How do you get to your regular mountain-bike trails? Are you one of the privileged few who lives just pedal strokes from the trailhead? Or are your rides bookended by drives or long pavement slogs?
If you fall into the latter category, as I do living in New York City, or if you could simply use a change of scenery from those trails right outside your front door, you’ve no doubt contemplated taking a riding vacation. Everybody’s heard of places like Crested Butte, Moab, and Park City in the context of mountain-bike fantasylands, but increasingly, Bentonville, Arkansas, is emerging as a riding destination. Yes, Bentonville, a city heretofore known best as the birthplace and world headquarters of Walmart; and yes, Arkansas, a state Americans in the Snob Belt have recently come to associate with citizens under siege by 30 to 50 feral hogs.
This summer, Bike Bentonville, an organization that promotes a cycling-oriented culture and tourism in town, invited me to speak at the Arkansas Bike Summit in Bentonville. I’d read stories of how the Walton family (heirs to Walmart founder Sam Walton) was turning the region into a mountain-bike paradise, so I eagerly accepted, but beyond that, I really didn’t know what to expect out of the town. What I got was not only a highly satisfying weekend bicycle escape but also a surprise infusion of art and culture I hadn’t realized I needed and quite possibly a preview of my next family vacation.
Because vendors flock from all over in order to supplicate themselves before one of the largest retailers on the face of the earth, Bentonville is easy to reach—you can fly nonstop into Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport from most major U.S. cities, and I had no trouble finding an inexpensive flight from LaGuardia. Moreover, the Phat Tire bike shop is located right in the middle of downtown Bentonville, and for anywhere from $38 to $120 for 24 hours, it rents a full range of bikes, from cruisers to hybrids to road bikes to hardtails to high-end dual-suspension bikes to e-mountain bikes. It even has bike trailers for $20. Sure, we’re all attached to our own bikes, but between the airline fees and the onerous process of packing and unpacking (not to mention the risk of damage), traveling with them is arguably not worth it. I was so secure in the knowledge that a pro-level shop had me covered, I simply threw a few things in a backpack and warmed up for my trip by riding to the airport.
The first thing you notice when you deplane at Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport is the smell; the region is also the country’s largest poultry producer and the home of Tyson Foods, so the air immediately around the airport is a bit funky. The second thing you notice—at least if you ride a bike—is the life-size mountain-bike diorama in the airport promoting the Oz Trails network, which includes the trails in and around Bentonville and boasts 300 miles of singletrack.
These trails are a product of the Walton Family Foundation’s commitment to “investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta,” according to its PR boilerplate language. It’s a sizable investment, too; according to the foundation’s website, it has spent $74 million over ten years to build 163 miles of paved and unpaved bike trails. The investment is paying off for the region: the foundation says bicycling provided a $137 million boost to northwest Arkansas in 2017 alone, in part because “proximity to bicycle infrastructure” encourages people to relocate to the area. You can thank the Waltons’ love of bikes for this. (Brothers Tom and Steuart Walton, grandchildren of Sam Walton, are passionate cyclists.)
On the morning of my first full day in Bentonville, I headed to the conference and got my first glimpse of downtown. Moderately upscale-looking restaurants and shops surrounded Bentonville City Square, which was beginning to fill with food trucks, stalls, and vendors for the Saturday farmers’ market. On the southeast corner of the square was Walton’s, the five-and-dime store Sam Walton opened in 1950 that now serves as the home of the Walmart Museum. Preserved as a mid-century idyll complete with a soda fountain and a gift shop selling Red Ryder BB guns, its quaint folksiness belies the downtown-killing retail behemoth it ultimately spawned.
And yet downtown Bentonville itself is clearly thriving. After spending some time at the summit, I wandered around as storm clouds amassed overhead. Block Street Records sold actual records, made from vinyl. Ozark Mountain Bagel Co. combined two words I, as a New Yorker, never thought I’d see together on a single sign, those being Ozark and bagel. A gift shop sold T-shirts comparing Bentonville to Manhattan, and overall I got a sense that this was a place that was warm and southern and at the same time not ashamed to trade on a sense of cultural cachet.
Bikes are a major part of Bentonville’s sales pitch, and the Walton Family Foundation’s investment in cycling has clearly informed the cityscape. The Visit Bentonville tourist information center had Bike Bentonville decals in the window, the sidewalk chalkboard outside the Bentonville Tap Room tempted cyclists with craft beer, Phat Tire took up a full corner of prime downtown real estate, and bike-specific way-finding signs similar to the ones you see in Portland, Oregon, (save for the Walmart logo) pointed to nearby landmarks.
Cycling has played a major role in the vibrant feeling of the city center. “Folks around here will tell you that no one came downtown about ten years ago, and now you see people everyday,” says Aimee Ross, director of Bike Bentonville. “Not only people, but people riding bikes and all types of people: families, young students, large groups of women only, and all types of bikes.” People did indeed roll around town on bicycles, and dirty mountain bikes leaned against walls and windows of local eateries. It was all enough to make me forget where I was, though the Confederate monument in the middle of the town square quickly re-centered my GPS.
By this time, the sky was about to erupt, so I ducked into Pressroom, an airy, wood-and-metal contemporary American restaurant that would be at home in any gentrified downtown in the nation. (Bentonville has a burgeoning food scene: “Good restaurants there,” remarked my brother, who works in fine dining, when I mentioned I’d be visiting.) In a way, I suppose coming from New York to Arkansas and ordering an IPA and a hamburger on gluten-free bread is not exactly branching out—in fact it’s kind of like visiting Europe and eating at McDonald’s—but I did it anyway, and everything was excellent. Other downtown dining options include the Hive, whose executive chef, Matthew McClure, is a six-time James Beard semifinalist for best chef, and Tusk and Trotter, which specializes in “High South” cuisine, which is northwest Arkansas’s signature culinary movement.
It was still raining when I emerged from Pressroom, but the worst of the storm had passed, so beneath a steady drizzle and under the spell of a craft-beer buzz, I walked the one mile to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art via the Art Trail. Most people were still sheltering from the rain, and I hardly saw a soul as I made my way through a lush rainforest traversed by a clay-colored creek, the pitter-patter of the rain on the tree canopy lulling me into a trancelike state. Occasionally, I also glimpsed immaculately manicured, swooping ribbons of dirt paths twisting and undulating their way through the vegetation. They seemed precious, like a network of roadways for gnomes. In my experience, that degree of landscaping is always accessorized with a “No Bikes!” sign—not to mention I was also in the immediate vicinity of an art museum—so I was amazed when I finally figured out that these were mountain-bike trails.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, founded by Alice Walton in 2011, is a primitively modern concrete structure that emerges from a chocolate-milk-colored swamp, like something out of Planet of the Apes, and beneath the dreary gray sky it looked vaguely dystopian. Inside was another matter; it was way more Cameron Frye’s dad’s garage from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, except instead of a vintage Ferrari, it housed a gobsmacking collection of art: portraits of George Washington, Maxfield Parrish’s “Lantern Bearers,” paintings by George Tooker, who I’d never heard of but whose work had me transfixed. If back at the square I’d forgotten I was in Arkansas, here I forgot I was in the United States. Surrounded by international tourists and fine art, I could easily have been somewhere in Europe. It was only when the volunteers spoke—genially and regionally accented, like Walmart greeters—that I remembered I was back in Bentonville. Certainly you couldn’t have gotten me on a plane just to go to a museum and look at some art, but now that I was here, I felt as though Crystal Bridges alone had been worth the trip.
