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  1. #1
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    So I went down to the LBS yesterday... (first Hardtail MTB)

    So I've been saving up for my first hardtail MTB for ages, and went down to a bike shop yesterday for some test riding.

    First thing I realised... 700 ($1,450USD) is not enough to buy a half decent hardtail. The most my money would stretch to was the entry-level Rockhopper (SLX, Deore, Avid Juicy 3's and RockShox Tora). I still need money for clipless shoes and pedals. In theory, the Rockhopper is an okay bike but I really didn't like the brakes and the fork was so-so, but to be fair I was only riding it on roads.

    Second thing I realised - it is freakin' IMPOSSIBLE to find a decent mountain bike shop here in London! All the shops are road-bike oriented, and the shop I went to yesterday only had the Hardrock and Rockhopper for me to try out (and stil not in the ideal size - I need a 21" frame).

    Having said that, the Rockhopper was pleasant enough to ride, very smooth. Like I said, I didn't get to try it out as there aren't trails there, so I imagine it would really shine off-road. I'm gonna check out another store in a few days' time.

    Questions... would you guys reccomend the Rockhopper as a first hardtail? Do components really matter that much? I am yet to test out other brands such as Giant and Trek and hope to test out as many as possible before coming to a decision. I am really tempted to buy online for more value but know I owe it to myself to try before I buy.

    Any answers would be much appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Sounds like you looked at the Rockhopper Expert model, which is close to double the price of the basic Rockhopper. Then again, it sounds like you've had exerience mountain biking (coming from full suspension?), so your "entry level" is probably a lot higher than the general public's.

    A lot depends on the type of riding you are planning on. The big-ticket items (frame and fork) will make the most difference. You might also consider getting a bike with a decent frame but a very basic lowend fork (like the Dart series), spend some time riding to see what you like and don't like, then replace the fork with something suited specifically to your needs.

    One place the manufacturers often save money is on the wheelset, using lower-quality house brand components, or less-than 32-spoke wheels for fashion reasons. I'd plan on buying yourself a wheelset suited to your specific needs in the near future -- in the US, decent robust sets run $175 on up mailorder.

    The other components are pretty easy to upgrade when/if they break, and 8-speed stuff is IMHO sufficient gear-ratio-wise and somewhat more durable, less finicky, and less expensive than 9-gear stuff. If you've got at least intermediate bike-mechanic skills, you can easily mail-order components to get good prices and install them yourself to get a good rear derailleur and perhaps a different crankset/BB.

    In my experience, you'll pay a premium for the Specialized brand name over something like Giant.
    Last edited by Mondoman; 06-18-09 at 12:55 PM.

  3. #3
    Map maker cbchess's Avatar
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    You guys have a bunch of good mail order shops in the UK - do they have a brick and mortar shop front? like http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/
    I read Singletrack Magazine and they seem to have lots of shops in the back.
    I would save your money and look for a Giant or get a frame and build it up yourself.
    Maybe a nice On-one frame like a 456 and a Reba fork or Pike.

  4. #4
    "STAT" -_RebelRidin'_-'s Avatar
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    700 pounds is 1450 american?


    No wonder why I get screwed every time I go off base...

    the Pound and Euro are kicking my butt lol.


    I'd go to the other shop and see what they can do for you as well,
    and then report back here for any adivce any may have.
    2007 Kona Dawg
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  5. #5
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    Aren't there quite a few Evans cycles in london?

    Also my hardtail, which is worth about 1.8k, has juicy 3's. I find them to be perfectly reasonable brakes. Am considering getting a slightly more powerful set of some sort for down hill runs, but for most stuff they are fine.

  6. #6
    Senior Member TimJ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pm63 View Post
    So I've been saving up for my first hardtail MTB for ages, and went down to a bike shop yesterday for some test riding.

