A recent walk through a local Wal-Mart reminded me of the rich history of cheap department store road bikes. ( Before anyone flames me, I use these walks as entertainment, people watching and exercise... I never buy for reasons of maintaining as many factory jobs in the U.S. as I reasonably can). There has been much talk here about the famed Free Spirits- gas pipe variety. There are of course gas pipe Huffys and world class ones (which I believe were never actually sold to the general public--- correct me if I am wrong on this one.) My edition of The Dancing Chain tells of the cheap clunkers that were sold with complete Shimano AX groupos and wise shoppers bought the bike and stripped it for the parts while discarding the worthless frame. (If this is the case then why can't an AX groupo be found on ebay for a reasonable price?) The first indexed shifting was seen on cheapo bikes way before they became popular on fine steeds. The true department store road bike with down turned bars has not been seen in my neighborhood for more than a decade.... and then suddenly we have the reappearance, like the first birds of spring of the Wal-Mart Denali.
The Denali is a GMC sponsored all aluminum true road bike that sells for well under $200. It may not be the first revival because Bicycling magazine spoke last month of something called the Firmstrong road bike. The Denali has some kind of plastic derailleur situation going something on the order of the old Simplex but because these are made by Shimano they without doubt work acceptably. The brakes are decent sidepulls and in general it feels like the cheapo road bikes will once again take their place alongside the finest Italian steel, begging to be taken seriously and echoing the 60's Schwinn Varsities, and the 80's Free Spirit.
Garth Libre in Miami after a wonderful Thanksgiving day ride on which I saw a beautiful all original, 30 year old Celeste Bianchi, all dressed in Campagnolo and Modolo.