My new "big box" bike - Excalibur Thruster 2900

For close to 3 weeks, I've been stopping in at Dunham's Sports in the Schuylkill Mall to look at a particular bike that caught my eye -- a 21-speed 29er for only $279, marked down from $399.

What could I do? I've been looking for a single-speed 29er for trail riding on Thursday nights, but everything I looked at was way too expensive. Now here's this big box bike staring at me for a steal. Then, after I finally decided that I would buy it, I discovered that it was on sale and that I had a discount coupon that ended up dropping the price even lower. When all was said and done, the final price was $237 after taxes. I couldn't resist.

Now, I feel a little bit guilty.

Don't get me wrong, it's not the bike's fault. It has a few flaws and some odd design choices (disc brake in the front, v-brake in the back. WHAT?) but I'm happy with it. I gave it a shakedown ride on some rough terrain, really taking advantage of the freshly fallen blanket of snow that we got yesterday, and just having a great time. And maybe that's the problem.

I want to support my local bike shop. They're good people and I try to buy whatever odds and ends I need from them, but I'm not made of money. The bikes they offer come with a warranty, sturdier components and a happy shop owner who might be willing to help out with some maintenance when things go awry, but they also cost more than twice what I can get from a "big box" chain store.

"Big box" stores like Walmart, Dunham's and Dick's can afford to offer huge discounts and low prices because they don't just sell bikes. Meanwhile, the bikes they do sell tend to be of a lower quality, engineered to be cheap and cost less to produce. Another drawback to using chain stores is that they aren't as knowledgeable or helpful when it comes to things like fit, upkeep and repair. I tried talking about certain technical aspects with one of the sales associates at Dunham's and they looked at me like I had a pair of lobster claws for hands. It just wasn't the kind of service I needed, yet I went ahead and bought a bike from them, anyway. Yup, I'm a jerk.

The only saving grace I have is that I still fully intend to buy the Giant Defy that I test rode a few months ago. When it comes to road bikes, I'm willing to spend the extra money because I've seen the difference between a cheap road bike and an expensive one -- I know what I'm getting. On the other hand, what I mostly want from a mountain bike is something I won't feel bad about abusing and possibly breaking on a regular basis. Even if the bike I bought became a total write off, I wouldn't feel nearly as bad as I would if I'd spent a grand or more on it. That allows me to open up, have a lot more fun and not "baby" it like it's a cherished heirloom. It might not be as nice a bike as I could get for much more money, but I'm willing to bet it's still just as fun.


Ryan Cardinal said...

How has it been? I came across the same bike and am considering it for the same reasons you listed.

Dale Culp said...

Hey Ryan, it's been a good bike, so far. My only complaint is that the chain rubs against the back tire when I've got it in the first chainring (aka, the "granny gear.")

Probably needs an alignment, maybe it's just because of the larger tire? Other than that, it's been a sturdy beast over the last few months. Could probably use a once-over from a real mechanic, though.

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