By the next morning, I’d recovered from my Stendhal syndrome and remembered why I’d really come to Bentonville: to ride bikes. It was dry outside, but the forecast threatened rain again, and so I made my way down to Phat Tire as soon as it opened in order to pick up a rental. Like tailors at a fashion show, the staff at this bike shop sets visitors up with rental bikes swiftly yet expertly and then sends them out onto Bentonville’s lavish trail network like models onto a runway. In short order, I was astride a Trek Fuel EX Plus, saddle in position and suspension settings dialed.
Given all the rain the day before, I was concerned that the trails would be wet, and I didn’t want to be the person who sashays into town, leaves a bunch of ruts all over the place, and then goes home. My fitter at Phat Tire allayed my concerns, explaining that the trails drained well, and that, in any case, Bentonville promises 365 days of riding and has the resources to keep everything in good repair. “You’re a guest, don’t worry about it,” seemed to be the prevailing attitude.
I needn’t have worried. “Even during a rainstorm, we have trails that are rocky in composition that you can easily ride,” Erin Rushing told me later in an email. Rushing is the executive director of NWA Trailblazers, a nonprofit that develops local multi-use trails. “Our climate is mild enough that it rarely gets too hot or too cold to ride. We use professional trail builders, who have years of experience building trails that are not only sustainable but enjoyable.”
Sure enough, the trails were dry, save for the odd puddle or two, and even the red-clay singletrack that I’d been warned might not fare well was firm and rideable. Not only that, but navigationally, the trails were practically idiotproof. From the pump track right off the town square, I found myself on the swoopy trails I’d walked by the day before, and within minutes I was deep in Slaughter Pen, a trail network of over 20 miles. Everything was so intuitive and well signed that finding my way was mostly a question of just riding and occasionally consulting the MTB Project app to confirm I was where I thought I was. Even technical trail features were clearly marked with signs reading “FEATURE,” and there were always alternate lines if I was inclined to edit them out. Compared to the hardscrabble riding I was used to in the Northeast—where trail maintenance is intermittent, signage is a novelty, and it can take a full season to figure out the lines—the trails of Slaughter Pen felt positively sumptuous.
Crossing over Razorback Regional Greenway, a nearly 40-mile shared-use path that goes all the way to Fayetteville, Arkansas, I rode the twisty ups and downs of the Tatamagouche and Medusa Trails. This was the most fun I’d had on a bike since L’Eroica California in the spring; a network of red-clay ribbons, berms, smooth stonework and wooden bridges, all flowing into each other like streams beneath a lush canopy. It was the cycling equivalent of binge-watching a new show on Netflix—just pedal and watch it all unfold.
Beyond the trails, I was riding the Back 40, a 20-mile loop skirting the Missouri border that I had heard is a little more rough around the edges than the Slaughter Pen system. I was tempted to press on, but I considered the menacing storm clouds and the lack of food in my pack, and ultimately figured there was no point in turning a delightful romp into a possible slog. Instead I stayed in Slaughter Pen and gradually made my way back to downtown Bentonville, telling myself I’d have some lunch and then head out for round two. Alas, shortly after I returned to civilization, the skies opened yet again, and I was just tired enough to not mind having an excuse to stop riding. I returned the Trek to Phat Tire and trawled downtown for gifts before heading back to the hotel and getting ready for my return flight.
If the trails in Bentonville were a Whole Foods, then my ride was basically the equivalent of ducking in and nibbling on a free sample. But it was more than enough to make me want to return. And while I could no doubt lose myself on those trails for days on end, what was most appealing about Bentonville was the turnkey nature of it as a vacation destination and how well it lent itself to short but satisfying jaunts of both riding and culture. The town is walkable and bikeable, so if your hotel provides a shuttle (as mine did) or you hop in a cab for the 20-minute, $40 trip from the airport, you don’t need to rent a motor vehicle. You don’t have to pore over maps for days on end. You don’t have to pack a bunch of gear or do a lot of planning. Just bring some pedals, grab a bike at Phat Tire, and ride. Also, because Bentonville is designed for two things—mountain biking and hosting travelers from all over the place who want to do business with Walmart—there are not only plenty of flights but a plethora of accommodation options, ranging from double-digit chain motels to the 21c Museum Hotel, where a luxury suite will run you somewhere around $500.
I could easily imagine coming back for a full-on weekend shred fest, but what I really lamented was that my family wasn’t with me. Between the user-friendly mountain-bike trails, the greenway, and Crystal Bridges—all directly accessible right from downtown—it’s really set up perfectly for an active, car-free family getaway. I saw parents with kids riding the trails, which made me miss my own little ones. This multi-ability, multigenerational trail use is by design: “All new trail networks are built with progression in mind,” Rushing wrote in his email. “We are always looking for the perfect mix of trail difficulty for all ages and abilities. I have three boys (18,14, and 8) and we all ride, so developing trails and trail systems that we can all go to and enjoy as a family is important to me, as well as to our community.” So if you’re the family shredder, you can go rip it up early, then join up with the rest of the clan for some more mellow pedaling.
There’s also a lot more to come from the region. According to Rushing, roughly two to three miles of trails are being built per week, “so odds are you’re going to find new trail every time you come visit.” On top of that, he said, “We are also constantly updating and reworking existing trails in the older networks and making them even sweeter.” Then there’s cyclocross. In 2022, the UCI Cyclocross World Championships will come to Fayetteville, less than 25 miles away—it will be held on land at Millsap Mountain that is being developed as a cycling venue, with a grant from the Walton Family Foundation. Starting this year, the site also hosted FayetteCross, an elite two-day race in October.
If you’re leery of corporations, you may be hesitant to accept the Walton family’s largesse, but hey, if you appreciate bikes and art, then at least two of their interests align with your own. Anyway, it beats giving more money to the Walt Disney Company. And there are no mountain-bike trails on Space Mountain.
Where to buy a bike: How do you find the right bike in the midst of a shortage?
