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  1. #1
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    New to MTB. Please Help us find a MTB

    Hi all,

    My wife and I are about to beginner bikers. We are both very active, she loves jogging/swimming/etc. and I am into skateboarding. We want to start mountain biking together and would love to get some recommendations on mountain bikes. We want to ride mostly on trails for a few hours each time we go out on the weekends. We do not have a huge budget but am willing to spend a little more for something that will be a better ride. I really do not know exactly where to start so any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you all in advance!!!

  2. #2
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by New_Biker
    Hi all,

    My wife and I are about to beginner bikers. We are both very active, she loves jogging/swimming/etc. and I am into skateboarding. We want to start mountain biking together and would love to get some recommendations on mountain bikes. We want to ride mostly on trails for a few hours each time we go out on the weekends. We do not have a huge budget but am willing to spend a little more for something that will be a better ride. I really do not know exactly where to start so any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you all in advance!!!
    Generally, you need to look at more bike then you think you'll need. The mistake that most people make is to buy the absolute lowest level bike they can afford and then either never ride them because they are heavy and uncomfortable or spend much more upgrading to the next (or higher) level of bike because they have outgrown the entry level bike.

    Unless you are willing to spend $1100 to $1500 per bike, don't look at dual suspension. It makes the ride smoother but it also complicates the bike and makes it heavier. What you are looking for is a hardtail. An example of a good one is the Specialized Rockhopper. The price is around $550 each. This isn't the only one out there by any means but it's a good example. There are lots of different bikes at this price level so shop around.

    You should be looking for a bike that fits well, but you shouldn't feel like you are laying down too much nor should you feel like you are sitting at the dining room table. For a good mountain bike fit, you probably want your back to be relatively flat to the ground but you should be able to look up comfortably. You should also feel like you can push back off the saddle and still reach the bars (although you will be very stretched out). This is important for control.

    You should also be able to pick the bike up so that it touches you in the crotch and have a good 2" of daylight under the front tire. 3" is better but you don't want to feel like you are cramped when you get on the bike either. This is important! Don't let a shop sell you a bike that you don't have enough room to bail off of - either of you!

    You, as the guy, will probably have no trouble finding a bike that fits. Trust me. Unless you are some kind of giant or really, really short, finding you a bike isn't going to be a problem. Your wife, on the other hand, will probably not be able to find something that is comfortable. It's an ugly part of the bike business but manufacturers tend to forget that there are women in the world! Most women tend to have longer legs and shorter arms and torsos. Most bikes, even ones in small sizes, are built for guys. In order to get the standover height (she still needs that 2 to 3"), she needs to go with a larger frame. But larger frames have longer top tubes (for us guys with the gorilla arms) which makes her stretch for the bars more.

    Many manufacturers offer women's bikes specifically for this purpose. These aren't men's bikes with step through frames but they have a shorter top tube which brings the handlebars closer. Trek makes several call WSD for woman specific design. Lots of other bike makers have followed suit so there are more choices out there. Be aware, however, that the companies don't offer a lot of these kinds of bikes. That usually means that there is a premium to be paid.

    The Trek 4500 is about half the bike that the Rockhopper I listed is. It has cheap (heavy) components and is only an entry level bike at best. The next WSD is the 6700 which is double the price and about on the same level as the Rockhopper. You just have to be a good shopper.
    Stuart Black
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    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
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    I'd definantly take a look at the rockhopper (there is a women's model too). I know the specs on the specialized web site list sram x-4 shifters, but the one I have and all the ones I have seen at the lbs where I bought it have the x-7. Don't know if there was a change from the manufacturer or if this is just specific to this lbs...

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    The rockhopper and the trek 4500 are very similar. That is why they cost about the same. Saying one is twice as good as the other is absurd. THE ROCK HOPPER IS ENTRY LEVEL!
    Last edited by Portis; 04-11-06 at 08:55 AM.

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    Thanks

    Thanks so much for all the information and tips. I'm about 5' 9' and my wife is 5' 2". I like the rock hopper like you suggested and that is about the price I wanted to spend. I wanted to be around 1,000.00 for both bikes. I had a friend suggest a Giant or Fisher bike. I'll def keep shopping around though.

