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Low Budget Mountain Bike Options

Old 02-01-21, 03:09 PM
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prj71
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Low Budget Mountain Bike Options

Some truth here...


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Old 02-01-21, 03:20 PM
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"cheap" is relative. there's no point in asking for specifics with such a vague question. if you want a bike to match your budget, put a number with your budget. otherwise, expect subjective answers. to me, a "cheap" mountain bike would cost $2,000 USD. I don't make a lot of money and that would be a lot of money for me to spend in one go, but I know how much mountain bikes cost and what to expect from them, so I would start with a $2,000 budget for something that would hold up to how I would ride it.
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Old 02-01-21, 05:17 PM
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The meme is a rip on those that think they can get into this hobby and expect to only have to spend $500-$1000 with the expectation that they are going to have good top quality equipment.

Can be applied to many hobbies actually such as photography, fly fishing, camping, skiing etc

My girlfriend has about $5000 invested in photography equipment. I have over $16k invested in a six bikes and over $3k invested in fly fishing equipment between rods, reels, waders and other miscellaneous items.

Hobbies with good equipment don't come cheap.
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Old 02-01-21, 05:33 PM
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I've had dozens of bikes over the years. I don't think I've ever seen a correlation between what I spent on the bike and how much I enjoyed it. If anything, I lean towards cheap bikes that can punch above their weight.

For instance, my last mountain bike was built up from a Ragley Marley frame ($200 last year), a Suntour Raidon fork I got on ebay for $80, a $140ish Box drivetrain, etc. Maybe just over a grand total. It's a great bike, and the new school geo lets me keep up with even my fast friends on the downhills.

For instance #2, one of my road bikes is a fixed gear built up from a $200 vintage Trek, redished 27" wheels, etc. It rides great and looks cool. What would spending more get me?
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Old 02-01-21, 09:46 PM
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I disagree with the premise.
The idea that you have to spend thousands to mountain bike only exists if you imagine you need the newest, latest tech: full suspension, dropper posts, carbon frames, 29r wheelsets, 1x drivetrains etc...

You can buy for hundreds what people in the 1990-2000's were riding as top of the line, extremely well made bikes with quality components.
Were they mtbing back then? If you do the same thing now you aren't?

I have ridden multi thousand dollar bikes and hundred dollar bikes. As seat boy says, the amount of enjoyment doesn't always relate to cost.

FWIW, I also dive with people who spend more than 5K on camera equipment, when you consider water proof housings and strobes, and they still like the pics off my WP Olympus P&S that costs hundreds.





















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Old 02-02-21, 08:42 AM
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every person I know who insisted on spending less than $500 on a new mountain bike either gave up from the frustration of having a constantly non-functioning and often broken bike, or ended up spending a lot more later. regarding this meme, it's in reference to people who want to walk into a bike shop, but the cheapest bike off the rack, and expect it to hold up and perform will on mountain bike trails (not doodling around the neighborhood).

there's a lot to be said about bargain-hunting, buying used, and learning to work on your own bike to save money. when you do that, you end up spending a lot less actual cash, but if you add up the full-price costs of the parts you buy on sale, and the cost of labor you skip by the DIY method, you can put a realistic price tag on what mountain biking "should" cost less resourceful people. if you can spend less because you think it through, that's great, but don't expect the same experience from your cheap junk bike as something that is inherently better quality.

again, I'm not saying that you have to spend a ton of money, but you need to buy something of quality if you want to it hold up to actual trail riding. cheap bikes are proportionally expensive in the long run.
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Old 02-02-21, 10:04 AM
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I could agree with that.

If we took another example: Is it possible to buy an affordable sports car? "Affordable" being a relative term.
Well, no you can't buy a cheap one - not if you are wanting to buy a new. But if you buy used, and are handy, it's entirely possible to get into the sports car game affordably.

I come from a certain perspective, that being trying to remove the barriers that keep someone from engaging in an activity. Is mountain biking about owning the current iteration of an acceptable off road bike, or about riding off road? I would say the latter. In that regard, I don't agree with the OP's notion that there are no cheap ways of getting into the hobby. There are cheap ways to get into mtbing if money is a barrier but I will agree that buying a new cheap department store bike is probably not one of them.

At the same time I think it's pretty sad if we think a newcomer needs to spend 2-5k to get into an activity that they don't even know they will enjoy. This is the result of gentrification in what used to be a pretty grass roots activity. If my kids (I have three) said they needed that entry fee (and we haven't even talked about safety gear yet) to get into riding a bicycle I would say, get another hobby. Fortunately, it doesn't really cost that much IRL.