If you're wondering where to buy a bike, you're not alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the bike-buying landscape. The demand for bicycles has increased rapidly and, as a result, millions of new cyclists are buying a bike for the first time, wondering how and where to shop.
Unfortunately, at the same time as this increase in demand, the closure of factories meant production was halted for a time. While most factories have opened again, they're still playing catchup. Meanwhile, tightened border controls are delaying distribution, and then a ship managed to get stuck in the Suez Canal, so anything they do produce takes longer to get to your local shop or the warehouse of your favourite online retailer. What all of this means is that the availability of bikes is very low.
In years gone by, the answer to 'where to buy a bike' has been simple and the choice plentiful. Whether you went to your local bike shop, browsed online retailers, or went to eBay, the availability of bikes was comprehensive, and the process was straightforward. However, nowadays, if you're wondering where to buy a bike, it's likely because you can't find stock.
Of course, it would be in poor taste to even begin to compare this first-world problem to the havoc wrought by the pandemic upon families, healthcare services and other industries, but the fact remains that buying a bike at the moment can be a frustrating endeavour.
As ever, there are things you can do to ease the process. For example, being flexible with your wishlist will give you more options and thus, a greater chance of finding something suitable. The first step to success is arming yourself with knowledge of the various options of where you might be able to buy your ideal bike, because the more places you look, the more chance you give yourself of finding the right bike, in the right size, at the right price.
It's also worth bearing in mind that retailers time their discounts. So for example, in the run-up to Black Friday they may be saving their best deals for when the sales season really starts in earnest. Hold your nerve and you may find a better deal - or you may miss out! The mismatch of demand and supply could make this year a little different.
To help you along the way, we've put together the various methods available for wannabe bike buyers, and we've rounded up a selection of online retailers where bikes are currently in stock, along with deals where current stock availability looks good, so that you have a quick hitlist of places to look when hunting down your next - or perhaps first - #NewBikeDay.
The various options of where to buy a bike
Complete convenience and comprehensive choice
Wide choice on places to shop
Occasional to-the-store delivery, depending on retailer
Can't try before you buy
Need to assemble it yourself
Where to buy a bike online
USA only: Competitive Cyclistis one of the largest cycling retailers in the US, and despite the shortage, there is still a good selection of bikes available.
There are bikes that cover all spectrums from budget commuters to performance road bikes, kids bikes to electric mountain bikes.
Some of the more popular brands covered include Cervelo, Santa Cruz, Pinarello, Bianchi, but there are plenty more to consider.
Our pick of bike deals at Competitive Cyclist
Factor Vista frameset - was $4,799.00 now $3,839.00
Ridley Kids' Road Race 26 bike - was $829.00 now $599.95
USA only: Jenson USAis another USA-based retailer and usually has a good selection of off-road and gravel bikes, with a smaller selection of road bikes. The brands covered include Colnago, Look, Orbea, Santa Cruz, Yeti, Rocky Mountain, and more. There are even a few Jenson USA Exclusive Builds, which offer great value for money.
Our pick of bike deals at Jenson USA
All-City Space Horse Tiagra 650b bike - was $2,199.00 now $1,650.00
Orbea Gain M20i e-bike - was $5,999.00 now $5,519.00
USA only: REI is an outdoor retailer based in the USA, and its bike section is pretty huge. As well as its own range of Co-op Cycles bikes, there are bikes from Cannondale, Early Rider, Salsa and more. The options predominantly cover hybrid, road and kids bikes, but there are a few touring and mountain bikes on offer too.
Our pick of bike deals at REI
Co-op Cycles CTY 1.1 bike - $599.00 plus $20 membership
Cannondale Quick 6 bike - $650.00
USA only: Moosejaw is an outdoor retailer, so while it doesn't specialise in bikes, the selection is typically broad. The current selection is slightly limited, but there are still options covering road, gravel, mountain and kids' bikes from brands such as Norco, Evil, Niner and Raleigh.
USA only: Backcountry, the US outdoor sports retailer, is partnered with Competitive Cyclist, so the product offering typically overlaps, but it's certainly worth double-checking as they don't always share the same pool of stock.
USA only: Walmart might be a left-field inclusion in this list, but if you're after something super simple such as a budget kids bike, then Walmart is worth checking. The one thing it has on its side is an abundance of options, so just do your research and ensure you're not wasting your money on a bike that's not fit for purpose.
Worldwide: Wiggle is partnered with Chain Reaction Cycles, and therefore shares many of the same bikes. However, it's worth checking both stores because they don't always share stock, and you might get a better discount.
Our pick of bike deals at Wiggle US
Laventino Ranger 3 Men's Urban Bike (2020) - was $649.00 now $195
Zannata Z21 Hybrid Bike - was $895.00 now $455.00
Our pick of deals at Wiggle UK
Vitus Emitter Aluminium e-bike - wass £2,799.99 now £2,249.99
Zannata Z21 Hybrid Bike - was £899.00 now £349.99
Worldwide: Chain Reaction Cycles is one of the world's largest online bike retailers, selling everything from kids' balance bikes to electric road bikes. Brands covered include Colnago, Cube and Fuji, as well as its own in-house brand, Vitus, which offers great value for money.
Worldwide: French company Decathlonhas a presence worldwide and sells many own brand bikes under a range of names, including B'Twin, triban and Van Rysel. Its products tend to be well designed and good value.
Worldwide: Amazon, probably isn't exactly the first retailer you think of when shopping for a bike but there's little the world's largest retailer doesn't sell. It's unlikely you'll find a high-end carbon road bike, but if you're shopping for kids bikes, then Amazon is worth a look.
UK only: Cyclestore is a proud dealer of Specialized, Giant and Cannondale bikes, and currently has stock of bikes ranging from a few hundred pounds, right up to the £12,000 S-Works Aethos.
Our pick of bike deals at Cyclestore
Specialized Turbo Como 3.0 Low Entry e-bike - was £2,800.00 now £2,660.00
Specialized Turbo Vado Sl 4.0 Step-through e-bike- was £3,000.00 now £2,850.00
UK only: Evans Cycles has been around for decades, and comes with a comprehensive online shop as well as stores up and down the country. There are bikes covering everyone's needs, be they commuting to work or sending gaps in the bike park, with brands such as Specialized, Trek, Cannondale and more.
Our pick of bike deals at Evans Cycles
Schwinn Vantage FB1 2020 Hybrid Bike- was £700.00 now £569.00
Litespeed Ultimate G Ultegra gravel bike- was £6,500.00 now £3,249.00
UK only: Tredz is a retailer for brands such as Cannondale, Specialized, Brompton, Merida and more. With bikes covering road, mountain, kids, commuting and more, it's a good place to browse if you're unsure exactly what you want.
