MY GUIDE: Mountain biking & Buying Your First Bike

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MY GUIDE: Mountain biking & Buying Your First Bike
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Posted: Jan 1, 2010 at 18:24 Quote
Bike Basics

If you're just getting started, or if you need some basic mountain bike info, begin your journey here.
This is the place to find out everything you need to know as you make mountain biking a part of your life.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know into deciding which bike you want to buy.

Buying a Bike

Finding the right bike for you is an important first step to getting into mountain biking. Here, you'll find helpful guides and resources to make the most out ouf you bike buying experience.

Buying a mountain bike can be a bit frustrating and can take some time. This guide will help you put some thought into it before you lay down the cash and make the process go a bit smoother.

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If you want to know more about the above bikes read the thread:Catagories & Disciplines

Determine Your Price

There is virtually no limit to how much money you can spend on a new mountain bike.

To keep your spending under control, figure out what price range you are willing to pay for your new bike and try to only look at bikes within that price range.

Support your local bike shop and get a better product and much better service.

Find Your Style – What Kind of Riding Do You Want To Do?

Mountain bikes are designed for several different riding styles and terrain. You will need to figure out what type of riding you will be doing most of the time. Is it smooth trail riding, cross-country racing, all mountain cruising or lift accessed gravity mayhem?

Make sure the bikes you look at fit your riding style and not the sales staffs.

I always recommend a full suspension mountain bike if you can afford it.

Hardtails, without rear suspension, are lighter weight and pedal more efficiently but full suspension designs offer more comfort and better control.

You will want to decide based on your price range, riding style and terrain.

XC (Cross Country) Bikes can be used as commuter bikes but you may want to change the tyres to urban use for it.

The Component Conundrum –Find Your Favorites

It is nearly impossible to compare mountain bikes component to component.
There are simply too many combinations.
I recommend finding a few components that are most important to you for comparison and make sure the rest fall within some sort of minimums for your price range.
I usually start with the fork and then look at the wheels and rear derailleur.

If you want to know more go to the Parts Names & Abbreviations thread.


Sales, Seasons, and Bonuses–Get a Good Deal

Mountain bike prices can fluctuate significantly during the year. The main buying season is from spring through summer. If you are lucky enough to be able to wait until the right price comes up, usually in the fall and winter, you can save a few hundred pounds. You will also find that a lot of bike shops will offer discounts on accessories or other products and services when you buy from them.
There is nothing wrong with buying last years model if it fits your needs.

Find a Good Dealer

Finding a good dealer can be more important than getting a good price.
Find a dealer that cares more about selling you the right bike than selling you the more expensive one.
A good dealer should have a clean repair shop and you should feel like you can trust them.


Test Ride, and then Test Ride Some More

Test ride as many bikes as you can in your price range and riding style category.

You will find that some bikes will just feel right while others dont. The more bikes you ride the better feel you will have for what you like and what you dont.

There are some places which do bicycle rental , these would be a good place to go to find out your best suited bike.

Do Some Research – Read Some Product Reviews

Product reviews are a great way to find out about a mountain bikes performance and reliability. Look your bike up before you buy it and make sure there isnt anything someone else discovered that you might not like.

What type of bike should I get?

These days, mountain bikes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. With so many options to choose from, it can be difficult to decide exactly what type of bike is right for you.
Answer: The answer to this question can depend on several factors. The most important of these factors is your personal riding preference. Probably the second most important factor is where you live.
You will find that most mountain bikes will fit into a set of fun categories: Cross Country (XC), All Mountain (Trailbikes), Freeride, and Downhill (DH).
As for personal preference, you need to decide how you want to spend most of your time on your bike. Do you want to ride smooth flowing trails, climb big mountains, ride stunts, descend technical downhill courses, or just have all around fun.

Thinking about where you live and ride helps narrow your decision by making you take another realistic look at where you will be riding your bike. If you want to ride crazy downhill shuttles, but all you have is flat and smooth trails in your neck of the woods, a true downhill bike is probably not going to be your best choice.
For most people, the All Mountain (Trail Bikes)category makes the most sense. These bikes are truly made to be the most fun in the largest number of situations. They can take you almost anywhere, and they won't wear you out doing it.

Cross Country (XC) bikes are the lightest and most efficient pedalers, but aren't necessarily the best for rough terrain or the most comfortable.

Freeride bikes are great for hard hitting trails, jumps and stunts. They are built to get you up the hills as well, but not very easily. These bikes are heavy and tough.