    First thing I realised... 700 ($1,450USD) is not enough to buy a half decent hardtail. The most my money would stretch to was the entry-level Rockhopper (SLX, Deore, Avid Juicy 3's and RockShox Tora). I still need money for clipless shoes and pedals. In theory, the Rockhopper is an okay bike but I really didn't like the brakes and the fork was so-so, but to be fair I was only riding it on roads.

    Second thing I realised - it is freakin' IMPOSSIBLE to find a decent mountain bike shop here in London! All the shops are road-bike oriented, and the shop I went to yesterday only had the Hardrock and Rockhopper for me to try out (and stil not in the ideal size - I need a 21" frame).

    Having said that, the Rockhopper was pleasant enough to ride, very smooth. Like I said, I didn't get to try it out as there aren't trails there, so I imagine it would really shine off-road. I'm gonna check out another store in a few days' time.

    Questions... would you guys reccomend the Rockhopper as a first hardtail? Do components really matter that much? I am yet to test out other brands such as Giant and Trek and hope to test out as many as possible before coming to a decision. I am really tempted to buy online for more value but know I owe it to myself to try before I buy.

    Any answers would be much appreciated.
    You're in the UK? What about merlin cycles? I was checking out their "malt" bikes and they seem to be pretty cheap for the specs. That was a few months ago though when the pound was weak or something so everything seemed cheap in us $.
    fun facts: Psychopaths have trouble understanding abstract concepts.
    "Incompetent individuals, compared with their more competent peers, will dramatically overestimate their ability and performance relative to objective criteria."

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by -_RebelRidin'_- View Post
    700 pounds is 1450 american?
    No, it's currently 1.63 / pound, so L700 is $1,141.

  8. #8
    Senior Member deraltekluge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by -_RebelRidin'_- View Post
    700 pounds is 1450 american?
    From the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, the exchange rate as of June 12 was 1.00 = $1.6523, so 700 would be $1156.61

  9. #9
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    Right, so I visited two more bike shops in London to test out some more bikes, one of which was Evans (thanks Dheorl).

    Rode a Specialized Rockhopper (again), Genesis, Kona, Felt Q720 and Trek 6000.

    The Rockhopper, Felt Q720 and Trek 6000 were the best. One thing I've realised is that the SLX rear mech shifts MUCH cleaner than a Deore or anything lower. The brakes on the Trek were particularly good, but the handlebars were too high above the fork (though that can be adjusted). Also, the 6000 is slightly below my price range, so they're willing to order in a 6300 to try out.

    Not all the bikes were in my size, and they're ordering in the Felt and Specialized in 21" for me to try out by the end of this week. The Felt felt really good, and is reduced to 600 from 700.

    A lot depends on the type of riding you are planning on. The big-ticket items (frame and fork) will make the most difference. You might also consider getting a bike with a decent frame but a very basic lowend fork (like the Dart series), spend some time riding to see what you like and don't like, then replace the fork with something suited specifically to your needs.
    As is stands, all three of the above I would consider buying.

    One thing I realised was that all the bikes in this price point have pretty bad forks, Darts or, at the absolute max, Toras. The problem is that they are extremely expensive to replace (Fox forks are like 500+) and I am REALLY tempted to buy a Focus Black Forest and get a Fox fork... which is like worth over half of the price of the bike itself.

    So I'm torn between buying at a store and being able to test it out, or buying the Focus and getting high-end components for really cheap. I know I'm not going to be able to afford a 500 fork anytime soon as I'm a student. How much of a difference on the trails will a good fork make? I suppose it's a stupid question. Will the Dart feel crap? I'm not going to get to test them out on the trails and all the forks feel similar on road.

    Decisions decisions.

  10. #10
    omygodomygod TwinCam's Avatar
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    i think the dart is an amazing achievement. it's a 100 usd fork that actually moves up and down. that's a real milestone for the bike industry.

    however i wouldnt ride one. a tora on the other hand, is a bit heavy but has passable action.

    the recon is really where things start getting good and is actually a pretty fair price.

