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Old 02-23-03, 01:36 PM   #1
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Looking to buy first mountain bike

Well i'm kind of a newbie. Had my last bike about 7 years ago...wasnt even a mountain bike, and now i want to get me another one.
I am totally clueless to what kind of bikes are there and how much would i need to pay for them.
What would you recommend for a decent mountain bike which i could take out on dirt trails and do some regular commuting with? Would i need full suspension?
I am willing to spend up to $400 on a bike. What would you recommend for me to get?
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Old 02-23-03, 02:49 PM   #2
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Glad to hear of another person getting back into the sport. I was pretty much the same position about six months ago. My eventual solution was a Trek 4500 hardtail for about $420 (US). It works fine for dirt trails and for commuting and is a decent bike. It sounds like for your expected use, full-suspension would be an unnecessary luxury, and decent full-suspensions don't really start below $700. I would look at a Trek like mine, a Giant Yukon, or a Specialized Hardrock Comp. They are pretty similar in features and quality. Also, if you plan on riding a lot, plan to be flexible with your budget. My bike has fulfilled my needs just fine, but I think if I went back and did it again, I would probably get the next bike up to give myself extra room to grow. You should also plan on getting a helmet, a decent flat repair kit, and multi-tool (they can be real handy).
Since you're expecting to commute regularly, you should probably consider getting semi-slick tires for road riding and maybe a faster gear ratio (talk to a bike shop about that). Changing your gear ratio from the stock one is a mixed bag, however, because it will make riding on the trails harder if there is a lot of hills.
One last thing: find a bike shop that is friendly, easy to work with, and prides itself on customer service. They will usually do little things that make owning and servicing a bike easier and more pleasant.
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Old 02-23-03, 02:50 PM   #3
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Check out the buyer's guides that just came out from Bicycling, Mountain Bike, and Mountain Bike Action. If anything, it they will give you an idea of what to look for in a bike for your riding style. At $400, it sounds like you are definitely going to go for a hardtail cross crounty bike. At that price range, the FS might be more of a burden to ride then a benefit, and you can get nicer specs on a hardtail of equal price. You might want to look at offerings specifically from companies like Giant, who offer several models with some of the best value for your dollar parts specs. If you can save a bit more than $400 (like closer to $700), the difference in bike will be noticeable. Getting something like the Giant Rainier(LX/Avid discs/strong frame) would be one of your best bets for that price range. Whatever you like the look of from surfing the net or visiting your LBS, make sure to go look at it closely and take a good test ride on it. The best specs won't always make the best bike for you if you find it uncomfortable. Also, make sure you get some help from the shop in sizing and fitting the bike correctly - You will enjoy it much more. And remember that bike shops often don't haggle uch on prices because they make their money in accessories and not so much with the bikes, so you should be prepared to pay pretty close to what the price tag says. Most shops will give you a deal on accessories or tune-ups at the time of purchase of the bike. Good luck in your search!

I wouldn't worry about changing the gear ratio for your purposes. It sounds like you will be doing quite a bit of trail riding too, so it would probably want the stock setup gear-wise. Semi-slick tires (Tires that have minimal tread, so that they give you some speed on the road but will give you some grip in the corners off-road) might be a good idea. If the bike doesn't come with them, ask the shop to swap them for you when you buy the bike. If you do this as a condition of buying the bike, you will most likely get the tires swapped (they keep the knobbies that come with it) for free or at a very discounted price. A bike like the Rainier will provide you with a solid commuter (make sure to lock it up good), but will also be completely competent on the trails as well for the weekend off-road rides. The Rainier is also raceable, in case you feel like it.


-Moab

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Old 02-23-03, 03:08 PM   #4
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would it make sense to buy the bike used? What are the risks of it? Would it get me something good for a decent price? Places like ebay have some good deals sometimes.

Also i am a big fan of customizing things myself....so a pretty decent bike which would be custimized over time with better parts is a good option for me...What bikes on the market are very upgradable?