Where there's a will, there's a way.
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Old 02-02-21, 10:16 AM
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a rider's expectations need to match up with their willpower to seek out bargains and do their own work have to add up to the limits of their budget half-way. neither factor will stop anyone from having fun riding a bike, but the definition of "fun" is subjective.I've met a lot of people who have a limited budget and also refuse to spend time searching for a good deal on a used bike and don't want to be bothered to fix their own bikes. if they think they're going to buy the cheapest new bike available, or that the perfect bargain on a used bike is going to just fall in their lap, they're unlikely to get much out of mountain biking. there is a degree of effort required that can come in the form of time or dollars. anyone who is unwilling to commit either should lower their expectations or increase their commitment.
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Old 02-02-21, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by seat_boy View Post
I've had dozens of bikes over the years. I don't think I've ever seen a correlation between what I spent on the bike and how much I enjoyed it. If anything, I lean towards cheap bikes that can punch above their weight.

For instance, my last mountain bike was built up from a Ragley Marley frame ($200 last year), a Suntour Raidon fork I got on ebay for $80, a $140ish Box drivetrain, etc. Maybe just over a grand total. It's a great bike, and the new school geo lets me keep up with even my fast friends on the downhills.

For instance #2, one of my road bikes is a fixed gear built up from a $200 vintage Trek, redished 27" wheels, etc. It rides great and looks cool. What would spending more get me?
I'm not referring to price vs. enjoyment. I can go and buy a $125 Walmart bike and enjoy it also. That is until it starts falling apart due to crappy cheap components.
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Old 02-02-21, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Happy Feet View Post
I come from a certain perspective, that being trying to remove the barriers that keep someone from engaging in an activity.
If a person buys a cheap bike and then gives up from the frustration of having a constantly non-functioning and often broken bike....Is that not a barrier to keep someone from engaging in the activity?

The difference between cheap and expensive mountain bikes really comes down to their build quality and intended use. Expensive mountain bikes are well built and can hold up to the stresses of mountain biking. Cheap mountain bikes are built to look the part but are not meant for riding on an actual mountain bike trail.Think about it...where do you see most of the cheap mountain bikes? Cheap mountain bikes are often found department stores that sell groceries, clothing, cosmetics, and just about everything else. This is because cheap mountain bikes are typically only marketed to the average consumer – someone who is looking for a decent bike for general riding. The average consumer isn’t going to be hitting any real mountain bike trail with this type of bike. More than likely it will be used for riding around local parks or neighborhoods. And the roughest treatment these cheap bikes will experience will most likely be from the rain after being left outside or dust from being kept in the garage.

Durability is one of biggest factors that separate expensive and cheap mountain bikes.
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Old 02-02-21, 01:49 PM
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I was prevented from enjoying the outdoors fully as I believed magazines (yes I'm that old) that always advertised high end bikes and components I couldn't afford. While I am the type of person to save to buy higher quality things, I think a lot of fun can be had on entry level bikes. Yes, even Walmart bikes.

Big fan of kevcentral on youtube.

I also ride with people who ride $3,000-$6000 bikes. I think its great they have the disposable income for higher end things. But I wouldn't dissuade people from trying the sport due to finances.
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Old 02-02-21, 02:00 PM
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Not dissuading people but it's a reality check that if you take this on as hobby it isn't going to be cheap. Especially if you want something that's reliable and durable...


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Old 02-02-21, 02:36 PM
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Again you are only focusing on new and ignoring other ways to enjoy the hobby.

I've written about this issue a lot in diving circles but the same holds true here. There are two ways people engage in an outdoor experience. As a consumer, or as an enthusiast.

The difference is that the first focuses on "buying" their way through the activity. The second develops a more hands on, experiential approach.

Taken to extremes, the first group could be the person who buys the latest tech, goes to a ski hill like Whistler so the chair can take them to the top without effort, and then has the rad water cooler moment. Purchase purchase purchase.

The second group might be someone from the repack era who builds, rides, experiments and rides some more.

Those are both exaggerations as most people fall somewhere in between on the spectrum.

I don't disagree with the notion that buying a new mountain bike is expensive. Just that getting into the hobby of mountain biking needs to be expensive. One can do a heck of a lot of hard riding on solid bikes if one takes a different pathway than buying new.

My fatbike new cost $1700. I bought it slightly used for $700. I ride the heck out of it. Over time I've put about $400 more into it but got into it and riding for 7. My road endurance bike was new $1500. I bought it new (end of season clearance) for $800. Ride the heck out of that too. With a second 650b wheelset I've put about another 800 into it over time but got into it and riding for 8.

And, let's not kid about the overall cost of the consumerist approach. Most new tech bikes are so complex they aren't serviced by the rider. Added shop fees. And most people who are attracted to that new tech want to upgrade their rides every few years. Multiple 2-5k bikes.