  11. #11
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    Final Decision

    Right, so I've narrowed it down to two bikes: the Focus Black Forest and the Felt Q720.

    I've owned the Black Forest for the last 3 or 4 days, as per the 7 day test ride period I'm allowed before I can send it back. It's a lovley bike. The attention to detail and quality of craftsmanship are evident. The Fox fork alone is worth like half the price of the bike! It is VERY light (11.5kg/25lbs for medium size) and climbs very well. The Felt weighs almost 30lbs. However...

    The geometry of the Felt frame suits me much better. It is a noticably heavier bike but the riding position isn't so high up off the ground (and therefore unstable) - it's lower, and I feel much more confident on it and aren't afraid to really go for it and bomb it. Because the riding position of the Focus is just so much higher and upright, the center of gravity is higher and I'm not as confident.

    The bikes are pretty much the same apart from the fork - the Felt has a Dart 2 that is at the bottom of the range, the Focus a Fox that is at the top. I know that at some point I would have to replace the Dart on the Felt, and I know this would cost me at least 400 (for a Recon or something).

    As corny as it sounds, my rational mind is telling me to go for the Focus as it's amazing value for money and the fork is great, but my heart tells me to go for the Felt, as it just makes me feel great and feels right.

    Could someone give me a pointer as to which route to go down?

    You might also consider getting a bike with a decent frame but a very basic lowend fork (like the Dart series), spend some time riding to see what you like and don't like, then replace the fork with something suited specifically to your needs.
    This is what I might well do. To be honest the Dart felt fine, I noticed almost no difference between it and the Fox (maybe due to my inexperience or the fact I was only riding on roads), I'm just worried it will break or something but the guy at the LBS said they are much stronger than people tend to assume.

    I could also go for the Felt Q820 and get a Tora but it's 150 more and the Tora isn't that great either, might aswell save a bit of money and to what the above poster said.

    Any advice would be awesome. I'm just confusing myself now...

  12. #12
    use your best eye kenhill3's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pm63 View Post
    my heart tells me to go for the Felt, as it just makes me feel great and feels right.
    Really, you have answered your own question.

    I think that most folks here are going to agree that the 'feel' is the most important.

    Also, the LBS is going to be right there to take care of you.

    I think you've found your bike.
    "I tell you, We are here on earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you any different." - Kurt Vonnegut jr.

  13. #13
    Senior Member TimJ's Avatar
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    Do you think flat bars would help?

    If the bb on the focus isn't physically higher than the felt, I'll bet that feeling is something you could address with flat bars or a different stem maybe.
    fun facts: Psychopaths have trouble understanding abstract concepts.
    "Incompetent individuals, compared with their more competent peers, will dramatically overestimate their ability and performance relative to objective criteria."

  14. #14
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    If the bb on the focus isn't physically higher than the felt, I'll bet that feeling is something you could address with flat bars or a different stem maybe.
    Good point, I've just looked into this.

    The BB dropout on the Focus is 28 (mm I presume), but on the Felt it is 40. So according to this diagram, my understanding is that the Focus is indeed physically higher off the ground than the Felt, and this affects my riding confidence. This is only 12mm difference so maybe there are other factors affecting how high off the ground the rider feels? However, this review of the Felt draws attention to the low bottom bracket, so it is indeed low by mountain bike standards (they say this can be problematic on rocky trails, but if that's the way I like it, what can ya do?) Either way, I definitely feel much more confident, fast and secure riding the lower Felt.

    The guy in this article states that a lower BB doesn't make a difference " because center of gravity is not really an issue on a bicycle, and raising or lowering it has little effect on stability", but in practice, I find that this has a big effect on my riding confidence and if I FEEL that I'm going to fall over, I probably will do.

    I'll probably go for the Felt and upgrade the fork later. I'll have at least a couple of years to save up for a new one and the Felt is 100 cheaper than the Focus anyway, I can put that money into a fork...

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