Our pick of bike deals at Tredz
Hey Disc9 Hybrid Bike- was £625.00 now £400.00
Dawes Arc 2 folding bike- was £1,299.99 now £1,099.00
UK only: Rutland Cycling is another UK-based shop with stores around the country. There are bikes covering all spectrums of cycling, both with or without a motor, with brands such as Bianchi, Brompton, Frog, Whyte, Scott and more.
Our pick of bike deals at Rutland Cycling
Brompton H2L Folding Electric Bike- was £3,069.99 now £2,919.99
Cannondale SystemSix Ultegra road bike- was £4,999.99 now £4,499.00
UK only: Tweeks Cycles is a UK retailer covering all disciplines. The brands stocked include GT, Raleigh, Lapierre, Cube, and Scott to name a few.
UK only: Hargroves Cycles is another stockist of Cannondale, Specialized, Brompton and more, with over 200 different models in stock, each in a range of sizes, at the time of publish.
Our pick of bike deals at Hargroves Cycles
Ridgeback Electron+ Electric Bike- was £2,599.00 now £2,399.00
2021 Bergamont Paul-E EQ Edition Electric Folding Bike- was £3,079.00 now £2,599.00
UK only: Leisure Lakes is another retailer with stores dotted around the country. Covering everything to electric commuters to race bikes, it's another great place to browse for new-bike inspiration.
Our pick of bike deals at Leisure Lakes
Specialized Creo SL Comp CarbonE-Road Bike- was £5,750.00 now £4,999.00
2rbea Avant H60 Disc Road Bike- was £1,159.00 now £999.00
UK only: Halfords is more committed to the leisure side of cycling, specialising in the more budget side of things as well as kids bikes. With brick-and-mortar stores in almost every town, you're never too far away if you want to try before you buy.
Your local bike shop
A great choice for those in need of advice as well as a bike
Helpful face-to-face advice
No delivery charges
Professional bike setup
Possible discount on accessories bought at the same time
Lack of choice vs shopping online
Less convenient than browsing online
Local bike shops remain a great source of advice on new bikes, with staff usually super-knowledgeable and keen to get you on the right bike.
The best way to shop is to visit and speak to the sales staff, explain your needs, and heed their advice. However, the advice offered will depend on the knowledge held by the staff members in question, so if you're uncertain, be prepared to do your own research too, and if you're unsure, enlist the help of a friend whose opinion you trust or head to numerous stores to compare and contrast.
In fact, we recommend visiting at least a couple of stores until you find one you're confident in and which has a good range of suitable bikes in stock, and while you will ultimately be led by the price and availability of your ideal bike, do your best to strike a relationship with your preferred store, as this will no doubt prove beneficial down the line when time comes for a service, repair, or extra advice.
Some bricks-and-mortar stores also operate a website, which could enable you to virtually browse the store without ever stepping foot inside and larger stores - such as Evans Cycles in the UK - operate a highly-connected eCommerce business that allows you to buy online and collect in-store, saving you the stress of building the bike yourself.
The other benefit of buying in person is the personable relationship you can build with the staff at your local bike shop who, invariably, are keen cyclists themselves with years of experience, so if you have a question about good routes to ride, how to get into racing, the price of the local bike park uplift pass, or the safest, best or flattest way to get from point A to point B, they'll probably have the answers.
Furthermore, if you're new to cycling or you're in need of some accessories alongside your new bike, there's every chance they'll do you a deal.
Great if you have your eye on a specific brand
Most will offer delivery or collection via a bike shop
Access to a brand’s full line
First access to available stock
No test ride facility
Discounts are rare
If you know the brand - or specific model - of bike you're after, a great way to shop is to go direct to the manufacturer. The exact process will differ depending on the brand in question. Some will offer delivery direct to your door, while others will deliver to your local bike shop so that it can be built up by a professional mechanic.
The benefits of buying directly from the manufacturer are that they typically have stock before shops or online retailers, and typically have a better spread of sizes and colours.
However, the downside is that previous-model-year bikes and discounts are almost impossible to find, as these are often sold off in bulk to retailers.
Worldwide: Trek Bikes is a worldwide bicycle manufacturer catering to everyone from first-time amateurs to WorldTour professionals. Their website allows bikes to be ordered direct, and they'll happily deliver it to your local Trek dealer where it can be built up by a professional. Their collection encompasses road, mountain, hybrid, electric and kids' bikes, with all budgets catered for.
Worldwide: German brand Canyonspecialises in direct sales of its bikes, which have a reputation for quality and low prices. Its bikes span the whole range from pro level road bikes through hybrids and electric bikes to mountain bikes and e-mountain bikes.
Often cheaper, but a potential minefield if you're new to cycling
Widest spread of availability
No warranty / protection
A real risk of scams
Can be hard to find the correct size/model
Facebook, eBay, Gumtree, Craigslist, the list of potential places to buy second-hand goods online goes on. So vast is the market for second-hand bikes that even cycling-specific marketplaces exist such as Bikesoup and there are even second-hand bike specialists, The Pro's Closet, doing things a little differently in the US.
If you know what you're looking for, online marketplaces can be a veritable treasure trove of deals and discounts, but if you don't, they can be a minefield of dodgy dealings, scammers, and more.
The biggest concern in any online marketplace is criminals, and if you're not careful with how you pay, you could quickly fall victim to a scam.
However, a less severe but more prevalent concern with online marketplaces is sellers overstating the value of their second-hand bike. There's nobody governing the price of second-hand bikes, so it's up to the seller to decide what they want for it. In the midst of a bike shortage, they are taking advantage and unwitting buyers are footing the bill.
So if you're going to shop second hand online, ensure you do your research and your due diligence, only pay using a protected method, and if you find a deal that looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Also, never meet a stranger with large sums of cash in your pocket unless you're 100 per cent confident they're legitimate, and even then, meet somewhere public and take a friend.
USA only: The Pro's Closet is an online bike marketplace that does things a little differently. By acting as the intermediary between sellers and buyers, The Pro's Closet ensures that all second-hand bikes are inspected, serviced and then sold at a fair price, removing all concerns about the bike's condition as well as any concern around scammers.
It covers bikes of all disciplines for all ages at the full spectrum of budgets, and will even allow you to trade in your old bike.
Pay monthly and upgrade regularly
Particularly useful for children's bikes or city bikes
There's usually no large upfront investment
Similar to leasing in the car industry, bicycle subscription schemes allow you to pay monthly to borrow the bike of your choice. However, many also offer the option to upgrade your bike as regularly as you like, making it especially useful for parents whose children have a habit of growing straight after an expensive purchase.