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Old 02-02-21, 02:39 PM
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While the answer may be true, the attitude you bring to your answering is important too.

We in the USA also are being bilked by the minimum advertised price. A DT Swiss 350 rear boost hub in the EU costs around $175, VAT included. In the USA it's going to be around $250, sales tax included.
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Old 02-02-21, 02:41 PM
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Happy Feet thank you for applying numbers to the subject. to a lot of people with whom I have spoken, I am a "gatekeeper" because I told them that the $200 bike they bought at Walmart will not be good enough for mountain biking. I have a record of being 100% correct about that. it's not about how much you are willing to spend, but what you get regardless of the cost. however, there's a direct correlation between price and quality most of the time. you get what you pay for—go figure!

for the 100th time, "expensive" is subjective. to a lot of people, that $700 you spent on your used fat bike is outrageously expensive. (I told my FiL that I bought a used Fox 34 fork from 2016 for $250, and he said "two hundred and fifty dollars for a bicycle part? I could buy a whole bike at Waaaaaaalmart for that much! you must be rich!") what do you have to say to people who refuse to shell out $700 on a quality used bike and insist that the $200 Mongoose that is available at Walmart is just fine for trails?

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Old 02-02-21, 02:49 PM
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I have to go back to work but I'll answer this evening.
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Old 02-02-21, 04:58 PM
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No doubt there's a minimum level to get a functional bike. But I say that level is much, much lower than most people think. Certainly not $2k.

Originally Posted by prj71 View Post
I'm not referring to price vs. enjoyment. I can go and buy a $125 Walmart bike and enjoy it also. That is until it starts falling apart due to crappy cheap components.
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Old 02-02-21, 08:45 PM
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You have to know bikes, know them pretty well. Since I was a bike shop owner for over 12 yrs, I know bikes. So when I spotted a Scott mtn bike in my size with a double butted aluminum frame like you see on those overpriced Ellswoth bikes etc, from a guy who had ridden it a handfull of times and was giving up on it, so I found it on craigslist for $200. I am getting some good use out of it and the parts are not going to "fall apart" anytime soon, I can assure you. So you don't have to spend a fortune, If you know what you are doing.
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Old 02-02-21, 10:04 PM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
...what do you have to say to people who refuse to shell out $700 on a quality used bike and insist that the $200 Mongoose that is available at Walmart is just fine for trails?
I agree price is always subjective but there is a common middle ground I think as well. As seat boy said, the price is probably somewhere above a $200 walmart bike and $2000.

There is a thread right now about a Marin Pine Mountain that is getting good reviews older Marin Pine Mountain The 1992 version of it was my "go to" bike for quite a while and it has gone through a lot of iterations, touring, rigid, mtb - next up probably SSmtb. Picked it up for $50 at a thrift store needing new shifters that cost $60. So, as headwind says, it's possible to get into a good basic bike if you know what you are doing - or know someone who does.

But to answer a different way.

Let's say a friend is curious and asks me about mtbing (this actually just happened a couple of months ago). First thing I would say is "let's go for a ride" as I have three mtbs. These are basic 26r bikes, one a hardtail, the other a SS, the other a fatbike. With them we hit the trails and had some fun. The person got a feel for basic mtb to see if they really wanted to go farther.

Then that friend got hit by a car while road biking and is off for several months recuperating. They may, or may not, get back into it. Good thing they didn't go all in right away.

Next I'd ask about what type of riding they thought they wanted to do and what their budget was. If they wanted to aim for the far end of the spectrum with technical downhill or challenging XC riding I would tell them that will eventually cost a bit of money to really get into, as the routes and riding are really geared for modern FS - and that ain't cheap.

I would tell them to go rent a good FS bike for a day or two and try it out, to see if that was really really what they wanted. Sometimes the idea of something is better than the reality and renting a good quality bike is a cheap way to see what it will offer.

If they still insisted on doing the extreme style of riding but had a small budget I'd say take your time and look for a decent used bike to underbike with while you are saving for new. Most guys are upgrading every couple of years and you could snag a deal if you are patient.

I would not say buy a new cheap walmart bike for that type of riding.

I would say, if the budget really is that low, temper your desire for a bit and ride a lesser capable, but quality used bike and develop some skills until that good deal comes along. It's basically what I do with my older mtb's at home. When I went to Moab I rented. It worked out to just a little more than if I had flown with my bike and I could switch up bikes as I wished. When the right deal comes along I'll buy a modern FS but I can wait, while still riding a lot.

