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Planning for first hardtail

Old 06-28-20, 10:50 PM
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Sealth
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Planning for first hardtail

I'm planning on getting my first mountain bike, and I need some help navigating the scene.

I'll be doing some mild/medium trail riding and winter commuting with the bike. I want to spend as little as possible initially, ideally less than $1000. I think a hardtail perfectly suits my purposes, plus I like how they look. I want something I can continuously upgrade and still be happy with in 5+ years.

What "tech" really makes a difference and what parts of the bike should I prioritize with my initial purchase?

In terms of maximizing quality vs. money, should I hunt around on craigslist for a deal on an older bike and upgrade the components, should I buy a new complete and upgrade the components over time, or should I buy new parts separately and build the bike up from scratch?

I come from a singlespeed/fixed gear background where older is sometimes "better" or at least more fun. However I feel the same is not true for mountain biking as the bikes have been developing rapidly. For example, I almost feel like a brand new $500 2020 hardtail is fundamentally a better bike than a brand new $1000 2010 hardtail. Is this true?
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Old 06-28-20, 11:49 PM
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I did a little more searching/thinking, and the only things I have an opinion on right now are,

air sprung fork
1x drivetrain
disk brakes (mechanical vs hydraulic not important)
flat, non-cleat pedals
tubed wheels (tubeless seems unnecessary, expensive, and annoying, correct me if I'm wrong)

Is it reasonable to expect a bike like this for less than $1000? It sounds like I should buy a complete bike to get the best deal, are there any completes that tick all these boxes?
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Old 06-29-20, 04:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Sealth View Post
I did a little more searching/thinking, and the only things I have an opinion on right now are,

air sprung fork
1x drivetrain
disk brakes (mechanical vs hydraulic not important)
flat, non-cleat pedals
tubed wheels (tubeless seems unnecessary, expensive, and annoying, correct me if I'm wrong)

Is it reasonable to expect a bike like this for less than $1000? It sounds like I should buy a complete bike to get the best deal, are there any completes that tick all these boxes?
Yes, there are complete bikes that tick all those boxes around 1000. Expect a cheap fork, brakes and a heavy wheelset though.

Personally, I'd prioritise good brakes and fork over a 1x drivetrain and other considerations. I wouldn't buy any of the RS Recon or Suntour XCM / XCR equipped bikes.
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Old 06-29-20, 05:34 AM
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I just bought my first - a 750$ bike. I didn't realize how much I'd wish I had a dropper post.

I have also started customizing my bike already. I've heard people say you should spend more up front to get the bike you need, so that you can avoid upgrading a cheaper bike, but you probably don't know what you need yet. I didn't. I discovered I have short arms. The Large frame is the right size for my legs but not for my upper body. Maybe I could've fit better on a smaller frame? Maybe the right move was to get the Large frame and modify the cockpit, as I'm doing?


I think that obsessing over the value proposition is a luxury for people who already have their first bike. The only feature that I drew a line at was a lockout on the fork. I can handle a bit of extra weight on my fork but I can't handle a cheap fork that can't be locked out. You might be able to sidestep that problem if you jump straight to a decent air fork. I wouldn't know. But even if you spend 1200$, don't be surprised if you find out you want to start making changes.

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Old 06-29-20, 07:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Illinest View Post
I just bought my first - a 750$ bike. I didn't realize how much I'd wish I had a dropper post.

I have also started customizing my bike already. I've heard people say you should spend more up front to get the bike you need, so that you can avoid upgrading a cheaper bike, but you probably don't know what you need yet. I didn't. I discovered I have short arms. The Large frame is the right size for my legs but not for my upper body. Maybe I could've fit better on a smaller frame? Maybe the right move was to get the Large frame and modify the cockpit, as I'm doing?


