The Vilano 21-Speed takes the lightweight frame design that they use on their higher-end bikes and combine it with well-made entry-level components. They then stand behind their bikes with a pretty robust customer service team. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better bike for your entry-level cyclist, who is looking for a daily commuter or for workout machine.
If you’ll excuse the puke-green color, you are going to love how well this bike is built. Designed with a rugged yet lightweight aluminum frame, this bike is equally at home when speeding along asphalt bike paths, or exploring quiet gravel roads of the country life. It is this quality of bike that you can buy today, and hand off to your son or grandson to use at college.
Mountain bikes are one the most desired bike styles. My job is to find the few affordable gems that I know are reliable. This one is designed to take the hits of off-road riding while protecting your wallet.
Helping Cyclists Save Money.
I have been avidly riding bikes for nearly 15 years now. My love of bikes has taken me on an incredible journey, from traveling across the country to attend races and trade shows, to working in the local bike shop and helping to wrench on charity rides.
>> Scroll Down For My 3 Steps To Purchasing A Bicycle <<
Many people would love to get into cycling, but find the cost too prohibitive. All too often, bike manufacturers take advantage of new riders by selling them junky bicycles that fit poorly and are not made to last.
Note: My site receives a commission for the products I sell through our affiliate partners
~Dave Henly, Cyclist
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Bicycles are the coolest things we humans have ever invented.
You can ride them in the flatlands, in the mountains, and on the beach.
You can go great distances — even traversing entire continents with them — or you can pedal the pump track that you build in your backyard.
Outside of running, few sports are as universally accessible.
The bicycle plays a role as both a fitness experience and an environmentally-friendly, low-cost commuting tool.
My Passion For Cycling
As a child, my little blue bicycle was my favorite toy. For me, it was freedom, adrenaline, friendships, adventure and creativity rolled into one toy.
Whether I was pedaling through town with my brother riding on the handlebars (not advised), riding it down the steep face of a dirt berm on a new construction site (the foreman chased us away), pedaling to the corner shop for eggs and milk, or creating new paths through the woods…
…any day with my bicycle was always guaranteed to be a good day
One of my first forays into “long-distance” cycling was when I convinced the substitute babysitter to takes us on a long ride to the nearby park. We got “lost,” and, without much water, had to find our way back home.
The entire ride was only 4 miles, but as an almost 10-year-old feverishly pedaling my undersized 20″ bicycle, it was one of those epic days you remember forever.
As I grew older, I kept investing my allowance money on used bicycles that would invariably break down. We ended up with a pretty disgusting heap of junk bicycles that dad had to haul off in his pickup.
It wasn’t until I bought a used lady’s Cannondale bike at auction that I began to understand the difference in quality.
This Cannondale had serious issues with a tired, worn-out drivetrain. I never did get it to shift correctly. On top of that, it was too small for me.
But it re-ignited the fire. I’d ride every day after school before I got my homework done. The ability to get away from the stresses of entering adulthood and enjoy the wind in my hair was how I kept my sanity through the freshman year of college.
Later, my love for the sport helped land my first gig at a local bike shop and started my amateur racing career. Some of the best times of my life, frankly.
Increasing The Accessibility Of Cycling To My Readers
High prices keep bicycles from being ubiquitous in America. It truly is a “rich man’s sport,” similar to golf. When entry-level bikes at your local shop are hovering at the $900 price point, it is too intimidating for new people to even try cycling.
My goal for this site is to help point new riders to alternatives.
If you know where to shop, and which bicycle brands are a good value for the money, you can often find deals that other people would miss.
I always have friends asking me for advice on how much they should spend on a bicycle, or whether certain brands are good cycles to buy.
And it made sense to put this information together on a website where I could refer them.
The goal of this site is to help you find those high-quality cheap bicycles and ultimately make this sport affordable to people who otherwise think it is out of their reach.
“Boxstore Specials Vs “High-end Shop Bicycles”
The challenge to my endeavor is that low-quality bicycles keep new riders from building a connection to the sport.
I talk about my own experiences with poorly-made bike brands, but when you buy a poor quality cycle that breaks after one season — it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
It is hard to form a strong cycling habit when your bicycle is broken every time you want to go for a ride.
You need your cycling experience to be frustration-free.
Bicycles are inherently high maintenance. The gears and brakes need to be adjusted once a year (even on the high-end models), and their tires love to go flat once a week (I add air to my tires every ride).
But when you have bikes made of lower quality parts, those maintenance issues happen much more frequently.
The Importance Of Supporting Your Local Bike Shop
One of the problems with our sport is how much cyclists love to buy things online.
We enjoy the tax savings, and often we can get generous discounts and lower prices through online closeouts.
The problem with our online shopping fixation is that bicycles need repair and servicing.
