By on January 4, 2011

Yes, you read correctly. For less than $200 I recently added a brand new Cadillac to my garage. The catch: it has only two wheels and I must supply the power myself.

Back when I lived in Chicago I rode my bicycle nearly every day. It’s how I got around, even with snow on the roads. Then I moved to Detroit, and rode less and less. And since my hybrid (bike, not car) busted its rear derailleur during the big blackout of 2003, hardly any at all, as none of my other bikes provides a safe, comfortable ride.

So I’ve been needing a new bike. Problem is, I like to research such purchases to death, and haven’t had the time.

Then I came across the Cadillac AV-H on Amazon, marked down from $400 to $220. It’s a hybrid, meaning a mountain bike-like riding position with straight handle bars, but with only semi-wide wheels and tires, for less weight and rolling resistance than a mountain bike. This blend makes the most sense for year-round riding in the Detroit suburbs. Like just about any affordable bike these days, the frame is aluminum. Shimano Altus components provide 24-speeds.

Initial research found that this bike was made by Kent in China, and marginally better than something you’d pick up in a department store. But they kept reducing the price. At $187 (with free shipping!) I threw caution to the wind and ordered one. (The price has since fallen a few more dollars, to $183.29.) Worst case scenario: enjoy the novelty value of owning a “new Cadillac” for less than $200, and later have to spend more for a better bike.

The bike arrived a few days later. It was a bit of a hassle to assemble, partly (entirely?) because I don’t have a clue about tuning a bike. It took me a couple hours to figure out how to semi-properly adjust the derailleurs—the front one was especially hard to figure out, and it still doesn’t work like it should. The instructions don’t help—from Shimano, they’re perhaps the worst I’ve ever encountered. Someone with more sense would have simply taken the bike to a shop and had a pro do the tuning. Which I’ll still have to do. Aside from the front derailleur, the front wheel needs to be trued; for now I’ve adjusted the front calipers a little wide.

I had debated whether to get the 16.5” or the 18.5” frame, since at 5-9 with a 30-inch inseam I’m at the low end of the range for the latter, and with a Trek I’d get a 17.5. I went with the 18.5, and it fits perfectly. In a sure sign that this is one serious bike, a kickstand is included.

The Cadillac AV-H looks good, with silver and black paint and the marque’s wreath and crest on the stem (straightened after taking the photo) and seat. With quite a bit of snow on the roads at the time, my initial testing was limited to my living room. Yes, lamest road test ever, but I can report that the Cadillac performed well in laps on the hardwood flooring around the sofa. One glitch: either the crank or one of the pedals makes a slight “clunk” noise once per revolution. For ease of replacement, I’m hoping it’s the pedal.

A couple weeks later, after the outside temperature got into the balmy high 30s and some rain washed the snow off the roads, I took the Cadillac for a few laps around the neighborhood. This confirmed the need for a trip to a bike shop—the front derailler would not shift to top gear, and the front brake feels awful because of the out-of-spec front wheel.

So, not the highest quality bike straight out of the box. Which is to be expected, given the price. Or perhaps at any price—perhaps even more expensive bicycles come from the factory in such a state, with the expectation that the shop will perform quite a few adjustments.

But does the Cadillac name belong on such an inexpensive bike? Should it be possible to say, “I put a new Cadillac in my garage for less than $200?”

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, a online source of automotive reliability and pricing data

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54 Comments on “A New Cadillac Hybrid For Under $200?...”


  • avatar
    86er

    It’s the most many people are willing to pay for a GM product.  More’s the pity if GM actually whores out their nameplates for a few bicycle sales. 

    At the risk of sounding incredulous, I hope this is an unauthorized use of a copyright.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      I’m not sure about the licensing, but Kent also makes Lamborghini bicycles, too.  They’re identical to the Cadillac’s except for paint and decals.
       
      And they’re all garbage.  You’re better off spending your money on a 15 year old Specialized found at a yard sale.

    • 0 avatar

      I was trolling Craiglist for a mid-range hybrid for two-to-three hundred when Amazon dropped the price down to $187. Even semi-serious cyclists seemed to think I’d need to spend $700+ for a decent bike, so I decided to spend $187 on the Cadillac and find out how much I really use it.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    “…the Cadillac of… bikes???”

  • avatar
    foolish

    There are a few GM-branded bikes on the market: Hummer, GMC, Cadillac.  Not great bikes, but you can’t beat the price you got!
     
    You will probably need to spend $50-100 for a bike mechanic to make it work properly, especially if the wheels are out of tension and/or true.  The every-revolution-clunk you mentioned could be the crank hitting the front derailleur.  There isn’t much clearance there in most cases.
     