The least common bikes are the Downhill (DH) specific ones. These bikes are built just for downhill racing. Don't expect to have too much fun on these bikes without a different way to the top of the mountain, but once you are there, you won't find a faster way to get down no matter how rough the trail is.

After some consideration, most people can come to a confident decision about exactly what kind of bike is right for them. The trick is to be honest with yourself about how you will spend most of your time riding, and then choosing a bike that is designed to make the best of it.

Full Suspension or Hardtail?

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This question is by far one of the most important questions to answer before looking for a bike. The answer to this question will greatly effect the performance of the bike and the types of riding it is capable of.
When faced with the full suspension (front and rear suspension) or hardtail (no rear suspension) question, I recommend full suspension mountain bikes over hardtails to almost everyone.
Full suspension mountain bikes are much more comfortable, enjoyable, and better controlled when compared to their hardtail counterparts. The trade offs of a little extra weight and slightly less efficiency are well worth the added benefits.
Some people will disagree with me on this subject. Hardtails do pedal more efficiently especially when the terrain is smooth. Hardtail mountain bikes are also a bit lighter than full suspension designs and require less maintenance.
A good number of cross-country racers still use hardtails for the above reasons, but most endurance and other types of racers have switched over to full suspension. I should also note that hardtails are also especially popular among the dirt jumping crowd where they pump better from jump to jump.
Unfortunately, full suspension mountain bikes are a bit more expensive than hardtails. If you can't afford a full suspension with decent and reliable components, I would recommend buying a good reliable hardtail from a specialty bike shop before going to a mass merchant for a bike that may fall apart after a few hours of riding.

Should I Get Disc Brakes or Rim Brakes?

This is a common question but the answer is not always what you want to hear.
There are two quick and dirty answers to the disc brake or rim brake question:
One, If you want better, more consistent brake performance in all conditions and don't really care if it weighs a little more or costs a little more, choose disc brakes over rim brakes.
Two, if you want the lightest set-up you can have, and are willing to accept small variances in brake performance, or if a low price is really important, choose rim brakes over disc brakes.
In a little more detail. Mountain bike rim brakes have gone through several design changes over the years. They started with the original cantilever brakes, went through the dark U-Brake years, and are now known as V-Brakes. V-Brakes work well in most conditions.
Rim brakes have some drawbacks. They require straight un-damaged rims to perform their best. Rim brakes perform poorly in wet or muddy conditions. Over time, Rim brakes can wear right through the side of your rim literally causing the side of the rim to blow off (I've seen this happen and its not pretty.).
Disc brakes have been around for a long time in cars but weren't seriously used on bikes until the mid to late 90's. There were definitely some issues with some of the earlier models but the disc brakes of today, cable actuated or hydraulic, perform quite well.
The performance of disc brakes is considerably better than rim brakes. Especially in wet or muddy conditions. Disc brakes usually require less force to apply and aren't effected by rim/wheel condition.
The biggest downside to disc brakes is the added weight. By the time you add everything in, including front and rear brakes and the added weight of the disc specific hubs, you end up with around 150 to 350 grams additional weight to the whole bike. This weight number greatly depends on the wheels, rims, hubs, and disc brake system you choose.
Cost is certainly an issue as well. Disk brake systems are usually more expensive compared to rim brakes. Mechanical or cable actuated disc brakes are a closer match but will still cost a little more. Hydraulic disc brake systems can cost significantly more.
To switch from one system to the other you will in most cases not only have to buy the new set of brakes but you will have to buy a new wheelset as well. Disc rims usually cannot be used with rim brakes and the standard hubs that are used with rim brake wheels usually cannot be used with discs.
The trend in the industry is certainly towards discs and the technology is improving every year.
Personally, I will never go back to rim brakes on my own bike. For me, the consistent performance and non-rim-dependent nature of discs is well worth the added weight.

What Type Of Bike Pedals Should I Use?

Bike Pedals come in three main types, Clipless, platform, and cage. Each type has its place in the industry, but when you're looking for new pedals or buying a bike, the bike pedals you get can make a big difference in how you ride, and how your bike performs.

After all, bike pedals make up possably the most important connection between you and your bike.
Answer: For the average XC and trail rider, clipless bike pedals are usually the best choice. With clipless bike pedals, you snap your foot into place on the pedal. A quick side rotation of the foot releases the connection allowing you to get off the bike or put a foot down.