And i will look into the Giant Rainier.
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Old 02-23-03, 03:44 PM   #5
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Specialized Rockhoppers are about $530 and they have very nice light frames that would be worth upgrading later. The components are Alivio/ Deore which aren't top of the line components but they will certainly be perfectly fine for any recreational rider. Components are components, some are a little more durable and lighter but most of them won't perform terribly or draw away from your enjoyment. Plus, once they break you can upgrade them . The Rockhopper also has the the Manitou Axel fork with 80 mm of travel. Albeit the components aren't as good as the Rainier but the more money you spend the better stuff you will get. As far as buying a bike used that is another option. If you buy a slightly used MTB for 400-600 dollars your are probably getting a bike that was about 800-1000 new and it would then have a better frame, components etc. Make sure you see the bike in person and check it out as the nature of mountain biking can be very harsh. They guy you bought it from may have been doing 6 foot drops on it. Good luck with any choice you make and most importantly have fun and be safe.
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Old 02-23-03, 04:00 PM   #6
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It can definitely be worth it to buy a bike used, but personally, I would stay away from E-Bay for a whole bike, especially for someone like yourself who is getting back into the sport for the first time in a while. Having been out for a while, you probably don't know exactly what fits best or how things should be set up for yourself. Buying used from a bike shop, though, can be a great idea. Since the bike is there to sit on and take a test-ride on, you can decide if the bike fits right and have it fitted to you by the LBS. Used bikes should be looked at in the same way as a new bike - Parts don't mean everything. Being uncomfortable ten minutes into a ride every time will have you wishing that you went for that slighlt more expensive or less-spec'd model that felt better comfort-wise. You can visually inspect a used bike, and ask the LBS if anything is about to go or is damaged. Look for any small cracks or major scratches in the frame that could lead to problems later on. They should have inspected it and should tell you this anyways, but it can't hurt to ask. A good LBS won;t sell you a dangerous used bike. You can also get a more expensive, higher-end bike (though used) to begin with with a used bike.

Upgrading a bike with a nice frame and lower-end parts is also an option, as you mentioned. While I don't have any bike such as that to list off of the top of my head, checking www.mtbr.com for reviews of most any bike and searching these forums will give you tons of results. Every once in a while, a magazine will do some reviews on a group of bikes near the price range you mentioned. Searching their sites and maybe even ordering a back-issue could be worth it.

The Giant Rainier (Here I go again) definitely has an upgradeable frame, and gives some good components to begin with. The frame might not be the lightest thing around, but for that price it's nice. A new wheelset(eventually) will give even better pedaling performance. If I remember right, the Rainier came with Hutchinson Mosquitos (not very knobby) which could give you a good tire to commute with until it wears down. This could have changed since last years model. Member Middi-zon currently rides a Giant Rainier, and has been happy with it. You might want to ask him what he thinks of it after a season of hard riding and racing with it. Overall, I would still go for the Rainier, though I am sure many other people here have tons of other good suggestions for a bike in your price range. Good luck again!

-Moab

EDIT: I checked out the Trek 4500 on their website. It looks like a good bike for the price, but a big difference will be noticed with the Rainier. I would also consider the Rainier more of a worthwhile bike for upgrading later on as you start to get used to stuff and get preferences about certain components. I would also, as you mentioned, look very carefully for used bikes if you stick closer to $400. You can get a better used bike for that price than the 4500 if you look enough.

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Old 02-23-03, 04:09 PM   #7
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I'll second the Trek 4500. I picked up a 2002 model in January for $375.00 .
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Old 02-23-03, 06:56 PM   #8
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For that range a the type of riding you'll be doing, Hardtail would be the way to go, just don't go overkill just yet.
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Old 02-24-03, 09:18 AM   #9
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As mentioned, the used market can be a dangerous gamble if you've been away from the sport for some time. I buy a lot from eBay, but I know specifically what I'm looking for.

If buying a complete bike, I must assume one of the first things I've got to change is the drivetrain. Without know the history of the bike or rider, I've got to assume maintenance was minimal, and use was high. I figure the cost of a new chain and cassette as part of the entire budget.

I also ask specific questions like: "Is there ANY damage to the frame including scratches gouges or dents?", "Are there any areas where cable rubbing has gone through the paint and bare metal is visible?", "are the wheels true(straight)?"....etc.

I always ask for additional pictures with specific close-ups that I request. If the seller is unwilling to provide additional pics, I move on. They may be hiding something, and I won't take the risk! I usually ask for the bottom bracket area to see the extent of chain rubbing or evidence of "Chain-suck" which can gouge aluminum. I also look for any cracks in welds in and around the headtube/toptube/downtube intersection.

Plus, I know what geoometries fit me, so I have a bit of confidence in buying w/o riding. If you don't, I'd stick with the LBS and local classifieds and test ride before you buy! The absolute best place to buy (and test ride) bikes is at a local race! A lot of shops bring demo bikes and the mechanics are always selling their bikes. Plus Racerboys are famous for getting new bikes every year and usually sell their old bikes for a song!

