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  1. #1
    Senior Member magohn's Avatar
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    Buying a Mountain Bike - What would you do?

    Hi all,

    I mainly ride road but I have $800-900 to spend on a Mountain Bike. I want a mountain bike because, as we roll into fall, I would like to try some low-end trail riding with my daughter. I realize at $800-900 Im not going to set the MTB world on fire but I do expect something that will at least provide a few years of fun. I dont want full-suspension, just front with lockout.

    Im thinking of possibly getting a '29er' . I am looking at the following two options:

    Im looking at this, a '29er':

    Specialized 29er

    http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bik...r/rockhopper29

    Bike Direct Motobecane Fantom 26er - Im OK with a BD bike as I am comfortable wrenching and dont particularly care about resale value or street cred etc. Seems a solid bike.

    http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...om_comp_xi.htm

    Any Clydes who ride trails on a 26" or 29" wheeled MTB that can offer comments?

    Thanks so much.
    Last edited by magohn; 08-16-12 at 11:32 PM.

  2. #2
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    I own a 26" full-suspension mountain bike. For the types of tight trails that I ride, the 26er works fine. If the trails I rode had fewer tight switchbacks (or I had more riding skill) or more roots and rock gardens, I'd consider a 29er.

    Of the two bikes you linked, I'd go with the one from Bikes Direct. Looks like you get quite a bit more for your money: a decent fork, name-brand Avid Juicy hydraulic brakes, etc. The Specialized bike seems to be a bit low-end: Suntour fork, Tektro brakes, Suntour crank, etc. The BD bike looks a bit plain, but the component mix seems significantly better.

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    I am like SStorkel. I ride 26" full suspension, but have been saving up for a new MTB and have had this discussion with the guys and the customers at the shop I work at. After many discussions at the shop I think it's important to note that when you take advice on 26" vs 29" you get the experience that the advice giver has with each. I'm finding that there's more "well I read it on the interwebz" experience than there are people who have actually made the move from 26 to 29 and who can give actual direct experience advice.

    Having said that I personally don't think one will be 100% better than the other. Each has it's advantages, so it has more to do with the type of trails you will be riding and your riding style. 26" will be easier to navigate through tight technical stuff and will accelerate quicker where the 29" will allow you to roll over obstacles and maintain speed easier.

    I'm a point and shoot type of rider who picks the straightest line and rolls over it at speed vs the type of guy who picks and winds his way through stuff with finesse so a 29" will allow me to maintain speed and make it a bit easier to roll over roots and smaller babyhead size rocks. At the same time one of biggest weaknesses are off camber switchbacks and a 29" will make these a bit more difficult for me, so in my case a 29" will accentuate my strengths but also my weaknesses. Since the trails I ride aren't overly tight and technical with only a few off camber switchbacks I will most likely go with a 29". In the end my decision is a bit easier than yours because if I do find myself going somewhere that's not suited for a 29 I'll have the ability to go grab my trusty 26" Ellsworth Truth.

    If I was you I would visit the trail heads and see what other guys are riding and visit a bunch of shops that have a strong MTB client base and ask them what wheel size would be best for the trails you intend to ride.

  4. #4
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    +1 Rockhopper
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  5. #5
    Pedal Pusher/Pundit mcrow's Avatar
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    I would buy a rockhopper from a LBS, they are good quality bikes and will be more than enough for what you describe. I always recommend a LBS because you get the extra service perks at most of them and you get to test ride them first. However, if you are not close to a LBS then the Motobecane bikes are solid builds from what I understand.

  6. #6
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by magohn View Post
    Hi all,

    I mainly ride road but I have $800-900 to spend on a Mountain Bike. I want a mountain bike because, as we roll into fall, I would like to try some low-end trail riding with my daughter. I realize at $800-900 Im not going to set the MTB world on fire but I do expect something that will at least provide a few years of fun. I dont want full-suspension, just front with lockout.

