Posts filed under ‘Videos’
Below is a short video (or here) of my very first impressions of riding Britain’s cheapest bicycle. Then follows some thoughts…
About the bike
It’s a British Eagle “Tulsa” adult mountain bike with 18 gears. It has a fully rigid (no suspension) steel frame and is a large size. It cost £70 from Asda. More details here
I was secretly hoping that there would be untold problems but the truth is that so far – and we are only talking one ride – everything that needs to work properly has done so. Some readers are probably disappointed I haven’t made it sound worse but I think a balanced view is important, and anyhow wait til you hear about the ride…
Brakes are fine, although the plastic brake levers leave much to be desired. More below. The gears are working as they should. Handlebars, stem headset are all ok. And of course the front forks are facing the right way.
Well nearly everything works. It would appear that the thread for the right pedal has not been set correctly in the crank arm, which means the pedal is not perfectly flat. See the video for a better explanation.
I suspect the main reason everything is ok (so far) is because the bike was assembled by a professional mechanic who had the skills, experience and right tools to do the job. Some bike mechanics argue these bikes are impossible to set-up properly. I guess that depends which bike in question as not all Bicycle Shaped Objects are made equal.
I have only been riding the Tulsa for a day or two so we have no idea if everything will continue to work ok as it gets more use.
Frame and components
There has already been some coverage of the issues with the bike and its components and here are my thoughts and responses.
- Hi-Tensile Steel Frame – this is marketing speak which has not been used in modern bicycle production for a few years, I think. Its code for having a frame made from very low grade steel which offers absolutely no flex and therefore comfort. The bike is heavy but not overly so. Given this is an MTB which some owners may well take off road its going to be a hard ride. See below for my comments on the ride quality. Plus the sizing and angles of the frame are very strange. More below.
- Quill stem – ok so quill stems are a little old fashioned in the fast-developing world of bicycle technology but they work just fine and are on many bikes. The stem on this bike is ok, although there was no grease in the steerer tube when we got the bike which could mean the stem seizes in the steerer tube over time without any maintenance.
- “Power Gears & Shifters” – this is a low end brand made to look like Shimano (the No 1 brand for those who didn’t know). Working just fine at the moment and relatively easy for our mechanic to set-up- although see below for issues with gripshift gear shifters – however still needs to stand the test of time. Could be upgraded but would you seriously spend anything extra on such a cheap bike?
- Plastic pedals - these are real bargain bin and the right pedal is not properly flat. See video below. There is very poor grip on the pedals and I don’t see them lasting too long.
- Wheels not true – Both front and rear wheels are not straight. The front wheel has quite a bit of movement which means I have had to adjust the brakes so they do not rub on the wheel rim. Unfortunately some new owners might not know to do this – or have the correct screwdriver as it is not supplied with the bike – therefore they could find braking more difficult and the rubbing of the brake blocks on the rims annoying.
- Seatpost – this is way too short for a large size bike aimed at riders well over 6ft tall. Plus the minimum insertion mark is so low down the seatpost that there is probably not enough of it inside the frame. This could cause problems to the frame or seatpost but we shall see.
- V Brakes – they work fine at the moment however the plastic levers are very poor and do not inspire confidence when braking due to the fact that they flex and bend so much when applying any pressure. The front brake cable routing also appears broken. See Part One of our assembly video.
I don’t think I have ever ridden a bicycle which made me want to cycle less often. The ride quality and feel of this bike is terrible.
However, how a bike “feels” when you ride it can be a very subjective personal thing so let me start with a few facts.
- Not enough hand room causes phantom gear changes – See the video below for the best explanation but basically the handlebar grips are so narrow and because they are integrated with the gripshift style gear shifters you find yourself changing gear, without either realising or wanting to. This is particularly noticeable on the front gears and is truly frustrating, especially when going up hill.
- Uncomfortable handlebar grips – these grips are solid and hard with absolutely no give whatsoever. They are so hard I thought at first they were plastic but they do appear to be rubber. For a rigid MTB the grips offer no shock absorption at all and very little actual grip.
- Pedal not flat – see the video below but I hope this makes sense: it would seem that the thread in the right hand crank arm is at a slight angle which means the pedal is not totally flat. Therefore your foot is at a slight angle on the pedal which feels very strange.
- What’s up with the frame sizing? – According to the box – remember you can’t ask a member of staff or test ride it before you buy it – this is a large 20″ frame for riders with an inside leg measurement of 29″-35″. I have an inside leg of 33″ and am 6ft 2″. It looks and feels very small. It rides like it should be much smaller which means a very cramped experience where it is impossible to stretch your legs to a comfortable position. Taller riders would seriously struggle in my opinion.
- Which leads me on to the saddle – there are two points related to the saddle. The first is that it is uncomfortable. It appears to have quite a bit of cushioning however it has no flex whatsoever. The second point is that because the bike is / feels too small I find myself sitting further back on the saddle which makes the saddle – and the ride quality – feel even more uncomfortable.