And, unlike your local auto repair shop, there isn’t enough margin in providing repairs to keep the local bike shops in business.
They need to sell bikes (and accessories) as well as fix them. It’s the only way they’ll stay in business.
So, as much as I appreciate your business through my site, if there is a way to buy something from your local shop, I encourage you to do that.
And, even if you buy something from my site, it doesn’t hurt to give you still provide your local shop frequent “token” business. Even if it is only a couple hundred dollars every year, it can go long ways towards making sure you’ll always have a reliable, local source for bike advice.
For many of our readers, a great way to build a relationship with your local shop is to have a local shop assemble their new bike.
This helps ensure the assembly is done correctly (and safely!) while also giving you a place for getting plugged into the local cycling community.
Whatever you do, please don’t get your online shopping advice from your local bike shop. It’s utterly insulting to be asked to help customers shop online at a competitor’s store.
And, yes, I’ve had people ask me to help them do that.
I didn’t understand why people hated on “Walmart-quality” products until I ended up jobless during the recession.
The local staffing company found me a $9 per hour job assembling gas caps at a local factory. I jumped at the chance — if nothing else it would let me pay my cell phone and rent bills.
There were two types of gas caps that we assembled. They looked identical except that one was gray and one was orange. When I enquired, I found out that the gray ones were made of thinner plastic to meet the pricing demands of some of the big chain stores. The Orange ones were sold to the more specialty stores and cost more retail.
Now, I want to disclaim here that I don’t remember exactly which stores were buying the lower-quality gas caps. Walmart, for example, may not have been buying a single gas cap. I don’t malign these companies.
But there were very real economies of scale where stores that ordered large quantity in bulk could request thinner materials to cut costs.
It has been my experience that this same scenario is played out in many markets. From my experience, bikes purchased at local chain stores are usually the wrong size for the rider, excessively heavy, and made from materials that flex and bend, making accurate shifting and braking impossible.
This problem isn’t a Wal-Mart issue. It is an education one.
And it is driving people away from the sport.
Why You Won’t See Any $100 Bikes On This Site
For the online shopper, there is a dizzying array of bicycles for sale online.
And no one to guide you.
Many of these are just designed en masse to look like a bicycle. They aren’t actually designed with the rider’s enjoyment in mind.
I find that if we sell you a cheap bike, you won’t stick with the sport.
You’ll be frustrated that it is sluggish and slow and that it breaks all the time. I’ve seen it happen too many times.
As you shop online, you have to navigate a wide range of quality, sizes, options and price points. Compounding that difficulty, most of the bicycles you find online are last year’s closeouts, overstock and discontinued models.
This creates a constantly moving target where shoppers have to chase brand names and perform endless hours of research (without the help of friendly bike shop staff!)
My goal is to help provide up-to-date research on the cheapest, most reliable, bikes. I’ll dive into their features and what makes one different from the other. We’ll also talk about how much money you should reasonably spend. This is key, as some people want to spend the extra money for a status symbol.
I’ll dive into their features and what makes one different from the other. We’ll also talk about how much money you should reasonably spend. This is key, as some people want to spend the extra money for a status symbol.
Most of my shoppers recognize that they don’t need the proverbial Lamborghini when a Honda will do just as well.
I use my experience and online reviews to help cut through the fluff and give you my opinion on which bikes are going to deliver the best experience.
The Best Cheap Bikes Should Be:
- Affordable (duh!)
- Include strong, well-purposed components
- Include both frame and components warranty
- Made By a Brand That Also Sells To Independent Bicycle Retailers (There Are a Few Exceptions)
So often price, popularity, and accessibility drives the buying decisions. Unfortunately, the lowest cost is not always the best. I was recently shopping online and saw one with solid plastic wheels.
Solid plastic wheels might be ok for children. Kids are light. But to even think of putting a 200-pound human on it? Yeah, that is pretty crazy.
And yet, this was one of the most popular rides being sold on Amazon.
Amazon has some good stuff. So do a lot of the other e-commerce sites. But without having seen how solid plastic wheels perform in the real world, how is the average shopper supposed to know the difference? Most shoppers will just think that it is a weight and dollar savings and slap down their credit card without a second thought.
And then, when they have their first broken rim, they will blame themselves for being “too fat.”
It is a vicious cycle.
My goal is to break that cycle by evaluating the bicycle deals available at online e-commerce stores. This means finding those “sweet spots” where a shopper can get the most for their money. This is only possible if you have some idea of what type of riding you are hoping to do. You might want an off-road machine, but how much “mountain” riding will you actually be doing? How aggressive is this rugged course that you have in mind? Will you be riding with friends that you need to keep pace with? Do you hope to compete? You may not have all of the answers, but the more blanks that you can fill in, the better a buying decision you can make.
Weight is an often overlooked issue. When you are shopping, it is not uncommon to run across options that are 5 pounds different from one another. Five pounds may not seem like much, but it is a 20% increase from a 20-pound machine.
