What could possibly go wrong with a title like that?
Last September Aldi unveiled their second iteration of their 29er mountain bike offering to the outdoor budget-conscience market. For the cost of a few drinks on a standard night out in Sydney ($350), you could get yourself a mountain bike rolling on the controversial 29 inch wheelsize. Does the age old belief 'you get what you pay for' still stand?
The bike you see on this page is in fact the remnants of a stock supermarket bike that was manufactured by the highly reputable bike company, Polygon, and later 'customised' by the much less reputable author of this post. Just for some context, Polygon make some wicked bikes, both at a price and at a premium. In fact their XQUAREONE EX9 won multiple bike of the year awards across various influential mtb industry giants. The XQUAREONE EX9 introduced groundbreaking functional design concepts not seen on other bikes before its time. At a time when most bikes look like reworks of classics, Polygon manage to deliver exceptional innovation, as well as find the time to flog out some bargain beginner friendly aisle 6 style bikes. This is the wide hand grasp of a company looking to build long term customer loyalty from flat fire trails to steep technical switchbacks.
Aldi offers the 29er in two colourways, black/red or black/teal, and in two size options only, a Medium and Large. How very simple. Except if you're 163cm short like myself!
The assembly was quite simple. Attach the front wheel via the 9mm QR axle, insert the handlebar into the two piece stem, screw the pedals into their clearly marked crank arms, and pop in the seatpost with seat attached. Bangers and Mash, you have a bike. Make sure to do a once over check on all nuts, bolts, and axles, plus a prayer to either or all relevant deities of worship.
The features of the bike are what you would expect from an entry level bike... at twice the price! No V brake calipers here mate. Mechanical disc brakes (we can change that later), internal cabling (that's nice until we have to change the brakes), double alloy rims (thank the deities), 2x9 Shimano drivetrain (good budget choice), and a SR Suntour XCM 100mm travel front fork (entry level jolt city, but hey, it'll get the job done). Now the fact that the bike is $350 makes my remarks in parenthesis come off as a bloody knob jock. The truth is, this is outstanding value for the price paid especially considering the quality of the frame.
The first thing to change were the tyres. The original brandless tyres were fine if your definition of offroad is a picnic ride at Sydney Olympic Park. Hey that's fine if it is, but 29ers on child heavy paths bring back images of the steam roller scene from Austin Powers. A Maxxis DHF 3C 2.3" was set up tubeless in the front paired up with a Maxxis Aggressor Dual Compound 2.3" also tubeless out the rear. This had a profound effect on technical trails and better utilised the extra clawing power capable from a 29" wheelsize. If you were to only make one upgrade to this bike, this would be it. Whether tubeless or tubes, change the tyres.
I could drag this post on about the value of this bike as well as aspects of it that are worth changing. Since this bike has such a limited timeframe of availability it just isn't the best use of one's time. The fact is that for $350, this bike provides enough oomph for fire trail fun. I have personally taken it through more technical trails that it didn't enjoy yet neither complained about. It has stood up to more than it was originally designed for, only with the addition of more aggressive components (tyres, shorter stem (due to my reach), wider bars with a rise, hydraulic brakes, and sticky pedals). It is a bike you can develop with and potentially grow out of depending on what style of riding you find yourself pedaling towards. I find myself keeping the bike around as a gateway drug for mates that may want to experience mountain biking. For some reason people don't feel so bad about abusing a cheap mates bike. The riding clan is continually growing!