These bike pedals provide a very stable connection to the bike that allows you to pedal more efficiently. With clipless bike pedals you can use your leg muscles to power the cranks in a more efficient full circle.
Some riders also prefer these bike pedals because they hold your foot to the pedal even in the roughest terrain and they make it easier to hop over obstacles.

If people didn't occasionally crash without getting out of these bike pedals in time, clipless bike pedals would be the only pedals people would use.

The second most common bike pedal type is the toeclip or cage style bike pedal. Honestly, these are usually only found on lower end bikes because they are cheaper for the manufacturer. With cage style bike pedals you slip your foot into a cage that has a strap that adjusts around the top of your foot.
When properly adjusted, cage style bike pedals are slightly harder to get in and out of than clipless style pedals and are not nearly as efficient.

Finally, platform or flat style bike pedals offer no attachment between the foot and the pedal. These pedals are designed to provide a good amount of grip between the pedal and the shoe but that is all you get.
As you might guess, with platform bike pedals, pedaling efficiency is compromised. This becomes readily apparent during technical climbs, but there are some great reasons to use platforms.

Platform bike pedals offer instant removal of the foot for any reason and with no obstructions. This makes platform bike pedals ideal for beginners as well as for riders who want to be able to put a foot down often or very quickly.
Most riders who ride with platforms learn to compensate for the lack of connection between foot and pedal. The inefficiencies of platform bike pedals are not as bad as most people who ride with clipless pedals think they are, but even the best platform bike pedals will never match clipless.

Platform bike pedals are very popular among freeriders, downhillers, and dirt jumpers but are by no means exclusive to these ride categories.
So what pedals should you get?
if you want to do a lot of mountain biking, you don't think you will be in high risk situations where you might need a foot available very quickly, and you don't mind a brief learning curve while getting used to releasing from your pedals, get clipless style bike pedals.

Don't get cage style pedals. If you have to use cages, make sure you adjust them properly. Too tight and you'll get stuck, too loose and you might as well just use platforms, which is what I suggest anyway if you're not going to use clipless.
Use platforms if you are going to ride stunts or any other high stakes terrain. Platforms are also great for beginners who aren't ready to make the move to clipless and for riders who simply like a little extra freedom.

When it comes to clipless pedals, we recommend pedals with good mud clearing capabilities and low lubrication and maintenance requirements. We also recommend clipless pedals that have atleast a minimal amount of platform for the shoe to rest on.

How much mountain bike suspension travel do I need?

Mountain bikes come with all sorts of suspension travel options. If you know you want a full suspension mountain bike, the amount of suspension travel you should be riding with depends on two main factors. First, the style and type of riding you want to do, and second, the type of terrain you ride in.
There are now about five main catagories of mountain bikes and suspension travel. Some bikes certainly blend the borders but most can be fit into the catagories listed below. We'll start from the bottom and go up.
Cross country mountain bikes usually have less than about 4.5 inches of suspension travel. These bikes are built for efficiency, low weight, and self propelled speed. While they can handle most trails, they do not suck up the rough stuff as well as longer travel bikes.
So, if you want to win a cross country race, get to the top of the hill first, or if you ride ride on realatively smooth trails these bikes are for you.
All Mountain and/or Trail Bikes usually have about 4 to 6 inches of suspension travel. These bikes are built for more agressive terrain than cross country bikes but are generally slightly heavier. They aren't exactly cross country race bikes, but they are perfect for agressive trail riding as well as long epic rides.
If you are looking for an all around mountain bike that can take you almost anywhere without busting a lung, these bikes are for you.
Freeride bikes usually have about 6 to 8 inches or more of suspension travel. These bikes are built for abuse. Big drops, jumps, long shuttle rides, and other stunts are where these bikes shine. While most of them are still designed to get you up the hill as well, you will notice the extra weight.
If you want to spend most of your time in rough terrain, big drops, jumps, and manmade stunts, and you don't care how long it takes to get you there, these bikes are for you. These are also great bikes for riding the lifts at your local mountain bike park.
Downhill bikes usually have about 7 to 10 inches of travel. These bikes will suck up almost anything you throw at them, but pedaling up a hill can be quite a challenge. Downhill bikes are designed for high speed and highly technical downhill racing and little else.
If you think you might want to get into downhill racing, get a freeride bike. If you're really serious about it, a dedicated downhill bike is for you.

Do I Need a Women's Specific Mountain Bike?

