Over the years, I’ve owned about 5 Walmart bikes including a couple of mountain bikes, a BMX, and even a beach cruiser. As a kid, they were the only bikes that my family could afford. People like to trash Walmart bikes for their questionable build quality, reliability issues, and poor performance. Are they really that bad? In this guide, We’ll examine the pros and cons of buying a Walmart Bike. We’ll look at reliability, safety, cost, fit, durability, longevity, and more.
Walmart Bike Pros
- Walmart bikes are affordable- Walmart sells some of the cheapest new bikes available. In terms of price, they just can’t be beaten. At Walmart, you can buy a complete mountain bike with gears for less than $100. Walmart sells kids’ bikes for under $50. To compare, new bikes from local bike shops start at around $300 for entry-level models. That’s probably why my dad bought all of my bikes at Walmart when I was a kid. Walmart is able to cut costs in a number of ways. First, they order enormous quantities of bikes for their stores. Economies of scale allow them to sell bikes cheaply and undercut pretty much any bike shop on price. To save money on assembly, Walmart has an employee put bikes together instead of hiring a bike mechanic. They also sell more one-size-fits-all bikes. This way, they can stock fewer models and sizes.
- Walmart offers a wide selection of bikes- Walmart offers something for everyone including mountain bikes, beach cruisers, road bikes, E-bikes, commuters, folding bikes, women’s bikes, recumbent bikes, and kids bikes. They offer bikes in every wheel size including 16″, 20″, 24″, 26″, 27.5″, and 700c and 29er. Whatever style and size of bike you need, Walmart offers a suitable option. Not all of these bikes are available in all stores. Some models are only available online or in certain stores.
- The bike will be brand new– When you buy a bike at Walmart, you’re getting a brand new bicycle. There will be no scratches, dents, rust, or wear and tear. No components need to be replaced or upgraded as they may on a used bike. You don’t have to worry about buying a lemon. The bike will be pristine and ready to ride. You can ride the bike home from the parking lot if you choose. Many people prefer to buy new for these reasons. Buying new brings peace of mind.
- Walmart offers a good return policy- If you’re not happy with the bike, you can return it within 90 days for a full refund. The only requirement is that the bike has to be in the same condition that it was when you bought it. Be sure to bring your original receipt to make things easier. In my experience, Walmart offers takes returns pretty much no questions asked as long as you don’t abuse their policy. For more info on returns, check out this article from savingadvice.com.
- A warranty may be available- If you wish, you can buy a 2-3 year extended warranty to cover your Walmart bike if it breaks. Even though it is available, I recommend you don’t buy the extended warranty as they are usually a rip-off. That said, the warranty is available if you like.
- Walmart bikes are great for people just getting into cycling- Why go out and spend $1000+ on a bicycle if you don’t know if you’ll ever use it? You can buy a cheap Walmart bike, ride it until it breaks, then buy something of higher quality. If the bike just ends up sitting in your garage collecting dust, then you aren’t out too much money.
- Replacement parts are easily available- Walmart bikes use parts that are standard-sized and easy to find. There are no proprietary parts. If your brake pads wear out, you can go to any bike shop to buy replacements. If your shifter cable breaks, you can easily find a replacement. Walmart doesn’t service bikes. They do sell most replacement parts that you’re likely to need in their stores. If you need something non-wearable, like handlebars or pedals, you can easily buy replacements online or at your local bike shop.
- Most parts are easily upgradable- If you want to install some higher quality components on your Walmart bike, you can easily buy new parts and put them on. Most Walmart bikes come with name-brand Shimano or Sram drivetrains and brakes. Chains, cranksets, brakes, wheels, levers, and most other parts are standard-sized. There are no proprietary parts.
- Walmart bikes are great for kids- Why spend a bunch of money on something the kid will just grow out of in a couple of years? They don’t know the difference between a quality bike and a cheap bike anyway. This is particularly true for young children.
- No assembly required- When you buy a bike at Walmart, it comes completely assembled and ready to ride. You don’t have to worry about putting anything together.