Good Luck

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Old 02-24-03, 06:41 PM   #10
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Dude, get a Specialized HardRock. Only $330 and well worth it in my opinion. I can't imagine getting a better bike for that kind of money. If $400 is your budget, get a HardRock and some eggbeater pedals. I just got my wife that same setup and it's great.
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Old 02-24-03, 07:14 PM   #11
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Looks like im gonna need to hit some bike store nearby. I wont be able to get the bike for a little bit....lots of snow out so it wouldnt make sense, so i guess i'll try few bikes before buying it.

What should i look at in a new bike? I dont want to go into the store without knowing anything, so they dont sell me some overpriced junk. What should i ask the salesman and what should i look at myself?
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Old 02-24-03, 07:55 PM   #12
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well everyone here is talking about the giant rainer. I have a giant iguana $580 great bike for the buck. i am upgrading it alot but it is a nice bike stock
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Old 02-24-03, 10:19 PM   #13
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What should i look at in a new bike?
I assume you're settled on a hardtail, so I won't discuss that.
Probably most important is comfort. Sit on the bike, ask if you can do a test ride, adjust the seat. Make sure you're not going to hate riding after the first few minutes.
Look at part quality. For suspension, Rockshox, Manitou and Marzocchi are most respected for ride and durability. Shimano or SRAM for shifters/derailuers. Shimano names in order of increasing quality: Acera, Alivio, Deore, XT, XTR. You will see some bikes with V-brakes, some with disc brakes (more powerful). Usually the disc brakes on lower end bikes are as reliable or powerful as better ones, and V-brakes are a fine way to start.
Ask the dealer about what extras they offer with the bike. Most will provide a certain amount of free service, such as tune-ups or service bucks, or discounts on new parts. Also ask about accessories such as multi-tools, spare tubes, lube, etc.
For commuting, I already mentioned semi-slicks. Other things that might come in handy are a cargo rack for gear and fenders to keep you a little drier in bad weather.
Ask more questions if they come up and don't forget to tell us what you ultimately get :thumbup:
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Old 02-25-03, 08:24 AM   #14
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avzay66,

You might not get out on the trails or road much for now in your area, but you could probably find some good deals on leftover bikes and accessories from last year at a great price now because it's the "off-season"(unless you ride year round). Last year's bike would be fine because few that were out last year have experienced major changes or price drops in your price range. Some of the shops are probably getting ready for spring too, so you'll have a big selection. I've also heard good things about the Giant Iguana, which is more in your original price range. And with Giant, you can almost always be sure that you are getting the most for your money.

Bicycling magazine had a section in their buyer's guide that just came out about how to purchase a bike, what to look for, and what questions to ask of the person selling you the bike. It might be useful as a reference.

-Moab
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Old 02-25-03, 08:34 AM   #15
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Usually the disc brakes on lower end bikes are as reliable or powerful as better ones, and V-brakes are a fine way to start.
I'm pretty sure he meant to say are NOT as reliable. As a matter of fact, they blow chunks and add weight!

Stick with Vee Brakes or only AVID Mechanicals. All other mechancial discs(Hayes aren't too bad) aren't worth the money.

The biggest thing to look for in a sub $400 bike is comfort. You've gotta test ride a couple different brands and sizes.

Besides that, it really boils down to appearance. Most bikes in the $300 to $400 price range are spec'd with very similar components and accessories.

All low end forks are basically the same, and will be the first thing you'll want to upgrade if you become more serious about riding. Heck, my budget for a new FORK is more than your budget for a complete bike. I'm crazy I know, but I love this sport!

The components are all going to be very close to one another. To me that's less important as you can replace components as things wear out or break.

My other suggestion is to look for any leftover 2002 or even 2001 models in your size. There are not a whole lot of changes from year to year.

The only other requirement I would suggest is to make sure you get a THREADLESS or AHEADSET, headset! Don't get a threaded headset with a quill stem. Old standard, and you'll be beeching when you're ready to upgrade.

