Bums on bike seats is always a good thing, and those bums have to start somewhere. Supermarket chain Aldi are onto their second generation of mountain bikes manufactured out of the same factory as Polygon Bikes, let's take a closer look at what the new '$350 bike in a box' is all about.
The not-so-minor details
Ticks all the boxes necessary for light mountain biking.
Quality Shimano gears and Tektro brakes.
Sold in a box from a supermarket.
Not for aggressive off road use.
Medium and large size only.
No matter how you look at it, this is a great bike for the money. $350 is not a price you’d typically be able to find a bike with this amount of quality components and frame construction.
This bike is purchased in a box, from Aldi. Click here for more: Purchasing the Performance 29er.
Yes, we said ALDI, that eclectic marketplace where you find drop saws and vacuum cleaners alongside chickpeas and gingerbread. They could hardly begrudge us for saying they’re not renowned as a proprietor of fine cycles. We deliberately used the phrase mountain bike, not just ‘bike’. Because this hardtail, unlike the buttery soft boat anchors with fold-o-matic wheels that are usually sold at department stores, is a true entry-level mountain bike.
For our in-depth discussion about what a $350 bike in a box means for mountain biking click here – $350 bike in a box.
What is it?
The un-branded bike is an aluminium frame 29″ wheeled mountain bike with Tektro mechanical disc brakes, 9-speed Shimano drivetrain and a Suntour suspension fork. The 29″ wheels are aluminium with double wall rims and quick release skewers. On the cardboard box it comes in there is branding from Crane, an established brand name bike that caters for the entry level market.
The frame is manufactured and assembled in the same factory as Polygon bikes, so you can bet that it’s one of the cheapest bikes that the excellent brand produces, a far better arrangement than if it were a top-end product from a less-experienced factory.
The frame is built from aluminium with surprisingly good looking welding, upon close inspection we found the the paint to be very smooth and well-finished.
A nice touch is the way the brake and gear cables travel internally through the frame, something many high end bikes are still implementing today.
The Performance 29er is sold for $349 and available from Aldi stores around Australia. Available in red or grey colour options, and in medium or large frame sizes.
Are the parts any good?
You’ll always get what you pay for with any product, in this case the spec is very reasonable for $350. Highlights are the Shimano 9-speed drivetrain on a cassette style rear hub, Shimano cranks and the Tektro mechanical disc brakes. The bars are a decent width and the stem a length that will provide good handling when ridden.
How about the wheels?
The wheels tick the boxes for riding off road, double wall aluminium with stainless steel spokes and Joytech hubs. You’d easily find wheels of this level on bikes twice the price. The dual-duty style tyres are not going to be too grippy on technical trails with loose surfaces, but feel fast and smooth to roll around on the tarmac.
How does it ride?
While we didn’t go hammering down our favourite technical descents, we did hit the singletrack to see how it went. The large 29″ wheels and tall front end give the bike plenty of confidence to steer it down the trail. The disc brakes also instill a degree of security, knowing that the brakes will work consistently in the dry or wet trails.
Can the parts handle actual off road riding?
In all our years of working in retail and then going on to test bikes and product we learnt that there was always a starting price point that went along with a level of components that was essential to actually riding a bike off road. You absolutely needed double wall aluminium wheels or they’d go out of true in an instant, the bars couldn’t be steel as they would bend too easily, and the rear hub had to be a cassette style and not a screw-on freehub one or you’d break the axle whenever you did any form of jump. A suspension fork would be a no-brainer for increasing comfort and control, and disc brakes were a luxury that boosted braking power on long descents and on muddy trails.
So when we look at this bike that has all of these absolute necessary components mentioned above, we’re confident that it’ll do the trick.
Can I upgrade components in the future?
Sure you can, there’s nothing that will prevent you from upgrading parts as your riding progresses, perhaps the fork’s straight steer tube (standard for anything decent uses a tapered steer tube with a larger diameter lower headset bearing) will limit fork upgrade options but the rest of the bike uses very easily sourced standard parts. We’d look first to the tyres for an upgrade.
How is it delivered?
Here comes the touchy bit, this bike is sold in a box off the shelf at an Aldi supermarket. No sales staff will help you assemble it, set it up, point you in the direction of trails or provide local advice. That’s part of the reason this bike costs as little as it does, it’s up to you to see the value here.
Would we recommend it?
If you have only this amount of money to spend, or you’re simply dipping a toe in the water ahead of this summer for some gentle off road riding this is a very fair option.
Provided only you’re mechanically proficient in unpacking the bike, installing the bars, pedals and pumping up the tyres. We’ve had a very close look at this bike and there’s nothing that will stop you from having a good time outdoors.
If you’re looking to get started in the world of mountain biking, then you can’t go wrong with this bike – it’s an awesome deal.