Pros: Super cheap, looks like it should have cost more
Cons: Suspension detracts from the ride, brakes and gears need some after-assembly tweaking.
I moved to a college town and decided, like all the college kids around, that I would bike to work during the warmer months. Since I had gotten rid of my old bike months ago (it died a slow, painful death), I decided to start by just picking up an old bike from a yard sale and giving it a go. That worked well enough that when that bike died, I decided to go out and purchase a new bike for my roughly 3 mile commute. My bike route is all street, and I don't plan on using it much for any real off-road biking. So what I really wanted was something cheap but sturdy that would be a comfortable ride at least on short trips. I have had this bike now for about 6 months and ridden it often for four out of six of those months. So now that you understand my situation a bit, let me break down the bike.
I bought the bike from Wal-Mart completely assembled for $59.99 before tax. I believe it had been reduced by $10 at that time, so now it sells for about $70. I wouldn't pay more than that for the bike, as there are a lot of choices once you hit that $70-$90 area that could be better. I only saw two or three bikes though at the time at Wal-Mart that were under $70. Wal-Mart didn't charge for assembly since it was already put together.
Final verdict: cheap and came assembled. Grade- A
The blue and silver paint job is pretty flashy. I often park mine bike in the back yard, so it sits uncovered most of the time even when it rains. I haven't noticed any rust spots or paint flaking so far. The suspension gives it an "aggresive" look and also makes it look a bit more expensive than it really is. Final verdict: good paint job and looks like it cost more than $60. Grade- A
This is where you start to realize why the bike only sells for $60-$70. The ride is comfortable, but the suspension not only absorbs some of the bumps, but also some of your stroke power as you bike. So as you make that downstroke, the shocks compress and that energy isn't transferred into the gears. So if you try to accelerate, you don't get going nearly as quickly as it feels like you should.
The brakes on my bike are a little squeaky and uneven. So applying the same amount of pressure to both brakes does not give you similar breaking on each wheel. On my bike, the front wheel has better breaking ability, so I have to keep that in mind for quick stops unless I want to go over the handle bars:-) With a little tweaking, that is something that can be adjusted, I just haven't sat down and done it. So if you do get the bike pre-assembled, you may want to test the brakes before your first real ride. The squeaking issue I haven't tried to resolve yet, but it's in the wheel-brake pad area, so it could be correctable.
The handle bars and pedals were both straight and properly attached. My wife bought a bike from Toys-R-Us last year that had noticeably crooked handle bars, so it is something worth looking at during the purchase process, since the handle bars are sometimes welded in place on these cheaper bikes.
The gear shifters work well enough, although they are a little stiff. You can definitely feel when you make a gear change. I've found that on occasion there is trouble moving from the first to the second major set of gears, so I sometimes have to wiggle the gear shifter to get the proper gear in place.
Final verdict: It basically handles like a cheap bike, but it functions. If I had to do some real off-roading, I wouldn't feel safe on this bike. But for a basic commute with minimal traffic worries, it does just fine. Grade- C-
Overall verdict: This is a classic example of getting what you pay for. It has some options that you would find on higher priced bikes, but the way they are incorporated at times detracts from the functionality of the bike. If you're mainly focusing on finding a cheap form of transportation, then this is definitely worth taking a look at. I've noticed many on campus here probably for two reasons: 1) It is cheap so you don't need to have much cash for the purchase and 2) if it gets stolen, you didn't lose much. If you plan on getting into some more serious off-road biking (I assume you wouldn't purchase a mountain bike for distance road biking), continue searching and be willing to pay a bit more. Since this bike does make an effort to provide some added value to an already low price, I won't drop the overall grade as much as I could for the ride characteristics. Grade- C+