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Clydesdales/Athenas (200+ lb / 91+ kg) Looking to lose that spare tire? Ideal weight 200+? Frustrated being a large cyclist in a sport geared for the ultra-light? Learn about the bikes and parts that can take the abuse of a heavier cyclist, how to keep your body going while losing the weight, and get support from others who've been successful.

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Old 04-29-10, 02:02 AM   #1
Donnie2112
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Hey folks, need some advice on buying a MTN bike.

Hello all, I'm a big guy (6'3" 240 lbs) hoping to both enjoy the great mountain biking opportunities Alaska has to offer and become a not so big guy. All of that said, I need to wade through what was good info and what was bad at the local bike shops.

Across the board I was told by the salesmen that I would do well to get into a higher price range then I had initially anticipated on the grounds that a guy of my size would quickly destroy a lesser bike if I were to ride it on any sort of rough terrain. The recommendations varied from $400, $600 and $1000. Is there any truth to these assertions?

I did some test riding as well, in fact I test rode the following bikes. I got the idea early on that I'd like a 29er, as such I test rode the following.

Kona Kahuna
Kona Fire Mountain
Felt Nine Comp
Gary Fisher Mamba
Giant Talon 29
Specialized Rockhopper

I really like the 29er and I really had fun riding just about all of them (the Gary Fisher and the Kona Kahuna stood out), but I'm concerned about over investing in something that I may not end up keeping up with for that long. On the other hand if what the bike shops told me was true, then the first time I take an inexpensive 26 on a trail I'm liable to just jack it up. So I guess I just need a little more info. What do all of you think?
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Old 04-29-10, 02:33 AM   #2
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Well, the first thing when it comes to a 26" and a 29" is that you are going to get higher quality parts on a 26" for an equally priced 29'er. Another point would be that a 29'er is usally made for a taller rider. That is not saying that a taller rider can't ride a 26", it is more of a comfort issue.

Forum member sstorkel said in a previous post:
"There's a lot that's been written on the trade-offs between 26" wheels versus 29" wheels. You can probably find a lot of info if you care to look... The big advantage of a 29er is that the wheels roll over small obstacles more easily than 26" wheels. The disadvantages are that it takes more effort to get 29" wheels rolling (and keep them rolling), more effort to lift them over obstacles that can't be rolled, and more finesse to get them through really tight switchbacks. At demo days, I notice lots of beginners seem to gravitate toward 29ers. Not sure if this is because 29ers are the Hot New Thing or because they allow people without much skill to roll over obstacles that would require skill/finesse to negotiate on a 26er.
26" wheels are, in theory, slightly more versatile. Wheels are smaller, so they're easier to lift, accelerate, and maneuver. Because they're smaller, frame designers have more flexibility in frame and suspension design. 26ers are ubiquitous: you'll have more bike, suspension, drivetrain, and tire choices than you will with a 29er.
Best thing to do is talk to riders in your area (either out on the trails or in an area-specific forum) and see what they're using..."

Forum member Askel said in a previous post:
"You can go 'round and 'round on this for ages. I own both, and in reality... it doesn't make a huge difference. Sure, it's a noticeable difference- but both my 29er and 26er put a grin on my face. As long as I'm out on either of them, I never think to myself "Man, I wish I had my other bike!", no matter the terrain. Tire design, width, and air pressure make far more noticeable differences to me than 26 vs. 29."

Lastly, when you say that you are afraid of investing money into something that you feel might not last that long, I would advise not spending too much money in a bike. I personally have been out of the mix of biking for a few years now and am recently getting back into it. I chose to go with a bike that was $1,500, seeing that I will be riding two or three hours a day, and plenty more on weekends. If you are looking for a bike to enjoy trail riding and lose weight, rather than jumping logs, rumbling over rocks and splashing through creekbeds, for hours on end, I would say go with something that you can afford. If you are really taking a look at the Gary Fisher line of bicycles, do not be worried about "jacking it up" because Gary Fisher frames have a lifetime warranty, and the Bontrager wheelsets that come with Gary Fisher bikes have a five year warranty (information coming from local Trek, Gary Fisher, Felt dealer), which are pretty much the most expensive things on your bike, excluding the fork which I am not sure the warranty to, but is not a big deal because it is not going to be an issue. It seems that you are really interested in the Gary Fisher Mamba, and I would personally recommend spending another $170 and going with the Cobia for reasons as; better; hubs, rear derailleur, shifters, cassette, brakeset and bottom bracket.

