Department Store Commuter Bike?

I saw this bike while perusing through my local Target. It caught my attention because it has some of the essentials that bike commuters love. Items such as fenders, gears, rack, upright position and a classy look.

Here’s the listed features:

# Manufacturer Suggested Age: 18 Years and Up
# Bicycle Frame Height: 15″
# Bicycle Frame/Component Features: Adjustable Handlebars, Chain Guard
# Bicycle Frame Material: Steel
# Seat Features: Quick Release Seat, Ergonomic, Adjustable Seat Height
# Wheel Features: Pneumatic Tires
# Wheel Height: 28″
# Rim Material: Metal Alloy
# Tire Type: Inverted
# Tire Width: 1.95″
# Brake System: Linear
# Gear Speeds: 21
# Bicycle Chain Material: Aluminum
# Used For: Recreational Rider
# Includes: Rear Storage Rack, Front Fender, Kickstand
# Care and Cleaning: Wipe Clean With Soap and Water
# Dimensions: Height: 41.0 “; Length: 68.0 “; Width: 24.0 ”
# Product Weight: 42.0 Lb.

Priced @ $179.99

My initial thought when I first laid eyes on it, “Cool, Target is selling a commuter bike!” But the more I looked and thought about it. This bike is a sham! For one, the darn thing weighs 42lbs! That’s as heavy as my downhill bike! At the same time I’m thinking, Walmart/Target bikes have the worst components. If you get a chance to spin the wheels on any bikes they have on display, you’ll normally feel/hear the wheels bearings grinding. Brakes are almost never aligned and the derailleurs are never tuned. On top of all that, handlebars are usually not installed properly, the brake levers are most likely to be pointing straight up in the air.

On the other hand, there are folks who may not have the means to afford a better bike. Thus this $179 commuter bike is the next best thing. If I were to recommend this bike to anyone, perhaps I’d say it would be an OK (at its best) pick for college students who are on a tight budget or for a mom or dad that only go riding once every few months. Other than that, if you’re in the market for a commuter bike, I’d stay clear from any bicycles you might find from any big box stores.


25 Comments

  1. dukiebiddle November 3, 2010 4:42 am 

    While I agree that a bike assembled at Target would need to be rebuilt, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a 42 lb commuter bike. It has plenty of gears to erase that weight. This bike is not for 20 miles a day commuter commandos; it’s for more modest commuters. I’m not really getting how 42 lbs = sham. To me 42 lbs = a nice silky ride. I pass over my 22 lb bike for my 42 lb bike for commutes almost daily. The 22 lb bike is faster and springier and more aggressive and all that, but it’s the 22 lb bike that makes me a sweaty exhausted mess. The 42 lb bike takes about 12 minutes longer, but it never makes me out of breath, it never makes me need 10 minutes of downtime catch my breath and stop sweating and I never need to change my clothes when I reach my destination.

  2. "Classic" Ron November 3, 2010 5:37 am 

    Let’s all agree department store bikes are the fast food of the pedal powered world. Sure it has everything to make it look and operate like a bike, but it’s laden with high-fructose (low end) parts. I prefer the finer dining commuter bikes that are lean, clean, and efficient.

    Twenty one gears? Really? You’ve already covered the weight issue, but why does anyone need any more than 3 gears on a normal commute. Personally I ride a single speed freewheel to commute to work, and it treats me just fine.

    Back to the DSC (department store commuter). This monster of a bike is perfect for the person in need of non-motorized transportation but doesn’t have the obsession of bikes most reader of bike blogs do.

    Long story short, good bike for non-bike people.

  3. Rockfish November 3, 2010 6:45 am 

    “# Bicycle Chain Material: Aluminum”
    I hope that’s a typo!
    Otherwise, I agree with Ron, if it gets a non-biker out there, it’s good enough.

  4. dukiebiddle November 3, 2010 6:52 am 

    “Twenty one gears? Really? You’ve already covered the weight issue, but why does anyone need any more than 3 gears on a normal commute.”

