In September of 2010, I started riding a bike to add a little variation to my exercise routine. I had been riding my teen daughter’s bike but decided I needed one of my own. For Christmas, my husband bought me a new Next Parowan Woman's 26" Mountain Bike.
* 26" wheels
* Steel frame, fork and stem
* Raised, MTB-style, steel handlebars
* 15-speed, lever-style shifters mounted on handlebars
* Three-speed front derailleur
* Five-speed rear derailleur
* Front and rear caliper brakes mounted on handlebars
* Steel rims
* 1/2" pedals with reflectors
* Quality, high-gloss paint
The bike I got was un-assembled in the box. Wal-Mart does offer free in-store assembly. However, my husband did not want this gift to be obvious sitting near the tree. The mountain bike was seemingly packaged well and most of the painted parts were wrapped nicely. When unpacking the bike, we found the handlebars were entwined in the front wheel spokes. This could have caused damage in transit. Thankfully, the spokes were undamaged.
Once we managed to get the handlebars free, we found the assembly to be very simple. All of the brake wires, the chain, and the gears were pre-assembled and installed. Assembly took only about five minutes, which involved tightening the handlebar and seat post to the frame and mounting the front wheel to the fork.
Once we finished assembling the bike, we proceeded to remove the protective cardboard wrapping from the frame. We discovered several areas where the "custom" paint was chipped or scratched. This was very disappointing, considering this bike was never displayed or used. (Rather than going through the hassle of an in-store return/exchange, I eventually found a matching nail polish called "Plum Seduction, " by Revlon, to fix the cosmetic damage.)
Overall, this mountain bike is nice looking. The design is just as you would expect your standard mountain bike to look. The color is very nice, Next calls the color purple but it looks more like a dark pink to me. The brand decal could be a little less overbearing. And, unfortunately, this bike does not have pre-installed water bottle mounting screws, quick release seat adjustment, or quick release wheels.
The seat that comes with the Next Parowan Woman's Mountain Bike is hard, narrow, and very uncomfortable. The distance from the handlebar to the seat is a nice span for me. The handlebars, as well as the seat post, can be adjusted for height. I prefer my handlebars to be high, so I do not have to bend too much and put stress on my back, and both posts have plenty of room for adjustment.
The handlebar grips are adequate for holding the handlebars to control steering. They are only slightly textured and do not offer any cushion or grip. Most other mountain bikes I have ridden had flexible rubber grips, which are much more comfortable and offer better control. I will be upgrading the grips in the future.
The ride is less than what I expect from a mountain bike. The solid steel frame does not offer any give and it does not have a spring shock system. Even though this is a “Mountain” bike, I would not recommend riding it on rough terrain. And, if you have to carry it for any reason, it is a little heavy at over 30 pounds.
Both the brakes and shifters are handlebar mounted and within finger reach. The gear shifters and deraileurs were a little tight initially but they work well now. The brake handles, as well as the brake pads, needed a lot of adjusting after assembly to work properly.
For a very small investment, you get a basic solid bike with this Next Parowan Woman's 26" Mountain Bike. I have installed an upgraded Schwinn seat with springs, which improves the comfort and ride immensely. I solved the water bottle issue by installing a universal water bottle system. With the upgrades, and paint touch-ups, my bike is better than the standard issue. Researching high-end mountain bikes revealed to us that our total investment in this bike was much less than buying one with all the bells and whistles.