Not only that but we humans are not as strong as we think we are. Carrying an extra 5 or 10 pounds of frame weight can add minutes of agony during a climb. It can mean the difference between completing your ride and giving up in defeat. Professional cyclists strive very hard to maintain obscenely low weights for this very reason.
Most of the frames are manufactured similarly across all of the top brands. Some might use heavier metals or processes that create a heavier end product, but, weight aside, the top brands are all very similar when it comes to the frame quality. Occasionally, you will find a brand that has done something innovative with their frame designs, and I try to catch that and point it out.
Where the brands compete is on negotiating those parts that go on their particular models. Those shifters and wheels are what tend to break and cause problems. And most of those components are not made by the individual bicycle manufacturers, but rather by companies that specialize in these smaller, more intricate parts.
You might think that the larger the brand, the more savings they could negotiate. If that is the case, then they must not be very good at passing those savings along to the consumer. Some of the largest brands also have the largest advertising budgets going so far as to invest in professional athletes.
While this is probably great for the sport, it competes with the goal of providing high-quality, low-cost bicycles.
What Kind Of Bike Do You Need?
Road is my first love. Beginners often recognize road bikes by their iconic, “ram’s horn” or curved handlebars. These handlebars provide a more aerodynamic position for fighting headwinds as well as providing multiple hand positions to allow the rider to move adjust during the ride to prevent wrist soreness and neck pain on all-day efforts.
You’ll also note their skinny tires. Now, you might think that skinny tires are more prone to have flats, but, when inflated properly, they actually hold up well to asphalt riding. They benefit is that they are extremely fast. Average speeds of 14 miles per hour are possible for even the newest rider to obtain. These tires corner well, so long as there is not loose gravel or water in the corner.
Typically, this bike is going to be a good choice for the athlete who is interested in riding a bike for 4 hours or more per week for fitness and weight loss. There are many local clubs and charity rides this athlete can participate in, and it becomes an elite networking opportunity for the fitness nut.
If you think road riding sounds like the most boring thing you ever heard of, you are probably more of a mountain biking nut. Cycling off-road has always existed, with the earliest bikes riding through fields and on Gravel trails. However, in the late 1970’s we began to see a new movement of folks who would strap gears and drum brakes on their classic Schwinn frames and dive off into the great unknown. (There’s a great flick called Klunkerz, that chronicles this).
The hardcore fathers of mountain biking would be in love with today’s modern mountain bike. Even at the lowest level, you get an aluminum frame and 21 gear combinations for gravel grinding goodness. You’ll recognize these bikes with their knobby tires, shocks and wide handlebars that offer control when navigating the gnarliest singletrack.
The knobby tires make this model slower on the pavement, but better able to navigate curbs and potholes. For that reason, many folks (and most police departments) use a mountain-style bicycle for urban riding.
You do have to be careful, as many poorly-made mountain bikes have flooded the market. You can buy them for under $100 and they don’t last for more than a year without requiring professional repairs. While these knockoffs look like the real thing to the untrained eye, they literally “fold” under pressure, requiring constant repairs for bent wheels, bent cranks, and bent derailleur hangers.
Especially if you ever plan on going trail riding, plan on purchasing one that is of high enough quality that it won’t risk your life every time you go for a ride.
Technically, every bike that is not a road bicycle, a mountain bike or a recumbent is a “hybrid bike“.
Because of that, I like to differentiate them a little more into “fitness hybrids”, “comfort bikes” and “gravel or Dual Sport”.
This one was first designed for the urban rider who wanted more width to their tires than the asphalt-dedicated road cycle. This machine gives you slightly wider tires and a more upright position for a more comfortable ride when cruising the city. These also tend to be slightly more affordable than a road-specific model, while still being lightweight and capable of all-day efforts (like a Century ride).
I see a lot of dads get this bike for staying in shape, hooking a trailer on it for the kids, doing the occasional charity ride and still having a durable commuter. It is a do-everything machine and should be the first choice for most of my customers.
This name says it all. Plush seat, sometimes with a shock under the seat. Curved handlebars to keep you upright. Sometimes they even have a small shock over the front wheel to help level out the bumps. (Don’t think “beach cruiser”, though. That is an entirely different category.)
These tend to be heavier than the other types I discussed above. However, they offer an upright position which makes them perfect for many people who suffer from back pain. They are also a less-intimidating option for the mommy who wants to ride around the neighborhood with her kids, or for the family that wants to ride around the neighborhood in the evenings.
These are very tiring to try to use for long-distance rides, although I’ve meant many a fitness nut who still manages to pedal theirs for more than 20 miles per week.
However, I know many, many people who get theirs out for a 3-5 mile spin several times a week.