    Have fun with it.  You should have gotten the -V model, they’re faster!  ;-)

  • avatar
    Power6

    I have the “Denali” road bike. Got it for $125 I think, built by Kent as well. I ripped all the stickers off when I assembled it.
    You def get what you pay for, the brakes were junk so I replaced them with some Shimano e-bay specials. The shifters were horrible mountain bike twist shifters (think about how they did THAT) which I replaced with a new handlebar and some creatively mounted click shifters (the drivetrain is MTB on a road bike). The tires fall off the rim running at the prescribed pressure, it needs new tubes and tires right away. I guess I have $300 into it so I am still happy.
    Make sure to carry spare tubes, or just replace them now and put new rim strips in there because the cheap stuff they are built with will pop very soon.

    • 0 avatar

      I have the “Denali Bike” as well… got it for ten bucks, and it’s been an absolute nightmare. Weighs about the same as a Yukon Denali and it’s shockingly cheap and crummy. The plan was to strip it down and fix it, but since I’ve become so busy at TTAC, it’s just moldered away in the back of my garage. Which is probably a good thing because I’ve almost certainly reached peak “satisfaction-per-dollar” with it (having ridden it maybe three times).
      I guess GM figures there’s no overlap between the car and bike markets, because it’s tough to imagine a worse representation of a brand’s commitment to quality (or lack thereof). My 1970s-vintage Peugeot 10-Speed Carbolite beats it hollow on every possible level, despite costing ten times what I paid for the Denali.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve read this about the tubes and tires on other “car” bikes, specifically the Lamborghini they also sell. But those Italian jobs are known to be unreliable, and I  hoped this wouldn’t apply to the Cadillac.
      After all, it’s a Cadillac!

    • 0 avatar

      Why would anyone buy an Italian branded bike that doesn’t say Bianchi or Colnago? Much as I like my Litespeed, if I was rich I’d have a Colnago in addition to some kind of custom Ti frame. Colnagos are, IMNSHO, the most beautiful bikes made. The high end Bianchis out of their custom/race shop are pretty nice too, with a pearl version of Bianchi green/blue.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Ronnie, how about the American Brands? I’m a fan of Massachusetts made Parlees and Sevens. Probably the best bike frames in the world. Both manufacturers build their bikes within 10 miles of my home and I see their employees and owners on rides. The best part is that you can have the bike custom built and painted just the way you like it. I’m not sure if you can do that with Colnago.
      http://www.parleecycles.com/custom/
       

    • 0 avatar
      jj99

      Ronnie, I drive a Bianchi San Jose daily.  Only 750.  Best bike ever.  Steel frame.  Single speed.  As reliable as a Toyota.

    • 0 avatar

      Ronnie, how about the American Brands? I’m a fan of Massachusetts made Parlees and Sevens. Probably the best bike frames in the world.
      I was talking about Italian brands. My Litespeed was made in Chattanooga, Tenn. If I bought another high end bike it’d probably be a custom from Seven. To be honest, I don’t think that the guys at Seven are any better Ti welders than Litespeed, but I have odd proportions, short legs, long trunk, and Seven does custom frames.

  • avatar
    pannkake

    Way to destroy a brand by slapping it on a cheap bike.  Stupid, Cadillac.

    • 0 avatar
      jpcavanaugh

      +1.  I wonder if this is Old GM or New GM.  Either way, what morons.  They are trying to sell Cadillac as a quality car again then they license the name for use on an inexpensive Chinese bike.  Gaaaaa!

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      No kidding.  I personally kind of like the bike, I mean the Cadillac graphics are cool in a silly kind of way, but I can’t see how anyone at Cadillac could think this is a good idea.  How much revenue can this possibly be generating for them?
      Get that bike tuned stat, makes a big difference even with cheap components.  And if that clunk is your bottom bracket (they usually use really cheap ones at this price point even though a decent one is only a few bucks more), a new one should only run $50-60 installed, and will last for years, maybe decades.
      Or fix it yourself.  If you like wrenching on cars, bikes are even more satisfying.  Easy to access, parts are cheap(unless you like titanium), no electric gremlins to chase.  Get a decent manual and a kit with the special tools for cheap online and you’re set.  And you can do it in the comfort of your living room…with a drop cloth and Mrs. Karesh’ permission, of course.
       

