Chapter One: So you need a new bike, tips and suggestions
So you are looking for a bike for recreational duties and/or your toughest trail is a paved trail. A mountain bike may not be needed in this instance, but if you plan on eventually trying out here are some things to take note of.
1-You don't need a top level mountain bike, you will need something more simpler. First step, avoid full suspension at all costs. A hybrid may be more your needs, but if you want a mountain bike get a hardtail for your needs.
2- Now unless the bike is used, the fork on it will be nothing amazing, so don't think that you will be getting something amazing like a Manitou Sherman, Marzocchi Z1 or RockShox Sid or Pike. For your price range you will see a bunch of offerings with low end Manitou, low end rock shox, RST, SR Suntour, and N'sync. They are basic forks for non aggressive trails, perfect for a beginner.
3-Other than the fork the parts spec will be low end shimano or sram or in house parts. Again the level could be higher on a used bike, but those parts could be somewhat worn.
4-The geometry on the bike will be more of a relaxed stance, for a bike in this category you don't want a bike with a dirt jump geometry.
5-The tires will be of a xc level.
6-What is high end for a bmx bike price wise is low end for a mountain bike.
Part two, cross country.
So you are getting ready to step up from casual trails to a more xc like trails and you want to uprgade the bike as well. Obviously the sky is the limit, it just depends on how much you are willing to spend. Here are a few suggestions.
1-You want the bike to be light, and have as little pedal feedback as possible. For beginning out with cross country, a hardtail will be the best starting point again. A hardtail will help make you a smoother rider and find the best line.
2-Once some experience is there you can change to full suspension if you want. Generally the forks for xc are air sprung unless you are just entering, then the forks will be coil.
3-You don't want a bike that has 6" up for a xc bike.
4-Tires will be of a more aggressive design, you will see tire sizes for xc tires anywhere from 1.95-2.3.
5-XC geometry is about the same geometry as a road bike, I say about because the geometry for a mountain bike is a little smaller sizing wise.
Part three, trail bikes.
*Put trail bikes in there own category for obvious reasons.*
So you are getting out of recreational and feel you are ready for something between xc and freeriding. what you are looking for is a trail bike. A trail bike is burlier than a xc bike and way lighter than a freeride bike. Some things to look for.
1-Travel can be adjustable and can be anywhere from hardtail to 6 inches.
2-The tires will range from 2.1-2.5.
3-You will have a choice between coil and air.
4-Geometry will be a bit more agressive.
5-The bikes will be a bit more heavier than a xc bike.
Part four, Freeride
So, you are ready to jump into a very very aggressive style of bike. These are one of the big bike types in mountain biking. There are many schools of freeriding. You don't want a trail bike or a xc bike for these, they are not designed for it and you will void the warranty if you choose to freeride with a trail or xc bike. Will is a definate, not a possibility.
For masochistic person who is looking to launch off of stuff over 20 feet high. You will be looking for a full suspension bike that has at the most 8-10 inches of travel in the back and have the geometry to handle a fork that has up to a foot of travel. There aren't many companies around that makes a bike like this so you will most likely have to order one. Tires will be thick and the bike will weigh a ton, and will most likely pedal like a wet noodle.
For the people looking for a bike to launch off stuff up to a certain height. A freeride bike with 7-9 inches front and rear will be most suitable for you. They are still heavy but not as heavy as the big drop bikes are. You will want a tough parts spec and a tire width between 2.5-3.0 wheel size can be either 24 inches or 26 inches.
For those who are hardcore into a hard tail there are freeride hardtails out there.
For those who like jumping off of jumps a dirt jump bike is your peice of cake.
Generally dirt jump bikes are hardtails. You will see dirt jump bikes with front travel between 3 and 6 inches of travel. These bikes can also handle urban abuse. These hardtails don't havem the geometries or sizings of xc bikes and as a matter of fact are measured differently. Where in a xc sizing a 15.5 is a size small with a freeride hardtail a 15.5 is a medium. A small size for a dirt jump frame is a size 12. You will see tire sizes varying from 2.1-2.5. I run a 2.2(That measures as a 2.3 )and a 2.0(That measures out to be 2.1.) These bikes can be geared or SS/fixed gear. Usually if geared they will only have between 8 and 18 speeds. Again for me I have 9 speeds, running a single ring up front.
