A New Cadillac Hybrid For Under $200?
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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AMP Research used to make bikes for Mercedes that were actually pretty cool. http://img705.imageshack.us/img705/6585/mercedes700x483.jpg
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