So those are the facts as it were. Now for the personal opinion:
I believe one of the driving forces behind getting more people cycling is not price but experience. When I cycle I want to look and feel great, I also generally want to feel safe but that’s a bigger discussion for a different blog. I don’t want to feel totally uncomfortable on a bike which feels like its too small for me and which has components which rather than adding to the experience, ie, making it feel better, actually detract from it by making the riding of the bike feel even worse.
Looks matter. I don’t care what you say, we buy with our eyes and this bike looks terrible.
I don’t ride this bike with my head held high as the proud owner of a great looking bicycle which I love to ride. I feel a little ashamed that people think I’m cheap. That sounds really vain but its the truth. I believe for the vast majority of people riding a bike is an extension of their personal style and a statement – like the car, the house, the shoes, the bag, the coat, the hair, the newspaper, the etc – of who they are. I might buy my weekly food shopping at the supermarket but I don’t want to take the supermarket with me everywhere I go.
But I (and possibly you) are not the arbitrators of style and quality.
I think this might be at the heart of the issue. The problem with cheap bikes – if we put aside that pesky safety issue – is that they don’t make cycling an enjoyable longterm experience. They could be putting people off cycling altogether or limiting their cycle usage.
If cheap bikes are short term they undermine all the good stuff cycling can achieve. Bicycle production is not environmentally friendly.But cycling is. The problem with cheap bikes is they become just another disposable environment damaging item for landfill, sheds or dumping in those woods you think nobody else goes to. Almost certainly cheap bikes are less likely to have a long useful life to be re-used and re-cycled by others.
Of course a counter argument could be that if cheap bikes gets some use and lead to some people cycling more often, and in turn changing their habits and possibly getting a “proper bike” in time then surely they have a part to play and at the end of the day not everyone wants – or can afford – to spend more on a bicycle.
I recorded the entire build and assembly of the bike on video which you can see below. Following these are some additional points and thoughts.
The first video below is a short 5 minute version and then I have split the longer version into two parts, which you can also view below
Below is the short version, which can also been seen here
Below is part one of the longer version. If can’t view below try here
And here is part two. If you can’t view part two below try here
What did we find when we assembled the bike?
- The front forks come out of the box facing the wrong way and there is nothing in the instructions to tell you to turn them. In my view this is the main reason why so many flat-pack bikes are fully assembled with the forks still facing backwards. If you happened to go into a store and the display bike also had its forks facing backwards – and perhaps you also saw the same thing in a catalogue, on a website or TV advert – why would you think any different?
- The headset was rusty straight out of the box. You can see this in part one. Lewis suspects the headset was already rusting when it was painted and then fitted to the bike. As you can see in part two of the video the paint flakes off very easily. This is not good, regardless of how much you spend.
- The supplied spanner was made of cheese. As you can see in part one of the video Lewis applies very little pressure to the spanner whilst fitting the front wheel, yet the spanner bent and became useless. We used a professional torque wrench to tighten the front wheel to the correct setting as supplied in the instruction book. There is very little chance that you could get the wheel bolts sufficiently tight enough using the supplied spanner. This clearly represents a safety issue.
- The seat post is not long enough. This bike is designed for riders with an inside leg measurement up to 35 inches, yet the seat post is clearly not long enough to give taller riders a decent amount of leg room. Secondly, because the seat post is so short there is very little of it inserted into the frame, especially when it is set at maximum height. This will place additional forces on both the frame and seat post which could cause either of these to bend, crack or snap. Again this is a potential safety issue.
- The tyres were only partly inflated. The front tyre had 10psi and the rear 15psi. The tyres should be inflated to 40 – 65psi. This is usual practice for new bikes delivered to retailers, however most bike shops will assemble the bike for sale and this will include inflating the tyres. Clearly if you buy the bike flat-pack without it ever being touched by the retailer and you don’t own a pump or know anything about bikes, you are going to assume these tyres are ok to ride. Low pressure tyres will have an impact on ride quality, steering and braking. Next time you are in the street see how many people are riding with tyres at very low pressures. Is this choice or ignorance?
Here is a short video of buying the bike, discussing the process and the bike. If you can’t see the video below try here
Details of the bike and other models on the Asda website
A few things covered in the video but I think are worth highlighting:
- Displaying bikes in boxes – let alone selling them that way – does not feel like good retail practice. I guess its all part of the cheap low cost way of doing things.
- To be clear I was offered no advice about the bike, and to be honest I’m not sure the staff could have offered much. There is no point-of-sale literature on display in this Asda store to assist the buying process. And certainly there is no opportunity to test the bike for size or fit.
- I was asked if I would like help taking the bike to my car.
- The bike is not as heavy as I thought it would be. Which is a good thing.
- The bike is supplied by Falcon Cycles Ltd and manufactured in Tunisia. I have very little knowledge of Tunisia as a centre for bicycle production, as most bicycles are produced in the Far East.
- In my personal opinion there are serious issues of sustainability and ethical production surrounding this bike. If a bike sells for £70 how much did it cost to produce, transport, import, distribute and market? Asda says it is selling these bikes at no-profit, which could also mean in retail-speak that they are “loss leaders” designed to drive footfall to stores . But what about the suppliers and manufacturers, are they equally as charitable in this project and taking no profit?