Adventures in cheap

Discussion in 'Cycling Equipment' started by Werehatrack, Jul 26, 2003.

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  1. Werehatrack

    Werehatrack Guest

    So, OK, I'm in one of the local Mall-Warts this morning, and there's this 26" front-suspension MTB
    with a "clearance" tag marked $30. There's another one just like it on the rack at full price, so I
    look closer; yep, obviously a customer return, as it has plenty of pad scrapes on the rims and a
    little bit of unwashed dirt on the kickstand clamp.

    "So", I sez to myself (quietly, lest people realize that I'm a little off), "what's so wrong with
    this one that a customer tossed it back, and why do they want to mark it down to such a bargain
    level?" I commenced to give it the fine-tooth-comb treatment. First thing checked; wheel truing.
    Perhaps I should call it "wheel falsing". Okay, so the wheels are a bit wobbly; would a Mall-Wart
    customer even notice? Maybe not. Continuing; brakes. Brakes? What brakes? Oh, you mean those levers
    on the handlebars that move those rubber thingies over so that they hit the high spots on the
    wheels? Are those supposed to be *brakes*? Yup, cables won't even adjust out at the levers enough to
    get a grip; that's black mark number two. Shifters next. Hmmm. Front der drags on the chain when the
    grip is twisted all the way down to the 1 position, cable goes super-tight and the der runs the
    chain to the big cog about 3 clicks before the end of the grip's twist range, so the stops and cable
    are *both* misadjusted. And sorry, SRAM, but that *isn't* an indexed shifter, no matter what the
    decals and markings might say; it's got three numbers on the twist grip, but about 20 "stops". So,
    that's items 3 and 4 that they missed on setup, and one black mark for the manufacturer as well.
    Rear der's next; the stops are set almost close enough for a MIL-spec contract, but the cable is
    misadjusted out the wazzoo; 5 positions give a random choice of two gears each, although the top cog
    setting is hard against the stop and fairly predictable. Strike 5 for the store's assembly person.
    Too bad this isn't bowling, five strikes would make a decent game. Looking even more closely, the
    quill's not *quite* centered; OK, that's a gimme, not worth a tally mark. The crank's a one-piece in
    an old-style BB; sheesh, these guys really went low-tech all the way. The tube stem on one tire's at
    just enough of an angle to chafe through in a few hundred miles; sloppy, and not a mistake that I
    would have let go by if I'd done the QC, but probably not enough to get flagged at Mall-Wart even if
    they were looking. No skewers, so they didn't have much opportunity for a screwup on the axles, and
    no apparent play in the hubs; score one in favor of the factory on that, I'd say, though it's the
    first green check they get so far. That's pretty much all of it; the rims were proudly marked as
    being steel (and the paint scrapes from the pad hits identified the places where the truing needed
    the most attention quite nicely) but the frame didn't admit to being made of anything in particular.
    It *might* have been aluminum, but I didn't have a magnet handy, and I rather doubt that it was. The
    saddle (I use the term by courtesy) was essentially decorative as far as I was concerned; about as
    comfortable as a piece of two by four covered with carpeting.

    Noting that the subject of x-mart-level assembly had come up here recently, I decided that this
    might be a good time to see if my prior information still held true; I asked. Yup, they typically
    adjust *nothing* when they assemble a bike, unless you want to call randomly popping the seat post
    in at no particular depth and sorta centering the quill as "adjustments". Who does the work? "Well,
    whoever's available that knows how to put one together." (I didn't press for clarification on that
    point; I think it's safe to assume that if the employee knows which end of the crescent wrench is
    used for pounding in screws, they'll draw the duty sooner or later.)

    This adventure has been chronicled both for your immediate amusement and so that the next time
    somebody points out an amazingly low price in a Mall-Wart bike ad in the Sunday paper, you'll be
    even more fully equipped to explain why buying one of those is not your idea of a fun thing to do
    this week.

    --
    My email address is antispammed; pull WEEDS if replying via e-mail. Yes, I have a killfile. If I
    don't respond to something, it's also possible that I'm busy.
     
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  2. Department store bikes, I believe, are the bread and butter of the bike shop mechanics, salary. It's
    always good for a laught to go through and look at tese things :-3D

    May you have the wind at your back. And a really low gear for the hills! Chris

    Chris'Z Corner "The Website for the Common Bicyclist": http://www.geocities.com/czcorner
     
  3. Rick Onanian

    Rick Onanian Guest

    On Sat, 26 Jul 2003 19:36:04 GMT, Werehatrack <[email protected]> wrote:

    > So, OK, I'm in one of the local Mall-Warts this morning, and there's this 26" front-suspension MTB
    > with a "clearance" tag marked $30.
    <much info about terrible assembly snipped>

    Sounds like a cheap, disposable, don't-care-if-it-gets-stolen commuter for somebody who knows how
    to do all those adjustments (like me). I'd ask if that Mall-Wart was near me, but my commute is
    as follows:

    Roll out of bed. Add some clothes. Eat enough Rice Krispies to feed a third-world country.
    Walk 50 feet into the office.

