Let’s start by stating the obvious: we take bike testing seriously at Outside. We review bikes year-round, riding some 100 bikes annually and logging hundreds of miles on each bike that gets reviewed in the magazine. Our testing culminates in a seven-day trip in January that includes dozens of riders and stacks of bikes.
This year, after publishing the results of all that testing in the May issue’s Spring Bike Special and the Summer 2012 Buyer’s Guide, requests poured in for reviews of less-expensive bikes. As some readers pointed out, we tend to focus on bikes that cost more. We do so because, in general, that’s where the bulk of development and innovation takes place. Also, bike prices have soared in recent years, meaning the dollar doesn’t go as far it used. But all your appeals got us wondering: What does a limited budget buy? And how cheap is too cheap?
Looking for answers, we sifted through dozens of lower-priced bikes out there to find the best values. Then we spent the past few months putting them to the test on Santa Fe's streets. And while it’s still true that you get what you pay for, we were pleasantly surprised by some of the great values we found. Here, we present a series of reviews of utility bikes in the $500, $1,000, and $1,500 ranges.