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 amazon.com.  Photo courtesy of huffybikes.com.
From our bikes4restofus[AT]gmail.com inbox, we received this inquiry.  My response follows, and you can respond in the comments.



Hi,

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.

Sincerely,

Desmond

*****

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?



10 comments:

Pedro Manaças said...

I second the advice given about finding a good deal in a local shop, or trying to find a well maintained 2nd hand bike.

The only very good bike i ever owned from new in that price range is the
kona worldbike 2011

It cost me 200 GBP on sale from an uk online dealer (I was based in the UK at the time).

It has been the most reliable bike i ever rode day in day out. Nothing on it broke (which is surprising considering i'm a heavy rider, used to having bottom brackets, pedals, chains etc fade away on me in a few months)

This bike is still going without even a chain change after 3 years of daily use.

This particular bike is discontinued, but I would leave as advice to any one looking for good value new bike, to scour the sales sections of online retailers for bikes from previous years. you can find some good bargains in there particularly as the "new collection" comes out and they are left with "old" stock.

Freewheel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freewheel said...

Pedro, that's great advice and it's good to hear that your Kona has lasted. Back in 2008, we wrote about the Kona Africa Bike, which was a terrific deal at $350. That would be one to look for at yard sales and thrift shops.

Pedro Manaças said...

It's a shame that the current Kona lineup does't seem to feature a bike of this type anymore (AfricaBike / Worldbike).

They were for me the best mainstream brand at selecting low price durable components for their low range. But they seem to have abandoned that for now.

dhalsim2 said...

Thank you for the EXCELLENT advice, Freewheel.

I had previously been strongly leaning toward getting another Huffy, but after considering how frequently my bikes broke, I finally abandoned that idea.

I then went to Craigslist to look for a good deal. I found several things that seemed like decent deals, but my cycling buddy kept telling me that for each of them, I was trying to get myself to match the bike instead of getting the bike to match me. He didn't want me to settle.

So finally, I ended up going with your suggestion of the Momentum iNeed Street. I was initially discouraged that the posted price was above the $425 MSRP, but my buddy told me that local bike shops negotiate on price just like car dealerships. So I ended up getting it for $350 after negotiation!

Once again, thanks for the advice. I finally got a good bike at a good price.

Desmond

Freewheel said...

Desmond, nice negotiating! Hope you enjoy your new ride!!!

dasada said...

lolololololololololoooo

Lisa said...

I agree, lots of decent rides are out there that need not be expensive. Good thing there are reviews that can provide complete or extensive guides for those who are looking for affordable ones.

Joe said...

Regarding good old Kona bikes, I used to love the Kona Smoke, which was basically the predecessor to the Worldbike, with 3x7 gearing instead of a 3 speed internal hub. It had everything you could ask for (26" boomproof wheels, rigid fork, steel frame, wide gearing, mudguards, bell,...) for below 400 EUR.

Unfortunately Kona got itself influenced first by the 29" fad and made the Smoke a 700 bike, and then followed the fashion with a fixie /internal hub version depending on the year (Worldbike, etc.). Now it's completely gone from their range, and they pretend to sell us high range "commuter" bikes, but I'm not willing to lock outside a +1000 EUR bike.

Joe said...

Agreed. Nowadays to get a decent quality bike, starting price is around 450 EUR new or 150 EUR used, whatever is closer to your personal budget.

If going for used, my favorites are also the early 90's mtbs due to its versatility: they do decently well in all terrains, rigid fork, frame with eyelets for most accessories, and most of their components are still repairable/upgradeable even today with easily sourced replacements.