Opinion: 4 Lessons From Riding Inexpensive Bikes

Mar 19, 2020
by Mike Levy  
Mike Levy



I've never bought that whole ''mountain biking is too expensive'' argument, although I am well aware that I probably don't have the best perspective of value these days. I mean, the last couple of bikes I've written about cost around $10,000 USD, and my current stable of carbon fiber review rigs doesn't look much different. To be fair, we do often request the mid-priced model for testing, only to find the XTR and carbon-everything model when the box is opened... You can imagine my disappointment. But lately, it's been feeling like an attitude adjustment is in order, or maybe a field trip of some kind.

While last year's Field Test review series was full of high-end dream bikes, Kazimer and I recently traveled to Sedona, Arizona, to ride and film the upcoming value-focused Field Trip review videos. The idea with both Fields is to test the latest and most relevant bikes, but Field Trip saw a price limit of $3,000 USD imposed, with the least expensive bike going for just $1,400. That's $600 less than the drivetrain I'm currently charging, and you get an entire bike that definitely doesn't suck.

I'm not supposed to give too much about Field Trip away yet, but the gist of it is four trail bikes that cost under $3,000 and four that cost under $2,000, with an even split between direct-to-consumer and those you'll find at a bike shop. Two of those were hardtails because, well, you can't ignore them in this price bracket, and all of them were metal in order to come in below the self-imposed cost cap.


Field Trip photo by Anthony Smith
Sedona's rough, rocky terrain did its best to rattle our eight value bikes to pieces.


Barring a few of those unavoidable cactus-related incidents (turns out there are almost no inside lines in the desert), the two weeks of testing eight relatively inexpensive machines on Sedona's very rocky, rough, and red trails was largely trouble-free.

You'll be able to watch all the videos and roundtable arguments soon, but I came away thoroughly impressed with how capable most of the bikes were. I also learned a few things.


Less Expensive Doesn't Mean Less Reliable

I have no idea what the actual numbers are, but I feel like we see more high-end products failing than their less-expensive counterparts. Maybe we're just more likely to see or hear about the broken expensive part on our Insta-news than the cheap part that also failed, or maybe the high-end components do break more often because they've been engineered to within a few grams of their lives. But either way, not a single component on any of our value mountain bikes broke during our time abusing them in Sedona.

The disclaimer is, of course, those two-weeks counts for shit if we're talking about long-term reliability, but I've also seen the rocky American southwest eat bikes alive in a way that my Pacific Northwest home just can't. Pointy rocks punch holes through $3,500 carbon frames like they're made of wet paper mache, let alone your "enduro-ready" tires, and I don't think there's an aluminum rim in Sedona without at least one questionable dent in it.


Field Trip photo by Anthony Smith
I had my quickest times around our test loop while on the least expensive bikes that cost under $2,000 USD.


Two bikes came with tires that couldn't be run tubeless, which obviously led to a few flats, because who the hell remembers how to ride a bike that has tubes? We also had some pivot hardware rattle loose a few times, but all eight value bikes came through essentially unscathed. This includes the wheels, but the big thing to note is that there were no broken frames, despite them seeing plenty of heavy hits and chunky terrain.

And yes, they were all hucked to flat while being filmed in the slowest of mo. As long as you're riding it as intended, there's no reason why less expensive had to mean less reliable.


Geo is Still Everything

This isn't news, I know, but the fact that a $1,400 full-suspension bike can (mostly) keep up with one that costs more than twice as much is incredible. Because no bike review is complete without a bit of pseudo-science, we mapped out an 11-ish-minute loop that all of the bikes had to complete multiple times under both Kazimer and myself, meaning we ended up with a minimum of four results for each of them. The lap was also split into three distinct sections: all of the climbing was done in the first third, which then put you on a technical traverse for the middle sector, before dropping into a flowy downhill that started with some rough, suspension-testing corners.

No, it wasn't some Fest-worthy downhill test track full of do-or-die super booters, but it was representative of the terrain that all eight of our value bikes were intended to face. And for the most part, I had all of my quickest times when riding the four bikes that cost less than $2,000, including my personal best lap.

Honestly, I've always felt a bit dubious about timing and how much value gets put on the numbers, but these results underlined, yet again, that good geometry is what makes good bikes.


Field Trip photo by Anthony Smith
The most notable difference between budget and baller proved to be front suspension, ergonomics, and adjustability. No surprises there.