    Im thinking of possibly getting a '29er' . I am looking at the following two options:

    Im looking at this, a '29er':

    Specialized 29er

    http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bik...r/rockhopper29

    Bike Direct Motobecane Fantom 26er - Im OK with a BD bike as I am comfortable wrenching and dont particularly care about resale value or street cred etc. Seems a solid bike.

    http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...om_comp_xi.htm

    Any Clydes who ride trails on a 26" or 29" wheeled MTB that can offer comments?

    Thanks so much.
    I'd suggest the Specialized Rockhopper 26" over the 29er. They are essentially the same bike but the 26" version is $100 less. I know that everyone says that 29ers have a magic quality about them but I'm not convinced it's enough magic to justify an extra $100. The 29er has its own warts like higher gearing, weaker wheels, higher standover, heavier wheels, etc. It may roll over terrain better...I'm not that convinced...but it takes much more effort to get the bike up to the point where it will roll over terrain better. I have 3 mountain bikes, all 26", that range from a hardtail Stumpjumper Pro to a Specialized Epic to a Moots YBB and never really noticed that any of them are at that much of a disadvantage off-road.

    I'd also go with the Specialized over the Motobecane because you have easy access to the manufacturer. I've broken two Specialized frames in the past. Both were replaced by simply walking into the shop and handing over the bike. Specialized also warrants against defect for the life of the original purchaser. Motobecane doesn't. It's not a huge deal but life is better when things are easier.
    Last edited by cyccommute; 08-17-12 at 09:23 AM.
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  7. #7
    Pedal Pusher/Pundit mcrow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    I'd suggest the Specialized Rockhopper 26" over the 29er. They are essentially the same bike but the 26" version is $100 less. I know that everyone says that 29ers have a magic quality about them but I'm not convinced it's enough magic to justify an extra $100. The 29er has its own warts like higher gearing, weaker wheels, higher standover, heavier wheels, etc. It may roll over terrain better...I'm not that convinced...but it takes much more effort to get the bike up to the point where it will roll over terrain better.

    I have 3 mountain bikes, all 26", that range from a hardtail Stumpjumper Pro to a Specialized Epic to a Moots YBB and never really noticed that any of them are at that much of a disadvantage off-road.
    I agree. Years ago I was pretty big into Mountain Biking (Out every weekend for a whole day) and only road 26" bikes (I'm not even sure there were 29'ers then) but got a chance to ride a couple of 29'ers recently and don't see what the big deal is. Maybe for someone who races they might make a difference but it can't be that much.

  8. #8
    Senior Member magohn's Avatar
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    Hmmmm - all very interesting comments. Im up in the air about 29er's as it is a "newish" breed. I see the advantage of a 29er that it rolls on road much more easily. Well I have my road bike for that. Im leaning towards a 26er after all your great comments.

    Im actually off to the LBS in a few hours. They are having a close-out sale on 2012 Specialized bikes (those in stock). If I were to look solely at 26ers, Specialized has these bike and at MSRP they are in my price range without a sale discount.

    http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bik...per/rockhopper

    or this:

    http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bik...hardrockdisc26

    Whats the advantage of the rockhopper over the hardrock? Also, The MAIN issue stopping me from ordering from Bikes Direct is that at 6'0" do I order the 19", 21" or 22" frame? They seem a little all over the place on sizing info.

    Here's a YouTube video of the higher end Bikes Direct Motobecane Fantom on the trail - pretty amazing!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HukcanLrvcE

    Thanks guys. I really APPRECIATE the info as Im kinda lost in the Mountain Bike arena and just want something thats 'adequate' without buying a lemon

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by magohn View Post
    Whats the advantage of the rockhopper over the hardrock? Also, The MAIN issue stopping me from ordering from Bikes Direct is that at 6'0" do I order the 19", 21" or 22" frame? They seem a little all over the place on sizing info.
    Read through the component list: the Rockhopper has hydraulic disc brakes versus mechanical on the Hardrock. The Rockhopper has a 9-speed drive-train while the Hardrock has 8-speed. The Rockhopper has name-brand Alex rims versus generic rims on the Hardrock.

