walmart bike aisle with full display racks

Planning to buy a bike from Walmart? Well, you might want to reconsider your decision.

There are a lot of reasons NOT to buy a Walmart bike. But if you’re going to do it anyway, at least be prepared. Here’s everything you need to know before buying a bike from Walmart.

Walmart Bikes Aren’t All Bad

Let me be clear upfront that yes, there are some valid reasons to buy a bike from Walmart. I get it. I rode quite a few department store bikes throughout my childhood. I even purchased a Walmart bike, willingly, as an adult.

I can’t say that Walmart bikes are good, but I can see why you’re considering a Walmart bike.

The bikes are cheap!

If you’re on a very strict budget, a bike shop bike for $400 is going to seem vastly overpriced compared to one at Walmart for $200.

If your max budget is $200, a bike shop won’t even have a bike for you. Especially if you’re also buying a helmet. And then there’s sales tax.

Maybe you don’t have the money, or maybe you don’t know if you’ll even ride the bike much at all, so you don’t want to waste money.

So a bike shop is simply out of the question.

You can get a brand new bike – cheap!

Not only is the Walmart bike cheap, it’s brand new. Right off the showroom floor.

Maybe there are used bikes in your price range, but they’re used.

Even if a used bike is a better value, there’s something about buying a brand spankin’ new bike that’s just for you.

It’s simple.

Want to buy a bike? You just walk into your local Walmart, grab a bike off the shelf, roll it to the front, pay (even self-checkout), and walk out.

You don’t have to go to a bike shop where you might encounter an elitist salesperson, either trying to upsell you on exorbitantly expensive bikes or talking down to you for considering a department store bike.

Most bikes are “one size fits all” so there’s no complicated fitting.

Best of all, you don’t have to spend hours perusing Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. No phishing schemes to contend with. No negotiating. No driving to someone’s house to look at a bike that’s not in the same condition as it showed in the pictures.

It’s so much easier at Walmart!

There’s a return policy.

Perhaps the most important piece is that you can always return the bike for a full refund. (Unlike buying a used bike, which would be sold as-is, with no warranty nor return policy.)

I encourage you to check the latest policies for your local store. But I think if it’s within 90 days and you have the receipt, you can probably return the bike for any valid reason. Some stores will accept it almost “no questions asked.”

But each store is a little different, and in general, return policies have become more strict in recent years.

(There are just too many people abusing return policies. It’s not just Walmart. Even REI had to crack down on their famous return policy.)

Here’s Why You Should Avoid Walmart Bikes

Regardless of the convenience of buying a bike at Walmart, there are many, many reasons NOT to buy a bike from Walmart!

A bike shop bike is a better value.

It’s not just hyperbole from a bike shop sales pitch. This is reality.

If you’re going to ride seriously and keep your bike for many years, it is absolutely a better value to buy one from the bike shop.

The bike shop bike will be more durable, so it will likely last for years with just basic maintenance. If something breaks, you can find replacement parts relatively easily.

It will also offer more adjustments so it can be set up as you wish and you’ll get a good fit. (So you’ll probably ride more, and be happier while riding!)

Of course, the quintessential beginner’s bike – the Trek 820 – now sports a $499.99 price tag! That’s not cheap, but it’s still a better value than a comparable Huffy for $128.

But, some bike is better than no bike at all, so you might have to buy the Walmart bike now rather than save up and buy a bike shop bike later.

(I have to admit it’s impressive on Walmart’s part that they can still sell a $100 Huffy mountain bike. The Trek 820 used to be around $300 and now with inflation, it’s $500. But Walmart still sells the $100 Huffy.)

A Walmart bike is going to be hard to upgrade.

No matter what bike you buy, parts will eventually wear out. It’s just like a car where you need routine maintenance and have to replace brake pads, tires, etc. You might also choose to upgrade parts when it’s time for replacement.

With a bike shop bike, this is no problem. They are built to current industry standards and you’ll have no trouble replacing or upgrading the components.

If you purchased from a bike shop, and a part breaks or wears out, just go back to the shop and they’ll probably have the replacement part on hand – and can fix it.

Trying to replace parts on a Walmart bike is a crapshoot. When the goal is to make a bike as cheaply as possible, parts compatibility is not a concern!

A lot of these Walmart bikes are based on outdated technology and it will be very difficult – if not impossible – to find compatible replacements. Heck, the way the parts are constructed, they might not even be replaceable. One thing is for sure – you can’t walk into Walmart and buy a replacement part and have it installed for you.

Now I will say, if you happen to buy one of the $500 Walmart bikes, or a similarly priced bike from a retailer like Dick’s Sporting Goods, there’s a good chance you can upgrade those. And you definitely will want to upgrade your big box bike!

On the $100 Walmart bike though… not gonna happen.

You absolutely need to check over the bike for proper assembly and adjustment.

Safety is the biggest cause for concern with Walmart bikes. This is the main reason people try to steer you away from Walmart bikes.

It’s rarely about being a snob. It’s about the inherent danger of riding a Walmart bike!

[Related: Parents Sue Walmart Over [Allegedly] Defective Bicycles]

At a bike shop, all bikes will be assembled and adjusted by a professional mechanic. At a Walmart, you really don’t know if the assembler has any idea what they are doing.