For a long time, this one was basically just lumped in with the “fitness hybrid”. While the fitness hybrid is designed mostly for asphalt and light gravel, this one tends to have beefier shocks and slightly knobbier wheels, giving them the option of doing more gravel.
The idea for these bikes sprang out of the request of riders who wanted a “country hybrid”. Something that wasn’t as rugged as a mountain bike, but that could be more aggressive than the urban-based “fitness hybrid”. Designed to ride through fields and on “fire roads“, they offer the freedom for the rural athlete to be able to take the path less traveled.
Fixed Gear And Single-Speed
We’re seeing a return to simplicity these days.
Back when two-wheeled transportation with pedals was first invented, the pedals connected directly to the wheels. Every time your feet turned, the wheels turned — and vice-versa.
Even when chain drive was introduced, the fixed-hub concept remained for quite awhile.
A single-speed has very few moving parts. A chain, two pedals and two wheels with possibly a brake or two. That is it. Many college kids and commuters appreciate how the simplicity gives them freedom in a less-expensive, more stylish ride.
And, for the added challenge, many are opting to go with fixed hubs. It’s like driving a stick-shift — it is a dying skill and many take pride in the fact that they are good at it.
I’ve owned some fixie’s in my day and I still ride single-speed frequently, so we go over that.
When it is snowing outside, how are you going to stay in shape? Many of us use the local gym to swim, lift weights and cross-train. However, for more fitness, it is worth the investment to get some indoor equipment. I give you the overview on some of the most popular workout options so you can decide which one is best for you based on your goals and your budget.
Getting A Good Brand When Shopping Used
On this blog, I’m going to point you to a lot of good deals you can find online. Many of these are previous year’s closeouts and direct-to-consumer sales that cut out the middle-man.
However, you WILL save money purchasing used. You have to get the right size, of course, but finding a lightly-used ride is — hands down– the way to save the most money.
One of the best ways to know that you are getting a good ride is to buy one of these brands. In fact, you can take each of these model names and put them on your local craigslist to see if any are for sale.
Typically, expect to pay about 50-60% of new MSRP for a ride that is 2-4 years old and in good shape. Over here I give you more tips on evaluating a used bike before purchasing.
Below are some of the top Brands you’ll find sold in the US (in no particular order). If you find one of these for sale, you can pretty much trust that it is a decent bicycle.
Proper Sizing Is Everything
I cannot stress this enough (Maybe I should put it at the top of every page?)
Did you know that bicycle’s come in different frame sizes to match the different physical heights that humans come in?
The wrong size is not only maddeningly uncomfortable, it can physically harm you. If you are forced to ride hunched over, it can lead to muscle knots, pinched nerves and knee pain. If you continue to ride in these positions, it can lead to permanent damage.
If you stop by a box store and look at their bicycle section, you see 3 “sizes”: 24″, 26″ and 27″.
These are actually WHEEL sizes and has nothing to do with the FRAME size.
I have a blog post that tells you how to properly measure your bicycle, decide on what height you need and then fit it to your size.
Cycling is a gear-heavy sport. At a minimum, you need a helmet. Sure, it isn’t required by law in many states, but I’ve had a helmet save me enough times that I am adamant about their use.
Pretty soon, you get tired of always running to the gas station to get air, and so you invest in an air pump. Lights are handy for our commuting friends and those who live in urban communities (I use my light during the daytime), and Speedometers are a fun vanity piece that every serious rider invests in.
Of course, if you don’t want thieves running off with your bike you’ll need a bike lock.
And then you have your own personal comfort: padded shorts, padded, fingerless gloves and wicking sports jerseys are an absolute must. Not only do they make you look sweet, they provide greater comfort and a more enjoyable experience.
I could go on, and my goal isn’t to overwhelm you. Start by purchasing a bicycle and a helmet. You can always add those other features, later.
Feedback? Product Review Requests?
Some of this blog is my opinions, and sometimes I’m way off the mark. Either way, I invite your comments and feedback.
You likely have fitness experiences that I haven’t had — and vice versa — so let’s learn from each other!
Every month I try to add a few new articles to this site. If you have a product that you would like me to review, please send it to our address on the contact page.
I’m always happy to take items for a test drive and tell our audience what is going on.
Since this blog supports itself through affiliate links, we do prioritize our product reviews based on the availability of an affiliate program to promote it through.
This site receives commissions when a purchase is made by a customer who visits one of our affiliate programs through our special tracking link.
We do our best to be impartial — even if that means missing out on sweet commissions — but we understand it’s hard to maintain the perception of absolute impartiality when money is involved.
(On the flip side, it’s hard to maintain a blog when no money is involved!)
I’ve been screwed over before by a bad recommendation, and my goal is that we provide you with a better experience than I had.
Most of the articles are written by myself. A few are written by several handpicked cyclists whom I trust.
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