Cheap VS Expensive: Where's the Difference?

If geometry is everything but costs nothing, what the hell are some of us doing on $10,000 bikes? Sure, the fancy stuff does some pretty neat things, but what are the real on-trail differences between break-the-bank and budget biking?

Front suspension performance is a big one. While leverage can mask a lot of what's happening at the back of a full-suspension bike, there's no hiding for a budget fork that's right below your hands. These days, a high-end fork from any of the big players (and most of the small players) performs so well that it's essentially invisible to a lot of riders, even those who don't take the time to find a decent setup. They're incredibly smooth, usually reliable, and have an operating window that runs from 12-year-old children to 300lb men who only jump to flat. As they should for nearly $1,000.

It's a different story with budget suspension forks, however, with air-spring rates that somehow manage to feel regressive and damping that, well, let's just call it much less sophisticated. It's worth noting that the entry-level front suspension didn't affect the times on our trail bike-appropriate test track, even if it was noticeable, but they were certainly a factor on our bigger test rides that included much hairier, scarier trails. You'll get all the details in the upcoming Field Trip reviews.


Field Trip photo by Anthony Smith
Every full-suspension bike, be it $3,000 or $1,400, pedaled exceptionally well.


Disappointing ergonomics proved to be a big talking point in Sedona as well, despite all of the braking and shifting controls being from either SRAM or Shimano. After extensive scientific testing that can't be backed up at all, I've come to the conclusion that both companies think people who buy reasonably priced bikes must have insanely long fingers. That's the only excuse I can come up with for having to practically remove my hand from the grip to reach the shifter paddles, and for why someone might want an 8" long brake lever that looks like it's made for five fingers to pull on. Then again, they had such low power that you pretty much needed five fingers to lay down a good skid.

Enough complaining, though. All of the bikes came with 12-speed drivetrains with a huge range that didn't even give us one hiccup, relatively wide handlebars and short-ish stems that didn't need to be swapped before we partied, and all but two came with tubeless-ready rubber. Not surprisingly, it's the four consumer-direct bikes that win the price-to-performance battle.


LBS vs. Online

I spent more than a decade working in the same small bike shop, years that I wouldn't trade for anything and something that everyone in the cycling industry should have to experience, if only for some perspective. That time means that I'll always have a soft spot for any local bike shop, but I also have to admit that if I had $3,000 (or less) to spend on a mountain bike, I'd be hard-pressed to not go the direct-to-me route via my credit card.


Field Trip photo by Anthony Smith
Would you believe that one of the bikes sports a quick-release rear wheel and a front derailleur mount?


Bike shops are all about - or should be all about - creating lasting, trusting relationships with consumers while also paying the bills, a task that seems to get more difficult every year. Of course, consumers have to pay their bills, too, and most riders don't want to spend more than they have to on a bike, but also want the most bike for their buck. If you don't have a shop close by, or don't have one with you gel with, it makes all the sense in the world to check out what's online.

All I can really say on the LBS versus direct-to-consumer subject is that while the latter will always win if you're only looking at MSRPs, your local shop deserves the chance to win you over before you go down that trail.


232 Comments

  • 196 1
 This is one field test trip I can’t wait to read about. New, Greg out of the box bikes with actual warranties that riders can buy for under $3k USD that don’t suck are, or should be, a hugely important thing for bike media and more importantly for bike manufacturers. Seeing it matter to Pinkbike is rad, hopefully the test results show that it filters up to bike manufacturers.

Would be interesting to see an article on what upgrades/modifications to these bikes make them perform significantly better, either from a speed or comfort perspective. Is the Charger 2 damper upgrade for a Yari fork worth it? A coil conversion? Am I better off saving a ton of weight with a lighter crankset? Are tires the first thing to upgrade? Best bang for the $? A newer rider 2 years into riding one of these bikes might not be willing to drop more $ on a new bike but carefully chosen upgrades and modifications might have real value.
  • 167 1
 We have separate sections for each review where we talk about what's worth changing and what isn't. Hope you enjoy Smile
  • 23 0
 There have been some great articles on NSMB about min-maxxing bikes such as the Rocky Growler. What they say there can be applied more generally.
  • 6 0
 @stacky00: Yep, best one is the min/max series on the Marin Hawk Hill... great reviews and tips about how to make a cheap bike... a great cheap bike.
  • 12 0
 @mikelevy: Pinkbike taking a lesson from NSMB.com. I thought I would not live to see this day.
  • 20 34
flag nurseben (Mar 19, 2020 at 14:02) (Below Threshold)
 Great idea, spend 3k on a bargain bike and another 2k making it as good as a 4k bike. Man, that there is some thinking out of the box!
  • 31 3
 @mikelevy: Can we hug it out? Last year you said there's no bikes under $3k you would "actually WANT to ride" and now - here you are, talkin the good talk.

