Ayla

Changing and balancing a tire is not a complicated process. It is easy to get right. However, even with tools it does take a good bit of elbow grease and without the fancy tools it can be downright frustrating.

There are tons of videos out there that will show you how (a couple already linked in this thread). Here are some of the things that can go wrong:

  1. Popping the bead can be extremely frustrating without a good tool to do it.
  2. Working the tire off/on the wheel using tire irons can be difficult the first time. Lubricating the tire edges with soap and water will make it much easier, but there is still a small learning curve on the irons.
  3. Old, stiff tires can be really annoying to get off the wheel.
  4. It can be easy to scratch the paint on the rims if you aren't careful.
  5. it is easy to bend the brake disks if you don't take them off first.
  6. You will need an air compressor to set the bead on the new tire. Sometimes a regular air compressor is not enough. For example, if you had your new tires shipped to you and they strapped the tire into a tube, the rubber might not make enough contact with the rim to form an initial seal. If this is the case you can spend a lot of time trying to get it to inflate or you can buy one of these ($180) and commit to changing all of your own tires to make it worth buying. In defense of the tool, it does work fantastically and is very satisfying to use.
  7. Getting the wheel back on can be done alone, but really it is a two-person job. Making sure the brake calipers, wheel spacers, and axle all line up properly without anything falling out of place can be an extremely frustrating to do alone, in my experience.

So yeah, easy to understand and get right, it just makes me wish I hit the gym more often.

Get yourself some tire spoons (a set of 2 is good), rim protectors (so you don't scratch them up), something to break the bead (bead breaker or large c-clamp) and some zip ties. Those will get the tires off and your new tires on. As for balancing, go to harbor freight and buy a motorcycle wheel balancer for like $40. It's cheap but it works, I've done 2k on my recent tires and hit triple digits and have not had a single problem. They sell wheel weights too but you might be good reusing your current ones.

Ayla

The cheapest bike is just that; a cheap bike. Still it is a good time to do some DIY and learn a few things. You can buy the wheels pre-made but it might be cheaper for you to learn how to put the wheels on your bike, get the cassette on the freehub and do your own derailleur adjustment.

On the other hand, a good pair of wheels, tires, and tubes and tires and a cassette will cost up to $200 on the low end.

  • Buy used wheels or a used bike. The price of new wheels are likely to be similar to buying another cheap bike. I would suggest a few ideas:
  • Buy a used bike and sell/trade-in your frame and such
  • Buy a used wheel set. It can be difficult to find something used that is going to match your shift components and such.
  • Buy a cheap new bike. Again, you can sell or trade in your old stuff at most shops or sell locally.

Or, get a second opinion at another shop.

You might drive 30 minutes to find another shop, but if you tell them that you feel like you might be getting screwed at the other place, they are even more likely to help you out and cut you a deal. There is also the chance that they will tell you the same thing and you'll have more confirmation.

I wouldn't be surprised if, with labor, both wheels would be close to $360. The rear wheel is the second most expensive component on a bicycle, since you are also talking about replacing the cassette. You could look up what the parts are for that bike and price out replacements yourself.

So, bottom line, yes it may well be more expensive than the cheapest new bike in the shop. Not more expensive than the MSRP for a new Trek VRX 300 though.

You could replace the wheels with the cheaper ones, although you might compromise its utility as a mountain bike.

See the entire process as a learning process. The bike is not worth riding, if you pick up a really cheap one. With the lack of quality and safety concerns it is best to leave it parked. A good bike is worth the effort to invest good parts.