|An All-Terrain Bike that Can't go Off-Road!|
Hardy Menagh 7/29/08
This two-year-old Chinese Schwinn came from the "Free" listings on craigslist. Although it has Mountain Bike styling, it is not an off-road bike. I've added this page to the site, purely to provide some consumer information about department store bikes like this one.
The Schwinn SX-2000 retails at Target department stores for US$180. It's blatantly marketed as an "ATB" with knobby tires but carries a clear warning sticker that it is not designed to be used off-road.
If you look at the geometry of this bike, you'll see that it's arranged like a comfort road bike. The handlebars can only be positioned well above the seat making for an upright riding posture.
Okay, so it's really a comfort bike with useless knobby tires. If they were replaced with some slick or semi-slick tires, it would be more serviceable but it wouldn't appeal to its target market, folks who want to be in on the mountain bike trend but will never take their bike off-road. Do they exist? You bet they do and they're happy to buy cheap bikes with shiny colorful paint jobs from department stores.
Is it Honest to Market a Bike this way?
When I was a teenager in the 1970s, racing-style bikes were the fad. You could buy a Huffy, Columbia or Western Flyer (to name just a few) 10-speed from any department (or auto parts) store for about US$50. Outwardly, these bikes looked like racing bicycles but had smaller, wider 26" steel wheels, spot-welded steel frames and were fitted with the cheapest steel components available. No-one really believed that these were racing bikes but they had the appearance of a racer and that was the important thing to the target buyers. These were typically parents buying them for kids and teenagers spending their lawnmowing and babysitting money on a bike their friends would approve of. The fact that most of them would have been better served by a single speed coaster brake bike or an English-style 3 or 5-speed, didn't matter. It was the appearance of the drop handlebars and derailers that was important.
Does that make it right? I can't answer that. When you're young, fitting in is important and if you don't have much money, you make concessions.
However, many of the aforementioned racing-style bikes were so poorly constructed that riding them fast really wasn't recommended, even though you might be tempted to do it with a bike that looked like it was made for speed. The same could be said for a bike that looks like it was meant to go off road. Isn't there some real temptation to leave the pavement?
You'll notice that the component list is comprised of some of the lowest cost parts you can buy. The rear derailer, for example, can be purchased new for less than US$10, on line. It may, in fact, be the least expensive MTB-type derailer available. This single bottom-end part allows the manufacturer to label the bike "Shimano Equipped".
Frame: Aluminum Alloy
Fork: Steel, SR Suntour M2000
Crankset: SR Suntour 42, 34, 24
Pedals: Plastic w/adjustable bearings
Hubs & Wheels: Quick release (front only) Joytech alloy hubs, Schwinn branded rims 26 x 1.50, 36 stainless spokes, Schrader valve
Tires: Cheng Shin (Schwinn branded), 26 x 1.9
Freewheel (yes, freewheel): DNP Slick-Shift System, 7-speed 13-28
Derailers: Front, DNP. Rear, Shimano Tourney, sis Index
Shifters: SRAM MRX Grip Shift
Brakes: radius direct pull
Brake Levers: radius
Stem: Schwinn SPP alloy
Handlebars: Alloy ATB riser
Seat Post: Alloy tube w/steel seat clamp, quick release band on seat tube
Saddle: Cionlli (Schwinn branded), padded w/ stapled vinyl cover
Weight: 33 lbs. (quite heavy, considering all of the alloy parts)
Since this bike has low gearing and we live in a hilly area, my wife has expressed an interest in riding it. It's the first bike she's ridden that allowed her to get over a hill that she's been unable to beat thus far. I'll put some slick tires on it and it will serve until something better comes along. I'll also watch it carefully for signs of failure. The fork feels a little sloppy when the front brake is held and the bike is rocked fore and aft and this is not due to play in the headset. I suspect that, considering the quality, that's just the way it feels but where loved-ones and department store bikes are concerned, you can't be too careful.
Hey! I've got one of those! What do you mean it's Low-Quality?
If you didn't know it by the price you paid, the warning sticker should have given you another clue.Way back when, as a teenager, known in my small community to be a bike fanatic, neighborhood kids, as well as classmates and friends, would sometimes drop by with their bike problems. I patched up a lot of department store bikes free for kids who had no other alternative but I'll tell you now what I told them and I was brutally frank: "Your bike is junk. It'll work for now but as soon as you can, you should get a better one, new or used, from a real bike shop". It's also important to point out that I've never seen a department store bike, including this Schwinn, that was set up properly from the outset. In some cases they were actually set up to self destruct. Ask the "no experience necessary" kid the X-mart hired part-time to set up your bike: Can you say "bearing adjustment"?
Copyright © 2008 Hardy Menagh