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low/mid-range MTB: full-suspension worth it?

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low/mid-range MTB: full-suspension worth it?

Old 05-26-15, 02:24 PM
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low/mid-range MTB: full-suspension worth it?

Hey all, I'm a clyde (6'@250), I don't know if my wife is an Athena (5'11", 150 or so), and we have matching (how dorky!) mtbs (GT Backwoods, hardtail, alu, 3x8, V-brakes, pre-2000; mine is 20", hers is 18"). We've been enjoying them on our local sometimes-rocky, always dry SoCal trails, and are looking to upgrade in the next few years. We are not racers by any means, but almost all of our recreational riding is on trails (we have other bikes for road), and we do try to push ourselves to ride athletically, and are trying to improve our skills to ascend/descend more technical/rocky stuff.

Seems like CL around here has a huge gap between $200 and below low-end or old mtb, and $1000-and up high-end mtb, so I was thinking we'd go with BD. She's interested in a 27.5 (especially scarce/boutique on CL), so we were looking at this, if that gives you an idea where we're at (plus or minus).

So last weekend on a ride with friends, she got a chance to test a friend's new Ibis Mojo, and not surprisingly, she was very impressed. That caliber of bike is out of our league (a couple leagues away, in fact...), but we started wondering whether we want to be looking at full-suspension or not.

So a couple of questions I hope you all can help me with.

For the sake of discussion, the cheapest full-suspension bike at BD is $449 in either 27.5, or 29. Or Nashbar has a diamondback for $499.

So at that point in the quality spectrum, does a full suspension significantly affect the ride (for the better)? For my weight, can it be suitably preloaded (would a rear suspension that cheap even offer the ability to preload?) Or is it better to just get a hardtail and look to dampen the ride with higher-volume/tubeless tires?
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Old 05-26-15, 03:48 PM
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rule #1 , don't ride a bike you can not afford, demo, loaner ect ect more so your wife

I would not get a cheap full suspension bike at that price point, you are paying for the suspension design not so much parts, well since there isn't any NOPE been there done that!! Stay with hard tail up to a grand or so unless you get a really good deal. I'd stick to 29er for both you and your wife and run some fat tires on it 2.25 or 2.40". Those are the tire sizes I run on my fully rigid singlespeed + other bikes on the local rocks

I'd suggest getting one $1000ish bike now and get the other later vs two $500 bikes. Get the 2nd bike later. The level of bikes within that $500 is HUGE from something that might last a year on the trails to something that can last a 5+ years. Plus you get better brakes and suspension for the extra money, stuff I'd want to swap out quick.

-shameless plug- You will likely get her's first but I was thinking of selling my trek rumblefish that will fit you, has 120mm REBA front fork, 110 rear Fox shock, SRAM 10speed, ect ect. I'm up in Escondido, we can ride Daley, Hodges, calavaras. I haven't rode it since black friday when I got my Cannondale lefty.
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Old 05-26-15, 04:01 PM
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if you want to shop local, Trek store usually has good deals

Trek 3500 Disc - Trek Bicycle Superstore

Cannondale Trail 6 - Trek Bicycle Superstore
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Old 05-26-15, 05:31 PM
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jsigone, thx for the rundown. $500 vs $1000 makes sense to me, but that's kind of the point of BD, depending on how much stock to put into their claims like the Gravity FSX for $449 they say "Compare against $1200". Allowing a little fudge for marketing, would you say that that bike is comparable to a $1000ish bike? Are there any $1000ish models you are thinking of?

Have no shame for your plug, but a rumblefish (even used) is I think out of my league (although probably in the league next door...). Down in Poway here, we ride PQ Canyon all the time (n&s trails, out to the waterfall or wagon wheel), also Sycamore Canyon (we struggle with the Martha's Grove descent off to the left from the trailhead), hodges, highland valley. Haven't been to Daley yet, we've been wanting to make some time to get out there.