    Because the dynamic range of gearing erases the 20 extra pounds. Granted one would arguably have the same range on a 3 speed *if* the lowest and highest speeds were the same as on a 21 speed, but they rarely are. 3 speed cassette/7 speed cassette, doesn’t really make any difference mechanically if you’re talking about a derailleur bike anyway, and internal hub 3 speeds are far more complicated mechanically than a 7 speed derailleur bike. Although I agree that a front derailleur is overkill on most transport bikes that aren’t used on some seriously hilly areas.

  5. Ghost Rider November 3, 2010 6:59 am 

    I agree with most everyone above — and we’ve all seen worse at the big-box stores (double-boinger MTBs, anyone?). This one really doesn’t look too bad, and may even be a great “guest bike” or beater for a more seasoned cycler — nice to keep a spare bike around the house for visitors, right?

  6. RANTWICK November 3, 2010 7:54 am 

    My beef with department store bikes has never been the weight. I have dealt with kids bikes, however, with components so poor (particularly brakes) that I could not for the life of me get them to work well. Similar with derailleurs.

    I’m not a pro, but I have been wrenching on bikes for a long time and know what I am doing.

    My big fear is that bikes that are doomed to operate poorly just discourage new riders who were enticed by the low price tag.

  7. BluesCat November 3, 2010 8:08 am 

    My EZ Sport CX (the CX means a steel frame) tips the scales at 39 pounds, WITHOUT the panniers, rack bag, seat bag, handlebar bag, lights, laptop, backup tapes, work clothes, etc.

    I’ve ridden aluminum bikes with all my gear loaded, and the frame seems to flex like crazy.

    About the quality of Big Box Bikes, I defer to the comment made by the luthier who services my guitars when I asked him about buying a cheapie Big Box Guitar for my son to learn on: “Do you want to TORTURE him, or have him ENJOY the guitar?”

  8. Tom November 3, 2010 8:12 am 

    I’ve seen this bike too,and I was almost tempted to give it a try. However, I was fortunate enough to pick up a “stray” Raleigh Sprite that not even my local bike recycling shop wanted to mess with. It probably does not weigh much less than this bike, with its steel wheels, steel cottered crank and straight gauge tubing, but there is a certain elegance about it (at least in my eyes) and I really enjoy riding it, weight notwithstanding. I note that this bike has a one-piece forged “Ashtabula” crank, like the old Schwinn Varsity. that adds a few pounds, for sure, but if you really wanted to you could replace it down the line (with an adapter to fit a standard bottom bracket into the oversized shell)
    so anyway, I concur that the little tweaking, this is a perfectly good starter commuter bike and could be modified in stages as the rider desired. on the other hand, if you really think you might be spending money on upgrades, you would probably save money by buying a slightly more expensive bike to begin with.

  9. bradley November 3, 2010 8:29 am 

    Like most, there’s good and bad. If someone had just a couple hundred bucks to spend on a bike, I’d suggest they look at pawn shops and bike shops that sell used bikes, or to check craig’s list or something of that sort. While I agree that any bike that gets ridden is a good bike, if someone becomes soured by the experience of a junky bike, that’s too bad. My guess is they would be more inspired to quit riding than to upgrade, unless it was somehow a really positive experience. As some have noted, someone buying this bike won’t know how to take care of it, and they will need to spend as much for an overhaul as they spent on the bike. They won’t feel cheated by the big box store, but by the bike shop “snobs” who are ripping them off.

  10. dukiebiddle November 3, 2010 9:15 am 

    Wait a second. Where do all those gears come from? I only see a single chain-wheel. Could the real bike not be the bike in the picture?