- You can buy name-brand bikes at Walmart- Not all Walmart bikes come from knock-off or no-name brands. Some large cycling companies build entry-level bikes specifically for Walmart. For example, Walmart sells Schwinn, Mongoose, and Huffy bikes. These are some of the most well-known cycling companies. Of course, these bikes may have been designed by different teams than those who build the higher-end models that are sold at bike shops. From what I’ve seen, Schwinn offers the best quality Walmart bikes.
- The purchase process is easy- Buying a Walmart bike is easy. You can go to the store and shop for a bike at your leisure. You won’t have to deal with a pushy salesperson trying to pressure you or upsell you to a more expensive bike. In bike shops, salespeople can get pretty aggressive because many work on commission. When you buy a bike at Walmart, you also don’t have to deal with going to a private seller’s house as you would if you were buying used. You can buy the bike and bring it home with you and ride it. You don’t have to wait for shipping or bother with assembly.
- It’s a bike- If all you can afford is a Walmart bike, don’t feel bad about it. At least you’re getting out there and riding and getting some exercise. A Walmart bike can make a great commuter, weekend ride, or grocery getter.
Walmart Bike Cons
- Walmart bikes may be less safe- There are several potential reasons for this. First, because Walmart bikes are made from cheaper components, failure is more likely. If a part suddenly and catastrophically fails while you’re riding, you could crash and injure yourself. For example, if you ride off a curb and a poorly made wheel tacos, you could fall straight to the ground. Improper assembly can be a safety issue as well. For example, if the handlebars, seat, pedals, or axles weren’t properly tightened, they could suddenly move or come off the bike and cause you to crash. Parts can work their way loose as well. This happened to me on my beach cruiser. My handlebars suddenly slipped while I was riding. Luckily, I was going slow. I also had my multi-tool with me so I could tighten them back up.
- Sometimes Walmart bikes aren’t properly assembled- Bikes generally come from the manufacturer 90% assembled in a box. If the bike was built in a factory that only produces mass-market bikes, there can be some issues. For example, the factory could forget to put grease in a hub or bottom bracket. The wheels could be out of true. When the bike arrives at Walmart, an employee completes the last 10% of assembly by installing the handlebars and pedals and mounting the wheels. The main problem is that the people who put bikes together at Walmart aren’t trained bike mechanics. They’re just regular employees following an instruction manual. Chances are, they aren’t checking the torque on bolts. They aren’t checking spoke tension or making sure there is enough grease in the hubs and bottom bracket. They may not properly adjust the derailleurs or brakes. Sometimes they simply make mistakes. I have heard of people finding that the hubs lacked grease or the headset wasn’t tight enough. These assembly mistakes cause premature wear and tear. Improper assembly can also be a safety concern. After buying a Walmart bike, you’ll want to go over it yourself or have a bike shop take a look to make sure everything was put together properly, adjusted properly, and that the bike is safe to ride. You’ll want to check things like spoke tension, the tightness of all bolts, and the amount of grease on moving parts. If you take the bike to a shop, this inspection will cost you $50-$100.
- Poor quality components- The components used on mass-market Walmart bikes are generally made by major cycling companies. For example, most Walmart bikes come with a Shimano or Sram groupset and a KMC chain. The problem is that the parts are lower-end than what you would find on a bike shop bike. In some cases, cheap parts are even made specifically for Walmart bikes. For example, you might find a non-branded suspension fork or shock on a Walmart mountain bike. The frames are lower-end as well. The welds may be poor. In some cases, the frames may even have warping or bent tubes. The hardware used to hold the bike together will probably be of lower quality as well. The bolts might rust faster. These poor quality parts are less durable and long-lasting, need to be adjusted more frequently, and don’t perform as well as higher-end parts. For example, you might only get a couple of hundred miles out of the cheap tires or brake pads. You’ll probably need to adjust your brakes and shifters more often than you would on a higher-end bike. Your bike may shift slow. The brakes might not be as powerful as you’d like. The quick-release used on the seat might slip a bit. Poor quality components can be problematic.
