Ride on a Dime… Budget Single Speed Buildup Part 1

Everyone wants to get out and ride, but not everyone has an abundance of extra cash sitting around to grab the latest and greatest Fixie/single speed bike. So what to do? Well we decided to take Walmart up on its Mongoose Single Speed bike offer. Coming in at a reasonable $149.99 would this bargain prices bike give us the performance and satisfaction we were looking for? Let’s find out in Part 1 of our budget build.

First thing first, we found our donor bicycle at the local Walmart bike isle sporting all the consummate badges and sales tags one could stick on it. After giving it a once over, we noticed a small one inch scrape on the top tube. Being the savvy shoppers we are, we mentioned it to management. That eye spy moment turned into a $10 discount. Around a 7% right off the top, enough to cover taxes. Not too shabby. So we take our new pride and joy home to really get a better look.

This is what we have to work with.

General Impressions

Overall the bike looks decent. The black and white theme seems to carry well, however Mongoose has seen fit to apply 10 lbs of stickers to the bike. It feels busy as a result of all the safety items and visual effects they saw fit to add to it. It’s a tall frame. If your under 5’ 7” I would be weary. All the safety items are present and it even comes with a manual.

Triangular top tube with graphics

Frame

Weight wise it might lean to the heavy side, probably resulting from the spoke laden rims.  The aluminum frame seems solid, considering our rider qualifies for the Clydesdale club, that’s a good thing. The top and down tube have a triangular shape to them. This gives it a somewhat modern look. If you wanted retro, look elsewhere.

Welds is welds, simple but not necessarily pretty.

The welds look like something you would expect from a mass produced bike but relatively clean. Heavy in some spots like the bottom forks for example. But nothing we can’t live with. No hand TIG welds here but they go completely around the frame and look good. Paint quality seems decent. It’s black with a nice shine and looking at the scratch, pretty thick. This probably added a little weight here.

Steering

The business end.

Going with a slightly dropped stem and a raised handle bar looks ok but feels like it adds pressure to the wrist. The one piece stem provides little in the way of upgrades so we will look at replacing the whole ensemble. Looking at the bars and stem while riding it feels as if they are slightly off. But it’s barely noticeable.  The steering is average. Not fast but not too slow. It will instill confidence in a rider who hasn’t been on this type of bike with straight handle bars and takes very little to get used to. I would have liked a level stem at the minimum to make the handle bar rise more neutral.

Needs some work.

The grips have a protective thumb ring on them looking like they stole them from the BMX parts bin. We will have to take care of that soon. Coming with front and rear brakes with simple levers; one can assume the braking would be sufficient. On initial rides they were. Not superb but sufficient.  However we plan to change the whole front end to a drop bar system so the whole brake system will be upgrade in the future and we can get a slight elevation on the bars to aid our wrist.

Rear

The rear drop out is pretty thick. I was concerned that a thin area here would result in warping but I think it will hold up. Rear dropdown area provides us with a tension adjuster. A nice feature but some people will remove it. There is a welded bracket for the chain guard which will need removing. The welds here look good and the white chain also includes a breakable link.

Wow lots a spokes.

The rear hub has a freewheeling sprocket attached. Nice black painted hubs front and rear. Thick in the middle but whether or not you like that might be personal taste. Looking it over, they also provided a threaded side of the rear hub for an additional sprocket creating an adjustable fixie/single speed option. One would just have to have their local bike shop apply a locked sprocket.

Hmm, space for a fixed gear! We like.

The rim is a 700cc 25mm V style rim painted white and pre machined for the breaking surface. The quality looks good sans the million spoke theme. We are sure there is a good bit of weight to be saved here.  Add new rims to the list once these start to go bad. They were pretty true right out the store so you will be able to ride it home and no wobble was noticed.

More graphics? At least they machined the rims.

Rear brakes are similar to the front, nothing fancy hear, but it gives us a chance to take a look at the rim and some more decals. There is a brake cable guide with exposed cable on the upper tube. We will try to get some pictures of that soon. If we were building a retro bike this would not fit at all, but since this is a very modern approach, it’s all good.

Seat

You sit on it, what else can we say. Looking at other bikes costing twice as much, it’s obvious this is nothing more than vinyl, plastic and some metal. But it works. How good or bad is it depends on what your used to. After a few 12 to 15 mile rides I have gotten used to it. However I am sure an upgrade will be in the future plans and my rear will thank me. Maybe one of those sweet super wide seats with the gel and springs.. hmm yea.

Simplicity at its best.

Cranks

The crank set looks to be out of a mountain bike; its wide and measuring with the naked eye, looks similar to a euro bottom bracket.  It’s a threaded assemble on both sides with a square spindle for each crank. We have not gotten a measurement on the crank length but will have that soon enough. The front sprocket seemed small also. Great for tooling around town, but when trying to keep up with another member of the Urban1Cycle team, I was cranking like there was no tomorrow and just could not make any more speed.  Slightly longer cranks and a larger sprocket are needed, so we will put them on the list. There also is a welded bracket similar to the rear for the chain guard, like before we will cut that off at a later date.

Will these hold up?

Pedals are a simple design, coming shoe straps, the plastic bodied metal framed pedals will probably not last long. We also get a good view of the chain guard that is mandated on today’s bicycles. The Sprocket as mentioned is small, and looks thin but has held up to everything thrown at it so far. To get you running it works but for more than casual riding, it will be replaced.

Conclusion

So, after plopping down our hard earned money, how do we feel? Not bad. Remember, it’s not a $1000 bike by any means, but considering it gets us on the road to ride it fits the bill. And if we plan out a replacement strategy, we can upgrade parts over the next few weeks to months as funds permit.

As we work on out budget build we will also get weights on each part replaced so we can get a better idea of what the sacrifice in pricing cost us and if we can build a superior bike down the road. From the onset the weak points look to be the steering and the cranks. So handlebars first then cranks, after that maybe a little nicer seat for creature comforts then on to the wheels. Look for Part two of the build up as we clean it up and make it more presentable and street worthy.

One thing is for sure, with only a few days of riding and the good times I have had, I would give it two thumbs up for the return on the investment so far. Would I do it again? Yea in a heartbeat, who wants a wallet bike any way? This way I can make it mine while I enjoy the ride.

See you on the road.