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  1. #1
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Getting bitten by the dirt bug - again

    I've been riding mountain bikes along with road bikes since I started my adult infatuation with bicycles in 1990. At times I've gotten somewhat involved in mountain biking, but road riding has always been the real passion for me. For a few years recently, the MTB was gathering a lot of dust unless I used it for some kind of Frankenbike road bike project. But since I started the bicycling club in the summer of 2005, I've been doing mostly mild MTB rides about once a week. In the last few months, some of the club members have taken more of an interest in offroad riding, especially since we cleared some new beginner to intermediate singletrack sections at the local Forestry Service recreation area.

    I have especially enjoyed showing some of the MTB crowd that an old rigid bike like my Trek 970 can still be ridden fairly fast on the same trails the front and full suspension bikes ride. This weekend I went with some of the local MTB hotshots to a great riding area about an hour and a half away near Jackson, GA, the Dauset Trails. To my surprise and theirs, I was able to hang right with them most of the sections. We weren't going full-out racing speed, but we weren't taking it easy either. On some of the more technical climbing sections I was able to keep up with the front runners and opened a good gap on a few guys who are so fast on the road that I won't even ride with them.

    But as well as I did, it was clear to me that I would have been a bit faster and a lot more comfortable on a bike with suspension. Especially on fast downhill sections where my bike was bouncing around quite a bit and wearing me out fighting to keep on track. I'm sure that too much of that kind of abuse would not make my bad lower back (herniated disk) too happy.

    So, as much as I've fought it, I think there's going to be a modern MTB in the stable before too long. My budget will be between $1000 and $1500. I'm not sure if I'll go for a full suspension bike or just front suspension and a Thudbuster to lessen the jolt in back. I'm also undecided between 26" or 29" wheels. With price no object, I'd probably go with a fully suspended 29er, but working within a budget, I know that those extra features mean giving up some quality in the fork and components. I think a 29er hardtail may be a good comprimise as the larger wheels are supposed to roll more smoothly over rocks and roots.

    I'm not really up to speed on what's what in the MTB lineups, so I'll be doing a lot of research and looking for knowledgeable advice from my friends here at 50+ and BF.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  2. #2
    Bike Junkie roccobike's Avatar
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    BluesDawg, You may want to consider a Specialized Rockhopper. I started MTB riding on a rigid, 89 Nishiki Ariel in July of 05. First I added a suspension fork to the Nishiki, but that was not the improvement I was looking for. I tried my son's Trek 820 and decided to buy a new bike. So I tried a Rockhopper at the end of 05' (after considering Trek 4500, GF Piranha) and found it was much more stable than the Nishiki or the Trek 820, especially on technical trails. Just my $.02.
    Roccobike BF Official Thread Terminator

  3. #3
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Thanks, roccobike. I'll definitely be checking out the Specialized line, but the Stumpjumper is probably more like what I'm looking for. I want something raceworthy. My LBS carries Specialized, Trek and Gary Fisher, so if I buy new, it will almost definitely be one of those brands.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  4. #4
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Wow! This really is a road-oriented group, isn't it? Guess I'll put on my flame-resistant suit and try my luck on the Mountain Bike Forum.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  5. #5
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Blues dawg

    Some of us still do the getting muddy bit and to be honest- It does not matter what bike you do it on- it is all fun. I cannot relate to your prices as some of our bikes over here are far more expensive than in the US.

    Full suspension. Unless you are going to sell the wife to get a decent top end bike- do not bother. Despite all the Marketing hype- not many of the midrange full suspension bikes work. Going for a few names- so that you can check out the prices- Santa cruz make several bike supplied on frame only supply for it to be built into a Top rate bike but the frame only will take your budget. The Whyte 46 is my dream bike and I know this one works.
    Problem with the midrange FS bikes is that components will be compromised. And those componemts are in the suspension and Wheel stakes- the important bits on bikes.

    Hardtails still have a lot going for them and if you are thinking of XC riding and not doing stunts or Trial riding, the range of manufacturers making good hardtails is enormous. I have a bianchi but Specialised-Marin- Cannondale- Kona- Giant- Scott- Trek-- You name a bike manufacturer and you can get a good bike from them

    Front suspension- For XC you will not need more than 100mm travel and whether this be AIR or Spring or even Elastomer does not matter. What the suspension does need to be is a good-NON om part- from a good manufacturer like Rockshox or Marzochi as these two seem to have the market right now. Om Suspension- even from top namesare downgraded suspension that will not work aswell as the almost identically named retail unit.
    Wheels- I do not like inhouse hubs but most manufacturers use them. Given a choice I would like to see Shimano XT hubs on Mavis rims but that is personal.
    Disc or Rim brakes- Go Hydrailic disk with 180 mm front disc and 160 rear. No need for bigger unless you have an overbuilt frame and fork-And that means heavy. If you really want light weight then go for rim V Brakes.Still nothing wrong with them and they are lighter.

    Drive chain- The minimum for anything decent is LX. XT is better and is my favourite for cost and Efeectiveness and I think most would agree. Watch out for down graded cranksets or Gear changers but these could be upgraded when they wear out.

