Mad bike riding scientist
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Denver, CO
Bikes: Some silver ones, a black one, a red one, an orange one and a couple of titanium ones
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Originally Posted by Mason Red
Never had a mountain bike, nor had the wife. We did some easy trail riding and both liked it. So trying to decide about a mountain, cross trail or even a flat bar road bike. We live in a fairly flat area with sand and a few creeks being the toughest thing to deal with, no mountains and a few small hills. Some basic thoughts about types with advantages and shortcomings, would be great. Even some guidance on brand and models would be nice, focus on entry level.
It depends, largely, on how much you what to spend. Many cheap bikes can do an adequate job off-road but the more you spend the more refinements you get. For example, a $300 to $500 bike is going to be a boat anchor with a pogo stick stuck on the front of it. It will take the edge off rocks and bumps and give you better control in ruts. However, if you ride it on a smooth surface like a road or even a fairly smooth trail, the pogo stick (aka fork shock) will depress with nearly every pedal stroke. The more you weigh, the worse the problem.
If you spend more in the $800 to $2000 range, you can get a bike with a fork that may have air to provide the spring so it's handles the bumps better and absorbs the impact in a more controlled manner. More importantly, in this price range, the forks usually have a lock out mechanism so that the fork doesn't depress when you ride on a smooth surface. There is usually a good weight difference between those two ranges.
If you push beyond $2000, you are getting into bikes that have dual suspensions which offer advantages when you are climbing and descending or hard tail (no rear suspension) bikes that have lots of refinements. The bikes also have better components and better forks. The bikes tend to be lighter but you pay for it.
For most people new to the sport of mountain biking, I'd say that the 4 series Treks are a good place to start. The 4300 is a good solid bike that will give you a lot of service. Giant, Kona, Jamis, etc all have similar bikes.