makes it sound like you're speaking directly to me.

In your post from 2014-05-05 [What makes a Bike For The Rest Of Us by Joseph], you enumerate what makes a good bike for the rest of us.  I completely agree with the criteria that you include.  However, I do request that you consider one more criterion:  value.  People like us who ride bikes to run errands typically don't want to spend $1000+ on our bikes.

I have usually gone with Huffy cruisers for about $130.  Check these out:

They come with chain guards, fenders, racks, and sometimes baskets.  Unfortunately, the build quality leaves much to be desired.  Pedals break, etc.  I've recently resolved to get a better bike, but still aim for maximizing the value I get for what I pay.  Do you have any advice for what might be the best values in city/comfort bikes?  Can a decent bike be found for $200?  $300?  If you could offer such advice in a blog post, I'm sure your readers would greatly appreciate it.




Dear Desmond,

Thank you for your kind words and for asking a really good question about maximizing value.
Let me start by stating two core principles that really are the whole foundation of this blog: (1) bicycles have great value as a form of transportation and (2) the right bike for you depends on your personal preferences. 

Based on point 1, you could justify spending, say $2,000 on an A.N.T. Boston Roadster given that it's a high-quality bike, will last your entire lifetime, and can replace your car for most local trips.  The key word there is "justify."  The marvelous thing about bikes is that they don't really lose their value unless they've been in a crash that has damaged the frame.  Compare a bike to a car.  The moment you drive your new car off the lot, it has depreciated in value.  A good bike will last your entire lifetime.  In fact, if you look at all the English 3-speeds that are still around, in most cases they have outlasted their original owners.  But enough about the value of bikes. For purposes of our discussion, we will work with $200-300.
On the second point, the right bike for you is the one you want to ride.  Think of some place you need to go to on a regular basis (work, the store, etc) and think about whether you would want ride your bike there.  For example, if you would look forward to riding your Huffy cruiser to work everyday, then the Huffy cruiser meets this test.

Now to answer your question, can a decent bike be found for $200 or $300?  My answer, based on my bike preferences, is yes, absolutely.

For $200-300, you have quite a few options. You could buy that Huffy cruiser at the big box store or on amazon (On issues with buying bikes from big box stores, read David's post or this one by a local bike shop owner).  You could save a little more and get one of Giant’s Momentum bicycles, which go for just $425.  You could get a membership in bikeshare, if you have that available to you.  

If it were me, I would head out to the local bike co-ops, thrift shops and yard sales in search of a lugged, steel mountain bike from the 1980's or 90's.  Ideally, I would find one that spent years as a museum piece in someone's garage and I would repurpose it into an all-arounder.  I talked about this in Here's the RUB.

A vintage 10-speed might also be a good deal, but I like mountain bikes from the 80’s or 90’s because they can take wide tires, like a cruiser, but unlike a cruiser, they come with a full set of brakes, front and back.  A cruiser typically comes only with a rear coaster brake (read Sheldon Brown on the pros and cons of coaster brakes), and that’s a deal-breaker for me.  It might be fine for someone who rides in flat terrain and warm climates (cruisers are popular in beach towns), but I wouldn’t rely on a coaster brake alone if I rode hills, or in winter weather, or in chaotic city traffic.  All of which I do, year round.

That's my take on how to find a decent bike for $200-300.  What are your suggestions, readers?