    So the main thing to look for is Hardtail- Known name- 100 mm suspension- Hydraulic disk or v Brakes- good wheels and LX or XT drive chain. Then there is weight- 26lbs is good for a hardtail- 24lbs is better. As to rear suspension post- You are out of the saddle a lot more on a mountain bike so Get a good saddle Like a Flite Titanium (One of the narrow ones preferably with the cutout and a bit of gel) and you wont need one. Then there is the other point of Plenty of Frame cleaner as if you use an MTB properly= you will need it.

    Oh On the wheels- Forget 29". Not as sturdy as 26" and choice of tyres for all conditions is not there.

    Now this is a personal choice- If you want a good hardtail- then Kona's take a lot of beating. You may even be able to get a King Kikapu full suspension in a 2006 within your price and other than the whyte 46 that I really do want- This is only Mid range bike that I would contemplate in FS. Definitely worth a look at.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  6. #6
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Thanks for the thorough response, stapfam.

    The only reason I'm considering full suspension is my back. Even so, I'm leaning toward a hardtail. I don't like a lot of complexity (remember, I run friction shifters on my road bikes, which are made of steel). I also hate to pay more for a bike with lower level components just to get the rear shock. I do stand most of the time in the rough stuff, but I use a Thudbuster now and really like the way it keeps the occasional harsh jolt from going straight up my spine. As long as the bike I buy has a 27.2 seatpost (or a larger one that can be shimmed) I'm already set for that.

    I have not heard before that the OEM forks are downgraded from the same named aftermarket item. I'll take that under consideration, but forks are sure expensive these days.

    I do want to get LX at a minimum and hopefully XT or the SRAM equivalent.

    What's wrong with mechanical disc brakes? I'd probably go with V-brakes anyway, but I especially don't want the complexity of hydraulic fluid.

    Anyway, much to consider. I'm not in a particular hurry to make a choice. I need to save my pennies for a while as I research and test. Thanks for the input.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  7. #7
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    The OEM forks are from experience and reading the ride tests in magazines. I have a thudbuster and who needs full suspension if you have one? Now on the mechanical brakes- There are a couple that work ok but hydraulics work a lot better (Although there are some rubbish Hydraulic brakes too) Good V. Brakes work as well as, if not better than all of the Cable operated Discs. Only draw back is rim wear but this is only a problem with the lightweight rims that I use. I still get 18 months to 2 years for a set of rims and by that time the complete wheel is getting tired.

    Couple of points to think about on a mountain bike. Frame size is generraly smaller to give you the standover clearance. you need at least 2". Like road bikes- one frame will be used in one particular model. The difference between the cheaper and the more expensive model will be in the components. Don't just look at this one has XT and this one LX. The other components like bars- saddle- wheels will denote a far better riding bike- although it has the same frame.

    Then if you are taking a choice between two bikes and can't make up your mind- look at weight. 2 lbs makes a lot of difference going uphills. The final test is a test ride though. The only way to check if a bike is for you.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


    Spike Milligan

  8. #8
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    I took a spin on a Gary Fisher Cobia just to see what a 29er felt like. I thought it was pretty comfortable. Several of the local MTB hotshots are riding 29ers and are crazy about them.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  9. #9
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    It's pretty hard to beat the Stumpjumper though. For all around riding the full suspension lighter versions are the cat's meow.

    The problem with that you've ridden unsuspended mountain bikes. Suspended MTB is a different animal altogether and not nearly as exciting. What's more, you'll have to learn to simply ignore anything but the very worst surfaces since the suspension simply absorbs EVERYTHING.

    I've found it to be rather boring and have pretty much stopped MTB riding since I got my Santa Cruz.

  10. #10
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    I'm not up on U.S. prices, but my daughter rides a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR and loves it and we all have Treks and I know that you can get a Trek Fuel 70 within your budget as well

    Both are nice bikes, very plush rides, and ideal for XC trails but can do the occassional drop as well

  11. #11
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    FSR is definitely out of my range. I've all but eliminated the idea of full supension. anything I could afford would require immediate upgrades which I couldn't afford. For the same $ I can get a hardtail with good enough components to hold me for a while, or for less I could get something with a solid frame and be able to upgrade some of the components. Still pondering the whole 29er issue. But I'm in no hurry. I'll probably change my mind many times before I take the plunge.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  12. #12
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    As often happens to my plans, this one has changed focus a bit. I've decided to move my sights downscale quite a bit. Today I ordered a 2006 Gary Fisher Marlin at a great clearance price. It's a pretty decent hardtail frame with adequate components. I'll be doing a bunch of 3-way swapping around of componets between the Marlin, the Trek 970 and a Mongoose frame that I bought a while back and never got around to building up. I hope to end up with an upgraded fast MTB in the Marlin, a rigid MTB in the 970 and a cheap bike to sell in the Mongoose.
    I'm going to sign on to MTB race in the over 50 beginners' class for the team sponsored by my LBS. After the season I'll qualify to buy a new bike at a big discount. That's when I'll spring for the full-suspension dream-bike.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  13. #13
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Ha! Changed my mind again. Instead of the Marlin, I had the shop order a Specialized Rockhopper Comp. Good advice, roccobike!
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

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