Walmart stores now sell a mountain bike with a full carbon fiber frame for $399. Is it worth the money, or is it a cheap bicycle with sub-par components? I purchased one to find out. After all, who can resist a carbon fiber frame for only $399. Even if the rest of the components are inferior - that frame has to be worth something, right?
We all know Big Box Bikes tend to take shortcuts to get certain features. Disc brakes on a $99 bike? You can count on the bike having generic derailleurs and possibly even a linear pull rear brake. Find a bike with an upgraded derailleur for under $200? It's likely they wheels are from a cheaper bike. You get the idea. There is always a tradeoff.
So what's the tradeoff when you get a carbon fiber frame for only $399? There are quite a few:
-The disc brakes are the same brakes you find on $99 bikes
-The rims are designed for V-brakes
-The front fork looks just like the forks seen on $129 bikes with no QR
-The QR skewers have locking tabs like those on a $59 bicycle
-The headset looks tapered, but it isn't - It's a FAPER - a fake taper!
That's not to say all the components are sacrificed to get a carbon bike at the low cost, because there are some other components that are decent. Like the SNAFU branded items. I've never owned any SNAFU products, but I have seen them online. I found the name to be comical, but apparently they've been around a long time. The saddle is SNAFU branded and is comfortable and looks great. The SNAFU tires are 26" x 2.30" and hold onto the trail nicely. Plus a 2.30 tire that's only 26" means it feels like a plus sized tire or a 27.5 wheeled bike. There is also the use of Shimano Tourney derailleurs on the front and the rear. Sure they are the lowest end useful derailleur made by Shimano, but at least they are actual Shimano derailleurs and not those cheap licensed flat face derailleurs you see on many department store bikes. The bars, lock-on grips and Neco stem are also nice.
How does it ride? There is some subtle flex in the carbon fiber frame, and the Tourney rear derailleur slaps around more than any other Tourney I've ever ridden, but it's useable. Though it feels less like a mountain bike and more like riding a Hybrid bicycle like the Trek Dual Sport. That's the feeling I got (minus the flex) with this bike on the Wildwood mountain bike trail. It felt like I was on my old Dual Sport - only with better tires. The frame bends, but doesn't break - at least not yet. There are no seams and it is very smooth, so it may be well made. That said, the benefit of a carbon fiber frame on a bicycle is that it should be ultra light weight, and that's how they market this bike. The reality is that the bike weighs in at 31 pounds. 31 pounds! I can only assume the frame is light weight, but the cheap components add unnecessary weight that get it to that total. I have mountain bikes that weight more, but I also have larger bikes that weigh less. So that's a big problem for a bike you're paying $400 for. At $400 you're getting into lower end LBS bikes. That means this bike needs to be judged accordingly. That means I can't find a justification that would make this bike worth it.
-Unless you're buying it for the frame! Soon I'll strip all the other components off the bike and see what we have to work with. If the frame is decent (even with a taper) it may be possible to use it to build a super light weight bike for far less than the usual carbon fiber bike prices.
We'll see...First it has to endure some trail torture from a Cyclocross competitor and mountain bike coach. I'll also put a heavier rider on it and see how it handles that stress. The stickers claim the bike can handle riders up to 275 pounds. That seems like a stretch for a carbon fiber frame. Time will tell, so stay tuned!
Thanks for watching another bicycle video from KevCentral