Looking at trek webpage, cheapest FS I see is $2089 MSRP...
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Old 05-26-15, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by jsigone View Post
rule #1 , don't ride a bike you can not afford, demo, loaner ect ect more so your wife
That may be true, but a wife that is capable of wanting a good bike for herself is more likely to allow me to spend on a good bike for myself!
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Old 05-26-15, 05:48 PM
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Originally Posted by jsigone View Post
rule #1 , don't ride a bike you can not afford, demo, loaner ect ect more so your wife

I would not get a cheap full suspension bike at that price point, you are paying for the suspension design not so much parts, well since there isn't any NOPE been there done that!! Stay with hard tail up to a grand or so unless you get a really good deal. I'd stick to 29er for both you and your wife and run some fat tires on it 2.25 or 2.40". Those are the tire sizes I run on my fully rigid singlespeed + other bikes on the local rocks

I'd suggest getting one $1000ish bike now and get the other later vs two $500 bikes. Get the 2nd bike later. The level of bikes within that $500 is HUGE from something that might last a year on the trails to something that can last a 5+ years. Plus you get better brakes and suspension for the extra money, stuff I'd want to swap out quick.
+1 great advice

Also, as your wife is tall 5'11" and only 150, you'd gain even more "good bike" (expensive) mojo by not characterizing her as an Athena!
Happy shopping!
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Old 05-26-15, 05:59 PM
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I know, I thought somewhere printed was the rule-of-thumb weight for Athena but couldn't find it right off. Some people are Clydes because they're fat (like me), some people are Clydes simply because they're so tall -- if she is Athena, she would be in that bucket for sure, she's certainly not fat (that's her standing on my front wheel in my avatar, it's a novelty pic from the time we were in Maui and took one of those rides where you get driven up the volcano with rental bikes, and get to roll all the way down -- such a blast!)
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Old 05-26-15, 07:00 PM
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BD's compare against prices are crap. $1200 for low end MTB with Acera? $600 max I would say.

Edit: $700 for a Specialized that looks way better than the BD bike:

Specialized Bicycle Components
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Old 05-26-15, 07:24 PM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
jsigone, thx for the rundown. $500 vs $1000 makes sense to me, but that's kind of the point of BD, depending on how much stock to put into their claims like the Gravity FSX for $449 they say "Compare against $1200". Allowing a little fudge for marketing, would you say that that bike is comparable to a $1000ish bike? Are there any $1000ish models you are thinking of?

Have no shame for your plug, but a rumblefish (even used) is I think out of my league (although probably in the league next door...). Down in Poway here, we ride PQ Canyon all the time (n&s trails, out to the waterfall or wagon wheel), also Sycamore Canyon (we struggle with the Martha's Grove descent off to the left from the trailhead), hodges, highland valley. Haven't been to Daley yet, we've been wanting to make some time to get out there.


Looking at trek webpage, cheapest FS I see is $2089 MSRP...
That's what I paid for it few years ago + tax, 2300 or so. I can probably get $12-1300 for it on craigs w/o it sitting there for a few weeks. I can work a deal if interested. It has fresh drive train bits, cassette, chain and middle 32t got changed out. easton haven bars and stubby stem for more DH control and lesser XC feel. I'm about 6'1, should fit you about the same more or less, steertube is still uncut.

others I'd consider these 29ers (IMO 27.5 tires are designed for 6" travel full suspension bikes made for hucking/jumping/dh ) 29ers will roll better faster and easier if you spend 90% of the time on ground. Normal trail rock jumps and small drops are fine on them too. Only downside I ever run into on 29ers is really tight switch backs, say like lower part of San Juan
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6aukhlBgi4

GT Zaskar Elite 9R Bike | Aluminum 29r | XT/SLX | 100mm fork (will need wheelset ASAP which pushes outta pocket allot)

Orbea Alma 29 H50 Mountain Bike from Bike Bling

Trek X-Caliber 8 - Trek Bicycle Superstore (pretty solid parts list on it for a grand, I'd upgrade the fork and brakes after you wear them out)


I haven't ridden PQ in a while. We used to drop into from the tax building and hit the trails were you can not stand and pedal at the same time. Ninja night missions on my singlespeed haha, Now the rangers write tickets and take bikes on those trails. My latest riding bug in that area has been riding mission trails and linking to sycamore. It's some work to get there but allot fun along the way.
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Old 05-26-15, 09:02 PM
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Originally Posted by dr_lha View Post
BD's compare against prices are crap. $1200 for low end MTB with Acera? $600 max I would say.

Edit: $700 for a Specialized that looks way better than the BD bike:

Specialized Bicycle Components
OK, but that's not the question. Can you link to a $1000 Full-Suspension bike which is better than the Gravity FSX 27.5/29? Or a $1000 Full-Suspension bike which is better than that Spesh?
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Old 05-26-15, 09:05 PM
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Originally Posted by jsigone View Post
I haven't ridden PQ in a while. We used to drop into from the tax building and hit the trails were you can not stand and pedal at the same time. Ninja night missions on my singlespeed haha, Now the rangers write tickets and take bikes on those trails. My latest riding bug in that area has been riding mission trails and linking to sycamore. It's some work to get there but allot fun along the way.
I've heard about "The Tunnels" but only since they were outlawed, so I've never gone to find them. Sounds fun though.