The terms and conditions of each policy will differ from company to company, but one such scheme based in the UK is The Bike Club, whose policy accepts wear and tear as par for the course, but also offers an additional monthly subscription to mitigate against the cost of any extra damage. It also allows you to own the bike outright after 32 months of payments on a single bike, but of course, that means you miss out on upgrading.
UK only: The Bike Club is a bicycle subscription business that allows you to loan a bike for a monthly fee, upgrading that bike as and when you desire.
Especially useful for growing children, the rates start at £3.50 for balance bikes. The company is also set to launch a similar scheme for adults bikes.
USA only: Revel is an eBike monthly subscription scheme that costs $99.00 per month. After signing up, you'll receive delivery (at no extra charge) of your eBike, the charger and a lock.
Managed via an accompanying app, if your bike is damaged, simply request a repair and it will be actioned within 24 hours, all included in the monthly fee. Then if you wish to cancel the subscription, the bike will be collected free of charge at a time convenient to you.
UK only: Brompton is easily one of the best folding bikes around, and now Brompton Subscription is offering its bikes for a monthly fee.
With a yearly commitment, you'll get the Brompton for £45 per month, which gets you access to unlimited repairs, insurance, and a full service after six months. Or you can pay £60 per month on a rolling 30-day contract and get the flexibility to cancel at any time.
The bike can either be delivered to your door or it can be collected from one of Brompton's many public lockers dotted around the UK.
Check out our deals roundups
Josh has been with us as Senior Tech Writer since the summer of 2019 and throughout that time he's covered everything from buyer's guides and deals to the latest tech news and reviews. On the bike, Josh has been riding and racing for over 15 years. He started out racing cross country in his teens back when 26-inch wheels and triple chainsets were still mainstream, but he found favour in road racing in his early 20s, racing at a local and national level for Team Tor 2000. He's always keen to get his hands on the newest tech, and while he enjoys a good long road race, he's much more at home in a local criterium.
Huffy bike model number lookup
Over the years, I’ve owned about 5 Walmart bikes including a couple of mountain bikes, a BMX, and even a beach cruiser. As a kid, they were the only bikes that my family could afford. People like to trash Walmart bikes for their questionable build quality, reliability issues, and poor performance. Are they really that bad? In this guide, We’ll examine the pros and cons of buying a Walmart Bike. We’ll look at reliability, safety, cost, fit, durability, longevity, and more.
Walmart Bike Pros
- Walmart bikes are affordable- Walmart sells some of the cheapest new bikes available. In terms of price, they just can’t be beaten. At Walmart, you can buy a complete mountain bike with gears for less than $100. Walmart sells kids’ bikes for under $50. To compare, new bikes from local bike shops start at around $300 for entry-level models. That’s probably why my dad bought all of my bikes at Walmart when I was a kid. Walmart is able to cut costs in a number of ways. First, they order enormous quantities of bikes for their stores. Economies of scale allow them to sell bikes cheaply and undercut pretty much any bike shop on price. To save money on assembly, Walmart has an employee put bikes together instead of hiring a bike mechanic. They also sell more one-size-fits-all bikes. This way, they can stock fewer models and sizes.
- Walmart offers a wide selection of bikes- Walmart offers something for everyone including mountain bikes, road bikes, beach cruisers, E-bikes, commuters, folding bikes, women’s bikes, recumbent bikes, and kids bikes. They offer bikes in every wheel size including 16″, 20″, 24″, 26″, 27.5″, and 700c and 29er. Whatever style and size of bike you need, Walmart offers a suitable option. Not all of these bikes are available in all stores. Some models are only available online or in certain stores.
- The bike will be brand new– When you buy a bike at Walmart, you’re getting a brand new bicycle. There will be no scratches, dents, rust, or wear and tear. No components need to be replaced or upgraded as they may on a used bike. You don’t have to worry about buying a lemon. The bike will be pristine and ready to ride. You can ride the bike home from the parking lot if you choose. Many people prefer to buy new for these reasons. Buying new brings peace of mind.
- Walmart offers a good return policy- If you’re not happy with the bike, you can return it within 90 days for a full refund. The only requirement is that the bike has to be in the same condition that it was when you bought it. Be sure to bring your original receipt to make things easier. In my experience, Walmart offers takes returns pretty much no questions asked as long as you don’t abuse their policy. For more info on returns, check out this article from savingadvice.com.
- A warranty may be available- If you wish, you can buy a 2-3 year extended warranty to cover your Walmart bike if it breaks. Even though it is available, I recommend you don’t buy the extended warranty as they are usually a rip-off. That said, the warranty is available if you like.
- Walmart bikes are great for people just getting into cycling- Why go out and spend $1000+ on a bicycle if you don’t know if you’ll ever use it? You can buy a cheap Walmart bike, ride it until it breaks, then buy something of higher quality. If the bike just ends up sitting in your garage collecting dust, then you aren’t out too much money.
- Replacement parts are easily available- Walmart bikes use parts that are standard-sized and easy to find. There are no proprietary parts. If your brake pads wear out, you can go to any bike shop to buy replacements. If your shifter cable breaks, you can easily find a replacement. Walmart doesn’t service bikes. They do sell most replacement parts that you’re likely to need in their stores. If you need something non-wearable, like handlebars or pedals, you can easily buy replacements online or at your local bike shop.
- Most parts are easily upgradable- If you want to install some higher quality components on your Walmart bike, you can easily buy new parts and put them on. Most Walmart bikes come with name-brand Shimano or Sram drivetrains and brakes. Chains, cranksets, brakes, wheels, levers, and most other parts are standard-sized. There are no proprietary parts.
- Walmart bikes are great for kids- Why spend a bunch of money on something the kid will just grow out of in a couple of years? They don’t know the difference between a quality bike and a cheap bike anyway. This is particularly true for young children.
- No assembly required- When you buy a bike at Walmart, it comes completely assembled and ready to ride. You don’t have to worry about putting anything together.
- You can buy name-brand bikes at Walmart- Not all Walmart bikes come from knock-off or no-name brands. Some large cycling companies build entry-level bikes specifically for Walmart. For example, Walmart sells Schwinn, Mongoose, and Huffy bikes. These are some of the most well-known cycling companies. Of course, these bikes may have been designed by different teams than those who build the higher-end models that are sold at bike shops. From what I’ve seen, Schwinn offers the best quality Walmart bikes.
- The purchase process is easy- Buying a Walmart bike is easy. You can go to the store and shop for a bike at your leisure. You won’t have to deal with a pushy salesperson trying to pressure you or upsell you to a more expensive bike. In bike shops, salespeople can get pretty aggressive because many work on commission. When you buy a bike at Walmart, you also don’t have to deal with going to a private seller’s house as you would if you were buying used. You can buy the bike and bring it home with you and ride it. You don’t have to wait for shipping or bother with assembly.