The answer is an unequivocal maybe. Women's specific mountain bikes are designed to fit a majority of women but cannot be designed to fit all women. You should try to test ride both women's specific mountain bikes as well as non-women specific bikes and decide for yourself which designs fit your body best.
The majority of women specific designs are designed around an average women's body. This body standard is smaller, lighter weight, and has a shorter torso and arms than the body standard of the average male that most non-women specific bikes are designed around.
If this average female body standard describes you, then you will most likely find a better a fit with a woman's specific design. Otherwise, if your build differs from this average women's body standard, a non-women's specific design may be a better choice.
For some women it simply boils down to size. There are a few companies now that offer extra small and extra extra small size frames, some are women's specific while others are not.
I usually try to support brands that offer a good selection of women's specific and/or women sized mountain bike designs. In addition, I support brands that offer both high end and low end women's specific or women sized designs. Check out the recommended brand sites for a selection of these brands.

Please leave comments on your thoughts.

Cheers Big Grin

Or visit my website

Posted: Sep 5, 2010 at 19:41 Quote
If your geting into Mountian biking a good place to buy a decent starter bike would be sportcheck or sportmart, there cheap bikes, work well and will get the job done

Posted: Apr 9, 2011 at 11:36 Quote
wow... no more questions... no more doubt... what a post- thanks!

Posted: Jun 15, 2011 at 22:41 Quote
canadian-rider wrote:
If your geting into Mountian biking a good place to buy a decent starter bike would be sportcheck or sportmart, there cheap bikes, work well and will get the job done

Sportchek sells garbage and their staff set the bikes up horribly and they tune them up worse! trust me from personal experience....

Posted: Jun 15, 2011 at 22:48 Quote
I'm trying to buy a 2010 giant rincon is this a good bike? He's asking $400.00 but I want to offer like $350.00 or what should I offer?

Posted: Jun 16, 2011 at 6:10 Quote
JonMcC wrote:
I'm trying to buy a 2010 giant rincon is this a good bike? He's asking $400.00 but I want to offer like $350.00 or what should I offer?

This thread should help you out.

Posted: Jul 6, 2011 at 15:17 Quote
I love my 2010 rincon it is the best bike I have ever had it Is worth 350 or Evan 400 . I did put some upgrades on mine thoug

Posted: Oct 9, 2012 at 13:46 Quote
Would someone tell me about frame size. I thought i knew all these years but apparently not. There's alot of medium bikes for sale, which I assume are 18". If I'm 6'2, 210, what frame sizes would I be looking for? I've been looking at larges but the mediums are many and cheaper. Specifically XC and Freeride bikes.

Posted: Nov 11, 2012 at 22:51 Quote
if ur really gonna ride , only buy at a "Bike Shop" atay away from big super stores!!!! trust me, I leearned the hard way .lol

Posted: Aug 1, 2013 at 16:37 Quote first DH bike just arrived:-) Norco a-line '11, it's so nice..I'm a complete dh rookie and took down 50m mountain side, hehe, nervous at first but the bike took over and there weren't nothing to be scared off..I was carefull and will be tomorrow when stair will be my challange..50m as wellSmile I live in Greenland and no stores have safety equipment, does anyone now where they send international? Need some gear..I'm 96kg and 180cm, I will land hard when it goes wrong, hehe

Posted: Mar 4, 2014 at 17:23 Quote
My advice would be to buy an entry level hard tail for your first bike. Something under $800. Ride that for six months to a year and save up for the bike that you will really want. By then you will know what kind of riding and bike you want. And to see if you are really gonna stick with it.

Posted: May 25, 2014 at 2:17 Quote
so here it is guys!!
finally saved up for my first dh bike (woooohooo) and here are some choices (all bikes have been used):
kona operator
giant glory
demo 8 II
santa cruz v10c
take in consideration that I have to ride the bike some 8km mostly flat area to get to the track and I don't have a team of mechanics behind me

Posted: Nov 28, 2014 at 5:07 Quote
Here is a basic but well explained guide, it might help you make the right decision.

Posted: Aug 18, 2015 at 19:15 Quote
So after reading this I have come to the conclusion that I want an all mountain bike but at the same time I think i will end up doing some dh aswell, before I was torn between hardtail and full suspension, alot of people have been telling me its bad to start biking with a full suspension right off the back. any truth to this? any suggestions on a full suspension bike in a $1000-2000 range?

Posted: Oct 22, 2015 at 6:05 Quote

I'm looking for an xc around $1000 to $1500 (CAD that is).
Can't decide on the brand i.e. Specialized, Kona, Trek etc.
I had a specialized before and was pretty happy with it but would like to try a new one. Don't mind buying last year models too.
Any suggestions?

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