Last edited by Ewanick; 04-29-10 at 11:37 AM.
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Old 04-29-10, 02:52 AM   #3
Donnie2112
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The Gary Fisher Mamba was the bike that I was really leaning towards, I liked the Kona as well. I'm just debating is all. Taking into account what you're saying, maybe I ought to go back to the bike shop and look at what Gary Fisher has to offer in the 26 inch range around 550. Maybe this would be the smarter choice. That Mamba sure looks good to me though.
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Old 04-29-10, 04:33 AM   #4
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It's a huge generalization, but there is some truth to the idea of spending more money up front on good quality parts. When I bought my first road bike, I really went nuts and beat my savings account to within an inch of it's life. I'm glad I did. I now know what I can go cheap on and what I need to spend money on. I'm perfectly happy with low end drive train components, but I do need a quality wheelset. I spent considerably less on my next road bike.

There's a point though where you start to pass into lighter weight racing components that may not be more durable, but you shouldn't have to worry about that if you stay under $1k.

I had my heart set on a geared 29er this spring and after going round and round on it for months amongst several different brands and plenty of bikes that cost far more, I ended up with a Kona Kahuna. I couldn't be happier- it's a great bike for the price. I've done 75 mile road races on it and bombed plenty of technical singletrack and it hasn't given me any major problems. It does suffer from a serious lack of tire clearance in the rear which might force me to switch to a 1x9 drivetrain if I want to run fatter tires than stock, but that's kind of a problem endemic to 29ers anyway.

One thing to consider on sub $1k 29ers is that you will almost always end up with a Dart 3 front fork. I happen to love it- the silky smooth coil spring is perfect for my style of riding, however a lot of people don't like this fork much at all and favor more expensive air spring designs. Test it out well and make sure you'll be happy with it. An upgrade would be very expensive.

As I'm quoted above though- don't get too hung up on getting a 29er. Good ol' 26" hardtails are still plenty of fun.
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Old 04-29-10, 09:36 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Donnie2112 View Post
The Gary Fisher Mamba was the bike that I was really leaning towards, I liked the Kona as well. I'm just debating is all. Taking into account what you're saying, maybe I ought to go back to the bike shop and look at what Gary Fisher has to offer in the 26 inch range around 550. Maybe this would be the smarter choice. That Mamba sure looks good to me though.
In my honest opinion it really depends on what your price range is. On one hand you mention a bike that is $923 MSRP (GF Mamba) and on the other hand looking at 26'ers at around $550. If you are leaning toward the Mamba, and are willing to spend roughly $1000, then as I posted above, step it up to the Cobia for $170 more, this is because once you go over the $1,000 range parts become considerably better. But, if you are looking to spend around say $550 total, as mentioned for the 26"; it is going to have much less quality parts because when I mention above about the 26" having higher qaulity parts for roughly the same price, to get equal quality parts on a 29" verse a 26" it is only going to be a difference of maybe $150-$200 not as drastic as $930 to $550.

If you would like to give "us" an exact price range that you are comfortable with spending, meaning your maximum limit, excluding the google eyeing of higher end bikes, i.e. the GF Mamba (and I mean that in a funny way, I do it myself; such as looking at a $2,000 bike when I wanted to spend $1,500 max, haha) and I only say that because of your discomfort stated above with committing to spending a good bit of money, than I am sure all of us here at the clydesdale forum would love to help you chose a bike. The bike shop personnel will tell you much different than say people who have actually experienced the rides themselves.

Last edited by Ewanick; 04-29-10 at 09:51 AM.
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Old 04-29-10, 10:27 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Donnie2112 View Post
Across the board I was told by the salesmen that I would do well to get into a higher price range then I had initially anticipated on the grounds that a guy of my size would quickly destroy a lesser bike if I were to ride it on any sort of rough terrain. The recommendations varied from $400, $600 and $1000. Is there any truth to these assertions?
This is the age-old question when getting into a new sport: do you spend big and potentially end up with an "investment" that you won't want to use? Or do you buy conservatively and end up hating the sport because you've got crappy gear?