I'm proud of you bud. Not because you like donuts or drive a car made for Chihuahua's without givin AF - but because you're finally off the sauce and seeing what individuals with clarity have been seeing in this industry for the passed decade. $10k plastic bikes are for pro racers and/or posers (or people with a sh*t ton if disposable income). Period. You can get a perfectly capable ride for under $3k and have tons of fun. ...now lay off the donuts, ya fatty.
  • 8 2
 I don't think major upgrades on a cheap bike make much sense in terms of value. You are often better off just buying a more expensive build.
Smaller, more personal upgrades are different, obviously. Tyres, brake pads/rotors, saddles, grips, etc.
  • 6 0
 @Ttimer: If you can beat the price they charge for parts, which is possible at times, but not always. Often the least expensive option is buying a complete. I find it odd that folks will buy a complete and immediately upgrade brakes, drivetrain, suspension, cockpit, tires.

My thing is upgrading to new framsets and swapping parts out as they stuff wears out, so I might get four bikes out of a cockpit a few bikes out of brakes, forks are a little more variable cuz I like to buy and sell forks
  • 7 5
 @mikelevy: Where's the grim donut huck to flat
  • 1 1
 Tried a few $1400 completes from friends recently and you do get alot for your money. My issue is they were under sprung for me at least. Seems the same bike could be made for $300 more with 170mm instead of 120mm. Also never going to see me running a 50t boat anchor going off some big gap. Tight dh drive plus more travel and they are selling tons.
  • 4 4
 @DaFreerider44: Highly unlikely
  • 5 1
 @mikelevy: it did not survive, huh?
  • 13 0
 @nurseben:

Nope. Tires, grips and other touch points are wear items so worth talking about in terms of upgrades if only because eventually you’ll have to anyways, assuming the bike gets ridden. A Charger damper upgrade for a Yari is less than $300 CAD, a Vorsprung smashpot kit is $420 CAD. Worth it? Maybe, I don’t know. A well researched article on these topics would be interesting.

A carbon bar and more expensive stem? Highly unlikely to be worth it. Low friction fork seals and a shock tune? Again, maybe, and I’d like to read more about it. Moreover, so would a lot of riders who are newer to the sport and, it would seem, a lot of riders who aren’t.
  • 1 1
 @mikelevy: looking forward to it. Thanks!
  • 6 10
flag coolj43 (Mar 19, 2020 at 18:32) (Below Threshold)
 Since when is $3K USD for a bike inexpensive??? LOL If you were to put together a spec out of used parts for that kind of money off of buy/sell you'd have a way better quality build component-wise and it would be exactly the bike you want custom-suited for your riding. I agree bikes should be cheaper but just saying out of the box bikes are overrated
  • 4 0
 @Ttimer: depends - for heavy riders, the higher end builds don't necessarily present good values. At 230#, I'd rather stay with the cheap drivetrain and then spend upgrade money on bullet proof hubs and rims. And I'd rather do with decent rather than tricked out suspension but upgrade the hell out of the brakes.
  • 2 2
 @stacky00: As somebody who gets to claim I helped them with that concept - it's awesome, and hopefully it catches on more places.
If nothing else, that's going to help light a fire under some of the product managers, who despite having a hard job, still need to have a better idea of where they need to succeed, and places where saving a bit of cash is great (saddles, grips)
  • 2 0
 @mikelevy: Thanks Mike, good stuff coming from you guys!
  • 1 1
 @mikelevy: what trails were on your test loop?
  • 1 0
 @nurseben: personally investing in good brakes, cockpit and wheelset is the most important. You can buy more budget builds and swap them out. Once you need to sell the bike, you can put the brand new stock build back on and sell.
  • 4 1
 10 bikes the unemployed can buy but cannot ride right now
  • 2 1
 I recently-ish had my brothers 2018 Rockhopper Comp. Entry to midrange gear on it but I was surprised at how robust it was and even the budget coil sprung Suntours manage to shake off the larger bumps and the usual trail chatter. Sure the Acera was clunky and slower in its shifting and the Shimano T series touring hubs were lacking in any sealing of its internals, but it worked and was a blast. Of course me being me, I would've upgraded the forks, hubs, brakes, shifters, gears, cranks etc. But then I may as well have just bought a brand new bike.
  • 1 1
 Winning!
  • 4 0
 Do you think PB has @mikelevy on some sort of hazard pay scale for the times he has to read comments on his own article? If not they should!
  • 3 1
 I want us to buy rigs, keep track of every dime we spend on them during the 1st 6 months (parts, labor, shipping, a daily $ amount for each day of down time when you either wait for a part to come in or a repair to be returned) and see if the LBS comes out on top or online. My guess is the people buying an LBS bike (if they could total up the money they make at work while the bike is being serviced) as well, would come out saving more. Every time I take my car to a shop, drop it off , go back to work, pick it up & pay for it....I realize I MADE way more working than if I'd waited on the stuff to ship to me and install/repair it myself.
  • 2 0
 @meathooker: It's okay, the internet took all my feelings many years ago Wink
  • 2 1
 @nurseben: For a lot of people with connections to the industry, it makes more sense surprisingly. You end up spending less total by selling the parts you don't want and buying the replacement parts you do want (at a heavy discount). Then, when you're done with the bike, the resale value is higher so you win at both ends, and get to ride a theoretically better bike while in between.
  • 2 2
 I usually always buy the cheaper model and upgrade it. Couple reasons its
cheaper for me.