- It’s a bike- If all you can afford is a Walmart bike, don’t feel bad about it. At least you’re getting out there and riding and getting some exercise. A Walmart bike can make a great commuter, weekend ride, or grocery getter.
Walmart Bike Cons
- Walmart bikes may be less safe- There are several potential reasons for this. First, because Walmart bikes are made from cheaper components, failure is more likely. If a part suddenly and catastrophically fails while you’re riding, you could crash and injure yourself. For example, if you ride off a curb and a poorly made wheel tacos, you could fall straight to the ground. Improper assembly can be a safety issue as well. For example, if the handlebars, seat, pedals, or axles weren’t properly tightened, they could suddenly move or come off the bike and cause you to crash. Parts can work their way loose as well. This happened to me on my beach cruiser. My handlebars suddenly slipped while I was riding. Luckily, I was going slow. I also had my multi-tool with me so I could tighten them back up.
- Sometimes Walmart bikes aren’t properly assembled- Bikes generally come from the manufacturer 90% assembled in a box. If the bike was built in a factory that only produces mass-market bikes, there can be some issues. For example, the factory could forget to put grease in a hub or bottom bracket. The wheels could be out of true. When the bike arrives at Walmart, an employee completes the last 10% of assembly by installing the handlebars and pedals and mounting the wheels. The main problem is that the people who put bikes together at Walmart aren’t trained bike mechanics. They’re just regular employees following an instruction manual. Chances are, they aren’t checking the torque on bolts. They aren’t checking spoke tension or making sure there is enough grease in the hubs and bottom bracket. They may not properly adjust the derailleurs or brakes. Sometimes they simply make mistakes. I have heard of people finding that the hubs lacked grease or the headset wasn’t tight enough. These assembly mistakes cause premature wear and tear. Improper assembly can also be a safety concern. After buying a Walmart bike, you’ll want to go over it yourself or have a bike shop take a look to make sure everything was put together properly, adjusted properly, and that the bike is safe to ride. You’ll want to check things like spoke tension, the tightness of all bolts, and the amount of grease on moving parts. If you take the bike to a shop, this inspection will cost you $50-$100.
- Poor quality components- The components used on mass-market Walmart bikes are generally made by major cycling companies. For example, most Walmart bikes come with a Shimano or Sram groupset and a KMC chain. The problem is that the parts are lower-end than what you would find on a bike shop bike. In some cases, cheap parts are even made specifically for Walmart bikes. For example, you might find a non-branded suspension fork or shock on a Walmart mountain bike. The frames are lower-end as well. The welds may be poor. In some cases, the frames may even have warping or bent tubes. The hardware used to hold the bike together will probably be of lower quality as well. The bolts might rust faster. These poor quality parts are less durable and long-lasting, need to be adjusted more frequently, and don’t perform as well as higher-end parts. For example, you might only get a couple of hundred miles out of the cheap tires or brake pads. You’ll probably need to adjust your brakes and shifters more often than you would on a higher-end bike. Your bike may shift slow. The brakes might not be as powerful as you’d like. The quick-release used on the seat might slip a bit. Poor quality components can be problematic.
- Walmart bikes can end up costing more than bike shop bikes- Walmart bikes may be cheaper initially. If you factor in the additional maintenance cost, you may end up spending more money in the long run. For example, maybe you buy a mountain bike at Walmart for $200. After buying it, you take it to a bike shop to get it inspected for $100. A couple of months later, your plastic pedals break, your wheel goes out of true, and you need to get your derailleur adjusted. You spend another $100 to fix everything. For the money you spent, you could have just bought a better bike to begin with.
- Some parts may be non-standard- To save money, some parts are made to be a slightly different size or style than the standard in the cycling industry. Because of this, you may have trouble finding certain replacement parts. For example, on many cheap Walmart bikes, the handlebar diameter is smaller than the current standard of 25.4 mm. Some models use the old 22.2 mm standard. This makes finding compatible handlebars, grips, and accessories a bit more difficult.
- More maintenance- The low-quality components that are commonly found on Walmart bikes go out of adjustment more easily. For example, to keep your bike shifting smoothly and braking reliably, you may have to make a minor adjustment to your derailleurs and brakes every couple of months. Low-quality parts also don’t last as long and need to be replaced sooner. Cheap brake pads, chains, cassettes, tires, and grips wear out quicker. Bolts can rust easily. In order to keep your Walmart bike on the road, you must budget more time and money for maintenance.
- Finding the right size bike can be difficult- In order to achieve a comfortable riding position, the bike has fit your body. The problem with Walmart bikes is that each model typically only comes in one size. If you’re not of average height, you may have trouble finding a bike that you like that fits you. To compare, name-brand bikes sold in bike shops come in a range of frame sizes. Most brands offer 4-7 sizes per model. This allows you to get a much better fit. Another problem is the way Walmart sizes bikes. They sell bikes by wheel size. For example, They might offer mountain bikes with 24″, 26″, 27.5″, and 29″ wheels. The 26″ model might come with an 18″ frame while the 29″ model comes with a 20″ frame. A size chart in the store will recommend a bike with 26″ wheels to a shorter person and a bike with 29″ wheels to a taller person. This is a very inaccurate way to size bikes. The wheel size has very little to do with the frame size. You can easily buy a bike that is too large or too small for your height. Of course, there are ways to improve a bike’s fit after you buy it. For example, you can adjust the handlebars and seat height a bit. Riding a bike that doesn’t fit properly can be uncomfortable and can lead to joint pain or even damage.
- You need to know a bit about bicycle maintenance to keep a Walmart bike on the road- As mentioned earlier, Walmart bikes tend to require more frequent maintenance than higher-end bikes that are sold at bike shops. If you don’t know how to do your own maintenance, you’ll end up spending more in the long run than if you had just shelled out for a more expensive bike. For example, having to pay a bike mechanic to adjust your derailleurs or replace a brake cable adds up quickly. To make owning a Walmart bike economical, you’ll have to buy a few bike tools and learn some basic bicycle maintenance. This isn’t that big of a deal. Anyone can learn to replace brake pads or adjust a derailleur. All you’ll need is a simple multi-tool. You can learn everything you need to know about bike maintenance by watching videos on YouTube.
- You can’t get the bike serviced where you bought it- Walmart and other big box stores just sell the bikes. They don’t have a bike service department. If you need to get some work done on your bike, you’ll have to take it to a local bike shop or do the work yourself. If you decide to do your own maintenance, the good news is that Walmart does sell most of the spare parts you’ll need to keep your bike running including tires, brake pads, cables, grease, basic bike tools, etc.