    Thanks again all =)

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    Quote Originally Posted by New_Biker
    Thanks so much for all the information and tips. I'm about 5' 9' and my wife is 5' 2". I like the rock hopper like you suggested and that is about the price I wanted to spend. I wanted to be around 1,000.00 for both bikes. I had a friend suggest a Giant or Fisher bike. I'll def keep shopping around though.

    Thanks again all =)
    You will find that similarly priced bikes are very similar. This is not by accident. Different manufacturers have to compete with each other at each price point, if their price was not competitive, than we all know what would happen.

    Also regarding "entry level bikes", do not assume that just because a bike is termed entry level that it is vastly inferior. This couldn't be farther from the truth. The Trek 4500 as used in the above example is considered an entry level bike, just like the rock hopper. They are somewhat heavier than a hard tail costing $1000 or more. But probably not as much as you think. The 4500 and rock hopper probably weigh around 30-32lbs respectively.

    Bumping up to a $1000 hard tail may shave 5 lbs off of that figure. (might) How important is 5 lbs to the average rider? Answer: Not very. Consider that if you have two loaded water bottles they will likely weigh near that if not more. Or consider that if you lost 5 lbs off your body, you would have the same effect.

    As far as entry level bikes and components, the components on either of the bikes mentioned will outlast most buyers. Most bicycle buyers ride for awhile and then the bike hangs in the garage for eternity. That is why the entry level bike is a good option. You don't have to invest too much to find out if riding is for you.

    I have two Trek 4300's that i purchased two and a half years ago. One now has over 9,000 miles on it and the other has around 5,000. Most of these miles have been on unpaved gravel and dirt roads. THe bikes have performed flawlessly. I have upgraded components as they wore out, but just because i wanted to upgrade. I could have stayed with an Alivio derailleur for example but i wanted to try XT. I tried it and learned that they basically perform just the same if adjusted correctly.

    You have to understand that paying more for a bicycle mainly means paying to be lighter. Sure you get some better components but what a person is really paying for is a lighter bike which will be slightly faster in race conditions. The difference in component PERFORMANCE is overstated in most cases.

    DISCLAIMER: My type of riding, is that i just ride. I don't do aggressive single track, or any form of racing. I just ride for fitness and for fun. If you plan to race, ride agressive trails, etc. than the feasiblity of upgrading may be there for you.
    Last edited by Portis; 04-11-06 at 08:44 AM.

  7. #7
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ranger
    You will find that similarly priced bikes are very similar. This is not by accident. Different manufacturers have to compete with each other at each price point, if their price was not competitive, than we all know what would happen.

    Also regarding "entry level bikes", do not assume that just because a bike is termed entry level that it is vastly inferior. This couldn't be farther from the truth. The Trek 4500 as used in the above example is considered an entry level bike, just like the rock hopper. They are somewhat heavier than a hard tail costing $1000 or more. But probably not as much as you think. The 4500 and rock hopper probably weigh around 30-32lbs respectively.

    Bumping up to a $1000 hard tail may shave 5 lbs off of that figure. (might) How important is 5 lbs to the average rider? Answer: Not very. Consider that if you have two loaded water bottles they will likely weigh near that if not more. Or consider that if you lost 5 lbs off your body, you would have the same effect.
    While I agree that, for the most part, there is little difference in bikes at each price range, I don't think this holds true for bicycles designed for women. Things change for those bikes alot more from brand to brand. If you look at the Trek 4500 WSD and the Rockhopper women's, there are rather big differences. I might have been overstating it when I said that the Trek is half the bike of the Rockhopper but not by much. The shock on the Rockhopper alone is far superior. It has an alloy steer - lighter- , an adjustable travel - better for shorter women - and a lockout. Just the lockout makes it superior, especially if you want to do road riding. The alloy steerer will also lighten the fork about a pound over a steel steer tube.

    As for weight, I'll agree that a bike that is only 5 pounds lighter isn't that big of a deal...if you are a 5'9", 170 to 200lb guy! It's nothing! But if you are a 5'2" 100 to 115 lb woman, it can be up to 5% of your total body weight. Plus power output between men and women is not the same even for similar weights. Hucking 5 extra pounds up a hill when for us guys isn't much of an effort. Hucking 5 extra pounds for women can be damned difficult! And losing 5% of her body mass, especially if she is fairly fit already, isn't easy or necessarily a good idea.


