Hello, I'm fairly new to mountain biking. I started a few years ago after my brother took me out for a ride. I'd had an very early Raleigh Mountain bike I purchased used about 15 years which mostly saw use in the campground or riding around the block with the kids. All that has changed, I know ride every Thursday night at Dash Point State Park in WA state. The ride is organized by Phil's South Side Cyclery here in Federal Way. We put some lights on the helmets and go year around. If your not from the Seattle/ Tacoma area, let me emphasize it is cold, rainy and dark.
I work in Finance and am a do it yourself mechanic type. Yes, a strange mix indeed. So, the first thing I did was look over my old mountain bike and thought I could use it. My brother looked at the 1.5" wide tires I was running and said you need wider tires. So, I purchased some 2.1" wide knobby tires for about $20 each. They were hung from the garage rafters for future use (that new bike someday). So, I searched and found a new 1.95" tire for $15 and a similar used one for $3. I took them home and they still rubbed on the frame (emphasis: a very early mountain bike). purchased those only to see the tread still rubbed. Four tires and no success yet, I'm thinking my wife is going to notice a dent in the family budget soon. I look around the garage and spot the tires on my daughters big box store bike. They were 26" and 1.95" wide but not as knobby but had some tread. So, I put those one the bike and they just fit. I started rideing with the Thursday night group again. It was January with lots of mud and rain. The tires were not working well. I needed a wider frame. About 2 months later I spotted a beat up Specialized Rockhopper frame at Recycled Cycles in Seattle for $15. I also purchase a used fork for $40 and have them press in the new headset into the frame. I'm out the door for $75. I located a seat post that fit at another bike shop (it was an odd size that year frame) for $15. I proceed to insert the seat post into the frame only to discover a broken off end seat post deep in the frame. I'm thinking great, all that money is wasted. Nope, not going to let this stop me. After a hour with a pin punch through a very small hole in the bottom bracket I drove out the seat post with minor cosmetic damage to the already questionable old frame. Onward, only to discover there are different bottom bracket widths and widths for bikes. You'll find the park tools repair book quite helpful at this point ($25). I found a used shimano square drive bottom bracket for $10 at the local bike shop that was the right size. I tossed on the old SunTour cranks and we were close to a completed bike. Within a week or two I was back out riding with the Thursdays night group with those big knobby tires purchased months ago installled. The bike worked well. But as time wore on, I found there were some shifting problems and and some of it was due to some compatability problems with the old SunTour equipment and mix of a few newer items. These were top of the line Suntour components , but I was tired of poor shifting. Off with the rear Sun Tour Deraileur on with something better. Being the cheap guy I was I started to add up the cost of the componets need and it didn't make sense. Well, that was until I opted to salvage shimano parts off my wifes 10 year old bike and just purchase her a Women's mountain bike I saw on clearance at Toy's R Us store closing its doors near by. More on this later, but never by a cheap bike even for your wife if your getting into riding. Now, I had a good mix of semi modern components along with a better set of wheels from my wifes old bike. I rode the Specialized about 3 times a week for the next year. It was nice and I continued to add a new part to improve it along the way. I upgraded some more components. I over $300 into the bike. I'm sure your all laughing by now along the local bike shop owner, because for about $300 I could have purchased an entry level mountain bike and save myself a lot of labor hours. But, the components were now better than a $300 bike would have. The components surrounded an old nicked up and rusty silver specialized frame. Still, not a bad ride.
I found I was really into this sport and I was keeping my eyes and ears open for the opporunity for a good deal on a new bike. I ended up with a Jamis Dakar Full Suspension Comp year end clearance for $1,300. It was great, but was a bit of a dent to the family budget. I kept the old specialized rockhopper as a back up bike, but recently was tempted when I saw a Jamis Dragon frame on clearance. I swapped out the $300 of components purchased above and added some Avid Juicy 7's along with a better suspension fork onto the Dragon frame. Within three short years I've radically changed my bikes and engage in the whole mountain bike activities. The enefit of doing what I did is it allowed me to get into the sport and learn all about the bikes. I was also purchasing all the necessary riding gear and such along the way as well (light, helmet, mountian bike shoes, clothing, etc.)
This summer, I entered a couple of local mountain bike races. My wife has also joined me in this sport as well. Remember the department store bike ... not a good idea. She went riding with my sister in law. Tried out her bike and commented how much lighter and easier to ride the Cannondale than the cheap Schwiin she had. I had a Jamis Dakota Comp Hard Tail comp under the Christmas tree for her that year. We're totally engaged in the mountian bike part of the sport. We went on a road ride, but really enjoy our local trails which have less car traffic. Our next step may be entering a cyclocross race with our mountain bikes this fall. Cyndi entered a Mountain bike race this summer as well. She took 2nd place at once race in remote Eastern Washington. I have to 40 lbs to pass her going up the hills. I'll fly by her going downhill in a technical section, but if the climb is long she'll catch and pass me up. I better get back in the saddle and shed those excess pounds.
I'm sure this forum will be a good place to share riding experiences.