  11. Mike November 3, 2010 9:16 am 

    Great arguments guys!
    I have an example of where dept store bikes are used a lot. There are several apartment complexes down the street from restaurant row and there are dozens of workers that ride Nexts, Roadmasters and Mongooses back and forth. Half of them don’t have the right tire pressure and most ride at about 6 mph but for them it is transportation and it works well. If your commute is only 4 miles round trip and you are familiar with a few wrenches then your transporation costs are about $150 a year.
    I say take that bike and relace it with some smooth hubs, good brakes and a nice bottom bracket and you would have a great bike that no one would know to steal.

  12. Jake Munson November 3, 2010 11:40 am 

    “…essentials that bike commuters love. Items such as fenders, gears, rack, upright position…”

    Am I weird in that I DON’T like the upright position? I ride a road bike. I understand that upright makes you more visible, but personally I live in a windy area and I like to get down out of the wind. Or is that not really a big issue at bike speeds?

  13. Ghost Rider November 3, 2010 12:43 pm 

    @Jake — I’m with you on that. I don’t like being upright, and I don’t think of it as a liability — the upright proponents always throw in the “you can see the road better, and motorists can see you!” Crap, I say; predictable and visible trumps an upright stance any day.

    There are a few schools of thought in the commuting world, with one demanding every bell and whistle and others who favor more practical/aerodynamic/simple approaches.

    For me, it depends on the day, the weather and the load…sometimes I ride my longtail cargo bike, sometimes I ride the fixed gear, sometimes I ride one of my road bikes. I’ve even been known to commute on my knobbly-tired mountain bike just for something different.

  14. dukiebiddle November 3, 2010 1:23 pm 

    @JKW + Ghost Rider, I prefer upright, but not to be more visible (I don’t even really believe that). But yeah, I do feel like I can look around and see with greater ease when I’m upright. I don’t really find the wind to be that big an issue at 12 mph and slower (at 16 mph on a road bike, yeah, TOTALLY). If it’s really windy when I’m on my upright I just put it into an even lower gear and go even slower. :)

  15. Cycling For Beginners November 3, 2010 2:25 pm 

    First, I agree that a big box store is not an ideal place to buy a bike. However (or perhaps “accordingly”), it looks like there may be some errors in the description, as I believe the Schwinn Gateway is 7 speeds. Also, it seems possible that 42 pounds is the shipping weight, which can sometimes be 10 pounds or more than the actual weight. Even if it does weigh 42 pounds, (1) that’s not a huge deal if you live in a mostly flat area; and (2) there are lots of $500, $1000 and more Amsterdam-wanna-be bikes popping up these days that weigh around that much, or more. You would hope that most of those would be of better quality, but some aren’t. By the way, if you’re on a budget and don’t mind 26″ tires the Schwinn Lakeshore seems to get good reviews, and has 7 speeds, fenders, chainguard and rack.

    Best,
    Rob

  16. Bomber November 3, 2010 3:51 pm 

    It is the information age, those who really care will do their research on the better bicycles, those who are going to ride the thing 3 times a year, will buy the bike above. The pricetage alone should be a hint. Cheap bikes actually cost more (unless they are quality Used).
    -Bomber

  17. no1mad November 3, 2010 3:56 pm 

    Aside from the component quality and expertise of assembly, the biggest problem that these DSB/BSO’s have is FITMENT. It doesn’t matter how sweet of a price the bike is if it just doesn’t fit right. Big box stores will just refund your money if you aren’t happy with it. The LBS will make sure that you walk out with a bike that fits and in proper working order.

    And one more observation- the parts that are spec’ed on the BSO’s aren’t exactly readily available. How many retailers stock 28″ tubes/tires here in the US?

  18. Mercutio Stencil November 3, 2010 5:17 pm 

    I’ve seen a few of these around, and I was surprisingly impressed. Yes, it is still a bicycle shaped object, but it’s really surprisingly close to a good intro commuter. If it was speced with a standard 3 piece crank, a better derailer, and maybe nicer wheels, it could be pretty sweet. Even if they upped the price, a few upgrades that would be cheap for the manufacturer would greatly increase the utility of the bike.