L8R
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Old 02-25-03, 02:28 PM   #16
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avzay66,
I was in your shoes last year around May. I didn't know what I was doing really and without knowing anything about anything I went to a local bike shop that was having a closeout on the previous years models and a guy there hooked me up with a Trek 4500 for $350. Fortunately I've been completely happy with this bike and I use it to commute to work and on the trail. So I guess what I'm saying is if you can find a good shop with knowledgable and friendly employees I'd go with a new bike just for the service and support, until you become more knowledgable.
I'm kind of glad that I didn't spend more on a hard tail because now I'm saving for a full suspension after having ridden a friends fs bike.
And I'll probably keep the Trek for my commuter bike once I get my new fs. But that's still a year away most likely...
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Old 03-24-03, 11:51 AM   #17
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well i ended up going to a few bike shops and trying out a bunch of bikes. I ended up getting me a 2003 Giant Iguana.
I tried the Rainier, but the Iguana felt just as good and was much cheaper.
I dont know if i got the right frame size. I ended up geting a 21" one and i am 6'2". 21" for some reason felt much more solid and stable and handled better than 19" one.
Overall i love this bike. I ended up paying a bit more than my budget was, and i'm glad i did. The $300-400 just didnt feel right after trying more expensive ones.
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Old 03-24-03, 12:19 PM   #18
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Congrats on the new bike, the custom here at Bikeforums is to post a picture of you and your new bike (Muddy preferably, Bloody always appreciated!).

I'm glad you did some test riding, and learned about different bikes. You will NOT be regretful you got a better bike!

Helmet? Gloves? Patch kit/Tools?

Did you save enough money for these things?

Most importantly, a pair of padded shorts!

Regardless, the first couple of rides are gonna be painful! You gluteous maximus muscles need to be conditioned to sit on a bike saddle regardless how big or small it is (the saddle, not your butt).

I suggest taking shorter rides a couple times a week to help your butt get used to this!

L8R
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Old 03-24-03, 09:56 PM   #19
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yeah, seriously it's hard to want to stick to a given budget once you try riding the next step up. that's what happened with my friends, who started out wanting to spend about $300, but after riding higher models the range went to $400. but i'd say that after $6-700 the differences in the ride (for HT anyway) are minimal.
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Old 03-24-03, 10:22 PM   #20
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I did buy myself a helmet....

What kind of tools would i need to do basic maintenance?
Also what are some simple maintenance procedures after a ride? do i need to clean all the dirt off? grease anything?
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Old 03-25-03, 12:22 AM   #21
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There are numerous mini-tools available. Personally, I got one from Home Depot that is a folding allen set (Metric). A lot of people like the one from Topeak, the Alien.

Get at least a 4,5,6mm a flat blade, a phillips, and a chain tool. A patch kit, mini-pump and a spare tube. Of course you'll need a seat mini-bag to put this stuff in.

Get some bicycle specific lube as well. Hose down your bike (not spraying into bearings), and let dry. Lube the chain the next day!

L8R
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Old 03-25-03, 02:16 AM   #22
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I'm glad you like your new bike and welcome to the Forums
As for tools I use one of these:

It's a Topeak McGuyver and right now Pricepoint has them on sale for $27 which is a VERY good price. (I paid $40 a couple years ago and I though I was getting a deal) It's got enough tools to get you into trouble and back again. Plus if you get stuck out in the woods for some reason you've got some basic survival equipment. (Thing's got a pickle fork on it for cryin out loud!) Here's the write up from the Topeak site:


The 33 Function Folding Tool: This tool has everything you'd expect in a bicycle tool and a Swiss Army Knife combined. Self contained, easy to use and with over 30 functions it's the tool you want when you can't afford to settle for less. In the tradition of the Swiss Army Knife and the Alien Tool, once the job is done the tools fold easily back into their hardened plastic case. The high quality nylon soft case clips to your belt, with the McGuyver Tool on standby ready for the next job. Features: 33 tools fold into engineering grade plastic body for easy storage. Heavy duty nylon case hooks onto your belt for easy access. Pliers, fish-hook remover 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 mm two piece Allen Wrenches. 8, 9, 10 mm two piece Box Wrenches. Philips and flat head screwdrivers. Magnifying glass. Fish scaler. Fork. Scissors. Leather punch. Spoke wrenches for 14g and 15 g. Comes with optional Chain Tool head. Integrated Tire levers. Stainless Steel knife. Bottle opener and more. Molded plastic body provides an excellent gripping surface while using tools. Opens into two tool halves with a press of a button Size ~ 3.4 x 1.8 x 1.5 inches Weight ~ 300 grams
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Old 03-25-03, 05:19 AM   #23
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As several above have stated, I was very happy with the 4100 - 4500 series of Trek MTBs. You should be able to find something better, like a 6000 or even a 7000 series Trek on eBay for about your price range.
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Old 03-25-03, 01:58 PM   #24
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well looks like im gonna need to get me some tools.
also hosing the bike down could be a problem considering right now i live in a dorm room.
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Old 03-25-03, 03:21 PM   #25
khuon
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Originally posted by avzay66
well looks like im gonna need to get me some tools.
also hosing the bike down could be a problem considering right now i live in a dorm room.
Take it in the shower with you. That's what I did back in college.
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