I rode Mission Trails-->Sycamore once; actually my kid had to be picked up from camp in Jamul, so my wife dropped me off at the top of Skyline Truck Trail, and I rode my CrossCheck (with 700x50 marathon supremes) home to Poway via Santee Lakes and Sycamore Canyon. Bouncy! When I reached the ranch house I realized how exhausted my core was. Up&out I was walking for sure!
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Old 05-27-15, 10:52 AM
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yah those river rocks can beat you on some hard skinny tires. Once you drink the 29er kool aid you won't go back. Most my mtbs (I have 3) have a 2.35" front tire and running 18-19psi tubeless.

You won't really find a full suspension bike (new) at a grand, you are still in the realm of paying for suspension design, royalties and patents. Most FS bikes are $1800 and up because of this + cost of the rear shock alone is north of $300 and has to be valve/tuned for the frame design. The market for a grand is hardtails, less warranty work the big box companies have to deal with and more profit margins.

Here's is spesh's cheapest FS
Specialized Camber 29 from Bike Bling
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Old 05-27-15, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
OK, but that's not the question. Can you link to a $1000 Full-Suspension bike which is better than the Gravity FSX 27.5/29? Or a $1000 Full-Suspension bike which is better than that Spesh?
Sorry, I missed you were going for a FS bike. Why out of interest? IMHO a FS bike is a specialist item. Sure, Walmart and Target sell plenty of BSOs with FS, but if you want a "good" bike you'll going to have to pay >>$1000 to get a decent one. The cheap BD FS bikes don't look much better to the Walmart ones to me.
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Old 05-27-15, 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted by jsigone View Post
yah those river rocks can beat you on some hard skinny tires. Once you drink the 29er kool aid you won't go back. Most my mtbs (I have 3) have a 2.35" front tire and running 18-19psi tubeless.
700x50=29x2.0 is not that skinny. 18-19psi and at least a front shock would be nicer. But 30-40psi is doable (I did it)
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Old 05-27-15, 11:12 AM
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Originally Posted by dr_lha View Post
Sorry, I missed you were going for a FS bike. Why out of interest?
Well that's the whole ponit of the post -- should I be looking for FS? Or at my price point does the little extra money for FS get a worse bike overall? Apparently your answer is (b).

IMHO a FS bike is a specialist item. Sure, Walmart and Target sell plenty of BSOs with FS, but if you want a "good" bike you'll going to have to pay >>$1000 to get a decent one. The cheap BD FS bikes don't look much better to the Walmart ones to me.
I think that's overly pessimistic. BD is not selling BSOs. The rear shock is adjustable coil-over-cartridge, the front has lockout, WTB tires are probably fairly supple, BSOs would have spring only, elastomer forks and hard heavy tires. Not to mention stamped V-brakes.
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Old 05-27-15, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
Well that's the whole ponit of the post -- should I be looking for FS? Or at my price point does the little extra money for FS get a worse bike overall? Apparently your answer is (b).
Yes, I think you should be looking at hardtails if you want a MTB. Cheap and FS aren't a good match IMHO.

I think that's overly pessimistic. BD is not selling BSOs. The rear shock is adjustable coil-over-cartridge, the front has lockout, WTB tires are probably fairly supple, BSOs would have spring only, elastomer forks and hard heavy tires. Not to mention stamped V-brakes.
Meh. Yes some of the components are better, but they're just not suitable for purpose, in my opinion. Decent suspension is expensive. Getting a bike with front and rear suspension at a low price means corners are being cut.
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Old 05-27-15, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by dr_lha View Post
Meh. Yes some of the components are better, but they're just not suitable for purpose, in my opinion. Decent suspension is expensive. Getting a bike with front and rear suspension at a low price means corners are being cut.
Yes corners are being cut. Corners are cut if you buy a bike with 105 instead of DA, or Sora/Tiagra instead of 105. I'm the kind of guy that is ok with some amount of corner-cutting, probably more than most people. And "suitable for purpose", I bet your purpose is more demanding than my purpose.
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Old 05-27-15, 12:19 PM
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I don't think I'd go for a FS bike below Alivio or without real damping. That will run you north of $1000 new even on discount sale. But MTB people are like magpies for new stuff so there are amazing deals on fairly recent used 26" bikes.
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Old 05-27-15, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
Yes corners are being cut. Corners are cut if you buy a bike with 105 instead of DA, or Sora/Tiagra instead of 105. I'm the kind of guy that is ok with some amount of corner-cutting, probably more than most people. And "suitable for purpose", I bet your purpose is more demanding than my purpose.
If your purpose is not that demanding, why go FS in the first place?