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      I don’t think it’s either old or new GM.  Or anything on the part of GM, period.  Case in point:  Over the years both Pontiac and Triumph produced Bonnevilles with no trademark conflict, because Pontiac only did four wheelers, and Triumph two wheelers.  Yeah, there was a common courtesy (revived in 2000 when the current Bonnie came out) of talking to each other about the product.  No legal agreement necessary.
       
      Conversely, I know BMW, Ferrari (Colnago), Ducati (also Colnago) and Mercedes have had bicycles made with their name on them, so woe be it to any BSO manufacturer who tries to use those names.

    • 0 avatar

      Aside from the Cadillac script and crest, take a look at the box: it has the GM trademark on it. This is a GM-licensed product. All of the car-brand bikes made by Kent are officially licensed by the car manufacturers.

  • avatar
    gurry

    The clunk may be the crank striking the kickstand. My dad has a Jeep mountain bike and it is low quality and really heavy. Most of the bicycles produced nowadays are from China or Taiwan with the latter building the better stuff.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    I love the crooked crest. Classic!

  • avatar

    Nah, there’s no way this is a real Cadillac.

    Where’s the $3000 rebate? Where’s the low finance rate? Where’s the exploding turbo motor?

  • avatar
    view2share

    Just trying to get those reliability figures up.  Consider how this also will work for gas mileage.
    The Cadillac of bikes WAS  Schwinn, but now they are made in China :(

  • avatar

    ***I*** have a Peugeot bike. It served as my basic transportation in college and a few years beyond. I once rode it from Seattle to Boston. At 38 years old, it’s probably better than your Cadillac. Of course, I did pay a lot more, $634 in current dollars ($125 when I bought it in ’72).

    • 0 avatar

      Well, Peugeot actually makes bikes, and good ones. My father had a couple years ago. Are the is bike and car companies even related?

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Yes, then they sold off the bicycle line.  Somewhere around 1990.  Word is that they bought it back with a 10 year delay in starting production again.  And the delay ran out in either 2010 or 2011.

    • 0 avatar
      Ronman

      they still make them (other than the basic model, the rest up are very good bikes), and originally the car and bike and other equipment company were all under the same umbrella. not sure if they are back to being the same company though as David mentioned…

  • avatar

    I suppose that a true road bike might get more flats than a hybrid, but I ride in suburban Detroit on 23 or 25mm road tires and don’t find skinny tires to be that big of a problem. Okay, so I have a rare, no longer made, Rock Shox Ruby (the bike is a Litespeed Catalyst from the 90s). A suspension fork designed for road bike (for the cobblestones of the Paris-Roubaix race, get it? Ruby?), which reduces the jarring from Michigan’s scarred and scabrous roads.
    I just carry some speed patches and a CO2 inflator gizmo.
    Hey, Mike, want to race a fat guy on a bike? Next spring or summer when I’m riding out on Pontiac Trail, I’ll detour by your place.

    • 0 avatar
      geofcol

      Truing a wheel is pretty easy. You find the place of the out of true, and tighten the spoke on the side that sticks out(sic). Never loosen though. I used a small adjustable wrench and went slowly on my 39 year old wheel and it worked great. The derailleur is more of a pain but it can be done. Check out  www.sheldonbrown.com, you will thank me. I enjoy True Delta.

    • 0 avatar
      jj99

      The newest generation of road tires are bulletproof, as long as you keep them inflated.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      To avoid flats, get Continental Gatorskin tires – or their successor the GatorHardShell. I ride close to 2k miles a year and was getting flats every 100 miles or so. Switched to the GatorSkins and I’ve only had 2 flats in 1800 miles.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    +1 for sheldonbrown.com, one of my favorite web sites of all time.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      +100 for Sheldonbrown.com.  The man is a god to the cycling community, and there was a lot of eulogies when he died in 2009.  When I came back to cycling after a 25+ year absence, I spent three weeks, read every page on the site, and had picked up all the technology I’d missed – to the point of even learning what new tools I needed for the workshop.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Fortunately, after Sheldon’s demise, a former colleague picked up his mantle and has been tending and augmenting the site.  I was afraid for a long time that the site might just go dark and all that wonderful knowledge, history and passion would go up in smoke, but so far, this has not happened and that makes me happy.

      BTW, a bit over 15 years ago, I treated myself to a Cannondale Super-V (Red/Silver Alu frame with full-independent suspension) and over the years I’ve replaced both the brake and the transmission systems (like a Corvette and a BMW respectively?) but I have always been more or less happy with the bike… oh, and I changes out the full-knobby (Piranha IIRC) tires for Contininental (Goliath IIRC) having a narrow smooth strip in the centre with knobby sections adjacent (a hybrid road/off-road tire)…  funniest thing is that since moving to Europe 12 years ago, I’ve ridden the bike far less than I did when I was living in Detroit!!