I think that obsessing over the value proposition is a luxury for people who already have their first bike. The only feature that I drew a line at was a lockout on the fork. I can handle a bit of extra weight on my fork but I can't handle a cheap fork that can't be locked out. You might be able to sidestep that problem if you jump straight to a decent air fork. I wouldn't know. But even if you spend 1200$, don't be surprised if you find out you want to start making changes.
Well, after 20 years of riding I just have gotten my first dropper post. It's nice to have on technical sections, really nice in fact, and I think it has made a difference on my speed when descending. However, It wouldn't be something I'd look for at the 1000 price range. I'd probably look that the seatpost has a diameter compatible with one just in case though.

On a mountain bike, I have always felt that a good fork and good brakes are what makes the biggest difference.
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Old 06-29-20, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Amt0571 View Post
Well, after 20 years of riding I just have gotten my first dropper post. It's nice to have on technical sections, really nice in fact, and I think it has made a difference on my speed when descending. However, It wouldn't be something I'd look for at the 1000 price range. I'd probably look that the seatpost has a diameter compatible with one just in case though.

On a mountain bike, I have always felt that a good fork and good brakes are what makes the biggest difference.

I'm not sure if I could tell the difference yet. Maybe I could tell the difference on brakes. I had my first OTB just last week and now I'm trying to get better at using my brakes.
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Old 06-29-20, 09:33 AM
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A frame with boost spacing and a tapered headtube
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Old 06-29-20, 09:54 AM
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On a hard tail, the biggest things I would priorities are getting a decent fork, tubeless compatible wheels, and a dropper post.

Not too picky about brakes and drive-train. If the brakes stop me and the drivetrain shifts when I push/pull/twist the shifter, I'm happy, and in reality anything out there in that price range will do those things fine, IMO. 1x is nice, but not as big a priority as the fork, wheels, and post.
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Old 06-29-20, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
On a hard tail, the biggest things I would priorities are getting a decent fork, tubeless compatible wheels, and a dropper post.

Not too picky about brakes and drive-train. If the brakes stop me and the drivetrain shifts when I push/pull/twist the shifter, I'm happy, and in reality anything out there in that price range will do those things fine, IMO. 1x is nice, but not as big a priority as the fork, wheels, and post.
I don't understand the 1x focus. I got a 2x9 and I basically just treat it as a 1x9 most of the time. I'm sure 1x10 would be nice but...
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Old 06-29-20, 10:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Illinest View Post
I don't understand the 1x focus. I got a 2x9 and I basically just treat it as a 1x9 most of the time. I'm sure 1x10 would be nice but...
Same here. 24/34 rings with a 11-34 cassette. Basically used it as a 1x9 in the larger ring, and used the granny for steeper climbs. Zero issues. I went with 1x11 mainly due to the way my rear suspension works... not great in the small ring.

I think the majority of the benefit of 1x is that it allows for better rear suspension design and shorter chainstays on FS bikes. But it is not nearly as relevant on HTs, IMO.
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Old 06-29-20, 11:35 AM
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Thanks for the replies.

The 1x drivetrain is a personal preference. I've been riding bikes for ~8 years now, and I've only owned fixed gear and single speed bikes. I definitely like the look and idea of a 1x drivetrain, but perhaps I shouldn't prioritize that out of the gate.

It sounds like I should prioritize frame, fork, and brakes initially as these make the biggest ride difference. It looks like the Rockhopper Elite and Kona Blast and Mahuna might be the best. Additionally, the Specialized Fuse is really nice and the cheapest offering is $1250...

Originally Posted by Amt0571 View Post
Yes, there are complete bikes that tick all those boxes around 1000. Expect a cheap fork, brakes and a heavy wheelset though.

Personally, I'd prioritise good brakes and fork over a 1x drivetrain and other considerations. I wouldn't buy any of the RS Recon or Suntour XCM / XCR equipped bikes.
What is bad about those forks specifically? Are they just the worst offerings from those companies? It seems like most if not all the $700-800 bikes I've looked at have the Suntour forks. The $900-1000 range bikes typically have a "nicer" fork (Rock Shox Judy?) and they usually have a 1x, hydraulic disk brakes, and all the bells and whistles I'd want.
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Old 06-29-20, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Sealth View Post
Thanks for the replies.

