WalMart selling cheap dutch-style bikes

Wageningen bike
A real dutch bike that is probably worth saving … maybe. Wouldn’t say the same for a Hollandia from WalMart. Image from Jacek.NL on Flickr.

Well, it was a nice run but now that WalMart has started selling crappy knock-off dutch bikes I guess we’ll have to close up shop and find another niche to fill in the cycling market … or not.

WalMart’s “dutch” bikes are (like all the bikes they sell), made in china and priced to sell. The bikes come through the insufferably unhip Cycle Force Group – the same polo shirt wearing corporate types that sell “Smith & Wesson(tm)” bicycles and other brand-named chinese-made rolling hunks of crap.

I had a chance to see the Hollandia house brand from Cycle Force Group at last year’s Interbike and I’ll tell you now what I thought then: “It is about damn time.”

Are these bikes low quality? Yes. I wouldn’t trust them to hold up to the elements … at all. I wouldn’t rely on the craftsmanship invested in these cheap knock-offs to get me through even a single season of everyday riding.

However, unlike most of the junk on wheels that WalMart passes off as a bicycle, these things are designed using tried and tested frame geometries stolen straight off the streets of the world’s cycling capital: the Netherlands.

These bikes also come with clothing neutral fenders, chain guards, rear and front racks (depending on the models), internal gearing, and a classic European look.

I can’t tell you how many hulking, piece of junk, triple suspension “mountain” bikes we have had the unfortunate luck to attempt to repair over the last couple of years, but we’d be happy (as would most mechanics) to never fiddle with a $0.59 rear derailleur again.

Most WalMart bikes don’t work by design – shifters are made of plastic so cheap they snap after a few successful shifts, brake levers come apart after a dry spell. Their shortcomings would require an entire post, nay a 10 part series of posts. As opposed to a crappy “mountain” bike, a single speed dutch-esque bike has very few components that need maintenance – which means these crappy WalMart bikes have an advantage over other crappy WalMart bikes. Other than all the inevitable annoying clanking and rubbing noises the bike will develop as plastic guards snap and shake free, these bikes are designed as beasts that can actually handle the brutal realities that their triple-sprung “mountain” bike cousins are forced to deal with (and quickly fold underneath the force of) on a daily basis on the streets of the US of A.

Having the largest (in terms of numbers of bikes sold) retailer of bikes in America selling Dutch-style bikes is a great thing. These are the entry point for even the most casual of cyclists (the once-a-year-type) to toy with the idea of using a good work bike to do everyday things. Once Americans come to understand the deeply troubling quality issues that all WalMart bikes have, they’ll switch up to something a bit better or “go git a new one” and cast the spare Dutch-style parts into the grey market world of bike collectives and homeless dudes.

Dare I even suggest the unthinkable? Autocentric mass retailer WalMart is creating a more bikeable America by taking a risk with these Dutch-style bikes?

Your views on this matter are sincerely appreciated.

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