Words by Flow | Images by Flow

Aldi are back again with a $350 mountain bike, their Performance 29er, which over the past couple of years has given a lot of new riders their first taste of 0ff-road riding. For 2017, they’ve made a bunch of changes too, making it an even better option for the beginner.

$350. Sure, you need to assemble it yourself, but whichever way you cut it, that’s a bargain.

We know we invite plenty of controversy in putting a bike-in-a-box like this up here, but the only way mountain biking will grow is if we make it easier to get people into the sport, and we think this bike has a role helping to get more riders onto the trails.

Internal cabling. Necessary? No. Nice? Very!

Mountain biking is usually an expensive sport to get into. So unless you’ve got access to a loaner from a friend, or you’re happy to take the risk of buying second hand, getting started in mountain biking can be financially daunting (especially if you’re buying the bike for a youngster who might decide the sport’s not for them, or who’s likely to outgrow their bike in a year or two). Spending $350 on a bike to dip a toe in the water is not such a big investment.

While this $350 bike isn’t a going to be lining up on too many start lines, it genuinely is capable for giving a new rider their first taste of riding off road – exploring fireroads, cruising gentle trails. And of course, it’s our hope that the experience will be one new riders love, leading to a life on the trails and a deeper involvement in the sport.

The Performance 29er is actually built in the same factory as Polygon, so it’s a quality operation.

Ok, so what do I get for the cash? 

A lot really. The package Aldi have put together is certainly much better than the bikes we started out on, and which cost much more than $350 back in the day! On features and components alone, it’s seriously impressive for the cash.

Tektro cable discs are a damn sight better than the caliper brakes you’d expect on a bike at this price.

The smartly finished alloy frame has internal cable routing, you get a lockout-equipped Suntour fork, Tektro cable actuated disc brakes and even a decent Shimano 2×9 Acera level drivetrain. It’s all kit that wouldn’t be out of place on bike twice this price. The first iteration of this bike had 27.5″ wheels, but it now uses 29er hoops, which add a bit more confidence than smaller wheels. The tyres are 2.25″ wide as well, not skinny little things, so it’s ready for the dirt. You can tell that Aldi’s Australian bike buying director is a mountain biker! Fundamentals like a decently wide handlebar haven’t been missed either.

The geometry is very much in line with entry-level 29ers from other brands. The handling isn’t built for high speeds or air time, but rather wheels on the ground cruising and it’ll do a fine job of tackling fire roads or mellow singletrack.

The tyres are a decent width for off-road use, at 2.25″.

Who makes the bike? 

The Performance 29er is built by the same crew who make Polygon’s aluminium bikes, so it’s constructed and assembled in Indonesia, by a very reputable manufacturer. We actually visited their factory in 2016 too – it’s an impressive setup! Check out our editorial piece following the birth of a bike here. Locally, the bikes have warranty support from Bicycles Online, the Australian Polygon distributor.

A direct mount Acera rear derailleur is a surprising touch, topping off a 2×9 drivetrain.

Any hesitations?

Sure. For $350, you’ve got to accept some compromises. Service is the main one; it’s sold alongside pet food and dishwasher tablets, so do not expect any expert mountain biking advice from Aldi staff. It also only comes in two frame sizes, so there are likely to be some fit issues there.

The other concern is making sure it’s put together properly. Minimal assembly work is needed and most mountain bikers will have no issues, but if you’re not sure of what you’re doing, don’t muck around, take it to a decent bike shop.

On the balance though, it’s a really impressive bike for very little cash. If you’re looking for an affordable way to take a first step into the world of off-road riding, the Performance 29er is a great option.

 

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