  19. RANTWICK November 3, 2010 7:01 pm 

    @JAKE – You’re not alone. Sitting really upright doesn’t feel right to me either, even if I’m taking it slow and easy. Different strokes, I guess!

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’m more likely to transition to a recumbent than a more upright position if and when my more aggresive posture gets difficult to maintain.

  20. Jake Munson November 4, 2010 8:59 am 

    In the Boise area (where I live), it is not uncommon to have 25-30 mph wind. Usually when it’s that bad I don’t ride, because I don’t want to be blown out into traffic! :) But sometimes I get caught in that fast wind speed, and I find hunkering down to be a necessity, not only for speed but for safety. I could be wrong, but my theory is that if a 35 mph wind gust hits me, and I’m a smaller target, there’s a greater chance that I’ll stay in my bike lane…and thus stay alive.

  21. 2whls3spds November 6, 2010 6:01 pm 

    Interesting bike…the spec’s DON’T match the photo. For quite a while I have championed the Mongoose Paver from WalMart as a suitable entry level commuter. Unfortunately price points have won out and they no longer sell it.

    Couple of counter points to comments above…

    In some areas 3 speeds ain’t gonna cut it.

    Most people have no clue how a bike works, much less how to repair it.

    “New” is always better than used. (see above item)

    IMHO if WM as well as any and all of the big box retailers really wanted to they could sell a 5 speed IGH bike with proper equipment to cover a large portion of commuting needs, but they just haven’t seen fit to do it yet. And I am sure they could meet a reasonable price point.

    I have been wrenching and riding for over 40 years and the BSO’s have only gotten worse.

    My city bike hits the scales at close to 50# and I don’t care. It fits, has fenders, lights, racks and bags. To each their own. 😉

    Aaron

  22. Ghost Rider November 6, 2010 8:07 pm 

    One of my commuter bikes weighs close to 70 lbs. fully dressed. I don’t even think about it, but I must admit that when I ride a lighter bike from my fleet (like one of the svelte but mostly-impractical road bikes), it feels pretty spectacular.

    I agree that WM and the other big-box folks could figure out how to sell a truly decent bike at a good price point, but they first have to overcome the “$300 for a bike? That’s CRAZY!” mentality that too many customers have. While more seasoned folks realize that a good bike is a sometimes expensive investment, novices can’t fathom spending more than a couple bills for a BSO.

  23. Sajendra November 11, 2010 8:48 am 

    A link to the bike would help I think: http://bit.ly/9cOG1e
    a “Mens Schwinn Gateway City Bike – 28″”

  24. Chris March 7, 2011 11:53 pm 

    I think department store bikes have their place in the market. I’m actually a “20 mile a day commuting commando” but I ride a department store “road” bike that cost me 150 dollars. After a year or so and several thousand kilometers on this thing, I bought a trek that was on sale. The new bike was definitely faster and lighter but after the novelty wore off, I returned to almost exclusively riding the 150 dollars thing. Sure it’s not optimal when it comes to speed or efficiency but I don’t have to baby it. I don’t have to think twice before riding through mud or gravel, hitting bumps hard getting it all wet and parking it in high theft places. It gets me places, gives me some exercise and is dirt cheap in running costs, even including the few replacement parts I’ve had to put on.

  25. Rob2d2 July 29, 2013 2:16 pm 

    I know this thread is mega old, but wanted to comment. I am a bike snob. I like nice bikes. Target had 2 of these gateways (matching his and her) at the front desk for sale for $80. For both!! They were returns. Nothing worked on them. I knew they were crappy bikes but I wanted them anyway. I figure my wife and I could ride them at the beach. Took them home, wrenched for about 2 hours, and they worked perfect. They are cheap, and the components need constant adjustment, but they still roll and its been over 2 years. Would I recommend this bike? Absolutly NOT. But if it only cost 40 bucks, and u know how to tweak a bike, get it

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