However, some/many people really just want to ride basic trails, moderate routes that won't risk serious injury doing a recreational activity. Maybe they just want to ride with their kids or something (there was a post recently about a guy with a broken back just like that). They really don't need an expensive modern FS bike to get into mtb riding. Remembering the operative words "get into". Their first bike could be an older quality rigid or hardtail that, in its time, was a high end ride. If that were the case, and the route they wanted to follow, I'd help them find a decent used bike. For that I'd allocate a budget of between $200 and $500. Sorta depends on their budget and goals.

Lower to get in with a decent platform frame, add on better components when you can afford it. Better tires, grips, gearing, saddle, pedals, suspension fork, dropper... basically the route all of my bikes have followed.

The people I feel sorry for the most are those who don't want to learn basic mechanical skills, are impatient for the best, and who don't know how to foster friendships in a pastime. They are at the mercy of the vendor. I've been involved in a number of potentially expensive pastime/hobbies over the years and have come out pretty cheaply (considering) because I've always valued and fostered friendships and mentorships along the way, both giving and getting. That's as much the enjoyment as the type of equipment I have at any particular point in time.
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Old 02-03-21, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
for the 100th time, "expensive" is subjective. to a lot of people, that $700 you spent on your used fat bike is outrageously expensive. (I told my FiL that I bought a used Fox 34 fork from 2016 for $250, and he said "two hundred and fifty dollars for a bicycle part? I could buy a whole bike at Waaaaaaalmart for that much! you must be rich!") what do you have to say to people who refuse to shell out $700 on a quality used bike and insist that the $200 Mongoose that is available at Walmart is just fine for trails?
^^^This. My experience with others that don't bike mirrors yours. Just for the fact that they don't understand.

I run into the same thing with people in the fishing world. Fly fishing is one of my other hobbies. People have a hard time understanding that I spent $500 on a "fishing pole", $150 on a reel, $300 on a pair of waders and $60-$80 on line.
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Old 02-03-21, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by prj71 View Post
^^^This. My experience with others that don't bike mirrors yours. Just for the fact that they don't understand.

I run into the same thing with people in the fishing world. Fly fishing is one of my other hobbies. People have a hard time understanding that I spent $500 on a "fishing pole", $150 on a reel, $300 on a pair of waders and $60-$80 on line.

Nobody denies that, if one really gets into a hobby, it's easy to spend a lot on gear. People also don't understand why I bought a second wheelset for a bike that already works perfectly fine.

But there is a difference between that and saying that is what you need to get into the hobby. Or, according to the meme, they get a slap for wondering if there is a cheaper option?

Would you say, to someone interested in fly fishing, that the buy in was going to be $1010 - $1030 (adding your figures up).

This is the disconnect of many of our discussions. Not that a certain level of new quality or tech is going to cost something but that not everyone just getting into mtbing wants to, or can afford, that level of buy in at the start.

But also, who are you guys talking to? I haven't met anyone seriously interested in mountain biking who thinks buying a cheap walmart bike is the solution. Most people ask my advise because they instinctively sense that's not the solution and want to know if there is some middle ground between junk and the extremely high prices they see in retail stores.

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Old 02-03-21, 10:05 AM
  #22  
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I am thinking if you go to Craig's List and commit about $30 to a Huffy, you should be all set.... https://detroit.craigslist.org/mcb/b...251358689.html

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Old 02-03-21, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Happy Feet View Post
But also, who are you guys talking to? I haven't met anyone seriously interested in mountain biking who thinks buying a cheap walmart bike is the solution. .
Threads pop on this forum quite frequently where someone posts something to the effect of...

"I have some mountain trails near me that I want to ride because I want to get in shape and lose weight, but my budget is only $500. What would be good bike to buy blah, blah, blah..."

I mostly see it on bike forums. I rarely encounter it in person.

When I do encounter it in person, I tell them the exact same thing I tell them here...Increase your budget.
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Old 02-03-21, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by mrv View Post
I am thinking if you go to Craig's List and commit about $30 to a Huffy, you should be all set.... https://detroit.craigslist.org/mcb/b...251358689.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MON4...nel=crustbikes
Continuous use like that would eventually rattle it apart and render it useless. Much like the Walmart bike I posted in the video above.
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Old 02-03-21, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by prj71 View Post
Threads pop on this forum quite frequently where someone posts something to the effect of...

"I have some mountain trails near me that I want to ride because I want to get in shape and lose weight, but my budget is only $500. What would be good bike to buy blah, blah, blah..."

I mostly see it on bike forums. I rarely encounter it in person.

When I do encounter it in person, I tell them the exact same thing I tell them here...Increase your budget.
And in that case, if they really had a budget, I'd give the advice I outlined in post 19.

This example, someone just wanting to ride some local trails and lose weight, does not require an expensive new mtb to achieve.
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