Get a hardtail.
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Old 05-27-15, 02:14 PM
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you will get more bike quality for the same $$ without rear suspension.

Bikes direct can have really good deals, in some cases people have bought bikes st to get the parts

there are some caveats

you have to look at the parts list in detail. 105 equipped may be mean on part not the whole group, so you need to look at all the parts to get a reall value assessment

Are you comfortable buying without having a brick and mortar store to deal with issues?

are you reasonably skilled/comfortable and have the tools to do own wrenching on the bike? the bike should be gone over in detail to ensure all is adjusted/lubed correctly.

If not, you should budget another $100 to $150 per bike (depending on local costs) as part of cost for LBS setup and first tuneup to get a feel of the true cost of the bike
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Old 05-27-15, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
I don't think I'd go for a FS bike below Alivio or without real damping. That will run you north of $1000 new even on discount sale. But MTB people are like magpies for new stuff so there are amazing deals on fairly recent used 26" bikes.
Tell me about what "real damping" means, I've never had a FS bike (or even disc brakes) so I'm not up on the tech. The linked FS bike has 'coil-over-cartridge', I know FS BSOs are simply a spring, does the cartridge = damping?
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Old 05-27-15, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by squirtdad View Post
Are you comfortable buying without having a brick and mortar store to deal with issues?

are you reasonably skilled/comfortable and have the tools to do own wrenching on the bike? the bike should be gone over in detail to ensure all is adjusted/lubed correctly.
Definitely, I consider the opportunity for wrenching to be part of the fun, so lower cost + some assembly/tuning required is a win/win for me!

you will get more bike quality for the same $$ without rear suspension.
for same $$ totally makes sense, but what about somewhat more $$? If the two bikes in question are hardtail for $329 vs fs for $449, then apart from the rear suspension, I'm seeing the fs bike has a better fork (lockout), better brakes and tires (tektro/WTB vs no-name?)
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Old 05-27-15, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
Tell me about what "real damping" means, I've never had a FS bike (or even disc brakes) so I'm not up on the tech. The linked FS bike has 'coil-over-cartridge', I know FS BSOs are simply a spring, does the cartridge = damping?
I'm sorry, I meant to be talking about full suspension. There are lots of good front suspension bikes, that one looks fine.

Cartridge means that the hydraulic damper is a separate sealed piston assembly, rather than like a classic motorcycle fork where the springs and everything else are in an oil bath. In that fork it fits inside the right coil as you can see in this PDF
https://www.srsuntour-cycling.com/fil...80,100-(1).PDF
"Real" suspension forks and rear shocks have oil or air damping like this, and it's directional (more rebound than compression) to balance the spring force. Better ones have lots of adjustments on the damping.

On the other hand cheaper forks like the one on my Hardrock have a piece of rubber that provides damping, or in extremely cheap forks, maybe nothing but a spring. You can really tell the difference between a good-enough fork and a cheap nasty one, and there's a big difference between good-enough and really-good, too.
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Old 05-27-15, 04:09 PM
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That's a cool link, that's helpful, thx. I was asking about full suspension, sorry, FS could be "full suspension" or "front shock". So I see part #11 "damper" in that diagram, it just looks like a rod, is it actually hydraulic assembly?

So that diagram is I believe the fork on the hardtail I linked to, on the full is specced a fork that also has "HLO-DS" in the part name, I thought I read somewhere that meant a spring in one fork and a hydraulic damper in the other.

As for the rear, the full-sus bike has a hydraulic-looking somethingorother inside the spring. Spec says "KINDSHOCK KS-260 with adjustable preload". That doesn't make clear how much adjustability there is, I couldn't find much about it with google.
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Old 05-27-15, 04:19 PM
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squirtdad
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
Definitely, I consider the opportunity for wrenching to be part of the fun, so lower cost + some assembly/tuning required is a win/win for me!


for same $$ totally makes sense, but what about somewhat more $$? If the two bikes in question are hardtail for $329 vs fs for $449, then apart from the rear suspension, I'm seeing the fs bike has a better fork (lockout), better brakes and tires (tektro/WTB vs no-name?)
better comparison would be https://www.bikesdirect.com/products/...es-g275-g1.htm which as $449 has significantly better shifters, cassette and deraillers. IMHO better choice than suspension...go quality parts over features not really needed.
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