1. I already have some components I want to use. I save some stock parts I
don't use for when I resale the bike.

2. I can find deals online for components cheaper enough to make it worth
it.

3. I get to choose the components I want. I am running a GX 10 speed with a
Garbaruk Cassette that is lighter than

anything out there and has the range I want.

4. I do sell some of the stock parts, like the fork. I sold the recon ($160)
on my new rift zone and bought a brand new

take of Pike Select ($47Cool .

5. I like bargain hunting and I like tinkering so it works out for me. If
you don't know what parts your looking for or

know how to work on a bike then it probably is better to buy a bike a
level or two up.



Here is what I have for $3200: Rift Zone 1, 2019 pike select fork, 2019
RockShox deluxe RCT debonair, manic dropper, Guide RS brakes, Spanks Spike
Vibracore bars, spanks stem, Hunt wheels, 2.3 Minions, GX shifter and
derailleur, Garbaruk 11-45 cassette. The bike is just under 30lbs. I have
all the stock parts, minus the fork, to sell with the bike when I choose to
move on. And I can carry over the parts I want to the next bike or frame.



I know there are other great options out there for around $3200. But I
wouldn't get the build kit I have on my Marin or the enjoyment of building
it up.
  • 2 1
 @mikelevy: damn when I read the title I thought you were going to hot lap some wal-mart bikes.
  • 1 0
 @reverend27: now I know what I want the next field test to be.
  • 93 5
 Once you sort out the best inexpensive bike, it needs to be pitted head to head in a fight to the death with the Brodie 8 Ball and the Grim Donut. Who will win? The bike from the past, the bike from the future, or the bike on a budget?
  • 94 1
 @brianpark Not a terrible idea tbh
  • 88 0
 @mikelevy: yep lets do it.
  • 47 1
 May as well throw in the bike that won the regular field test as well and analyze just how much better it is, and... is it worth it?
  • 3 0
 Yes please!
  • 5 0
 @islandforlife: asking the realist of questions!
  • 6 0
 This is a great idea for a video. Scrooge based story of Levy laying down Christmas eve and having bikes from the past, present and future all fighting for a spot in the stable. Spoiler: they all make it.
  • 4 0
 This totally reminds me of when GMBN did a shootout between a 20 year old GT Downhill bike and a modern Nukeproof Trail Bike. It was a lot closer than you may have thought but in the end the Nukeproof got the better of the GT. Very entertaining episode.