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Quick release wheels for when you have it locked up on Detroit’s streets? =)

  • avatar
    Zombo

    Paid about 350 for my Trek hybrid back in 2001 and got free lifetime adjustments from the bike dealer I bought it from – not that it needed much other than cable stretching tweaks . Wait until Asian built Harleys make it to U.S. shores ! It was just a matter of time when the motor company went public .

  • avatar
    daviel

    That’s a nice $200.00 bike for the frozen north.  I don’t think you could ruin it with road salt.  Did you get the wheels trued?  The Sheldon Brown recommendation is solid gold – as is the bike shop where the site originates from, Harris Cyclery in W. Newton Mass.  Keep us updated on how the Caddy is doing!

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    Too bad they used the new style Cadillac crest instead of the classic older one.
     
    Another characteristic of hybrid bikes is that they share the high bottom bracket of mountain bikes.  Since there’s no reason for this on a hybrid, it’s just an annoyance if not a safety hazard. To get the seat high enough, you can barely reach the ground.
     
    You can’t just true a wheel by tightening one spoke.  The area that’s “out” has to be “faded” back into line by tightening several spokes varying amounts.  Otherwise, you are creating uneven spoke tension and a wheel stays strongest and true if the spoke tension is as equal as possible.  If you tighten one or more spokes, you are both raising the tension on all the other spokes, and moving the rim toward the hub.  So sideways trueing has to be coordinated with roundness trueing and is best done by both loosening one side and tightening the other.  And if the rim is generally too tight, you want to reach trueness by lossening spokes, not tightening.  And the dished rear wheel makes all this much more complicated.  This bike would have machine-built wheels, so it will greatly benefit and possibly even avoid breaking spokes if you have an expert wheelbuilder redo them.  Better yet, if you have an expert wheelbuilder rebuild them with top quality spokes, you may never break one and the wheels will stay true even through minor accidents.
     
    It’s both great and odd to see so many of the prime movers of this site (Jack, Edward, Michael) are also keen about cycling.  This must be quite awkward for those who think cyclists are not motorists and should be kicked off the roads.

    • 0 avatar

      I haven’t ridden much in the last dozen years, but need to get back into it. When I was 15 I was part of a group that rode from Seattle to SF, either on or near the PCH. Those hills were tough!
      Then I got my license, but starting riding a lot again during grad school in Chicago–love the path along the lake. Continued to ride when I first moved to Michigan, and lived on Lake St. Clair. Got to the club I sailed out of that way.
      Then my wife joined me, we moved to Troy, moved again to Farmington Hills, had kids, etc.
      My father (of RX-8-killing fame) has ridden nearly every weekend for the past 20 years. He’s done a few centuries.
      But, yeah, I’m not fond of drivers who find it entertaining to terrorize bicyclists.
       

    • 0 avatar

      My bicycle was my exclusive transportation from second year of college until I was 32. I averaged ~3,650 a year, or 10/day, more in the summer, less in the winter, most of that on the streets of Wash. DC. Even after I bought the ’77 Corolla in ’85, my bicycle mileage held up, well, until 1990, when I started running, and rode somewhat less. Then in ’93 I bought the ’93 Saturn, and when I had to go somewhere, that car was just a lot more fun than the bicycle so it almost always won.  @font-face { font-family: “Times New Roman”; }@font-face { font-family: “Arial”; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Arial; }table.MsoNormalTable { font-size: 10pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; } https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/the-truth-about-saturn/
      I still ride, but not very often.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      Ah I know F.H. well … but I have to admit, for pure biking pleasure, and safety, my corner of Europe is hard to beat … dedicated paths adjacent to nearly every main road, dedicated  non-pot-holed paved shoulders where paths are non-extant, both plowed in the winter … and for those that like challenge there are plenty of places where the vertical rise changes… 

      Last nite, about 20:00, while driving home from a colleague’s garage (he is chopping and building up a custom 55 Caddy coupe) with an outside temp of -12°C, despite the cold, a super-perfect local bus network, and people that could easily afford the bus, I saw 3 cyclists on the 2 mile ride home…)