    If you're interested in buying the Bikes Direct bike, and given the low-end components on the Specialized bikes I would definitely consider it, you'll need to compare the geometry to bikes you currently own... or have test-ridden. Focus on matching the effective/horizontal top tube length first, then seat post length second. The Motobecane frames seem a bit small, which could be a deal-breaker for someone of your height.

  10. #10
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    I'm with cyccommute; go with the Spesh.

    I'll admit my bias here, first off: I recently purchased an FSR Comp EVO and couldn't be happier with the decision, and rebuit a Hotrock 24" for a friend's kid who is having a blast on it at Duthie Hill park.
    Given your location, I'm guessing you'd buy it at Woodinville Bike? If so, they're an awesome shop and the crew there will always come through for you. Looking at the selections you've listed above, the Rockhopper is a good choice for components, and gets you an extra 20mm of fork travel (assuming you ride a larger frame).
    While a 29er is nice for rolling over obstacles and carrying speed on XC-ish courses, a 26" wheel gives you added strength, and I find that they corner better in the tight switchback singletrack you'll find at places like the Paradise Valley Trails and the uphills on the XC runs at Duthie Hill. A 29er is nice for open-throttle trails like the Thrilla, but to be honest, you can ride that one on a CX bike with knobby 32s.
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  11. #11
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by magohn View Post
    Hmmmm - all very interesting comments. Im up in the air about 29er's as it is a "newish" breed. I see the advantage of a 29er that it rolls on road much more easily. Well I have my road bike for that. Im leaning towards a 26er after all your great comments.

    Im actually off to the LBS in a few hours. They are having a close-out sale on 2012 Specialized bikes (those in stock). If I were to look solely at 26ers, Specialized has these bike and at MSRP they are in my price range without a sale discount.

    http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bik...per/rockhopper

    or this:

    http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bik...hardrockdisc26

    Whats the advantage of the rockhopper over the hardrock? Also, The MAIN issue stopping me from ordering from Bikes Direct is that at 6'0" do I order the 19", 21" or 22" frame? They seem a little all over the place on sizing info.

    Here's a YouTube video of the higher end Bikes Direct Motobecane Fantom on the trail - pretty amazing!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HukcanLrvcE

    Thanks guys. I really APPRECIATE the info as Im kinda lost in the Mountain Bike arena and just want something thats 'adequate' without buying a lemon
    The fact that you can 'kick the tires' at a bike shop is an advantage over the BD bikes, especially if you aren't sure of size. At your height, however, I'd suspect you'll be riding a 19" mountain bike.

    Now down to the differences between the Rockhopper and the Hardrock: The frame on the Rockhopper is better as are the components. The fork on the Hardrock is a spring/elastomer fork which is always active, isn't easy to change the spring rate (i.e. adjust) and can't be locked out. The Rockhopper fork is an air/oil fork which is easier to adjust and has a lockout for those times when you might ride on a road and not need the fork. The component mix on the Rockhopper isn't stellar but it's better than the Hardrock.

    Now, having said all that I've said against the 29er, if you can find one on sale and the price and quality is better than the Rockhopper, you should go with the most bike you can buy for the least amount of money. If, for example, the Carve Comp ($1300) were the same price as the MSRP of the Rockhopper, I'd spend the extra dollars for the better bike. You can't buy too much bike, i.e. more bike than your ability to ride it, but you can buy too little bike and outgrow it quickly. That's what I would be afraid of on the Hardrock. You'd quickly find the limits of the bike than then have to upgrade. It's cheaper, in the long run, to buy a bike you can grow with than to buy two bikes.
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  12. #12
    Pedal Pusher/Pundit mcrow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    The fact that you can 'kick the tires' at a bike shop is an advantage over the BD bikes, especially if you aren't sure of size. At your height, however, I'd suspect you'll be riding a 19" mountain bike.