- Walmart bikes can end up costing more than bike shop bikes- Walmart bikes may be cheaper initially. If you factor in the additional maintenance cost, you may end up spending more money in the long run. For example, maybe you buy a mountain bike at Walmart for $200. After buying it, you take it to a bike shop to get it inspected for $100. A couple of months later, your plastic pedals break, your wheel goes out of true, and you need to get your derailleur adjusted. You spend another $100 to fix everything. For the money you spent, you could have just bought a better bike to begin with.
- Some parts may be non-standard- To save money, some parts are made to be a slightly different size or style than the standard in the cycling industry. Because of this, you may have trouble finding certain replacement parts. For example, on many cheap Walmart bikes, the handlebar diameter is smaller than the current standard of 25.4 mm. Some models use the old 22.2 mm standard. This makes finding compatible handlebars, grips, and accessories a bit more difficult.
- More maintenance- The low-quality components that are commonly found on Walmart bikes go out of adjustment more easily. For example, to keep your bike shifting smoothly and braking reliably, you may have to make a minor adjustment to your derailleurs and brakes every couple of months. Low-quality parts also don’t last as long and need to be replaced sooner. Cheap brake pads, chains, cassettes, tires, and grips wear out quicker. Bolts can rust easily. In order to keep your Walmart bike on the road, you must budget more time and money for maintenance.
- Finding the right size bike can be difficult- In order to achieve a comfortable riding position, the bike has fit your body. The problem with Walmart bikes is that each model typically only comes in one size. If you’re not of average height, you may have trouble finding a bike that you like that fits you. To compare, name-brand bikes sold in bike shops come in a range of frame sizes. Most brands offer 4-7 sizes per model. This allows you to get a much better fit. Another problem is the way Walmart sizes bikes. They sell bikes by wheel size. For example, They might offer mountain bikes with 24″, 26″, 27.5″, and 29″ wheels. The 26″ model might come with an 18″ frame while the 29″ model comes with a 20″ frame. A size chart in the store will recommend a bike with 26″ wheels to a shorter person and a bike with 29″ wheels to a taller person. This is a very inaccurate way to size bikes. The wheel size has very little to do with the frame size. You can easily buy a bike that is too large or too small for your height. Of course, there are ways to improve a bike’s fit after you buy it. For example, you can adjust the handlebars and seat height a bit. Riding a bike that doesn’t fit properly can be uncomfortable and can lead to joint pain or even damage.
- You need to know a bit about bicycle maintenance to keep a Walmart bike on the road- As mentioned earlier, Walmart bikes tend to require more frequent maintenance than higher-end bikes that are sold at bike shops. If you don’t know how to do your own maintenance, you’ll end up spending more in the long run than if you had just shelled out for a more expensive bike. For example, having to pay a bike mechanic to adjust your derailleurs or replace a brake cable adds up quickly. To make owning a Walmart bike economical, you’ll have to buy a few bike tools and learn some basic bicycle maintenance. This isn’t that big of a deal. Anyone can learn to replace brake pads or adjust a derailleur. All you’ll need is a simple multi-tool. You can learn everything you need to know about bike maintenance by watching videos on YouTube.
- You can’t get the bike serviced where you bought it- Walmart and other big box stores just sell the bikes. They don’t have a bike service department. If you need to get some work done on your bike, you’ll have to take it to a local bike shop or do the work yourself. If you decide to do your own maintenance, the good news is that Walmart does sell most of the spare parts you’ll need to keep your bike running including tires, brake pads, cables, grease, basic bike tools, etc.
- You may experience reliability issues- The lower-end components that come with Walmart bikes break down more often and need more frequent adjustment. You don’t want to get stranded or miss an important meeting because your bike failed you. If you’re relying on your bike to get you to work on time, you may want to consider spending a bit more and buying a higher-end bike at your local bike shop.
- Walmart bikes are heavy- A Walmart bike will weigh a few pounds more than a comparable bike shop bike. The main reason is that the frames are made from heavy materials, like high tensile steel. This type of steel weighs more than Chromoly that many higher-end frames are made from. The tubes are often plain gauge, not butted. This increases weight as well because there is more material in the tubes. The low-end components that come installed on Walmart bikes are also heavier. Heavy bikes are inefficient. It takes more energy to accelerate and maintain your speed. They are also slower.
