Welcome to Pisgah Forest, home to a huge array of remote and challenging mountain bike trails. To get anywhere here, you need to climb a few thousand feet. To get out alive your bike needs to hold up to roots, sharp rocks, and sustained braking. There’s no cell phone reception out here, and the trails are far too narrow for emergency vehicles. When your very life depends on your equipment, what value would you place on reliability?
That fact that we’re at Walmart is pretty irrelevant. It could just as easily be Target, Amazon.com, or even Canadian Tire. They all offer the same thing—bikes built and assembled to the lowest spec possible.
With names like trouble, wipeout, ambush, and carnage, these bikes deliver what they promise, but today we’re staying optimistic. Alex and I are taking our time and weighing our options. Even in a sea of super cheap bikes, we can choose the ones that suit our priorities best.
We settled on a pair of Genesis V2100’s, which had front discs, threadless headsets, and half decent saddles. As we checked out, reality started to set in. We’d be relying on these bikes for over 5000 feet of elevation change. We’d need all the help we could get. Back at the house I packed everything from sockets to gorilla tape, to zip ties, to extra food, lest we get stranded on the far reaches of mount Mitchell.
We set out with our new bikes in tow, and kept two main goals in mind; Make it down the trail in one piece, and finish it off with Mexican food.
What started as a ride quickly devolved into a grueling hike. It wasn’t the gearing, or even the weight—we just tried and couldn’t. The tires had no traction, and the bikes flexed like crazy under any kind of torque. Once the grade evened out we had a much easier time, and started to clear some serious ground. We were enjoying nature, and It wasn’t long before we reached our first downhill.
Although it was only 50 yards, it was telling. Alex and I settled in for a long ride up the old Mitchell toll road, knowing full well that the climb might be the easy part.
We were climbing at a snail’s pace, painstakingly choosing our lines. Our cranks started creaking, and our hubs began to eat themselves, but we picked our way up the toll road without encountering any major mechanical failures. In fact, we were enjoying ourselves. For $149, Alex and I were taking part in an activity enjoyed by the likes of dentists and jewelers, with their pretty $6000 bikes. What do those bikes do that these can’t anyway?
On my trail bike, this janky rock garden is a blast. On this bike, I couldn’t wait for it to be over.
As you can see, Alex had been going much slower than me. He had the sense to. His bike had not one bit of damage to it, while I was nursing a blown up fork and no drivetrain whatsoever. It was clear by this comparison that speed is the major destructive force on these bikes.
As I edit this video, my hands, arms, shoulders, and torso still hurt from this ride. On my trail bike, the brakes can be applied with one finger. On the Genesis, braking is a full body workout that leaves you in pain for days.
We had made it to the end, sort of…. we still needed to get to the car. Luckily it was mostly downhill and I could hitch a ride on Alex’s backpack. After beating ourselves up for the better part of 5 hours, there was only one thing on our minds.
Playing around on department store bikes might be fun and games, but I found that riding one on an actual mountain bike excursion is not fun, and most definitely not a game. Still I’m amazed that Alex’s bike survived. Although he was using a lot more restraint than I was, everything from the gears to the brakes were working at the bottom. To Walmart’s credit, there are warnings on these bikes that tell you not to take them on mountain bike trails. After our journey, I’d have reason to believe that on a flat dirt path, the Genesis V2100 would inconvenience you at the very most, not kill you.
But just like sushi, tattoos, and cosmetic surgery, you’ll regret cheaping out on a bike that you really intend on exploring the mountains with. If you want to fall in love with mountain biking, try renting something first, or save up $400 for an entry level hardtail. In the meantime you can hike these trails for free. With one of these you may be hiking anyway.
If you enjoyed this video, I have plenty of others on this topic. Let me know what you think below, and better yet give me some ideas of what to do with these next. Thanks for riding with me today, and I’ll see you next time.