Junk Brands

In the industry well call them BSO’s, which stands for Bike Shaped Objects. They may look like a bicycle, but are so poorly engineered and manufactured that you really should stay away from them. They are heavy, they don’t use industry standards, etc. For the most part, these are sold at department and big box retailers. For more discussion on BSO’s read my blog post here.

Here’s a list of brands to avoid:

  • NEXT
  • Roadmaster
  • Magna
  • Huffy
  • ANY bike sold under a car mfg name (Honda, Hummer, GMC, Lamborghini, etc)
  • Pacific
  • Kent
  • Motiv
  • Murray
  • Triax
  • Genesis (the U.S. brand)
  • Diamondback*
  • Mongoose*
  • Schwinn*
  • Thruster
  • Fix-d
  • Takara +
  • Nishiki +
  • Vilano/Giordano
  • Dynacraft

If there’s an asterik, it’s because these brands used to make good bikes decades ago. Now the brand name is just licensed to a cheap bike manufacturer that slaps the once prestigious name on bike shaped objects thereby duping the customer into thinking they’re buying a quality bike. So if you’re looking at one of these brands and it’s a bike that’s 15+ years old, it’s a real bike.

+Takara and Nishiki were once good brands from the 70′s/80′s. The Takara name is being slapped on bike shaped objects sold online and elsewhere. The Nishiki name is now being used on sporting goods store bicycles (still sub-par quality compared to a bike shop bike).

2 Thoughts on “Junk Brands

  1. Actually, I consider old dept. store bikes to be good bikes compared to the modern iteration of BSO’s. The Huffy Aerowind and some of their 3-speeds are tough, and even decent in their handling. The brake levers/calipers were still made of higher quality steel than the stamped steel ones nowadays (which can bend under heavy braking), and I never saw any of them snap the way I’ve seen the new BSO’s caliper arms fail, (I’ve also seen bikes get brought in where they have ripped themselves cleanly out of the frame). It’s like modern dept. store bike manufacturers aren’t even trying anymore.

    I volunteer at a co-op and work for a bike shop. There’s a HUGE difference in quality between BSO’s of yesteryear (read: up until 1990) and today.

    Just as legit and high-end brands got bought out, you should mention that even the dept. store bikes of yesteryear suffered a loss of quality when they were bought out.

    Also, may want to throw in Free Spirit as a vintage dept. store bike. Their older stuff is on-par with BSO’s of their time (rideable as a daily-rider, but nothing to write home about) but then in the dying years of the brand produced absolute garbage from China, exactly the same as the NEXT “Power Climber” 2x suspension series. Unrideable within in a week due to mechanical failure.

    Some other vintage dept. store bikes (read: not as terrible as today’s dept. store bikes, but nothing to write home about) : Montgomery Ward, Hawthorne, American Flyer, Free Spirit, among a few other major brands you haven’t listed.

    Modern schwinn is making a tiny bit of a rebound, with their new Prelude being a somewhat-respectable road bike, and some of their higher-end models being bike-shop quality, with models made of carbon fiber. Not as good as the old stuff, I.M.O., as the frames feel a bit noodle-y, but I’m not a fan of carbon fiber in general.

    Motobecane is also Chinese now, and you haven’t listed them; their bikes are decent, but I’ve often found them to be mechanically troubled.

  2. Actually, this is incorrect in some areas.

    A lot of old dept. store bikes were quite good in their own way. Most weren’t high-performance, but they came with alloy pedals and forged steel components, and many included a lugged frame. Some even had nice derailleurs and other such good quality components. Most had single-piece cranks (which I love as a mechanic), and don’t suffer component failure anywhere NEAR as often as modern BSO’s do.

    Modern ones make you wonder if the manufacturer is even trying anymore. I’ve seen brakes ripped out of the frame. I’ve seen wheels bent from dropping down a curb. I’ve seen derailleurs snap like twigs from casual shifting, plastic gripshifts shatter, and the actual stamped steel brake calipers bend. (Forged > Stamped, if you have to ask, and most vintage ones, even on low-end bikes, are forged to not bend.)

    The quality suffered immensely when the bike manufacturing moved to China, even on “BSO’s” (which were actually rideable if you paid even a smidgen of attention to their mechanical working order).

    Examples of rideable vintage dept. store bikes (if not the highest performance, mind you, but at least they didn’t fail instantly) : Free Spirit, Huffy (their road bikes were pretty solid, and you never listed them on here), Murray (their ’80s BMX’s and ’80s road bikes are good), Ross (you never listed either). BCA and Columbia are similar to Murray. Decent low-end bikes, nothing to write home about, but mechanically reliable with even basic servicing.

    Lower end vintage dept. store stuff: Hawthorne, American Flyer, Montgomery Ward, AMF. Mostly these were junk even in their heyday.

    There is not a single redeemable thing about new dept. store bikes, though. Nothing. At all.

    Modern schwinn is trying to get a quality resurgence with their carbon fiber lineup and getting back into bike shops. But they have a ways to go before restoring consumer confidence. Motobecane is also now Chinese, and I find them to be the most mechanically troubled bikes in the shortest amount of time for the price a person pays when they buy one. Mongoose is also crap, but you didn’t list that.

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