What I generally tell people is: you'll get more for your money if you buy good-condition late-model used gear. In many cases, you can also rent good gear before buying. I find that when I start a new sport, the gear I think I need is often very different than what I actually end up buying after participating in the sport for a few months...

That said, there is some truth to the assertion that spending more money will get you a better bike. At the same time, there may or may not be a noticeable difference between a $400 bike and a $600 bike. The big problem with entry-level mountain bikes is that they all use low-end suspension components. The fork of my dual-suspension bike retails for around $600-700, IIRC. You're not going to find the same level of suspension performance on a bike that retails for $800...

In order to make an educated decision, you'll probably need to look at the detailed component lists for the bikes you like and determine what, if anything, spending more money buys you. At the price level you're talking about, I probably wouldn't spend money to get slightly better shifters, derailleurs, cassettes, or chains. All of the stuff at that level is decent. Spending a bit more money may get you a better logo on the part in question, but there may not be an appreciable difference in performance or longevity. I would, however, pay more for: better suspension, better brakes, or possibly better wheels. I hate Shimano off-road shift levers with a passion, so if necessary I'd probably pay a bit more to get a bike with SRAM shifters. I love hydraulic disc brakes, so I'd probably pay more for a bike that included decent hydros. I would not buy an off-road bike that didn't have disc brakes!

Quote:
I really like the 29er and I really had fun riding just about all of them (the Gary Fisher and the Kona Kahuna stood out), but I'm concerned about over investing in something that I may not end up keeping up with for that long. On the other hand if what the bike shops told me was true, then the first time I take an inexpensive 26 on a trail I'm liable to just jack it up. So I guess I just need a little more info. What do all of you think?
Honestly, I tend to think you get a bit more for your money when buying a 26er than you do when buying a 29er... If you're comparing a $200 Wal-mart 26er to an $800 Gary Fisher, there's no question the GF is going to be a better bike. But if you're comparing a $600 Kona 26er to a $600 Gary Fisher 29er, you may find that the 26er has slightly better components or is slightly more durable. In choosing between 29" wheels and 26" wheels, the best thing to do is talk to riders in your area. They're more likely to give you the truth about what works on local trails than a salesman.

Finally, do consider buying used. I'll admit, evaluating used bikes can be difficult for a beginner. Try to find some experienced local riders and get them to help you evaluate bikes. Suspension components are often a place where a used bike will have problems. Often those problems can be cured with an inexpensive rebuild. After riding the used bike for a season, you can usually sell it for about what you paid and have a much better idea of what you want when buying your first brand-new bike...
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Old 04-29-10, 01:52 PM   #7
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My thought going in was spending from 550 to 650 bucks. When I hopped on some of the 29ers I stretched my price range for them specifically because I liked them, just felt good to me as a big guy. But then again, I only rode one 26. I am going to make another pass at some of the bike shops and ride some less expensive 26 inch wheel bikes and ask if they have anything used in my size. Maybe I'll have a better idea then, otherwise I might just end up pulling the trigger on the Gary Fisher.
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Old 04-29-10, 02:20 PM   #8
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Taller riders seem to fit well on the Fisher bikes that have the Genesis geometry, they have longer top tubes than some other brands.. I have been riding a Fisher Supercaliber for 10 years and has been very solid bike..
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Old 05-02-10, 03:10 AM   #9
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I'm having to wait on the VA to give me my post 9/11 GI bill checks to make my purchase but I've pretty much decided that I'm going to buy a Gary Fisher and it is between a lower cost 26er and the Mamba. If I buy the Mamba I figure I can upgrade it as I go along. I am going to try to make a commitment to ride to my classes and to go for a few recreational rides a week. I got to get in shape!
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Old 05-02-10, 08:43 AM   #10
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Sounds like great news to me Donnie2112! All the best wishes in the final decision, as well as to getting in shape. The Gary Fisher is a great choice. Nice bikes I must say, especially coming from the pioneer of mountain biking, you really can not go wrong.
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