    Quote Originally Posted by Ranger
    As far as entry level bikes and components, the components on either of the bikes mentioned will outlast most buyers. Most bicycle buyers ride for awhile and then the bike hangs in the garage for eternity. That is why the entry level bike is a good option. You don't have to invest too much to find out if riding is for you.

    I have two Trek 4300's that i purchased two and a half years ago. One now has over 9,000 miles on it and the other has around 5,000. Most of these miles have been on unpaved gravel and dirt roads. THe bikes have performed flawlessly. I have upgraded components as they wore out, but just because i wanted to upgrade. I could have stayed with an Alivio derailleur for example but i wanted to try XT. I tried it and learned that they basically perform just the same if adjusted correctly.
    Entry level bikes are a good place to start. But they can also be a good place to end, before you even find out about the joys of bicycling. I've been down that road many times. You buy one bike, find you really like it and then the bike holds you back. So you end up buy the bike again only a higher level next time. You end up paying twice as much for the bike. Or you buy an heavy entry level bike, it's not fun to ride and it ends up sitting in your garage for decades before being given to Goodwill.

    There are differences between levels of components. Some of it is weight. Most of the lower level components have pieces replaced with stamped steel instead of alloy that you find in higher levels. But there are other differences as well. They can be rather subtle at times but they are there. An XT or XTR shifts more crisply then Acera. If you are muscling up a hill and you need to pop off a gear, the XT is probably going to do it a bit quicker then the Acera. This might mean the difference between getting to the top while riding or walking the hill. Gum up the whole works with mud and the XT will continue to perform well while the Acera might not.


    Quote Originally Posted by Ranger
    You have to understand that paying more for a bicycle mainly means paying to be lighter. Sure you get some better components but what a person is really paying for is a lighter bike which will be slightly faster in race conditions. The difference in component PERFORMANCE is overstated in most cases.

    DISCLAIMER: My type of riding, is that i just ride. I don't do aggressive single track, or any form of racing. I just ride for fitness and for fun. If you plan to race, ride agressive trails, etc. than the feasiblity of upgrading may be there for you.

    Paying more for a bicycle does mean paying money for light weight. There is nothing wrong with that. I don't race so less weight doesn't make me any faster. Less weight means that the ride is more enjoyable. Paying more also means paying for durability, less fussyness and more enjoyment which just might keep you riding and, after all, isn't that what you want to do?
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
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  8. #8
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by New_Biker
    Thanks so much for all the information and tips. I'm about 5' 9' and my wife is 5' 2". I like the rock hopper like you suggested and that is about the price I wanted to spend. I wanted to be around 1,000.00 for both bikes. I had a friend suggest a Giant or Fisher bike. I'll def keep shopping around though.

    Thanks again all =)
    If I'd known that your budget was that high, I would have made other suggestions Most people want a good entry level bike for $300, not that those two terms - $300 and good - go together.

    If your combined budget is around $2000, I suggest that you look at bikes in the $600 to $800 range. You can get a good trail worthy mountain bike for that price and be able to upgrade it later. For your wife - and I know this is going to hurt but you're tough - I'd look at the Stumpjumper Women's. Sure it is $1400 but it is going to be significantly lighter than the Rockhopper. The component package is far better, the shock is much more adjustable (which means you can put less air in it so that it actually works like a shock for a light weight person) and the frame is lighter. I'd stay away from disc brake equiped models (Specialized doesn't make one in the Stumpjumper for women) since disc brakes add weight and are overkill for small people. Hell, they're overkill for large people!

    For other bikes, check Trek, Giant, Fischer (although Fischer's are long in the top tube which isn't great for short people), Jamis and Cannondale. There are others I'm forgetting but have her ride everything you can get your hands on.
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

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    Entry-level for a trail capable MTB is about $350 . The Specialized Hardrock is a typical and popular example. The $520 mid-level Rockhopper is much lighter, stronger and more capable. In this part of the market, a little extra cash buys a lot more bike. Beyond about $800 the price/performace curve levels out a bit.