    So, obviously, I need no commuter bike (plus I've rescued a few Mall-Wart specials from the garbage
    recently, for a couple of similar don't-care-if-it-gets-stolen ideas).

    > --
    > My email address is antispammed; pull WEEDS if replying via e-mail. Yes, I have a killfile. If I
    > don't respond to something, it's also possible that I'm busy.
    --
    Rick Onanian
     
  4. Richard

    Richard Guest

    They obviously don't take the care the local farm store did. The customer actually paid for
    "assembly"! (Got a full refund, too, BTW.) The rubber thingies are supposed to dive under the rim
    so that the aluminum arms pinch the tire, slowing the bike. (Just about hurt myself laughing at
    that one!)

    > Brakes? What brakes? Oh, you mean those levers on the handlebars that move those rubber thingies
    > over so that they hit the high spots on the wheels? Are those supposed to be *brakes*? Yup, cables
    > won't even adjust out at the levers enough to get a grip;
     
  5. Robin Hubert

    Robin Hubert Guest

    "Werehatrack" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > So, OK, I'm in one of the local Mall-Warts this morning, and there's this 26" front-suspension MTB
    > with a "clearance" tag marked $30. There's another one just like it on the rack at full price, so
    > I look closer; yep, obviously a customer return, as it has plenty of pad scrapes on the rims and a
    > little bit of unwashed dirt on the kickstand clamp.
    >
    > "So", I sez to myself (quietly, lest people realize that I'm a little off), "what's so wrong with
    > this one that a customer tossed it back, and why do they want to mark it down to such a bargain
    > level?" I commenced to give it the fine-tooth-comb treatment. First thing checked; wheel truing.
    > Perhaps I should call it "wheel falsing". Okay, so the wheels are a bit wobbly; would a Mall-Wart
    > customer even notice? Maybe not. Continuing; brakes. Brakes? What brakes? Oh, you mean those
    > levers on the handlebars that move those rubber thingies over so that they hit the high spots on
    > the wheels? Are those supposed to be *brakes*? Yup, cables won't even adjust out at the levers
    > enough to get a grip; that's black mark number two. Shifters next. Hmmm. Front der drags on the
    > chain when the grip is twisted all the way down to the 1 position, cable goes super-tight and the
    > der runs the chain to the big cog about 3 clicks before the end of the grip's twist range, so the
    > stops and cable are *both* misadjusted. And sorry, SRAM, but that *isn't* an indexed shifter, no
    > matter what the decals and markings might say; it's got three numbers on the twist grip, but about
    > 20 "stops". So, that's items 3 and 4 that they missed on setup, and one black mark for the
    > manufacturer as well. Rear der's next; the stops are set almost close enough for a MIL-spec
    > contract, but the cable is misadjusted out the wazzoo; 5 positions give a random choice of two
    > gears each, although the top cog setting is hard against the stop and fairly predictable. Strike 5
    > for the store's assembly person. Too bad this isn't bowling, five strikes would make a decent
    > game. Looking even more closely, the quill's not *quite* centered; OK, that's a gimme, not worth a
    > tally mark. The crank's a one-piece in an old-style BB; sheesh, these guys really went low-tech
    > all the way. The tube stem on one tire's at just enough of an angle to chafe through in a few
    > hundred miles; sloppy, and not a mistake that I would have let go by if I'd done the QC, but
    > probably not enough to get flagged at Mall-Wart even if they were looking. No skewers, so they
    > didn't have much opportunity for a screwup on the axles, and no apparent play in the hubs; score
    > one in favor of the factory on that, I'd say, though it's the first green check they get so far.
    > That's pretty much all of it; the rims were proudly marked as being steel (and the paint scrapes
    > from the pad hits identified the places where the truing needed the most attention quite nicely)
    > but the frame didn't admit to being made of anything in particular. It *might* have been aluminum,
    > but I didn't have a magnet handy, and I rather doubt that it was. The saddle (I use the term by
    > courtesy) was essentially decorative as far as I was concerned; about as comfortable as a piece of
    > two by four covered with carpeting.
    >
    > Noting that the subject of x-mart-level assembly had come up here recently, I decided that this
    > might be a good time to see if my prior information still held true; I asked. Yup, they typically
    > adjust *nothing* when they assemble a bike, unless you want to call randomly popping the seat post
    > in at no particular depth and sorta centering the quill as "adjustments". Who does the work?
    > "Well, whoever's available that knows how to put one together." (I didn't press for clarification
    > on that point; I think it's safe to assume that if the employee knows which end of the crescent
    > wrench is used for pounding in screws, they'll draw the duty sooner or later.)
    >
    > This adventure has been chronicled both for your immediate amusement and so that the next time
    > somebody points out an amazingly low price in a Mall-Wart bike ad in the Sunday paper, you'll be
    > even more fully equipped to explain why buying one of those is not your idea of a fun thing to do
    > this week.
    >

    So, didja buy it?