There is no standard for quality control. Some stores happen to hire competent mechanics, some do not. Some stores allow enough time for bike builds, some do not. You’d be very lucky to find yourself at a store that not only employs a competent mechanic but allows him or her enough time to work properly!

In this day and age, with corporate profits above all else, I only expect this issue to get worse.

You’ll need to learn to do your own maintenance.

As I alluded to earlier, your bike is going to need maintenance. Doesn’t matter where you bought it. Even if it’s brand new. It will need maintenance and adjustments eventually.

If you purchased from a bike shop, you can always get the shop to maintain the bike. Not so with a department store bike. Not only can’t you take it into the department store for maintenance (you can return the bike to Walmart, but you can’t go to Walmart for a tune-up!), but many bike shops refuse to service these bikes. So you don’t even get the option of someone else servicing your bike.

If you do find a shop willing to work on your bike… sometimes a repair estimate from a bike shop will exceed the price you paid for the bike in the first place!

The best approach is to learn how to DIY.

What all does this entail?

  • You’ll need to buy tools.
  • You’ll need to learn how to use them.
  • You’ll need to take the time to fix your bike.

Between the cost of the tools and the value of your time, that certainly adds up!

What tools do I need?

Not to mention, cheap parts come out of adjustment more easily, so you have to do maintenance more often!

Walmart bikes are getting expensive!

I mentioned the $128 Huffy and how I’m surprised there is any bike that cheap. But that bike is the exception, not the rule.

A lot of Walmart bikes are actually $200-500. There’s even a carbon fiber mountain bike that’s nearly $700.

For instance, see Walmart’s recent announcement launching their own house brand Ozark Trail mountain bikes featuring “light aluminum frames, three available wheel sizes, variable frame sizing, mechanical disc brakes, short-travel suspension forks and available groupsets from brands like Shimano and Microshift.” Those are priced at $200-400.

There’s also the Schwinn Boundary mountain bike. It’s a relatively modern bike with 29″ wheels, disc brakes, and a 1X drivetrain. But the retail price is $549.99.

schwinn boundary mountain bike from walmart

Wow, $550 for a Walmart bike! At that point, you’re into bike shop prices. You could probably take home a Trek Marlin for that price. (And the Trek Marlin is a nice bike with support and a warranty!)

Imagine paying $500 or more for a Walmart bike that inevitably implodes due to improper assembly!

If anything, the more complex $500 bikes are more likely to be assembled incorrectly. (Because the technology is more modern, it’s more likely to require specialized mechanic skills.)

One size does not fit all.

The cheaper bikes at Walmart are typically a “one size fits all.”

In reality, that one size might not fit very well. But it’s not like there is anyone in the store to warn you!

Best case scenario: you get lucky and the bike fits well enough that you don’t notice problems. Worst case: the bike fit is so bad that you can’t control the bike properly and have a bad crash.

A more realistic scenario is you start to ride more and end up with pain in your wrists or knees from being in a non-ergonomic position.

You might not be able to adjust the bike’s seat height, fore-aft position, or handlebar reach enough to get comfortable. And you might not be able to install a longer stem or other replacement part due to compatibility issues.

So you’re stuck.

The $300+ bikes may come in multiple sizes, but still, you’re on your own when choosing which frame size is right! So why not just go to a bike shop?

When A Walmart Bike Is Right For You

Here are the situations where I think it might make sense to buy a Walmart bike:

If your max budget is $128.

Walmart has bikes priced at $128 and lower. I’ve even seen the $128 Huffy mountain bike on sale for $98. That’s so cheap!

huffy rock creek men's 26 inch mountain bike from walmart

There’s no way a bike shop can match a price this low. (Bike shop bikes tend to start around $500.)

And used bikes in this price range might also be a disaster. (The sweet spot for used bikes is usually $200-500.)

So for $100, Walmart might be your only option.

You want a simple bike.

If you just want a beach cruiser or something super simple, a Walmart bike might be fine.

These bikes have no suspension nor gears. There’s nothing complicated. Something from Walmart is probably good enough.

And it shouldn’t be too complicated for you to maintain, after watching a few Youtube videos.

The two more modern bikes I purchased at Walmart were a Mongoose BMX bike and a fixie. Both single speeds, no suspension. Very plain. And they weren’t terrible.

What you want to avoid is the flashy stuff like full suspension and disc brakes. It won’t function well and it also means they had to cut corners elsewhere.

If you only plan to ride very short distances, very rarely.

If you’re just riding on the road or bike path, and only going a mile or two -or even less – you’ll be fine on a Walmart bike.

Maybe you just need a quicker way to get across campus or down the street. Just doing a few 1/4 mile rides during the day. Great!

For situations where you won’t be stranded in the middle of nowhere if/when the bike breaks down, ride that Walmart bike with joy!

If it’s a kids bike, for a fast-growing child.

If you’re a responsible adult and an experienced cyclist, it’s no problem buying a kids bike at Walmart.

If your kid might grow out of the bike in one year or less, the bike will probably hold up long enough.

Key prerequisites here are that you are going to inspect the bike for damage pre-purchase, and reassemble everything when you get it home. Which is the same thing you should do if you were to buy a used bike!

ozark trail mountain bike on walmart store shelf

To recap:

Do NOT buy a Walmart bike:

  • if you can budget $250 or more.
  • if you depend on the bike for commuting to your job.
  • if you’re not mechanically inclined.
  • if you plan to go on rough mountain biking trails.
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