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So many categories/styles

Old 07-17-18, 12:30 AM
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So many categories/styles

I just joined a hiking/biking club where much of the riding will be on trails. Not all of the trails will be hard packed easy paths so some rough spots, mud, etc. is normal; but I don't anticipate doing any technical riding. Although I have a 28 year old Nishiki Bravo (26" x 2" tires and no suspension) I now have an excuse to buy a modern mountain bike. When I was young, albeit many years ago, there were simply "mountain bikes". Very few had front suspension and all were 26" tires. Now as I shop around, there are cross country mountain bikes, trail mountain bikes, sport mountain bikes, recreational mountain bikes, enduro mountain bikes, all mountain mountain bikes, downhill mountain bikes, etc. Okay, the downhill and all mountain mountain bikes are obviously named but the descriptions on most of the others say things like, "great all around bike", "a do everything bike", "great for beginners, intermediates and experienced riders". Also confusing are the 27.5, 27.5+ and 29 inch tires. The size difference is obvious but I'm sure there are benefits and detriments regarding the various sizes?

What are the real differences??? I'm an experienced rider of road, ss/fixed, hybrid and touring bikes. I haven't ridden the Nishiki for many years. I'm not going to do rides that involve log or hill jumps, or other "stunts", but I do expect single track, gravel, rocks (not boulders), mud and uneven terrain along with some nice trails. I'll most likely be looking at a hard tail in the +/-$1,000 range.

Please don't respond with..."You should buy this particular brand and model bike". I'd really like to understand the differences in the styles.

I just want to invest in the right type of bike.

Thank you.
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Old 07-17-18, 05:56 AM
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You want either a trail bike or a cross country bike. The term "trail bike" tends to be applied to bikes with around five inches suspension travel that are designed for singletrack riding by those who are not necessarily racing, but who just want to get out and have fun. Cross-country bikes tend to be a little more race oriented. These terms are murky at best, and are not used consistently. Trek seems to use them as I've described.

Recreational and sport mountain bikes are typically price point bikes targeted toward non-enthusiasts, and their geometry will target easy singletrack and gravel roads.

Tire size is a religion. 29" tires predominate in racing, and anyone tall should consider the larger size as well. I'm more of a moderate height and have come to prefer the more proportional feel of 26" and 27.5" tires. Larger tires roll over roots and such more easily, but I don't find that to be a deciding factor. The plus-size tires like 27.5+ and even 29+ are a compromise between trail-riding widths and fat-tire widths. Plus tires used to mean 2.8" and 3.0'", but I believe there is a trend downward toward 2.6". Not sure about that, tbh.

Check what others in the club are riding. Ask them the reasoning behind their choices.
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Old 07-17-18, 07:02 AM
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To add to what was said, after trail, it is generally enduro, all mountain and downhill, and what you get as you step up is generally more suspesion, slacker head angle (for more downhill and speed stability), and more sturdy construction. Generally Trail bikes would be FS and have 120mm to 140mm, enduro 150mm to 170mm, All mountain 160mm to 180mm and downhill 200mm or more. Of course each manufacturer has their own definition.

As far as FS trail bikes go There are a couple fairly decent entry level ones for under $2k, but generally over $2k. I think the price point where you get the most bang for the buck for FS is from $2.7k to $3k. The difference from a $1900 dollar FS to a $2500 and then to $3000 are huge jumps in what you get, after $3000 the increase in quality seems smaller for the money.

Many companies do not call their HTs trail bikes, but certainly many are a good fit for trail riding. For HT I think the bang for the buck price point goes from $1000 to $1300. I would look for a good 100mm or 120mm full air fork. Most brands by the time you get to a full air fork, already have decent level on the rest of the components.

Some of the bikes now the lowest level full air fork is the Suntour Raidon.. Decent fork for its price, but it does use greese instead of oil for its internal lube. This requires maintenance more often to keep if from getting stiction and loosing its small bump compliance. There is a conversion procedure to convert it to oil, which makes it very nice, but most people don't find it worth the trouble. Rockshox and Fox full air forks are all oil internal.