- You may experience reliability issues- The lower-end components that come with Walmart bikes break down more often and need more frequent adjustment. You don’t want to get stranded or miss an important meeting because your bike failed you. If you’re relying on your bike to get you to work on time, you may want to consider spending a bit more and buying a higher-end bike at your local bike shop.
- Walmart bikes are heavy- A Walmart bike will weigh a few pounds more than a comparable bike shop bike. The main reason is that the frames are made from heavy materials, like high tensile steel. This type of steel weighs more than Chromoly that many higher-end frames are made from. The tubes are often plain gauge, not butted. This increases weight as well because there is more material in the tubes. The low-end components that come installed on Walmart bikes are also heavier. Heavy bikes are inefficient. It takes more energy to accelerate and maintain your speed. They are also slower.
- Low resale value- Bikes, in general, don’t hold their value very well. Even a high-end bike is worth about 40% less the moment you bring it home. Walmart bikes are even worse. Don’t expect to get much back when you’re ready to sell it. After a season of riding, your $99 Walmart bike might be worth $20.
- Durability issues- Walmart bikes work fine for cruising on a flat surface. When riding off-road, all bets are off. Parts can shake loose or break. Catastrophic failures are rare but are much more common on these low-end bikes. If you plan to ride rough trails, you should probably avoid Walmart bikes. If you decide to take your chances, be sure to inspect your bike frequently to make sure it is safe to ride.
- Walmart bikes don’t last as long- Walmart bikes are kind of disposable. They just don’t have the longevity of bike shop bikes. In fact, you might only get 100-200 miles or 15-20 hours of use out of the bike before it starts giving you problems. Cheap frames rust or fatigue easily. Cheap parts wear out and break. They are also a bit more fragile. If you ride hard, you can cause some damage. For example, it’s easy to break the cheap plastic pedals that come with most Walmart bikes. I’ve even heard of a crank arm breaking off. Of course, you can replace everything as it breaks. At some point, you’re just better off buying a higher-end bike. Expect to get a few solid years out of your Walmart bike. After that, it may become less reliable. To compare, a quality bike from a major manufacturer can last a lifetime with proper maintenance. Long-distance bicycle tourists routinely put over 50,000 miles on their bikes. Sure, they replace parts as they wear out or break, but it’s still the same bike.
- Poor performance- You’re not going to win any races on a Walmart bike. The low-end components shift slow and sometimes rough. This can slow you down. At high speeds, the bike may develop a shimmy. The suspension systems on mountain bikes tend to have minimal travel and poor damping. They can’t handle drops or jumps. Just smooth trails.
- Some types of bikes aren’t available at Walmart- Walmart mostly sells mountain bikes, road bikes, hybrids, commuter bikes, and kids bikes in their stores. If you want something more niche like a gravel bike or triathlon bike, you may have to buy online or look elsewhere.
- It’s a Walmart bike- Some cyclists are pretty elitist. They won’t respect someone riding a Walmart bike. They may even try to put you down for riding a cheap bike. I think these kinds of people are pretty lame. They are out there though.
- Some bike shops won’t work on them or will just give you a hard time- This point comes from personal experience. Once, when I was about 8 years old, my dad and I went into a bike shop with my Walmart bike to have a flat tire repaired. The owner just kept talking trash about my bike the whole time we were in his shop. He claimed that it was going to fall apart and that the suspension was junk because it was a mass-market bike. He then attempted to sell my dad on a new bike. I’ve grown to dislike bike shops because of this condescending and elitist attitude. These days, I buy most of my bike gear online and do my own repairs and maintenance.
Who Should Buy a Walmart Bike?
As you can see, there are more cons than pros. There are, however, a few occasions where a Walmart bike may be your best option.
You should buy a Walmart bike if:
- Your budget is less than $150- This is the price point where Walmart bikes are the best bargain. You’ll have trouble finding a decent bike anywhere else for less money. Even used bikes cost more unless you get lucky. If $150 is your absolute max budget, head on down to Walmart. If you’re buying a bike in this price range, try to buy the most basic and bare-bones bike you can find. Avoid anything with suspension or disc brakes. You might even want to choose a single-speed instead of a geared bike. The more basic the bike, the better quality the components will be.
- You don’t plan to ride far or often- If you know you’ll only ride your bike a handful of times per year for just a few miles, a Walmart bike will work just fine. For example, maybe you ride down a local bike path a few times during summer or maybe you ride to the corner store a couple of times per month. You don’t need a high-end bike for this type of infrequent riding.
- You want a cheap single-speed bike- Because they are so simple, single-speed Walmart bikes aren’t a bad buy. I have a beach cruiser that I bought at Walmart for $99. I’ve ridden that thing for almost a decade and never had a problem with it. I also test rode my friend’s fixie that he bought at Walmart and it felt pretty decent for the price. It’s hard to screw up such a simple bike.
- You’re buying a bike for your young kids- Kids outgrow bikes in just a year or two. They also don’t know the difference between a good bike and a cheap bike. It’s not worth the money to buy your kid a nice bike until they’re a bit older. If you are buying your kid’s bike at Walmart, you’ll want to be sure to thoroughly inspect the bike to make sure it was properly assembled and is safe to ride.
Who Shouldn’t Buy a Walmart Bike
Mass-market bikes from Walmart or other big box store bikes certainly aren’t for everyone. In fact, most people are better off avoiding them altogether.
You shouldn’t buy a Walmart bike if:
- Your budget is greater than $200- In this case, you’re better off buying used. If you shop around a bit, you can find some nice mid-range or vintage used bikes for less than $200. They may be a bit older but you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck. The bike will also come with better quality components that will be more reliable and durable and won’t need to be adjusted as frequently. Vintage bikes, in particular, can offer an excellent value. You can buy a bike that was once considered high-end for just a couple of hundred dollars. A quality used bike can last a lifetime.
- You plan to use your bike as your main mode of transportation- Regularly commuting and running errands puts a lot of wear and tear on a bike. For example, the bike will get wet or left out in the rain. This can lead to rust. You might load the bike up with heavy groceries. This can put extra stress on the frame, wheels, and drivetrain. When you’re in a hurry, you’ll ride hard. Walmart bikes aren’t built to put up with this kind of constant stress and abuse. Parts will wear out quickly or break. If you plan to use your bike heavily, you’ll want something a bit more durable than a Walmart bike.
- You don’t know anything about bicycle maintenance- As mentioned earlier, Walmart bikes require more frequent maintenance than bike shop bikes. If you don’t know anything about bike maintenance, you’ll end up spending more money in the long run. In this case, you’re better off buying something higher end.
- You’re not on a budget- If money isn’t a problem, there is really no need to even consider buying a Walmart bike. Many times, they are more trouble than they’re worth. Save yourself the hassle and buy a bike shop bike.
