Pros: Affordable Price, Abundant Features
Cons: Store assembly and setup
The 26 inch NEXT PowerX Dual Suspension Mountain Bike is a great entry level bicycle, with features galore, and at a very affordable price. Perfect for the very budget minded, once a month, or undecided rider. But you do get what you pay for!
Off the rack from Wal-Mart, the 26 inch Next PowerX Dual Suspension Mountain Bike sports a rugged steel frame, front and rear suspension, 18 speeds with grip shifters, linear-pull brakes, 26 inch wheels, a quick-release seat post, reflectors, a kick stand, and a lifetime warranty on the frame and forks. All for well under $100 assembled.
Circumstances that I will not go into put me in a position of being terribly out of shape and needing “alternate” transportation. Living in a very bicycle friendly city, pumping the crank on a bicycle appeared to be a good idea. But having been off bicycles for way too many decades left me in decidedly poor bargaining position - in other words I did not know what I wanted!
Searching the internet and Sunday advertising supplements, I did what most folks do: I went to Wal-Mart.
In the bicycle section of the store I found that there are four main categories of bicycles: heavy duty style mountain bikes for off road use, road bikes with skinny tires and low handle bars, cruiser bikes like the one you see Opie riding around Mayberry, and something called a Hybrid (a mix of mountain bike frame and gearing, and larger road bike wheels with smoother tires). Having a wildlife area with dirt and gravel paths two miles from my house, a “greenway” system of paved bike and running paths two blocks away, and a well maintained system of paved roadways all around my area made the choice even more difficult. In other words I did not know what kind of a bicycle would meet my needs! So I again did what most folks did - I went for the lowest price and the most features!
The biggest thing this bicycle has going for it is price. I paid around $90 for mine and have since seen it advertised online for as little as $70. I have also seen used versions advertised for around $35. Considering the availability (come on, everyone has a Wal-Mart nearby), the utility, and features like 18 speeds and a full suspension, I doubt if you could beat it.
Visually, the bike has an aggressive utilitarian style, with an exposed rear shock absorber and split seat. The predominately bright red, black and silver frame and aggressive looking off road tires, give it a look that would draw in most any preteen or sport minded novice. Grip shifters and all those sprockets on the rear gear set bring to mind performance. Yep, visually it is pretty neat!
Please keep in mind that Wal-Mart is not a serious bicycle shop. Bicycles are something they sell along with just about everything else anyone needs, so you should not expect a perfect assembly or set up. Mine was better than I had expected, but I still had to adjust a whole bunch of things before my first ride and even more after returning to my garage. I would recommend at a minimum checking to see if the brake cables are actually hooked up and that the seat and handle bars are aligned straight with the frame. These are little things, but important ones. This is one time when reading the included owner’s manual should be strongly consider prior to heading out into traffic.
Once adjusted for my body part sizes, and the tires properly inflated, I found it to be very comfortable on my neighborhood streets and sidewalks. The upright riding position and “deep relief” saddle (come on guys, this is important for adult males) gives the rider a relaxed but useful “feel” heading down the road. The grip shifters (once the cables were properly adjusted) were smoothly accurate and almost intuitive to use. Once I learned to match the gearing with road conditions I also found that under most conditions I rarely need the “lower 6” of the 18 available gear ratios. All in all, on either “dirt” or pavement comfort was better than I expected, after adjusting the rear shock preload for my weight.
Once again you must remember that this is a budget priced bicycle. But even with that said, the gearing, suspension and brakes were up to most all of the terrain in my riding area for casual touring. It is a bit heavy (around 35 pounds), but steel frames trade strength for additional weight.
After getting the initial adjustments sorted out, the biggest thing I ran into was remembering to keep the tire pressure set for conditions. I found that running around 35 psi on the “street” and 25 psi on unpaved trails worked well for me. Following that, passing interest in keeping the chain lubed (and clean) has been about it.
There are “issues” that are tough to overlook. The first has more to do with this being a mass marketed product from a non-specialty store, and therefore any expectations for an outstanding setup and adjustment are not realistic. Read the manual and re-do everything! After that, there are things like the cable end for the rear derailer can “brush” your ankle while riding, the headstalk and seat post lack adjustment range for average or above size adult males, and handling is not what can be found on bikes costing “powers” more.
Considering that I really had no idea exactly what kind of a bicycle I needed or wanted when I crossed the Wal-Mart parking lot, I found the bike to be well worth the money - a case of getting what I paid for rather than paying for what I got. Yes, I have since “moved up” to middle level priced hybrid bicycle and passed this one on to my son, but it served it’s purpose well. It is a great bicycle for someone who does not know exactly what they really want or need and are trying to figure it out, someone on a limited budget who wants an all around bicycle, or younger folks who are looking for visual impact in a mountain bike format.