Now, it would be really cool to see this kind of test expanded upon and replicated. Please @mikelevy @brianpark make it happen!

youtu.be/JOlc0a2eVTo
  • 2 0
 Edit: they also did an episode where they compared a brand new Nukeproof to an older model, entertaining stuff.
  • 5 0
 @Trudeez: To be fair I think if they compare old bikes to new, then they should at least allow modern upgrades. I have N+1 Specialized Enduros. Even the oldest ones have sticky rubber, 750mm bars, short stems and 1x drivetrains with clutches. If someone does have an older bike (my 06 Enduro still absolutely rips) they're hardly to have left them stock for 15 years.
Then you would see a more genuine comparison. The biggest difference for me is my newest one has the most travel, and is also the lightest. And much more forgiving to ride uphill given dropper and steeper seat angle.
So yeah, fix the Brodie's brakes, install 1x and then see how it goes.
  • 2 0
 @brianpark @mikelevy : Talk is cheap...cheaper than a $1400 budget bike. Get'r dun.
  • 1 0
 I hate watching comparison videos. I would totally watch this comparison video.
  • 1 0
 this is perfect.

Maybe also something that's more "trail bike" thrown in. Probably a Cannondale Raven. I suggest you wear all the pads if you ride one though, even uphill.

Maybe some old Gary? Early trek fuel (before they looked like a session)?
  • 56 3
 Last year's models are where its at. I've literally saved thousands of pounds over the years by not being that fussed by the latest and greatest, or being happy with last year's top of the range vs this year's one step down (essentially the same thing anyway). I don't think I've ever paid full price (usual selling price, as noone pays mrrp) for clothing, components, protection or tools, because I'm always willing to compromise on small details.
  • 19 3
 Yes, so much this.
  • 4 0
 Especially when there's usually stock of "last year's model" bike and nothing has even changed for the new year.
  • 5 0
 That's how I got my current bike. The shop owner needed to make room for his 2020 models so I got I killer deal on a 2019 bike.
  • 2 0
 The last two bikes I bought were demos from local shops that tend to not rent out high-end bikes very much. Both were in excellent condition, and came with a limited manufacturer's warranty on parts but a full warranty on the frame. I paid just a little over 50-55% of the list price in both cases. I do realize that, depending on where you live, there are many demo bikes that get a lot of use over a season and are not in great condition when they're put up for sale, and in that case it's up to you to give the bike a thorough inspection before you buy it.
  • 4 0
 I've been browsing some of last year's bikes -- some people are selling them with nary a scratch for $2k less than they paid for them. Crazy!
  • 1 0
 @inked-up-metalhead this and if you would give it a try, reliable parts are an investment.. well maintained a lot of parts last longer than some geometry trends.. its a pity the industry pushes standards, but I have manaed with boost pretty good last 5 years (Hope, I9, CK, RF, CC).. cheres.
  • 1 0
 Yup! Just bought a 2020 bike yesterday for 20% off, still the current model even, and just got updated.
  • 3 2
 @Lagr1980: I used to prioritise reliability, I used to run hope brakes, hubs, bbs etc but these days I'm really not that fussed. At one point I'd be looking for the best items I could at the best price, I ran 9spd xo for a while and actually used the pg990 cassettes that at the time were nearly double the next one down, but mid tier components are so damn good these days I'm not worried about it, sure my riding has progressed, mainly to the degree I don't break parts for fun (seriously used to batter bikes, especially wheels, though I cracked/snapped a few frames, snapped dozens of pedal axles) but the cheap bike I found for the missus late last year really opened my eyes, its a jamis dakar a2, evans cycles exclusive spec for the UK, its a monarch shock, air rockshox fork, deore gearing, low end shimano brakes, wtb rims, came with a 35mm raceface bar and stem, raceface seatpost, 1x cranks (only suntour but still adequate) and overall an impressive looking bike for the money (142 rear axle, internal cable routing including for a dropper, tapered headtube, threaded bb, iscg 05 tabs. The only real places that need upgrading in the long run are the brakes (got a set of slx somewhere that need new pads) and the fork is a bit meh (9mm qr, would need new wheel too, probably not the restricting factor in a begginers mtb) and the tyres were bald, but for a (1k new) 380 quid second hand bike, it's absolutely insane at the spec and fit and finish on the frame. With a 140 revelation and a decent set of brakes I'd happily ride it all day every day as a xc/trail bike. I challenge anyone to say they actually need more than deore level shifting other than for cassette range, I know the 11spd xt on my bike is only noticeably better when spotlessly clean and freshly lubed. After a few miles of mud or dust it's negligible.
  • 17 1
 I saved a lot of money by using my previous bike for 17 years, before buying a new one.
  • 4 0
 @yupstate: hey a new colourway is worth a 1000 dollarz :-)
  • 4 0
 @inked-up-metalhead: It's funny because upgrading to slx 11 speed from 10 was the second biggest upgrade I'd say to my bike. That being said I don't see any need to upgrade to the new version of 11 or 12 speed, but going from 10 to 11 is definitely somewhere I'd spend money.