Last edited by hig4s; 07-17-18 at 07:17 AM.
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Old 07-17-18, 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by hig4s
To add to what was said, after trail, it is generally enduro, all mountain and downhill, and what you get as you step up is generally more suspesion, slacker head angle (for more downhill and speed stability), and more sturdy construction. Generally Trail bikes would be FS and have 120mm to 140mm, enduro 150mm to 170mm, All mountain 160mm to 180mm and downhill 200mm or more. Of course each manufacturer has their own definition.

As far as FS trail bikes go There are a couple fairly decent entry level ones for under $2k, but generally over $2k. I think the price point where you get the most bang for the buck for FS is from $2.7k to $3k. The difference from a $1900 dollar FS to a $2500 and then to $3000 are huge jumps in what you get, after $3000 the increase in quality seems smaller for the money.

Many companies do not call their HTs trail bikes, but certainly many are a good fit for trail riding. For HT I think the bang for the buck price point goes from $1000 to $1300. I would look for a good 120mm full air fork. Most brands by the time you get to a full air fork, already have decent level on the rest of the components.
hig4s pretty much sums up what I was going to say about the underlying logic in class designations, except that I have more often seen Enduro as the the slacker/more travel option compared to All Mountain (AM), as it is marketed for enduro-style racing. So in my experience the spectrum more often goes from XC > Trail > AM > Enduro > DH. But again, not every company uses the same definitions.

As far as the tire sizes... yeah, it can be a bit of a religion for some folks. The difference between a 27.5" and 29" is not night and day, but it is there. the larger wheels do roll over things better, but the smaller wheels can allow a design a little more maneuverable, or as some people say, more "playful". Not surprisingly, the differences are not as stark as with comparing 26" vs 29".

27.5+ is kinda still working itself out. The initial idea was that a 2.8-3.0-ish tire would allow very low pressures and make riding most trails easier. On its face that made sense as people had been realizing the benefits of low pressures that tubeless had allowed in more standard size tires. And to a large extent it does work out that way. The problem it has run into for some riders is that once you go much beyond 2.4 or so, the limit you run into for pressure is not pinch flats or rim strikes, but the instability of an underinflated tire. This is not much of an issue of you are not an aggressive rider (and this tire size was, in fact, marketed as more "beginner friendly), but as you start to really stuff the bike into corners and land on less than perfect ground, you are losing some control. This is somewhat born out by the fact that most Enduro and DH racers stick to tires in the 2.3-2.5 range. Of course, you can get around the squirmy tire issue by either increasing tire pressure or beefing up the sidewalls. The former kind of defeats the whole point of plus tires, and the latter makes the tire heavy, as well as less compliant (which negates some of the benefit of the lower pressure). However, for less aggressive riding, they can make a lot of sense, and you will often see them recommended for off-road touring. In fact that is actually what the very first plus size tire and bike (the 29+ Surly and Knard and Krampus) were marketed to. I see that the trend has lately been going to something like ~2.6" as the happy medium between standard and plus.

As far as what would fit the bill for you? Yeah, in your price range you are definitely looking at a HT. While HTs are generally not parsed as much as FS bikes in terms of labeling, there are differences. Some are more XC race-oriented, some are are more Trail oriented, and some even considered AM. It sounds to me like you are looking for an XC or Trail HT. I would think either 27.5+ or 29. 27.5 if you want more comfort, 29 if you plan to ride more aggressively on the downhills.

