if you can answer a few questions this newbie has (Ok, I'll stop talking in the third person as well):
1) After learning the hardway that 'Mart bikes aren't actually made for hard riding, it's time to get a new bike. Since my dad thought I was a loser for riding so much (Ha!) and said that if I could manage to get into Univ. of Pitt, he would buy me a new bike. So I'm taking him up on his bet, and currently I'm looking at the Diamondback Apex . The guys at the LBS recommended after laughing their asses off when I told them how my 'Mart bike litterally fell to pieces on the trail.
I'm looking to get something in the sub-$1000 range, something that'll work and last without the fancy schmuck. Any other recommendations/comments?
2) Some coach at another college I'm applying to is trying to get me to go so I can join their MTB team. Seems like they do a lot of races; any advice on racing? What equipment will I need? How much does it cost? Etc. If possible, could you, dear reader, provide a few reference links to racing for newbies? I only ride recreationally, but I do ride a lot.
3) Are disc brakes really that good to regular V-brakes (as the ones on the Apex in 1) What dis/advantages do they have? Are they high maintenence? Etc.; I went to a few disc brake manufacturers' sites, but all their information is technical: they expect the reader to already know about disc brakes.
4) What's "travel length" and such? Why would I want a 80mm or 120 mm travel fork?
5) All these new pedals confuse me! Why do I need those ridiculous-looking small ones with the hook on thingies (excuse my technical talk)? What advantages do they have besides making sure that you'll fall when stopping?
That's all for now. Thanks a lot for taking the time to read through and perhaps even answering them. I really appreciate it.