Huffy Granite Men's 26" Mountain Bike Review

September 7, 2019. New bike.

I've used bikes for the majority of my transportation needs for more than 20 years, and I'm a tolerable mechanic, and even so I decided to buy a Huffy. I bike about 4 miles in the city most days. Here's an ongoing review of the Huffy experience.

My tendency is to have a summer bike, which I maintain. And I have two free mountain bikes (primary and backup), which I have not maintained much in 10 years. I ride the mountain bikes in the winter, and they see a bunch of salt and sand and snow and so on. I also use them in the summer when I'm towing a trailer (kids or cargo) because I don't want to destroy my road bike, and because I want a lower gear for towing.

The mountain bikes had both reached That Point. The backup's lack of maintenance had reached a crisis of comedic proportions -- the seat had fallen off, the rear axle was chronically self-loosening, the chain was rusted solid (ka-thunk-ka-thunk as you pedal), and the screws I had put as snow studs had become dull. The primary's drivetrain really needed to be rebuilt, but it turned out to be impossible because the bottom bracket was stuck.

I'm a little bit lost, uncertain what to do, because having free non-maintained winter bikes has been such an unquestioned assumption for so long. If I'm going to start maintaining my winter bikes too, then I want to be able to do a good job. I want to make sure every component can be freed and that it can be replaced with a standard component. Or is maintenance even possible when a daily salting is the norm? Am I just going to buy another new bike and run it into the ground?

So... I ordered a new Huffy ($136), and also put together a new bike out of the remainders of the previous two ($39 in parts).

I chose the Granite because it has no front suspension. It also has the linear pull brakes which I have a generally good feeling about. Specifically, I *hate* the mountain bike cantilever style. Pleased to see it has gone out of fashion.

I was anxious about whether a Huffy would be maintainable (single-piece crank, for real!), but it turns out to have a serious flaw right out of the box. I am 5'9.5" and normally-proportioned, so I was confident buying a bike sized "men's". That was a mistake. The seat post is all the way up to the top of the minimum insertion lines, and the seat is all the way back, and I even tilted the seat down in the front so that the back would be higher, and it is still about an inch too small for me. It is usable, and I am eager to get out of the saddle to torque in a high gear even for low speeds, but it is clearly bad.

Other than that, just a handful of setup issues:

I ordered a 25.4x450mm seatpost on ebay. *shrug*

November 16, 2019. Early observations.

I don't keep a spedometer on my winter bike, but it's been my daily rider for two weeks now, probably about 100 miles altogether, about 25 miles of which was with 2 kids in the trailer. It's a pretty usable bike.

It's oddly slow, but winter is a long slog anyways so whatever.

I did get the longer seat tube, but it still feels like a too-small bike. I think the top tube is too short. My knees sometimes hit the handlebars, though not in normal riding. All around, I think Huffy is mistaken calling this a men's bike. This is clearly a bike for someone between 4'10 and 5'6, roughly. Without getting too deeply into demographics, I believe I am the average white man.

It has index shifting for the rear derailleur and it works alright. I haven't actually used a shifter while in motion in a decade or so, but I use this one because I'm consciously trying to be lazy, and I want to wear out more than one sprocket, and I am luxuriating in that new bike sensation. But sometimes you have to shift past your gear and then come back to it -- I still hate index shifting, 20 years after my first negative gut reaction to it.

But there's an epic bad omen. Before I bought it, I checked if it would be possible to replace each of the components, and mostly it's pretty good. I'm already thinking about replacing the brakes, and the tires (I can't tell how the tires suck, they seem to be relatively low-profile, but they are awful, more like plastic than like rubber). Those should be easy. But I identified one part I would not replace, or if I did replace, it would be as low-quality as what came with it: the bottom bracket. It has a weird bottom bracket with a single-piece crank, so it would take some sort of magic adaptor to put a sealed bearing cartridge bottom bracket in it. I would probably have to rebuild a cup and cone sort of thing, and I hate that -- the tension is never quite right and it never holds right over time.

And the bottom bracket is already at the "replace me" point! It makes a click every single time the right pedal goes over the top and comes to be under weight again. It's absolutely unambiguously loose on one side. If this was my summer road bike, I would replace the bottom bracket today without hesitation. But instead, I'm going to ride this sucker until it actually becomes problematic. Still hoping to get 5000 miles or 5-10 winters (probably about 600 miles a year on my winter bike).

One unknown is whether I will wind up using this bike...I have traditionally had two un-maintained winter bikes at once, and I've just about got my other one put back together. When I have two, I'm not sure which I'll use.

November 18, 2019. First maintenance outage.

I've removed the bike from use for maintenance. Just in the last day, the bottom bracket loosened up detectably. It started making a new noise and I looked down and the chain rubs on the front derailleur on both sides. This is not going to be a ride-and-ignore kind of situation.

I happen to have just finished re-fitting an old Specialized. It's not in great shape either -- its bottom bracket is even loose -- but it rides a lot more easily than the Huffy so I may not go back.

November 27, 2019. Failure diagnosed.

I looked up how to do maintenance on these one-piece cranks. It is easy, there's just a nut on one side. There's a brilliant keyed washer between the cone and the lock nut so that tightening the lock nut doesn't move the cone. Unfortunately, Huffy screwed that up: the key is much smaller than the slot it goes into, so you have to be careful or it will move the cone.

Anyways, it was only a little bit looser than I'd prefer. Within what I would consider to be spec. But one of the noises clear as day sounded to me like a loose bearing so I tightened it a little. And then I tested it: even without tension, the chainrings wobble a good deal! I bent either the chainrings or the crank itself!

Putting a trailer on it does ask a lot of the bike but I'm just flabbergasted by this failure. I guess I could work around this problem with an adaptor for a real bottom bracket, and real cranks, and real gears, but it is not a good omen!

I think it's just going to be the backup bike until it 100% fails.