    --
    Robin Hubert <[email protected]
     
  6. Werehatrack

    Werehatrack Guest

    On Sun, 27 Jul 2003 17:13:32 GMT, "Robin Hubert" <[email protected]> may have said:

    >
    >So, didja buy it?

    At that price? I had to walk back to it three times before I grabbed
    it. I kept thinking "The SO will shoot me, we have 10 bikes already, we don't need another one;
    *I* don't *really* need another one; on the other hand I don't have a suspension bike at
    all, soooo..."

    It's neither the best nor the worst ride I've ever bought for under $35. (The best is an early-70s
    Bridgestone 10-speed road bike acquired in good enough condition to ride home for the handsome sum
    of $5. That's the one that got me started riding again.)

    --
    My email address is antispammed; pull WEEDS if replying via e-mail. Yes, I have a killfile. If I
    don't respond to something, it's also possible that I'm busy.
     
  7. Werehatrack

    Werehatrack Guest

    On Sun, 27 Jul 2003 17:13:32 GMT, "Robin Hubert" <[email protected]> may have said:

    >So, didja buy it?

    As admitted elsewhere, it followed me home (honest it did)...and then I found another assembly
    screwup. The front der cable was clamped wrong; the cable was running through the clamp on the wrong
    side of the tab, which shortened the travel and increased the effort on the shifter. Since the
    below-bottom-of-the-line SRAM gripshifters use just about the crummiest excuse for a threaded
    plastic adjuster that I've ever encountered, the adjuster would leap over its threads to the fully
    relaxed position if there was enough tension on it. And, since the short throw on the arm meant that
    the der was going to hit the stop (or the chain) if the cable was adjusted to provide proper
    shifting in and out of the smaller cogs, the tension was guaranteed to go critical when the grip got
    twisted toward 3, so just about any shift to the big ring was trashing the adjustment.

    After all the tweaking, it rides OK, for a sub-basement-level unit. It'll probably become the one
    that I am most willing to toss in the back of the van as emergency/gopher wheels when traveling. Now
    I just need to take the minitorch out there and solder the cable ends where the crummy crimps
    already fell off.

    In my automotive performance days, I'd have regarded a project like this as "buying a kit"; all the
    parts are there, but essentially complete assembly and tuning required.

    --
    My email address is antispammed; pull WEEDS if replying via e-mail. Yes, I have a killfile. If I
    don't respond to something, it's also possible that I'm busy.
     
  8. Robin Hubert

    Robin Hubert Guest

    "Werehatrack" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > On Sun, 27 Jul 2003 17:13:32 GMT, "Robin Hubert" <[email protected]> may have said:
    >
    > >So, didja buy it?
    >
    > As admitted elsewhere, it followed me home (honest it did)...and then I found another assembly
    > screwup. The front der cable was clamped wrong; the cable was running through the clamp on the
    > wrong side of the tab, which shortened the travel and increased the effort on the shifter. Since
    > the below-bottom-of-the-line SRAM gripshifters use just about the crummiest excuse for a threaded
    > plastic adjuster that I've ever encountered, the adjuster would leap over its threads to the fully
    > relaxed position if there was enough tension on it. And, since the short throw on the arm meant
    > that the der was going to hit the stop (or the chain) if the cable was adjusted to provide proper
    > shifting in and out of the smaller cogs, the tension was guaranteed to go critical when the grip
    > got twisted toward 3, so just about any shift to the big ring was trashing the adjustment.
    >
    > After all the tweaking, it rides OK, for a sub-basement-level unit. It'll probably become the one
    > that I am most willing to toss in the back of the van as emergency/gopher wheels when traveling.
    > Now I just need to take the minitorch out there and solder the cable ends where the crummy crimps
    > already fell off.
    >
    > In my automotive performance days, I'd have regarded a project like this as "buying a kit"; all
    > the parts are there, but essentially complete assembly and tuning required.
    >
    >

    $35 + tax is a couple taxi rides. Definitely worth it.

    --
    Robin Hubert <[email protected]
     
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