- Low resale value- Bikes, in general, don’t hold their value very well. Even a high-end bike is worth about 40% less the moment you bring it home. Walmart bikes are even worse. Don’t expect to get much back when you’re ready to sell it. After a season of riding, your $99 Walmart bike might be worth $20.
- Durability issues- Walmart bikes work fine for cruising on a flat surface. When riding off-road, all bets are off. Parts can shake loose or break. Catastrophic failures are rare but are much more common on these low-end bikes. If you plan to ride rough trails, you should probably avoid Walmart bikes. If you decide to take your chances, be sure to inspect your bike frequently to make sure it is safe to ride.
- Walmart bikes don’t last as long- Walmart bikes are kind of disposable. They just don’t have the longevity of bike shop bikes. Cheap frames rust or fatigue easily. Cheap parts wear out and break. They are also a bit more fragile. If you ride hard, you can cause some damage. For example, it’s easy to break the cheap plastic pedals that come with most Walmart bikes. I’ve even heard of a crank arm breaking off. Of course, you can replace everything as it breaks. At some point, you’re just better off buying a higher-end bike. Expect to get a few solid years out of your Walmart bike. After that, it may become less reliable. To compare, a quality bike from a major manufacturer can last a lifetime with proper maintenance. Long-distance bicycle tourists routinely put over 50,000 miles on their bikes. Sure, they replace parts as they wear out or break, but it’s still the same bike.
- Poor performance- You’re not going to win any races on a Walmart bike. The low-end components shift slow and sometimes rough. This can slow you down. At high speeds, the bike may develop a shimmy. The suspension systems on mountain bikes tend to have minimal travel and poor damping. They can’t handle drops or jumps. Just smooth trails.
- Some types of bikes aren’t available at Walmart- Walmart mostly sells mountain bikes, road bikes, hybrids, commuter bikes, and kids bikes in their stores. If you want something more niche like a gravel bike or triathlon bike, you may have to buy online or look elsewhere.
- It’s a Walmart bike- Some cyclists are pretty elitist. They won’t respect someone riding a Walmart bike. They may even try to put you down for riding a cheap bike. I think these kinds of people are pretty lame. They are out there though.
- Some bike shops won’t work on them or will just give you a hard time- This point comes from personal experience. Once, when I was about 8 years old, my dad and I went into a bike shop with my Walmart bike to have a flat tire repaired. The owner just kept talking trash about my bike the whole time we were in his shop. He claimed that it was going to fall apart and that the suspension was junk because it was a mass-market bike. He then attempted to sell my dad on a new bike. I’ve grown to dislike bike shops because of this condescending and elitist attitude. These days, I buy most of my bike gear online and do my own repairs and maintenance.
Who Should Buy a Walmart Bike?
As you can see, there are more cons than pros. There are, however, a few occasions where a Walmart bike may be your best option.
You should buy a Walmart bike if:
- Your budget is less than $150- This is the price point where Walmart bikes are the best bargain. You’ll have trouble finding a decent bike anywhere else for less money. Even used bikes cost more unless you get lucky. If $150 is your absolute max budget, head on down to Walmart. If you’re buying a bike in this price range, try to buy the most basic and bare-bones bike you can find. Avoid anything with suspension or disc brakes. You might even want to choose a single-speed instead of a geared bike. The more basic the bike, the better quality the components will be.
- You don’t plan to ride far or often- If you know you’ll only ride your bike a handful of times per year for just a few miles, a Walmart bike will work just fine. For example, maybe you ride down a local bike path a few times during summer or maybe you ride to the corner store a couple of times per month. You don’t need a high-end bike for this type of infrequent riding.
- You want a cheap single-speed bike- Because they are so simple, single-speed Walmart bikes aren’t a bad buy. I have a beach cruiser that I bought at Walmart for $99. I’ve ridden that thing for almost a decade and never had a problem with it. I also test rode my friend’s fixie that he bought at Walmart and it felt pretty decent for the price. It’s hard to screw up such a simple bike.
