Critical Cycles Review - Critical Failure

I think I've mentioned here before that I'm a pretty avid cyclist. I'm not going to be biking across the country anytime soon (although I know a guy who did that once), but if I'm going somewhere, it's usually on two wheels. I commute to work on it, bike across the city on it, use it any time I'm running errands or meeting up with friends. I never learned to drive, so getting my first bike a couple of years ago was incredibly freeing after years of being chained to public transportation.

I love my bike, but it's getting old. It's got more creaks and clicks than a septuagenarian getting out of bed after a long nap, and whatever good looks it might have had once are pretty much gone after years of hard use. I've been putting off getting a new one for a while now, but finally I decided that I couldn't wait any longer.

My criteria were fairly simple - I wanted an attractive bike, fairly reliable, but not too expensive. The plan was to get something that I wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen riding for a couple of years, then to upgrade to something nicer once I could afford a bit more of an investment later on.

It didn't take me long to find Critical Cycles, and I was really excited when I looked over the site. Reviews were generally positive, and while the specs for the bikes didn't exactly set Brian, my resident bike fiend, on fire, he thought that they sounded like exactly what I was looking for. After checking out a couple of options in the used cycle market, I pulled the trigger and ordered a stylish single speed.

I decided on this bike in gray. Shipping was fast, and I will admit, it really is great looking. Very sleek, very clean, easy to assemble and maintain even if you're not an expert. We were feeling pretty optimistic as we started to put it together, but as soon as I tried to inflate the tires to the recommended PSI, they exploded like cheap balloons. So we went and bought new tubes, tried to inflate those, and had a second set of explosions. We expected the tires to be cheap, but this was some next level cost cutting. Just before the second set of tubes exploded, we realized that the sidewalls of the tires were bulging out over the rims. Not a good sign.

At that point, I had two options. Either I could buy a new set of tires, which would be another $80, not to mention some new brake pads and probably a new seat, since neither looked too great. My other option was to cut my losses, send it back, and pick up something that would actually last me.

Brian was really helpful about the whole thing. As I mentioned before, he's a big bike enthusiast (as a former bike messenger, I guess he should be), so he offered to put a more expensive bike on his credit card, and then I could pay him back in installments whenever I had the cash. The second bike that I ordered is almost twice as much, but it's a brand that he really recommends, and I shouldn't end up pouring a bunch of extra money into it just to get it up and running.

Unfortunately, I didn't notice until after we'd ordered the second cycle that I was going to have to pay for the return shipping. Cue the sad trombones.

I guess the lesson here is that you really do get what you pay for. Granted, that's what a lot of the reviews said, but they didn't mention that I'd have to sink another $100 into the bike just to make it rideable. If you're looking for a new bike and thinking about going with this company, please save your money and look elsewhere. You'll end up paying more than you expect.

Does anyone else bike? What are your thoughts on cheap bikes vs. more expensive models?