Walmart made news in the bicycle world at the end of March when the company announced it was selling a $149 fixed-gear bike. The story of the Mongoose Cachet Fixed-Speed Bike was picked up by mainstream publications liked Wired.com (“Hipsters Grieve: The $150 Walmart Fixie”) as well as bike-specific websites like Bike Snob NYC and Prolly is not Probably.
But there was some confusion: The bike — billed as a “fixed-speed” not a “fixed-gear” — made it unclear if this was a single-speed, fixie, or if it had a hub that allowed both options.
Now, more than a month later, the “fixed speed” question has been clarified (it has a flip-flop hub with a freewheel option). You can ride it fixed, but you have to buy an additional cog for that, an add-on part. It seems like the public’s response has been good. The bike is out of stock online and available “in limited stores,” according to the Walmart website. (My quick search on the company’s site yielded that you can’t pick one up at any store within 50 miles of Los Angeles.)
The reviews are mixed. Blogger BikeSnobNYC was “happy to learn about the Cachet” but quickly sobered when it showed up a few days later to test. He wrote that the headset cups had been pressed in at a decidedly jaunty angle and “the headset was so tight that I could barely move the fork.”
That’s not all: After applying a headset wrench to a locknut, it was so tight that the locknut rounded off instead of budging. BikeSnob discovered the fork dropouts were crooked, the front end was out of alignment, and the front brake had issues.
Finally hitting the road, Snob wrote “Sure, $150 was cheap, and sure the bicycle worked, but the mangled headset and front brake in particular were troublesome to me, and it seemed that even $300 could buy you a much better bicycle from a different vendor. . . the fact is that in many ways I’m perhaps too far removed from the Mongoose Cachet demographic to judge it properly, and maybe the fact that it rolls is enough.”
Brad Quartuccio, editor at Urban Velo, had a different experience. He wrote “this bike ends up looking better than some other color-matched bikes out there costing 10 times as much. . . . The parts are far nicer than I at first pictured, and arguably nicer than some of the $250 level bike shop singlespeeds that exist.”
His conclusion? “The bike is what it is — the absolute entry level single speed road bike you can get.”
More importantly, both BikeSnob and Quartuccio had a similar question about the Cachet — is a price point bike like this the way to get more people, especially younger folks, on bikes? My take? I think so. Like many skateboard booms, popularity will drive mass marketers to try to get a piece of the action. And like a department store skateboard, the Cachet will likely give young riders a taste of the fun. Those who get the bug will find a way to upgrade to a different rig or milk more miles out of a $150 bike.
What do you think — if someone buys one of these bikes and has fun, could it help turn them on to cycling for life or, conversely, will a bad experience turn them off to a two-wheeled lifestyle?