I'm in a bit more than you on upgrades to my budget-ish bike, but I'm definitely an advocate for skipping the latest and greatest for last years stuff. Keeping in mind that last years stuff....just last year, was the greatest stuff ever invented. I'm loving my new gen Marzocchi bomber Z1 with the GRIP 1 damper that is literally a third the price of the top end fox 36 with GRIP 2
  • 3 0
 @friendlyfoe: What made the switch from 10 speed to 11 speed worth it?
  • 1 0
 @inked-up-metalhead: I think for drivetrain, anything above xt (or equivalent) is a luxury, slx brakes, shifters, derailleur are bombproof... I think it is tricky to carry over shocks from old to new frames given the variety of sizing, but I'm still locked into 8.5 2.5 since 2016, still doing fine.. Wheels (and hubs mostly) are an investment, as well as suspension.
  • 1 0
 @Lagr1980: definitely. Yeah some new frames still use the old sizes, the 8.5 x 2.5 seems the most common, I know my mates cube fritzz 180 2018 would take the 2014 ccdba off my 2012 intense, but my new bike is metric trunnion mount so no luck there. The 210x55 trunnion mount I now have seems to be the most common for 160 travel bikes so that's not too bad, I've only got a super deluxe r, I'd like to go back to a ccdba but I ain't paying 500 quid for a brand new one (not yet at least)
  • 1 0
 @pacificnorthwet: derailleurs that can flawlessly handle 46 out back
  • 4 0
 @pacificnorthwet: Hey, it goes to 11!
  • 1 0
 I like this except, warranty ...
  • 33 1
 When you come from riding a suntour XC fork, you will never bitch about a lack of performance when you upgrade to a cheapo air fork in the future
  • 48 0
 When you grew up racing on rigid bikes with cantilever brakes then pretty much every modern bike part is amazing.
  • 8 2
 We went from rigid to crappy elastomer forks with 50mm travel, to 60mm travel with some crappy damping, to 100, etc My Yari is the shit compared to them. The 36 RC2 was nicer than the Yari, but not twice as nice.
  • 4 0
 I had a Suntour XCR Air fork back in the day and it was pretty awesome.
  • 2 0
 @jaame: Coming from the old (pre-Debon Air) Yari to the 36 RC2. It's around 50% nicer.
  • 4 0
 Can confirm. Even my lowly Reba and Bluto feel like they're helping me ride, instead of actively trying to kill me like my XCT was.
  • 1 0
 AMEN!!
  • 4 2
 @egb81: The basic fox float fork (32x140mm) makes a ridgid frame sound pretty good. Some of the really budget stuff out there is probably worse than no suspension.
  • 1 0
 @egb81: so true.
  • 1 0
 @egb81: good old times. I remember the first time I saw a suspension fork in a DH race. That was mindblowing!
  • 1 0
 @YanDoroshenko: The problem with the Yari is that the chassis can handle terrain and speed that the damper can't. The fact that it's usually spec'ed on bikes that are actually meant for such speed and terrain doesn't help either. The debonair upgrade is worth the asking price, but don't expect miracles.
  • 1 0
 @YanDoroshenko: I had an XCR, it was great for its price, but it did explode after 3 years. The fork is crazy heavy though.
  • 3 0
 Suntour XC fork is Axon wich is good and take part in World Cups. XCT XCM XCR are simply entry level leisure riding forks, not for any kind of competing or agressive riding
  • 2 0
 @Sirflyingv: Maybe I'm just the right weight and riding style but I actually didn't hate the XCM while doing aggressive riding on my old $300 26" hardtail. Sure it has terrible damping for casual riding and hitting roots, but I felt on a fast rocky downhill it was actually handling like a decent fork should.

Granted this is a low level praise, but I never felt like the XCM was about to break or trying to get me hurt.
  • 2 0
 Went from full rigid to full sus. Cant beleive i even rode full rigid
  • 1 0
 @bruvar: Check sticker on the lower leg, It says: "use only for leisure cross contry/ do not use for freeride, downhill, dirt jumps or any hard riding" Yes, some people I know did their firts steps in agrressive riding (me too) on these forks, but it's a bit of gamble. Some years ago, my girlfriend's XCM dropout snapped while riding plain pavement, wheel jumped out causing gnarly crash. Fortunately no injury happend
  • 24 3
 Okay, time for a rant:

So I'm a pretty solid mechanic, I build my own bikes, lace my own wheels, tune my own suspension. On the occasion that I need some parts, say housing, cable ends, some grips, I'll pop into one of my local bike shops.