The 1x drivetrain is a personal preference. I've been riding bikes for ~8 years now, and I've only owned fixed gear and single speed bikes. I definitely like the look and idea of a 1x drivetrain, but perhaps I shouldn't prioritize that out of the gate.

It sounds like I should prioritize frame, fork, and brakes initially as these make the biggest ride difference. It looks like the Rockhopper Elite and Kona Blast and Mahuna might be the best. Additionally, the Specialized Fuse is really nice and the cheapest offering is $1250...



What is bad about those forks specifically? Are they just the worst offerings from those companies? It seems like most if not all the $700-800 bikes I've looked at have the Suntour forks. The $900-1000 range bikes typically have a "nicer" fork (Rock Shox Judy?) and they usually have a 1x, hydraulic disk brakes, and all the bells and whistles I'd want.
I would avoid this forks because they are either heavy, have a really simple damper, or are simply lower quality. A fork is a component that suffers a great deal of stress, so it's better to invest in a good one and service it regularly IMO. I would only choose a cheap fork over a more expensive one if I knew I wasn't going to service it when I should.

I understand you prefer a 1x, but I would definitely sacrifice that over a nicer fork or brakes, or both. In any case, if you go for 1x, I would avoid anything that's not 12 speeds unless you're sure your only going to ride relatively flat terrain. I would also discard anything that involves SRAM SX (which is a complete piece of crap). I would also prefer running a Shimano microspline cassette as I prefer the gear spacing on that (on sram cassettes the last gear seems like a bailout, with a big op from the previous one, while Shimano 12sp cassettes have a more even spacing which doesn't involve such a big cadence change).
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Old 06-29-20, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Sealth View Post
I'm planning on getting my first mountain bike, and I need some help navigating the scene.

I'll be doing some mild/medium trail riding and winter commuting with the bike. I want to spend as little as possible initially, ideally less than $1000. I think a hardtail perfectly suits my purposes, plus I like how they look. I want something I can continuously upgrade and still be happy with in 5+ years.
Based on what you are going to do, nothing wrong with a Rockhopper Elite 29er or anything in that range. Personally, I might look to get a winter commute wheels and rigid fork one day with you are not going to be riding trails for months.

Somehow I doubt a dropper post is needed on those railroad crossings.

John
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Old 06-29-20, 12:00 PM
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Most of your wish list is on most bikes at your price this year. Stop planning, go buy and ride!
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Old 06-29-20, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Canker View Post
A frame with boost spacing and a tapered headtube
Yes focus on the standards so you know you can upgrade in the future. Buy used, it will save you $$.

My story is I bought a 2011 Giant Talon for $550, it retailed for $1100. I bought it back in 2013ish so it was maybe a year and a half old. It featured a standard suntour coil spring fork, but with then modern 15mm thru axle and hydro brakes. 3x9 sram x5 drivetrain. The tricky part was it had a straight headtube but I lucked out and found an air fork with a straight steerer. The airfork was a nice addition but honestly an expensive set of tires was more noticable.

Anyway I wouldn't care about the fork manufacturer or drivetrain type but I would care about hydro brakes, tubeless ready rims, modern geometry (slack front) and standards like tapered headtube, boost spacing. Save money so you can buy really nice tubeless tires.

​​​​
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Old 06-29-20, 12:17 PM
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Unfortunately the reality this year is that if you can find a bike you want in your price range, you should buy it as you might find what you want on paper, but not in any store. Or just wait another year until inventories are back and the mad rush is over.

John

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Old 06-29-20, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Amt0571 View Post
I would avoid this forks because they are either heavy, have a really simple damper, or are simply lower quality. A fork is a component that suffers a great deal of stress, so it's better to invest in a good one and service it regularly IMO. I would only choose a cheap fork over a more expensive one if I knew I wasn't going to service it when I should.
.
There are a lot of different Recon models. Some with Debonair and Motion Control. I don't think those are much to complain about on a $1K bike.

