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Looks Great - Beware the Hidden Costs
on April 9, 2015
Looks good in the pictures, almost exactly like the Public bike with similar features (7-speed). My wife is happy with it, and it's for her, so in the end, that's good. There are a few caveats:
1. You *will* need to get the bike tuned. And assembled. I did the basic assembling, but the brakes and wheel hub bearings in particular needed adjusting on ours. Plus the wheels were slightly out of true. So, unless you're a capable bike mechanic and are good at truing up bike wheels (not a straightforward thing if you're not trained to do it right), expect to pay anywhere from $60 to $100 at your local bike shop to get the bike in truly decent working order. Most shops will also fully assemble and tune the bike for you, but again, this "hidden cost" adds to the cost of the bike. Maybe you are willing to just assemble it out of the box and not worry too much about fine-tuning. For me, I wanted to be sure the bike - brakes especially but also shifter, wheels, hubs, etc. were in top tuning condition before I put my wife on it, though.
2. It all looks good, but on closer inspection none of the components are particularly well-built and all but the shifter/derailleur are no-brand parts. Kind of what you expect at such a low price point - I get that. But, keep in mind the extra $60 to $100 you'll likely spend to get the bike in shape, and add that to the cost of this bike when you compare costs of other bikes. This isn't really a $299 bike. It's at least a $360 bike, probably $400 if you're planning on needing a bike shop to do all the work for you.
3. At a $400 price point, you could probably get a number of other very similar looking bikes with better, at least branded, components. See, E.G., the Public 7-speed bike. We live in the San Francisco bay area, and I really wanted to get the Public version of this for my wife for the sale price of $429, but the $299 price of this Cirtical Cycles version made my cost-conscious wife go with this instead. After we paid for a tune up, the difference was only around $50 compared to the similar Public bike. For that difference, the Public bike had a step up in all components - brakes, shifter, derailleur, etc. On a bike, you really get a better, safer machine when your components aren't bottom-rung quality, so this is a big deal to me.
In the end, with my wife's strict budget, this was the only bike she was willing to buy in this style (which is the style she wanted). The baby blue is "cute" and nice and feminine, so again, Wife loves the look of this bike. At least I got her on a bike and we're having fun, but in hindsight, paying only a little more for other brands (like, but not just, Public) would have gotten us a solid step up in quality and components.