- You’re buying a bike for your young kids- Kids outgrow bikes in just a year or two. They also don’t know the difference between a good bike and a cheap bike. It’s not worth the money to buy your kid a nice bike until they’re a bit older. If you are buying your kid’s bike at Walmart, you’ll want to be sure to thoroughly inspect the bike to make sure it was properly assembled and is safe to ride.
Who Shouldn’t Buy a Walmart Bike
Mass-market bikes from Walmart or other big box store bikes certainly aren’t for everyone. In fact, most people are better off avoiding them altogether.
You shouldn’t buy a Walmart bike if:
- Your budget is greater than $200- In this case, you’re better off buying used. If you shop around a bit, you can find some nice mid-range or vintage used bikes for less than $200. They may be a bit older but you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck. The bike will also come with better quality components that will be more reliable and durable and won’t need to be adjusted as frequently. Vintage bikes, in particular, can offer an excellent value. You can buy a bike that was once considered high-end for just a couple of hundred dollars. A quality used bike can last a lifetime.
- You plan to use your bike as your main mode of transportation- Regularly commuting and running errands puts a lot of wear and tear on a bike. For example, the bike will get wet or left out in the rain. This can lead to rust. You might load the bike up with heavy groceries. This can put extra stress on the frame, wheels, and drivetrain. When you’re in a hurry, you’ll ride hard. Walmart bikes aren’t built to put up with this kind of constant stress and abuse. Parts will wear out quickly or break. If you plan to use your bike heavily, you’ll want something a bit more durable than a Walmart bike.
- You don’t know anything about bicycle maintenance- As mentioned earlier, Walmart bikes require more frequent maintenance than bike shop bikes. If you don’t know anything about bike maintenance, you’ll end up spending more money in the long run. In this case, you’re better off buying something higher end.
- You’re not on a budget- If money isn’t a problem, there is really no need to even consider buying a Walmart bike. Many times, they are more trouble than they’re worth. Save yourself the hassle and buy a bike shop bike.
- You plan to ride off-road- Walmart bikes are not tough enough to handle any kind of serious off-road riding. The suspension systems perform poorly. Parts will shake loose or break. A large drop or jump could bend a frame or rim. Most Walmart bikes aren’t durable enough for off-road riding. If you just plan to ride some easy trails, you might be able to get away with a Walmart mountain bike.
- You can wait and save up- If you don’t need a bike urgently and you are able to save a bit more money, you probably should. If you can save up an extra hundred dollars, you can get a much nicer bike.
A Few Tips for Choosing a Walmart Bike
Walmart bikes can be hit or miss. Some offer surprisingly solid quality and reliability while others are complete junk and should be avoided. If you’re not familiar with bikes, it can be a challenge to tell the difference between the two. After all, when you’re looking at new bikes, they all look nice. It’s important to pay attention to details.
The most reliable and best quality Walmart bikes tend to be the most boring and basic models. Try to choose a bike without any fancy features. Look for bikes with rim brakes and a rigid frame with no suspension. Look for bikes that don’t include any fancy accessories like racks, fenders, lights, a basket, a bell, etc. Consider choosing a bike with fewer speeds or even a single speed. These bikes generally offer the best value.
You should avoid the flashy-looking bikes. Don’t buy anything with disc brakes, suspension, lots of gears, or fancy accessories. These parts may make the bike look modern and higher end but they usually perform terribly.
Barebones bikes are better because the more basic components that they come with are slightly higher quality and more reliable. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, basic bike parts are simpler to build and cost less. For example, rim brakes are easier to build and cheaper than disc brakes. At the low price point of Walmart bikes, cheap rim brakes will perform better than cheap disc brakes.
Manufacturers can also spend a bit more on the components when they aren’t spending money on more modern components and fancy features. The manufacturer can afford to ship the bike with slightly higher-end rim brakes while still meeting their price point. If the bike comes with more expensive disc brakes, the manufacturer will have to cut corners somewhere else to meet their price point. If you want to add features like a rack or lights, you can always add them on later.
