Walmart bike shame

On the first uphill, I downshifted and things seemed to go okay… until the hill peaked and I hit the brakes going down the other side. That’s when the bike made a sound like a Canadian goose getting goosed — good old rim brakes making their presence known throughout the woods. Then I tried to shift back into cruising gear and realized the cable to the rear derailleur was shot. Oh great, how do I ride the challenging Vietnam trails without shifting gears??

For a moment I considered throwing the Walmart bike in the bushes and doing a trail run instead. Either way I needed my 60 minutes of sweat and solace after spending 9 previous hours staring at the computer screen and dealing with all sorts of deadlines.


Riding a Walmart bike is a shameful practice, even for someone like me who can’t afford to be a bike snob. People post photos online of mis-assembled bikes in their stores with forks on backward and other scary issues. My early mishaps were a lesson to me that Walmart bikes may look like “real” bikes, but decent components may be a matter of life and death on real trails.

Why was I on the Walmart bike to begin with? My good bike was at home, 50 miles away. My back-up bike has a flat and needs a new tube. Mike’s got all sorts of bikes in his garage but none I’d ride off-road… or probably at all. In fact, his Walmart bike is in worse shape than mine, with a screwdriver taped to the crossbar to help get the chain unstuck from the frame when things go awry (basically, anytime he shifts)!

We bought the bikes in Florida to ride in Florida. Florida is frying pan flat, or I might have found the shifter cable flaw earlier. When we’re there I just ride on sidewalks, to the beach or the gym. Nothing serious.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t so bad once I figured out how to hold the right shifter in place when I climbed hills. Soon I encountered a fleet of other mountain bikers flying through the woods. I decided the best tactic for staying anonymous was to ride behind them because then they’d never see my shameful Walmart bike.

In the rare event that I might actually see and talk to another biker, I rehearsed my lines. It was going to be something like, “I know, it says Mongoose, that’s Walmart all the way. I just had to ride today or lose my mind. I’d take a tricycle out here before I’d stay home on a night like this.” Fortunately I didn’t have to explain myself as all the bikers I saw were on their own flight paths. They didn’t hear the brakes squeal or the suspension squeak.

After a while I got into my own groove and found some great terrain I hadn’t tried before, smooth singletrack through a garden of ferns. The tiny frame of this cheap bike made navigating around rock gardens much easier (was it this easy on my real bike, I wondered?). I owned the hills, even when my hand slipped and the gears went back up. The mosquitoes weren’t even as bad as they usually are. Maybe faking that I was riding a “real bike” made me ride harder than I usually do. I enjoyed hopping the logs and taking the drops because it was a brief thrill every time the Mongoose performed like my good bike.

At the end of the night I was just as sweaty and relaxed and as happy as I generally am when I have my best bike to ride. Is that a score for Walmart, or for riding in stealth mode? Whatever — the distance from my computer is the same no matter which bike I’m on.




One Response to “Walmart bike shame”

  1. My Walmart century ride | She's Gone Says:

    […] pump tracks but really just sit on their bikes in the 7-11 parking lot eating Cheetos. Last summer I took it to the Vietnam trails out of desperation and was mortified that someone might see me on it. Mike bought its craptastic twin at Walmart and […]

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