Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Kelowna, BC
Bikes: ~1982 Bianchi Sport, ~1984 Nishiki MTB frankenbike, 1986 Kuwahara Shasta, 1996 Marin Bear Valley
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Originally Posted by drmain
I am a newbie who currently has an $80 mountain bike. I am looking to spend around $500 for a better Mountain Bike and I want to get the best possible bike for my needs in that price range. Can you suggest a specific bike for me?
My uses: Neighborhood pavement riding and trail riding as much as possible...easy to moderate trails and some fun off-roading type riding.
Try the mountain bike FAQ here on bikeforums. It answers a lot of the most common questions. read it through, as it covers bike purchases in detail in the first couple of sections. Please Read Before asking Question: MTB FAQ.
Overall, you probably want a hardtail with regular V-brakes, as decent rear suspension and disc brakes do not exist at that price point. You also don't really need suspension - I've ridden a fully rigid mountain bike for almost 20 years, and any problems I have keeping up with my co-workers are more due to them being in better shape, than from them having better bikes.
Only you can decide the best bike for your needs. It is nice to have plenty of braze-ons for bottle cages, pumps, etc, along with places to attach fenders and racks just in case you ever want them. Don't worry about the tires, they're easy and cheap to replace - focus on the fit, and then the component quality. If you don't find a seat comfortable, have the shop swap it out before your test ride - seats are not one size fits all, and there is no point writing off a good bike because of a single, easily replaced component. Try to find the previous years stock, as it often sells at a discount. Unless you already have them, don't forget to budget for accessories (also mentioned in the FAQ, although you also need tire irons if you're planning to fix flat tires).