Walmart Bike Alternatives
In my opinion, buying a used bike is the best option for anyone on a tight budget. Decent used bikes start at around $150. If you’re willing to put in a bit of work, you can find a quality used bike for less than $100. Some good places to look for a used bike include Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBay, garage sales, thrift stores, and bike shops. You can also ask your friends and family if they have an old bike sitting around.
Check out my guide to buying a used bike for some helpful tips.
Both of the bikes that I currently own, I bought used. My Schwinn High Sierra that I converted into a touring bike had been sitting in some guy’s garage for over a decade. I bought my Fuji Touring bike used for less than half of the retail price.
Entry-Level Bike Shop Bikes
All of the major bicycle manufacturers such as Trek, Giant, Specialized, Cannondale, etc. offer entry-level bikes. These usually start between $300-$400 and offer an excellent value for your money. When compared to a Walmart bike of a similar price range, these entry-level name-brand bike shop bikes offer:
- Higher-end components- These offer better durability and longevity. The derailleurs and brakes also won’t need to be adjusted as often.
- Better frames- Some Walmart bikes have sloppy welds, warped frame tubes, or bad paint jobs. Name brand bike companies offer much better quality control.
- Better support- You can take the bike back to where you bought it for repairs and maintenance if necessary. As an added bonus, when you buy a bike at a bike shop it usually includes a free service. A mechanic adjusts the brakes and derailleurs after the first 100 miles.
- The prestige of owning a name-brand bike- Every cyclist knows and respects the name brands.
Personally, I would much rather ride a cheap name-brand bike than an expensive mass-market box store bike. If you can afford to spend around $300, you can get a much better bike if you go to a bike shop.
Bike Share Program
Many cities offer bike-sharing programs where you pay a small fee to rent a bike by the minute or hour. Bike share can be a great alternative to buying a bike for multi-modal commuters, those who don’t ride often, and people who live in a small space. This is also a great solution for someone who can’t afford to buy a bike.
There are a few drawbacks to bike-share programs. Oftentimes the bikes aren’t in the best condition. Some cities just don’t maintain the bikes as well as they should. Before taking the bike, briefly inspect it to make sure it’s in decent condition.
My Experience with Walmart Bikes
Over the years, I’ve owned 4 or 5 different Walmart bikes. As a kid, I rode a cheap Walmart mountain Mongoose bike for years without any problems other than a few flats and a broken pedal. Of course, the bike had some issues. It shifted roughly no matter how many times I tried to adjust the derailleur. The suspension was also pretty much useless. Even with those issues, the bike got me around my neighborhood just fine.
During college, I bought a $100 single speed that I used to commute to class and for going on grocery runs. I rode the bike for a year before selling it and upgrading. My one complaint was that the brakes were pretty weak. I actually ended up selling in for more than I paid for it.
Today, I own an OP Roller beach cruiser that I bought from Walmart for $99 in 2010. This is probably my favorite bike that I’ve owned. Mostly thanks to the memories I’ve made on it. It’s been a shockingly reliable and solid bike for the price. The only issue I’ve had with that bike was a flat tire. It has developed a bit of rust as well. The bike has held up incredibly well considering the abuse I’ve put it through over the years and the salty and sandy condtions I’ve ridden it in.
Final Thoughts on the Pros and Cons of Buying a Walmart Bike
Walmart bikes aren’t nearly as bad as people claim them to be. As a kid, I rode my Walmart bikes hard and didn’t really have any problems other than needing to adjust the derailleur once in a while and replace broken plastic pedals. If you take decent care of the bike, it will hold up just fine for many years.
For an example of what a Walmart bike is capable of, check out this YouTube video of a guy riding a $100 Walmart bike across Florida.
With all of this being said, if you have a budget of $200 or more, I recommend you go with a used bike or even splurge on a bike shop bike. You’ll save yourself a lot of hassle and may even save money in the long run. For the $100 price range, Walmart bikes can’t be beaten.
Do you ride a Walmart bike? Share your experience in the comments below!
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