    Now down to the differences between the Rockhopper and the Hardrock: The frame on the Rockhopper is better as are the components. The fork on the Hardrock is a spring/elastomer fork which is always active, isn't easy to change the spring rate (i.e. adjust) and can't be locked out. The Rockhopper fork is an air/oil fork which is easier to adjust and has a lockout for those times when you might ride on a road and not need the fork. The component mix on the Rockhopper isn't stellar but it's better than the Hardrock.

    Now, having said all that I've said against the 29er, if you can find one on sale and the price and quality is better than the Rockhopper, you should go with the most bike you can buy for the least amount of money. If, for example, the Carve Comp ($1300) were the same price as the MSRP of the Rockhopper, I'd spend the extra dollars for the better bike. You can't buy too much bike, i.e. more bike than your ability to ride it, but you can buy too little bike and outgrow it quickly. That's what I would be afraid of on the Hardrock. You'd quickly find the limits of the bike than then have to upgrade. It's cheaper, in the long run, to buy a bike you can grow with than to buy two bikes.
    It hink the hardrocks are generally heavier bikes too.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    I'd also go with the Specialized over the Motobecane because you have easy access to the manufacturer. I've broken two Specialized frames in the past. Both were replaced by simply walking into the shop and handing over the bike. Specialized also warrants against defect for the life of the original purchaser. Motobecane doesn't. It's not a huge deal but life is better when things are easier.
    I think you're focusing on the wrong thing here. No matter how good the warranty is, I doubt it will improve the on-trail performance of the budget Suntour forks and bottom-end drive-train components that Specialized is using on their entry-level bikes. Given the significantly better quality of the fork, brakes, and drivetrain components of the Motobecane bike, I could easily look past the warranty...

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    I find it funny that a bunch of people who have no serious quality time on a 29" are the ones saying they aren't worth it. This is the kind of advice I tried warning the OP against in my first post. There are guys that come in my shop that own both. I talk to these guys regularly and have some serious in depth Q&A with them. A couple have even shown me their Garmin and Polar files. Without fail they have all said the same thing: a 26 can handle fast rolling terrain as quickly as a 29 and a 29" can roll through technical tight twisty terrain as quickly as a 26" but it takes more work to do so. That's a fact backed up by the files I have been shown.

    So, again I think you need to match the wheel size to the terrain your riding. Since Clifton seems to ride the trails you will be frequenting the most I'd say his advice is a good start but I would still talk to the guys in the shops and see what they think. Ask if they have any customers who own both and try to talk to those guys. Those are the ones whose input will be the most valuable.

    The 29 vs 26 debate reminds me of the old Full Suspension vs Hardtial debate of years ago. A bunch of riders who never rode FS saying it was worthless and a bunch of guys on FS who never owned a hardtail saying it was the best thing since sliced bread. When you talked to the people that owned both you got a completely different story.

  15. #15
    Pedal Pusher/Pundit mcrow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    I think you're focusing on the wrong thing here. No matter how good the warranty is, I doubt it will improve the on-trail performance of the budget Suntour forks and bottom-end drive-train components that Specialized is using on their entry-level bikes. Given the significantly better quality of the fork, brakes, and drivetrain components of the Motobecane bike, I could easily look past the warranty...
    The other difference is you have to assemble the BD bikes yourself or pay someone to due it and you may have to tru the wheels as well. You are dealing with a non-local company so returning a damaged or poorly fitted bike will be a pain in the arse. Most people will see little difference in durability or performance of the two componenent sets.

    So it's a balancing act:

    Are the better components really that much better?
    Is it worth it to gamble on the fit of the bike?
    Are you willing to deal with shipping the bike back and forth if you have problems with it?
    Are you willing/able to true the wheels if needed and assemble the bike or pay someone to do it?
    Are the benefits of your LBS good? Like do they offer free adjustments, flat fixes, lifetime parts warranty, free tune-ups...ect?

    There are defintely benefits to buying from BD, mostly the price break that gets you better components but you are kind of on your own with it and don't have the support of a LBS.

