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Old 05-24-11, 01:57 PM   #1
ohiohotsauce
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I'm a newbie looking at my first non-dept store bike, help appreciated!

For the past few years, I've been using a Huffy road bike from the 80's and occasionally an old Walmart MTB. It recently got to the point where it's just not worth maintaining.

I have always been intrigued by mountain biking, and I have several friends who are really into it. I live in NE Ohio and what I can see myself doing is: continuing to ride daily on the road for exercise after work, but also venturing into some off-roading on some weekends to see what it is all about. I'm a beginner, so I plan on starting out on the beginner and intermediate trails around here, although I really do not know what to expect.

I am a recent college graduate and I am very tight on cash. I definitely need something to replace the old Huffy for this summer though.

I went to the nearby bike shop and the owner was very sweet and recommended the Trek 3500. I test rode it and it felt way better than any department store bike I'd had before. I told my mom about it, and bless her heart, she ran out and bought it for me as a graduation gift.

I was very thankful; however, I started looking into reviews and read that this bike may not be hardy enough for off-roading. It has single-wall rims, a freewheel design, Tourney derailleurs and a 63mm travel suspension fork. I called the shop and expressed my concerns, but they said this bike is a "great bike" and they don't think I will be disappointed because Trek has a great warranty. They said if I really want, they may be able to do an exchange for something else.

I want to know how important is it to have better derailleurs, more suspension travel etc for a beginner? I have heard several times that in this price range (around $400 and less) the Specialized Hardrock is superior in several ways. This particular shop didn't seem to have a good view of Specialized and said if I were to order one, it would be the 2012 model that is MSRP $470 and I might not get it right away. Upgrading to a higher level Trek still doesn't seem as good a deal.

Do you think I will be satisfied with the Trek 3500? Or should I add $100 to what my mom spent for a Specialized Hardrock or Trek 3700 or above? I don't think I am able to check out another brand that this store doesn't carry.

I feel a bit stuck, and have to make my decision in the next day or so because of the shop calling and asking me.... so let me know your opinions!
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Old 05-24-11, 03:03 PM   #2
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most important thing is fit. make sure the bike fits you. both trek and specialized are good solid bikes, so sit on them both, and the one that feels the best is the right one.
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Old 05-24-11, 03:35 PM   #3
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That bike will be good for the kind of riding you describe. The only potential annoyance I see with it is the gearing, which can be changed to some degree.

Before I go further, I should say that I'm a bit of a newb in the MTB area myself, but I do spend an inordinate amount of time comparing bikes and thinking about components, so I think I can offer some useful advice.

The short travel fork is actually probably what you want for beginner trails, and depending on what you mean by intermediate it can probably handle that too.

The main thing you'd get with more expensive derailleurs and shifters is more gears (8 or 9-speed cassette vs. 7-speed freewheel). They shift more crisply too, but if you keep it tuned, that's shouldn't be a huge issue. Just learn to do your own derailleur adjustment (a very handy skill anyway).

The gearing is a little odd on that bike. The 7-speed freewheel, if I'm not mistaken, jumps from a 24-tooth cog to a 34-tooth cog, which is going to feel like the chain fell off. It's a nice bailout option, but it leaves you with the 24T cog as you biggest gear for normal use, which isn't good. Depending on the kinds of hills you see regularly, you might not like that. If it were me, I'd probably want to swap in a 13-28 freewheel. That would give you more range for normal use, but you wouldn't have that super-low gear for getting up really steep climbs.

Otherwise, ride it until something wears out and then upgrade as you like.
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Old 05-25-11, 07:45 AM   #4
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I don't know anything about that bike. However, a general recommendation, especially if money is tight, is that if it ain't broke don't fix it. Ride it the way it is and only consider replacing something if it really starts to bug you or if it breaks. Of course, I never follow that advice myself. I buy new stuff for my bikes when I feel like it, or to try something out - not just because I need it.
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Old 05-25-11, 03:03 PM   #5
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This is a great time, getting your first better than average bike. I just have a couple of observations to add what has been stated. There haven't been any really big innovations on the components on bikes in that price range. If you can find a "DEAL" on a 2010, that hasn't been sold, you can get better rims, derailers and brakes. What Pablo said about frame fit is really big. Don't fall in love with the model year, a new 2010 is gonna have about the same equipment and weight as the 2012. Plus the 2010 is ready to go home today. The Local Bike shop wants it off their floor.

Plus, shops are loyal to their brands. A Trek Shop will never be impressed with Specialized, and a Specialized shop won't love anyone else. In that price range they are all about the same. Its like finding a good woman, find one that fits and grabs your eyes.
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Old 05-25-11, 08:14 PM   #6
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Thanks guys. I am just going to keep the Trek. It's comfortable and fun to ride, even though I didn't do much test riding to compare it. I figure it will be a good test. Either I'll go offroad a lot this summer and see what it's made of (and what I'm made of!), or I'll wind up just doing light trails and I'll be satisfied. The longer warranty made me feel good about it too.
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Old 05-26-11, 10:48 AM   #7
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Good man! Ride til the rims fall off. Now that you are a college grad, you will one day be able to afford a bike that tuns over a grand in a few years. By then you will really appreciate the difference. I rode my $600. bike for @12 years before I upgraded. Its a kick. MTBing is about enjoying the trail and the companionship of good outdoor people.
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