Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fat tire bikes, you make the rocking world go round.

I decided to get back into biking recently, and after a little searching, I discovered these wonderfully ridiculous fat tire bikes sold at Walmart.

26" Mongoose Beast

When I was young, there were “regular” Schwinn-type bikes, BMX bikes, and 10-speeds. It seems mountain bikes are now the dominant type of bike sold in stores. The wheels are bigger and fatter (not as tall as a 10-speed, of course) so it’s not too surprising the market has gone to this extreme. Fat tire bikes can traverse terrain most other kinds of bikes can’t. Even riding over snow and beach sand are possible.

Walmart sells this single speed model called “The Beast” for just under $200. Amazon and Toys R Us have them under different names and color combinations, but at higher prices. The bike is pretty good for the price but has some significant problems. The main cons are:
  1. Gearing is to high - Most people complain that it’s too difficult to pedal due to the gearing. It’s not too bad on level pavement, but it can be challenging going uphill or on soft ground.
  2. Weight - This bike is way too heavy. If it were lighter, the gearing would probably be fine.
  3. Seat is uncomfortable - The stock seat is the cheapest piece of crap I’ve ever had the displeasure to experience. Expect to spend at least $30 for a new seat.
  4. Brakes - The bike uses a coaster brake system instead of hand brakes.
  5. Lubrication - They don’t use much lube. You’ll want to take apart the bike and add more to the bearings.
The gearing can be fixed by swapping out the rear sprocket for a larger one. This necessitates adding a link in the existing chain or replacing it with a bigger one. I ordered a Shimano SG-7C20 Nexus Sprocket (22T) and KMC Z410 Bicycle Chain (1-Speed, 1/2 x 1/8-Inch, 112L) from Amazon. I didn’t realize that I’d need a tool to remove the old chain and to remove two of the links in the new chain. I picked up a chain tool from a local bike shop. I’ll probably never use it again, but it’s needed for this fix. The downside to increasing the rear sprocket is that the pedals have to travel further (backwards) to apply the coaster brake. It’s been reported that the Amazon and Toys R Us versions have smaller crankshaft gears, so they probably won’t need this modification.

I don’t regret buying this bike since I mainly wanted it for exercise. If I needed this to get around town for errands and such, I’d spring for something more expensive, lighter, and multi-speed. There’s a newer 7-speed model called the Dolemite, but at $350-400, it’s not as cost effective. I may upgrade to a better bike in a few years, but for now, this cheap bike is pretty fun. I can blast up a curb onto the sidewalk, go over dirt and grass, and just about everyone who sees me turns their head and exclaims, “Wow! Look at those tires!”

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