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    There’s also no reason for the handlebars to be so wide on a hybrid.  They’re another annoyance for urban use and storing the bike.  I cut 1.5″ off each end of the bars on my hybrid.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Oh yeah, serious bikes (other than English 3-speed roadsters) almost NEVER have kickstands.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Oh, so you say that’s a hybrid? I’m about to hybridize my own bike for real, with an electric assist system. It’s a Canadian product a hub motor matched with a battery pack. The power control comes from a pedal-effort sensor, as the bike automatically adds to your own pedal strokes by 25-100%, as you select. A battery range of 25 miles is often claimed with these systems. The conversion kits cost from $1-2K, check them out: bionix.ca. There are cheaper electric bike kits, of course, and bikes that are specially (heavily) built for electric use, but many riders swear by converting the bike of your choice.
    I have a Giant comfort back, with a pretty upright posture. The crank is mounted forward of the seat, rotating the rider slightly towards recumbancy, so it’s easy to ride and reach the ground with my feet. I have no desire for a hybrid car, but this has a certain appeal all its own.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    “the front wheel needs to be trued; for now I’ve adjusted the front calipers a little wide” … maybe the guys with the Corvette Brembo ceramic brake problems, in the adjacent thread, could somehow apply this best practice to their 120k cars…

    Branding 101:  Regarding brand destruction, never put your brand on anything that will tend to diminish the quality of that brand … if you are selling quality, don’t put your brand on anything of less than sterling quality, if you are selling exclusivity, don’t put it on inexpensive pedestrian things. Getting the word out, or deriving a bit of incremental income, by carelessly licensing, or (as in this case photographically documented) slapping your logo on something that doesn’t hold to these standards just ain’t worth it (Oh “Mark of Excellence” and “Standard of the World” where art thou??) And, putting one’s logo in a place where it will become dirty and shabby due to being sweated-on and regularly farted-on, besides underscoring the above, just seems so wrong… 

    • 0 avatar

      The “Mark of Excellence” is on the box!
      Hadn’t considered the flatulence issue…

    • 0 avatar
      Philosophil

      I’d say that most car seats probably see their fair share of flatulence.
       
      I remember working as a student  in my late teens and getting stuck in the middle in an old ’77 Ford pickup. It was summer and hot, and my two co-workers (one of whom was actually my brother-in-law) dropped a couple of bombs and then proceeded to roll up the windows. My lungs have never been the same since.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    I worked at a bike shop for some time, and by the 3rd day, me and the other guy used to assemble a Trek 800 Trail from the box in less than 5 minutes without the tuning. that took another 5 minutes. And we used to employ a very high end assembly technique adding grease to the contact points, and torquing everything to perfection…etc, the store owner was the national riding champ and an anal perfectionists, so even the cheapest Trek used to get perfectly assembled in such a short time, i remember in one day i assembled over 20 bike, in those days they were selling like hotcakes in Lebanon.
     
    during that job, i came across a Porsche branded bike. (talking about automotive bicycle branding) that thing was worth about $3000 and had the first conventional brake calipers with hydraulic lines, that thing stopped like no other bike i have ever tested, the brakes were so sensitive and to the point that it threw me off the first time I tried it… but with its Sachs shifting kit and lightweight tires and components, it was even better in terms of finishing and design than an actual porsche (relatively speaking). So how come when the germans put their name on a bike, it’s as good if not better than their actual automotive brand, and when the Americans do it, they manage to screw it up???
     
    This is the first time i hear of a Cadi bike, but here in Lebanon we have JEEP (with the registered trademark sigh) in the shops. they look like very nice bike, but the finishing is just awful, even worse than the cars (but they are not as expensive as treks and giants)… so what’s the deal?
     
    I had Chinese built 10 speed once branded (Concorde) with the same font as the supersonic airplane, the bike wasn’t supersonic, but i managed to go very fast with it, the only thing it had in common with the airplane was that the tire blew once and i fell, and it’s been rotting in the shed ever since…decommissioned i guess….
     
    Bad brand product endorsement and placement must be called Ferrari-Syndrome…the only people that do it right are Porsche Design, the slap their name on only the best items on teh market and they are designed to look and feel the price, the rest are rubbish imho

  • avatar
    grzydj

    AMP Research used to make bikes for Mercedes that were actually pretty cool.
     
    http://img705.imageshack.us/img705/6585/mercedes700x483.jpg

  • avatar

    I remember not long ago on a Chrysler dealer a Patriot being sold with a Bike Rack and a Jeep branded bike on it…
    http://www.allbicycletrader.com/content/visitor/images/f20100730211838-jeep2.jpg
    Looks like almost any brand has licensed its name to a bike manufacturer, On the other side, the french Peugeot have had their Bicycle line almost since the 19 century, the advantage is that those don’t have a SEL anti pollution failure feature on them.<<(Criticism mode On)
    fitness-moovit-3-zoom.jpg
    Saludos

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