    I'm seriously considering buying my next bike from BD, but it's a bit more risky than going to your LBS.

  16. #16
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    Go with the 29er if your a bigger than 6' plus. They tend to fit better. Mostly road with some light trail, get some sort smooth tires, like dirt race slicks, should fit the bill just fine.

  17. #17
    Pedal Pusher/Pundit mcrow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paisan View Post
    I find it funny that a bunch of people who have no serious quality time on a 29" are the ones saying they aren't worth it. This is the kind of advice I tried warning the OP against in my first post. There are guys that come in my shop that own both. I talk to these guys regularly and have some serious in depth Q&A with them. A couple have even shown me their Garmin and Polar files. Without fail they have all said the same thing: a 26 can handle fast rolling terrain as quickly as a 29 and a 29" can roll through technical tight twisty terrain as quickly as a 26" but it takes more work to do so. That's a fact backed up by the files I have been shown.

    So, again I think you need to match the wheel size to the terrain your riding. Since Clifton seems to ride the trails you will be frequenting the most I'd say his advice is a good start but I would still talk to the guys in the shops and see what they think. Ask if they have any customers who own both and try to talk to those guys. Those are the ones whose input will be the most valuable.

    The 29 vs 26 debate reminds me of the old Full Suspension vs Hardtial debate of years ago. A bunch of riders who never rode FS saying it was worthless and a bunch of guys on FS who never owned a hardtail saying it was the best thing since sliced bread. When you talked to the people that owned both you got a completely different story.
    I love how you always no everything around here.


    Nobody said 29ers were not better in some way, the question is whether it is worth it or not to pay the extra money for it. Considering it sounds like the bike will be more for occaisonal use and not really too worried about winning any races, it may not be worth paying the extra. Basic physics will tell you 29ers are better but I'm not sure that the casual trail rider will really notice too much difference or be interested in paying the extra cash for it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mcrow View Post
    I love how you always no everything around here.


    Nobody said 29ers were not better in some way, the question is whether it is worth it or not to pay the extra money for it. Considering it sounds like the bike will be more for occaisonal use and not really too worried about winning any races, it may not be worth paying the extra. Basic physics will tell you 29ers are better but I'm not sure that the casual trail rider will really notice too much difference or be interested in paying the extra cash for it.
    the difference is you act like you know everything and admittedly havent ridden a 29 but a few times. My advice was hey I don't have experience, here's what I've heard go talk to people who actually have the experience.

  19. #19
    Pedal Pusher/Pundit mcrow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paisan View Post
    the difference is you act like you know everything and admittedly havent ridden a 29 but a few times. My advice was hey I don't have experience, here's what I've heard go talk to people who actually have the experience.
    I don't act like I know everything, I simply stated I didn't notice much difference in my use and stated what my level of use was. Your problem is that you can't seem to grasp the arguement people were making (Not that 29ers are not better but a 26er might be a better value for the OP's purpose). You don't have to be an expert to figure that basic idea out.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcrow View Post
    The other difference is you have to assemble the BD bikes yourself or pay someone to due it and you may have to tru the wheels as well. You are dealing with a non-local company so returning a damaged or poorly fitted bike will be a pain in the arse. Most people will see little difference in durability or performance of the two componenent sets.
    1) the OP stated explicitly that he's comfortable wrenching on bikes and isn't worried about buying from BD on that basis

    2) if there were no difference in durability or performance of components, everybody would save money and buy Shimano Alivio, Tektro, etc

    3) I would be extremely surprised if a Clyde couldn't feel the difference between a fixed-travel Suntour fork and an adjustable-travel Rock Shox Tora U-turn fork with lockout

    While I certainly wouldn't recommend a BD bike to everyone, I do think it's a reasonable consideration for the OP.

  21. #21
    Pedal Pusher/Pundit mcrow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    1) the OP stated explicitly that he's comfortable wrenching on bikes and isn't worried about buying from BD on that basis

    2) if there were no difference in durability or performance of components, everybody would save money and buy Shimano Alivio, Tektro, etc
    Part marketing, part reality, and part not knowing better. For some people, depending on use, they are better for others it may not make a difference. I was speaking more in general and not specific to the OP. Anyone else reading the thread would have to think about the assembly ...ect.