    Check out the geometry chart on the Specialized website and compare the 13" model in mens and womens. The womens model has a bit more standover clearance and is 2cm shorter which is about right. At 5'2" your wife will need careful fitting to avoid a bike too large.

    Find a good local bike shop that you like and see what brands they offer. Most major brands offer similar models at competative prices.
    Specialized are quite good about fitting their bikes with the threaded eyelets you need for a luggage rack. This will allow you to use the bike for commuting, shopping and touring as well as playing offroad.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute

    Paying more for a bicycle does mean paying money for light weight. There is nothing wrong with that. I don't race so less weight doesn't make me any faster. Less weight means that the ride is more enjoyable. Paying more also means paying for durability, less fussyness and more enjoyment which just might keep you riding and, after all, isn't that what you want to do?
    Less weight means the ride is more enjoyable? So when i ride my 22lb road bike, I am enjoying it more than when i ride my 31 lb mountain bike? I guess i never noticed that out of the thousands of miles i've ridden. I'll have to pay better attention next time.

    More durable? That is possible but debatable. I've ridden entry level components for thousands of miles with not problems. Same with better stuff. The facts are that weight has little to do with how much you enjoy your bike.

    I'd put ACCESSORIES way above weight in terms of enjoying cycling. Save $500 when buying the bike and spend it on a nice pair of shorts, a comfortable saddle, a bike rack so you can bring the bike with you, a nice jersey, some basic tools for repair, etc. Those items will have a much greater impact on your enjoyment.

    I'd MUCH rather have a $500 Trek 4500, with all the accessories, than a Trek 6700 with no accessories.

  11. #11
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ranger
    Less weight means the ride is more enjoyable? So when i ride my 22lb road bike, I am enjoying it more than when i ride my 31 lb mountain bike? I guess i never noticed that out of the thousands of miles i've ridden. I'll have to pay better attention next time.
    Yes. Less weight makes the ride more enjoyable...depending on where you are riding. It also depends on who is riding the bike. You've already stated that you don't do singletrack. You also live in Salina, KS. We obviously ride in very different environments. I can tell you from personal experience that hucking a 31 pound bike 4 to 6 hours into the mountains of Colorado to an altitude of 12,000 to 13,000 feet is a less than enjoyable experience. On a 25lb bike, what was a death march becomes an adventure.

    And take my argument in context. A 100 lb woman is trying to push 1/3 of her body weight up that same hill. Do you ride a bike that is 1/3 of your body weight? Even at 25 lbs it's going to be 1/4 of her body weight. I doubt if your 31 pound machine even weights 1/4 of your body weight. Would you be willing to ride a 40 or 50 lb bike everywhere? Would it be enjoyable? Maybe or maybe not. I have ridden bikes that are approaching 1/3 of my body weight - willingly. And I've had fun doing it. But I wouldn't want to do it every day on every ride. It just wouldn't be that fun all the time.


    Quote Originally Posted by Ranger
    More durable? That is possible but debatable. I've ridden entry level components for thousands of miles with not problems. Same with better stuff. The facts are that weight has little to do with how much you enjoy your bike.
    More durable in that it is better made and better sealed against the elements. Higher end components will perform better - usually - in bad conditions longer than less expensive components. And if those components are performing better, the ride is more enjoyable. The fact that they weigh less is a bonus.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranger
    I'd put ACCESSORIES way above weight in terms of enjoying cycling. Save $500 when buying the bike and spend it on a nice pair of shorts, a comfortable saddle, a bike rack so you can bring the bike with you, a nice jersey, some basic tools for repair, etc. Those items will have a much greater impact on your enjoyment.

    I'd MUCH rather have a $500 Trek 4500, with all the accessories, than a Trek 6700 with no accessories.
    I don't look on it as an either/or proposition. Perhaps it's because I've been doing this for so long. I already have all that stuff and don't have to worry about it. There are, however, some items that I consider as essential as wheels:

    1. A pump, so that you don't end up having to walk 20 or 30 miles out of the middle of nowhere. I would no more leave home without my pump then I'd walk out of my house without my glasses.

    2. Something to fix a flat. See above

    3. Tools to fix broken stuff
    Stuart Black
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    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

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