Part five, DH
So you have gotten into high speeds and going down hill. Some things to consider.
1-You will want a bike with 7-8 inches of travel, a hardtail like the Evil Imperial can be used for DH.
2-You will more than likely find a combination in tire size to work the best. Usually the magic number is a mix between a 2.7/8 on the front and a 2.5 in the back.
3-Alot of the DH Full Suspension bikes are good pedalers now.
4-DH bikes weigh in between Freeride and Trail bikes usually.
You will notice I left alot of the stuff in the freeride part as suggestions. Did this because so many aspects of it are blurred parts wise.
Chapter2: Buying a Bike Around The $500 Pricepoint
The bikes in this pricepoint) are solid entry level bikes that are intended to get people interested in the sport so that they can decide to
- Continue in the sport upgrading to a more expensive bike later
- Decide that they don't like the sport but find that they still aren't out that much money
Go to your LBS (Local Bike Shop) see what they have and test ride. Find two or three that you really like and feel good then come back for our opinions. (If you bombard us with 8 bazillion Bike A vs Bike B questions the quality of response WILL go down.)
The #1 thing is "Does the bike FEEL right?" components are a secondary concern (You really don't want ***** components but it's still not as important as feel.) It's my opinion that buying a bike is 80% FEEL and 20% everything else.
Go To A Real LBS
My suggestion is to go to a REAL bike shop were bikes are the MAIN business (not Sports Authority and the like) and see what they have to offer. Even a used bike would be a better choice than those boat anchors sold at Sports Authority X-mart and the like.
NEWBIES SHOULD NEVER BUY A BIKE ONLINE EVER!
That sums it up perfectly in my opinion.
For example: Alivio vs Deore. It's a slight difference it's not like going Alivio to LX or XT but to a newbie I doubt that you'll notice a difference. Also remember the fact that the rear dérailleur does most of the work and has more parts in motion at any given time as compared to the front so a notch up in the rear is fairly common at any price point. Case in point my Rockhopper Comp FSR came with a Deore front an a LX rear.
Another thing to consider is the fact that an upgrade at this pricepoint can be reletivley cheap if you go up only a couple levels.
Weight (Racing Purposes):
Honestly all of the bikes at the $500 mark (hardtails) are going to weigh in fairly close to each other. You won't get to the light stuff untill you start looking at better equiped racing models which are normally double (or more) the pricepoint you have in mind.
This should help explain W omen S pecific D esign http://www.teamestrogen.com/wsdBikes.asp
Personally, ]I'd rather have a decent set of V- brakes than a cheap set of discs. It's my opinion that disc brakes on a $500 bike are nothing but a marketing gimmick.. Disc brakes can always be added on later if you decide you need them, but the average Joe just starting out doesn't need them.
Plus if you pay attention to specs between a disc version and a non-disc the non-disc will typically have better driveline components and or fork than the disc. In order to pay for the disc components other components MUST be cheaper to remain at the same price point
In short: Discs are great for the all weather properties and for extra stopping power but it does no good when the rest of your bike sucks.
Good suspension bikes start at around $1000. At the $500 price point you're MUCH better off getting a hardtail.
With a FS bike there are more (expensive) things to go wrong especially on a low end model such as those suggested by the pricepoint. Bikes such as the Discovery 1 or the Y-26 can't handle the kind of abuse inherent in more technical riding nor will they make a good "ride with the family" bike as the suspensions systems of both will eat large amounts of energy due to suspension bob.
A suspension bike isn't going to do ANYTHING to prevent knee / wrist injuries caused by jumping as most of them are caused by crashing / falling off the bike rather than landing correctly.
One last thing the reason a GOOD full suspension bike starts at around $1000 this is due to the better shocks and all around better designs.
Priority: Helmet, gloves
Very good to have: A good multi tool -I recommend Topeak (something from the Alien line) Mini pump, water bottles & cages (for short trips), A Camelbak (long trips and trail rides) spare tube(s), patch kit
Extras: Jerseys, bike shorts, as for fenders I recommend the Topeak DeFender series should you require them for rainy days.
Car Branded bikes
Anytime you see Jeep, Honda (except the new DH bike which the average Joe can't buy yet), or Hummer RUN AWAY
The main contributor for chapter two is Raiyn.