- You plan to ride off-road- Walmart bikes are not tough enough to handle any kind of serious off-road riding. The suspension systems perform poorly. Parts will shake loose or break. A large drop or jump could bend a frame or rim. Most Walmart bikes aren’t durable enough for off-road riding. If you just plan to ride some easy trails, you might be able to get away with a Walmart mountain bike.
- You can wait and save up- If you don’t need a bike urgently and you are able to save a bit more money, you probably should. If you can save up an extra hundred dollars, you can get a much nicer bike.
A Few Tips for Choosing a Walmart Bike
Walmart bikes can be hit or miss. Some offer surprisingly solid quality and reliability while others are complete junk and should be avoided. If you’re not familiar with bikes, it can be a challenge to tell the difference between the two. After all, when you’re looking at new bikes, they all look nice. It’s important to pay attention to details.
The most reliable and best quality Walmart bikes tend to be the most boring and basic models. Try to choose a bike without any fancy features. Look for bikes with rim brakes and a rigid frame with no suspension. Look for bikes that don’t include any fancy accessories like racks, fenders, lights, a basket, a bell, etc. Consider choosing a bike with fewer speeds or even a single speed. These bikes generally offer the best value.
It’s best to avoid the flashy-looking bikes with disc brakes, suspension, lots of gears, or fancy accessories. These parts may make the bike look modern, flashy, and higher-end but they usually perform terribly.
The more basic bikes are preferable because the more basic components that they come equipped with are slightly higher quality and more reliable. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, basic bike parts are simpler to build and cost less. For example, rim brakes are easier to build and cheaper than disc brakes. At the low price point of Walmart bikes, cheap rim brakes will perform better than cheap disc brakes.
Manufacturers can also spend a bit more on the components when they aren’t spending money on more modern components and fancy features. For example, the manufacturer can afford to ship the bike with slightly higher-end rim brakes while still meeting their price point. If the bike came with more expensive disc brakes, the manufacturer would have to cut corners somewhere else to meet their price point. Extra features like a rack or lights also mean the corners had to be cut somewhere else. Maybe the frame was cheapened so the manufactuerer could afford to include a rack. If you want these features, you can always add them on later.
Walmart Bike Alternatives
In my opinion, buying a used bike is the best option for anyone on a tight budget. Decent used bikes start at around $150. If you’re willing to put in a bit of work, you can find a quality used bike for less than $100. Some good places to look for a used bike include Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBay, garage sales, thrift stores, and bike shops. You can also ask your friends and family if they have an old bike sitting around.
Check out my guide to buying a used bike for some helpful tips.
Both of the bikes that I currently own, I bought used. My Schwinn High Sierra that I converted into a touring bike had been sitting in some guy’s garage for over a decade. I bought my Fuji Touring bike used for less than half of the retail price.
Entry-Level Bike Shop Bikes
All of the major bicycle manufacturers such as Trek, Giant, Specialized, Cannondale, etc. offer entry-level bikes. These usually start between $300-$400 and offer an excellent value for your money. When compared to a Walmart bike of a similar price range, these entry-level name-brand bike shop bikes offer:
- Higher-end components- These offer better durability and longevity. The derailleurs and brakes also won’t need to be adjusted as often.
- Better frames- Some Walmart bikes have sloppy welds, warped frame tubes, or bad paint jobs. Name brand bike companies offer much better quality control.
- Better support- You can take the bike back to where you bought it for repairs and maintenance if necessary. As an added bonus, when you buy a bike at a bike shop it usually includes a free service. A mechanic adjusts the brakes and derailleurs after the first 100 miles.
- The prestige of owning a name-brand bike- Every cyclist knows and respects the name brands.
Personally, I would much rather ride a cheap name-brand bike than an expensive mass-market box store bike. If you can afford to spend around $300, you can get a much better bike if you go to a bike shop.
Bike Share Program
Many cities offer bike-sharing programs where you pay a small fee to rent a bike by the minute or hour. Bike share can be a great alternative to buying a bike for multi-modal commuters, those who don’t ride often, and people who live in a small space. This is also a great solution for someone who can’t afford to buy a bike.
There are a few drawbacks to bike-share programs. Oftentimes the bikes aren’t in the best condition. Some cities just don’t maintain the bikes as well as they should. Before taking the bike, briefly inspect it to make sure it’s in decent condition.
Are Walmart Bikes any Good? My Experience
Walmart bikes aren’t nearly as bad as people make them out to be. They offer an affordable option for someone who is just getting into cycling or someone who just needs a simple bike to ride around town. Walmart also offers an excellent return policy and an optional warranty.
That said, there are quite a few drawbacks. Walmart bikes are heavy, poorly made, and come with low-quality components. They are often poorly assembled as well. Durability and reliability issues are common. Cheap parts wear out quickly, break easily, and need to be adjusted frequently. Walmart bikes can be dangerous to ride as well.
Over the years, I’ve owned 4 or 5 different Walmart bikes. As a kid, I rode a cheap Walmart mountain Mongoose bike for years without any problems other than a few flats and a broken pedal. Of course, the bike had some issues. It shifted roughly no matter how many times I tried to adjust the derailleur. The suspension was also pretty much useless. Even with those issues, the bike got me around my neighborhood just fine.
During college, I bought a $100 single speed that I used to commute to class and for going on grocery runs. I rode the bike for a year before selling it and upgrading. My one complaint was that the brakes were pretty weak. I actually ended up selling in for more than I paid for it.
Today, I own an OP Roller beach cruiser that I bought from Walmart for $99 in 2010. This is probably my favorite bike that I’ve owned. Mostly thanks to the memories I’ve made on it. It’s been a shockingly reliable and solid bike for the price. The only issue I’ve had with that bike was a flat tire. It has developed a bit of rust as well. The bike has held up incredibly well considering the abuse I’ve put it through over the years and the salty and sandy condtions I’ve ridden it in.
Final Thoughts on the Pros and Cons of Buying a Walmart Bike
Walmart bikes aren’t nearly as bad as people claim them to be. As a kid, I rode my Walmart bikes hard and didn’t really have any problems other than needing to adjust the derailleur once in a while and replace broken plastic pedals. If you take decent care of the bike and ride it gently, it will hold up just fine.
For an example of what a Walmart bike is capable of, check out this YouTube video of a guy riding a $100 Walmart bike across Florida.
With all of this being said, if you have a budget of $200 or more, I highly recommend you go with a used bike or even splurge on a bike shop bike. You’ll save yourself a lot of hassle and may even save money in the long run. For the $100-$150 price range, Walmart bikes can’t be beaten.
Do you ride a Walmart bike? Share your experience in the comments below!
Amazon is another great place to buy budget bikes. For more info, check out my guide to buying a bike on Amazon.
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