Out of curiosity, what do you think one should be expecting on a sub-$1K bike?
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Old 06-29-20, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
There are a lot of different Recon models. Some with Debonair and Motion Control. I don't think those are much to complain about on a $1K bike.

Out of curiosity, what do you think one should be expecting on a sub-$1K bike?
If the fork was a RS, I wouldn't buy anything less than a Reba.
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Old 06-29-20, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Sealth View Post
Thanks for the replies.

The 1x drivetrain is a personal preference. I've been riding bikes for ~8 years now, and I've only owned fixed gear and single speed bikes. I definitely like the look and idea of a 1x drivetrain, but perhaps I shouldn't prioritize that out of the gate.

It sounds like I should prioritize frame, fork, and brakes initially as these make the biggest ride difference. It looks like the Rockhopper Elite and Kona Blast and Mahuna might be the best. Additionally, the Specialized Fuse is really nice and the cheapest offering is $1250...



What is bad about those forks specifically? Are they just the worst offerings from those companies? It seems like most if not all the $700-800 bikes I've looked at have the Suntour forks. The $900-1000 range bikes typically have a "nicer" fork (Rock Shox Judy?) and they usually have a 1x, hydraulic disk brakes, and all the bells and whistles I'd want.
My 2020 Talon 2 came with RockShox XC 30. I heard those are better than the Suntours but I have never rode anything else, so maybe find a better source if you are considering that.
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Old 06-29-20, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Amt0571 View Post
If the fork was a RS, I wouldn't buy anything less than a Reba.
You not going to get a Reba on a $1000 bike. Even Bikes Direct specs Recons as that price point.

Not sure what your issue is with the Recon. It is a solid fork with adjustable compression, a decent compression damper, and it is dead easy to user service.

Again, what would you consider a better fork for a sub $1K bike? The reality is that a Recon is about as good as you can expect to get.
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Old 06-29-20, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by 70sSanO View Post
Unfortunately the reality this year is that if you can find a bike you want in your price range, you should buy it as you might find what you want on paper, but not in any store. Or just wait another year until inventories are back and the mad rush is over.

You
Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
Most of your wish list is on most bikes at your price this year. Stop planning, go buy and ride!
This is what I'm realizing. At this point it seems like I'd be lucky to find a bike at all.
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Old 06-29-20, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
You not going to get a Reba on a $1000 bike. Even Bikes Direct specs Recons as that price point.

Not sure what your issue is with the Recon. It is a solid fork with adjustable compression, a decent compression damper, and it is dead easy to user service.

Again, what would you consider a better fork for a sub $1K bike? The reality is that a Recon is about as good as you can expect to get.
I can definitely buy a bike with a Reba around 1100 in Europe. I'd pick an epixon or Axon fork before a recon any day. And an Axon before a Reba too.
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Old 06-29-20, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Amt0571 View Post
I can definitely buy a bike with a Reba around 1100 in Europe. I'd pick an epixon or Axon fork before a recon any day. And an Axon before a Reba too.
Well that is just over $1200 USD, and Europe is not where the OP is buying.

No way you are getting a Reba on a $1000 bike in the US.

Again, show the OP what he can get for under $1000 that comes with something better than a Recon before you tell him to get something better than a Recon for under $1000.
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Old 06-29-20, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Kapusta View Post
Well that is just over $1200 USD, and Europe is not where the OP is buying.

No way you are getting a Reba on a $1000 bike in the US.

Again, show the OP what he can get for under $1000 that comes with something better than a Recon before you tell him to get something better than a Recon for under $1000.
If you can't find a Reba at 1000$, you can probably find a Manitou Markhor at that price range. Great fork for the price. Otherwise, an Epixon or better should be a great alternative too.
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Old 06-29-20, 01:25 PM
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I'd get a Roscoe or X-Caliber (same frame different build), or a Rangefinder.

I wonder if the bike boom is still really going on. That was May, June has been... fraught. But with states shutting back down again maybe it will continue.
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