Take all of this with a grain of salt. I am sure someone has exactly the opposite experience with plus size tires. And to be fair, I have only demoed plus size tires, never owned one. However, just from riding standard tires, I have always been skeptical of the performance gains over a TRUE 2.4" for aggressive riding (plenty of claimed 2.5s are actually a bit smaller).
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Old 07-17-18, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Kapusta
27.5+ is kinda still working itself out. The initial idea was that a 2.8-3.0-ish tire would allow very low pressures and make riding most trails easier. On its face that made sense as people had been realizing the benefits of low pressures that tubeless had allowed in more standard size tires. And to a large extent it does work out that way. The problem it has run into for some riders is that once you go much beyond 2.4 or so, the limit you run into for pressure is not pinch flats or rim strikes, but the instability of an underinflated tire. This is not much of an issue of you are not an aggressive rider (and this tire size was, in fact, marketed as more "beginner friendly), but as you start to really stuff the bike into corners and land on less than perfect ground, you are losing some control. This is somewhat born out by the fact that most Enduro and DH racers stick to tires in the 2.3-2.5 range. Of course, you can get around the squirmy tire issue by either increasing tire pressure or beefing up the sidewalls. The former kind of defeats the whole point of plus tires, and the latter makes the tire heavy, as well as less compliant (which negates some of the benefit of the lower pressure). However, for less aggressive riding, they can make a lot of sense, and you will often see them recommended for off-road touring. In fact that is actually what the very first plus size tire and bike (the 29+ Surly and Knard and Krampus) were marketed to. I see that the trend has lately been going to something like ~2.6" as the happy medium between standard and plus.
Informative! And one of the best summaries of the plus thing I've read.
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Old 07-17-18, 12:17 PM
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You or i basically think of it as either full suspension or hardtail. hardtail just has front suspension full has front and back but loses pedal power with all the suspension and weight and fs is mostly good for downhill. Tire size is just the new thing. Used to be 26'' now 29" or 27.5 for shorter bikes/ people or if you want technical. Some might simply be 27.5 some have a choice and most do 27.5 for smaller size bikes and 29 over a certain size. You may also consider riding position either straight up and down or some cyclo cross or trail capable bikes with drop bars for fire roads, across fields and speed and i imagine drop bars to be unwieldy on tricky trails with many turns and rocks. Other than that terms like sport etc seems to be different price points within those type of styles. under $1000 pretty much limits you to a hardtail which come standard with 27.5 or 29 wheels but up until a few years ago people rode just fine on 26 with rim brakes and many still do of course i want the new thing of 29's too. I don't feel as much need for disc brakes but thats standard now so unless you buy used thats what you'll get (and is likely more beneficial than tire size but not as sexy). The other thing to consider about bikes in general is the gear ratios but mtn bikes are similar enough thats its no concern. Don't know the math myself but it can be geared toward fast and hard to push for road and speed or mtn bikes which are lower to allow going up mountains easier to push the pedals and spinning.

Last edited by TheLibrarian; 07-17-18 at 12:25 PM.
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Old 07-17-18, 05:31 PM
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Thank you to all above. I appreciate the excellent information.
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Old 07-19-18, 05:49 PM
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2018 26" mens Mongoose blackcomb

My fiancee is thinking about buying this bike does anyone know the specs for the seat post
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Old 07-19-18, 09:31 PM
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Nona: That bike is trash. It is trying to have a million features at an extremely low price. If you really must buy a Walmart bike (they're terribly assembled, mostly) if you buy something with no suspension it may have essentially functional components.

OP: In your price range, shopping new, you're going to be looking at hard tails. Most will be basically modeled after cross country race bikes with about 100mm of travel and mostly 29" wheels and will have relatively fast steering which makes it easier to hold a line on slow climbs. There are also some bikes around that range with slightly more travel (110-130mm) and frequently 27.5+ tires that will still be pretty versatile on mild terrain but will be more stable at speed and will handle rougher terrain better. At a slightly higher price point you'll see some of these with dropper posts, which really are very helpful on technical terrain. Either a more XC or trail hardtail type of bike will work well for everything you've mentioned, but personally I'd recommend something more trail oriented, particularly since you can always use your old Nishiki for paved paths and gravel roads.
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Old 07-19-18, 10:35 PM
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Originally Posted by TheLibrarian
You or i basically think of it as either full suspension or hardtail. hardtail just has front suspension full has front and back but loses pedal power with all the suspension and weight and fs is mostly good for downhill.
There are plenty of good FS XC choices out there.
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Old 07-20-18, 12:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Nona
My fiancee is thinking about buying this bike does anyone know the specs for the seat post
Horrible bike, avoid buying bikes at department stores like Walmart.
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