    3) I would be extremely surprised if a Clyde couldn't feel the difference between a fixed-travel Suntour fork and an adjustable-travel Rock Shox Tora U-turn fork with lockout
    The suntour fork has lockout but I don't really see adjustable travel as that huge a deal for most riders. If you are very experienced you may be able to adjust the travel to suit the terrain but for most people your better just setting it and leaving it alone.
    While I certainly wouldn't recommend a BD bike to everyone, I do think it's a reasonable consideration for the OP.
    Very well could be.

  22. #22
    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    1) the OP stated explicitly that he's comfortable wrenching on bikes and isn't worried about buying from BD on that basis

    2) if there were no difference in durability or performance of components, everybody would save money and buy Shimano Alivio, Tektro, etc

    3) I would be extremely surprised if a Clyde couldn't feel the difference between a fixed-travel Suntour fork and an adjustable-travel Rock Shox Tora U-turn fork with lockout

    While I certainly wouldn't recommend a BD bike to everyone, I do think it's a reasonable consideration for the OP.
    XT, LX, better fork, WTB rims on the Moto vs Alvio and Acera, Alex rims on the Specialized ? No questions asked, the Motobecane. Besides, what's to install, handlebars and pedals? Heck, we all have a bud that will help with the installation and if you have any kind of mechanical ability, these things are super easy. I've adjusted deraillerus for buds on the roadside many a times.

    If anything, ride the heck out of the bike and if anything happens, get a new frame. Pretty much part of the game if you ride your bikes.

  23. #23
    Pedal Pusher/Pundit mcrow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
    XT, LX, better fork, WTB rims on the Moto vs Alvio and Acera, Alex rims on the Specialized ? No questions asked, the Motobecane. Besides, what's to install, handlebars and pedals? Heck, we all have a bud that will help with the installation and if you have any kind of mechanical ability, these things are super easy. I've adjusted deraillerus for buds on the roadside many a times.

    If anything, ride the heck out of the bike and if anything happens, get a new frame. Pretty much part of the game if you ride your bikes.
    The way I see it is that the Motobecanes are a better value. I think even if you pay $60 to have it checked out at the LBS after you finish assembly it will still be a good deal. I think they say the bikes come about 80% assembled so (like you said) it can'be be much more than putting the wheels on, pedals and handlebars and most people who are not that mechanically inclined could probably do that.

    Heck, if you're getting better components (even if maybe you don't notice the difference) you're still getting it cheaper.

    The biggest concern would be the fit and how it rides since you don't get to do a test ride.

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    Banned. Mr. Beanz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcrow View Post
    The biggest concern would be the fit and how it rides since you don't get to do a test ride.
    That is true but IMO, if you look up the geo on line, the Specialized is 23.3 top tube length, the Specialized 23.2 and the angles are the same. Nothing that can't be adjusted or fitted.

    Not sure of the OP but I myself know a ton of riders so trying out another bike woud be as easy as asking. Heck, If I wanted to ride a Colnago, I could ask Homey. I might not bring it back but at least I'd have tried it. I do know a few riders on Motobecanes as well.

  25. #25
    Pedal Pusher/Pundit mcrow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Beanz View Post
    That is true but IMO, if you look up the geo on line, the Specialized is 23.3 top tube length, the Specialized 23.2 and the angles are the same. Nothing that can't be adjusted or fitted.

    Not sure of the OP but I myself know a ton of riders so trying out another bike woud be as easy as asking. Heck, If I wanted to ride a Colnago, I could ask Homey. I might not bring it back but at least I'd have tried it. I do know a few riders on Motobecanes as well.
    My guess is most people will be OK going by their recommended sizes or checking out bikes with similar geometry at the LBS first.
    Not like you can't adjust the stem and seat, so it will probably workout OK.

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