Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Truth and Myths of Market Bikes

First, let me define what market bike is. Market bike is defined as bike that is used as a mode of transportation for buying groceries in the market. Hence, it is called "Market bike". Market bikes are usually sold in supermart, lowly priced and use the lowest quality components you can imaging. Why would I bother to spend time writing something about market bike? Well, it is out of social responsibility... (What? you must be kidding!). Well, let me explain...

My colleague, who is decades younger than me was positively influenced to pick up mountain biking. He came from a culture where riding is the mode of transportation. He rode daily to school, even going to shops and social events. The village where he came from were mountainous, and gravels trails were considered road. He had no idea what gear shifter was, as they only rode elephant steel bike with fixed gear. Consider that kind of training he had gone through over the decades, and the number of riding hours he had clocked, trail riding in Singapore should be a breeze for him.

For what he had gone through, I would not blame him when he bought a market bike from supermart despite being briefed on the physics and science of mountain bike. Well, I guess in science we need factual evident to prove a hypothesis. Unwillingly (as I know what will happen), I agreed to test ride the market bike at Gangsa and T15.

The virgin ride on Singapore easiest bike trail substantiated my hypothesis that market bike is structurally unsafe to be ridden off-road. The first sign of failure showed up when the front wheel jammed while climbing an easy slope. The front skewer needed to be loosen in order to free up the wheel. The dilemma was to chose between the two evils, a jammed front wheel or a loosely secured front wheel. The choice was obvious as we need to ride out of the forest. Half way through the ride, the v-brake failed to work properly after riding through a patch of muddy water. The unreliability of the brake (2nd failure) further substantiated my hypothesis.

The second test ride was performed at the Bukit Timah bike trail. The ride was totally disastrous, and it proved my hypothesis without a doubt that market bike is structurally unsafe to be ridden off-road. The third failure showed up when the front tire punctured (See right photo, I was replacing the tube). Come on! they were brand new tire & tube, and we not even covered 2 kilometers of smooth off road! Well, we changed the tube at the car park just before the rock garden. Refusing to give up, my friend continued with the ride up hill. He paid a heavy price for his stubbornness (but I respect his persistency spirit); he crashed 3 times along the way due to failure of fork, brake, drive train and possible wheel jammed. He finally conceded defeat, and agreed that market bikes from supermarts are structurally unsafe for off-road ride. We did not complete the trail, which I usually take 40 minutes to finish one loop. We pushed the market bike all the way back, and he needed medical attention for bruises all over his body and possible breaking his three left fingers.  

The test ride substantiated my hypothesis that market bike is structurally unsafe to be ridden off-road:
1. Failure of hub that cause front wheel to jam
2. Failure of brake
3. Failure of tire and tube
4. Failure of fork
5. Failure of drive train
5. Failure of geometry (non-scientific, based on observation analysis)

We have proven the myths of market bike to be true...mmm...I should rephrase it: "The results of the experiment has positively substantiated the hypothesis that market bike is structurally unsafe to be ridden off-road".

I feel obligated to inform the public about the consequences of buying a bike from supermart for off-road ride. My colleague was convinced by the sales people in the supermart that the "top of the range" bike he bought was fit to be ridden off-road. The sales people offered him a bike that happened to be the last piece on the shelf, which does not fit his size at all. I seriously doubt the salespeople knowledge about bike was any better than man on the street. After the test ride at Bukit Timah bike trail, my friend finally convinced that market bike is best leave it as market ride. I feel responsible for my friend's injury, as I was unable to convince him against using market bike for off-road ride. I wish him a speedy recovery...  


  1. Hi Chris, good to see you on Sat. So, the 'market bike' belonged to your friend. Hope he's fine.

  2. Hey Cal! good to see you too. My friend is ok but will be grounded for a while. Will catch up with you guys when we meet again. Cheers bro :)

  3. Hi Chris,

    Is your "Test Rider" recovering? Thanks for the information. On the otherhand, I have another friend who use his market bike for about 3 months before it fails...maybe the speed and terrain affect the performance as well.

    V-brakes are a no-no for offroad when wet...

    1. Hi Alex, agree with you that v-brake is not suitable for off-road ride, especially wet downhill trail. You are right, the rider pedaled quite fast during test ride, and attempted to hop over obstacles along the way. After all, this is what we do in off-road. He is ok now, trying to get rid of the market bike and invest in a good and discern mountain bike.

    2. Hi Chris,
      I agree market bikes are definitely not safe for the trail, but I wouldn't say v-brakes are not suitable for off road. We used to use v-brakes in the 90s for these same trails! They were one of the strongest brakes available then - aside from Magura hydraulic rim brakes. But yes, some skill was required to control the power of good rim brakes - modulation is much easier with disc brakes.

      Anyway, just wanted to say keep up the good work with the blog - i don't see many mountain bike-centric blogs in SG :)

      A fellow MTBiker

    3. Agree with you that skill is needed to ride v-brakes bike on BT trails. I have seen folks riding hardtail v-brake bike on BT. Though the components are old school, they are so much robust than that of market bike.

      Thanks for the encouragement :)

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