Well, lets just say that I find it challenging to find a bike shop where the people running the place are not asshats: rude, condescending, not interested in being helpful. I often wonder why a shop would hire people like that. Sadly, in my experience this is the rule more than it's the exception.

So here's my suggestion to shop owners:

Hire nice people who know how to talk to people in a way that makes the customer feel good about themselves,about their choices, and about coming into your shop.

I know it's possible to hire good people because many other retailers and service sector providers have been able to do this for skilled and unskilled labor. The places that come to mind: REI, Trader Joes.

Sadly, I think this economic downturn is gonna lead to a whole lot of closed shops.
  • 3 0
 Could be - however there's some talk that since people don't want to ride the bus or public transit, they are getting bikes. Just might not be $10,000 wonder bikes.
  • 2 0
 I recall hearing bad things about a shop in the Tahoe area... I've lived in ID, UT and WA with most of the bike shops being pretty good and some great. I don't do all the work like you, but I know enough to not blindly accept anything they say.
  • 2 0
 What part of the country are you in Nurse Ben? Folks in the PNW at the bike shop are generally really cool.
  • 5 0
 Having worked in a bike shop at a very critical time, through Y2K into the new millennia right as online retailers started to explode in popularity, I think the general view amongst shop employees is to be leery of everyone who walks in the door: assume they won't buy anything and are more interested in going online to buy whatever they finger for cheaper. Because IBDs are incapable of directly telling online retailers to go f*$k themselves, they almost want to take out their anxiety on the customers instead as the next best thing, just for shopping online instead of in their shop. As a business this is a very toxic culture to have.

It's not unique to just biking, though. Go into a kayak shop with a kayak from Walmart and you'll get the same condescension. Go into a skate shop or surf shop, etc, etc.
  • 2 0
 @Jamminator: many times people dont notice their own tone when talking to mechanics, they talk to the mechanic like they know more than them, but still want to ask questions. Its the same with auto mechanics, they are always in a bad mood because everyone approaches them in a bad mood and treats them like scammers. I've only had one ride bike shop employee talk to me, he was like 17 and the tech came out of the back room and pulled him aside and made him apologize.
  • 3 0
 1st: YESS!! Except not really. Our shop was started for this exact reason. It seemed every shop I went to outside of a very select few were a severe pain to deal with. However, good employees are not found. They are made. If the bike shop you entered has a walking dumpster fire behind the register you can bet the owner/hiring manager is no better. Bad employees are a symptom of bad leadership and the bikeshop world is rife with bad leadership.

2nd: I honestly don’t think so. I can’t prove it but I really think some shops (the better ones) will see increased sales because of people not traveling As much and riding local trails. Bikes are one of the few things people can still do while keeping their distance. Of course this may work in reverse for shops in highly tourism driven economies but I think for the most part shops are gonna be just fine.
  • 1 0
 I'm with you. I've been to a dozen different shops while I lived in the US and to this day I've only been in one where I thought it was worth giving them my business. Here in Munich it's even worse. There's a bike shop on each street corner because demand is so high. No shops give two shits about you, remembering who you are, or giving you any sort of good service because realistically.. so many people come through, you don't matter.
  • 18 0
 Mountain bikes are fun. It doesn't matter what you ride off road, as long as it puts a smile on your face.
  • 5 0
 I regularly still ride my 2009 XC bike!
  • 2 0
 @skelldify: Me too, although I've replaced the drivetrain, brakes, and went tubeless.
  • 17 1
 And second hand, buy second, buy cheap.
  • 49 0
 We also have a Field Trip video about how to buy a used bike: What to look for, what to look out for, what to check, etc Smile
  • 7 0
 @mikelevy: Ah HA! so you haven't snapped the headtube off of it yet.
  • 10 0
 @bikekrieg: Not yet, but the day isn't over...
  • 10 0
 Second hand can be expensive tho. My last second hander looked great, took the shocks in for service soon after purchase, had to replace the crown steerer unit. less than a year I'd replaced the chain, the wheels due to failure. it's the things you can't see… there's a lot of value in buying new and knowing how the bike has been treated from the start…
  • 3 0
 @danielfeary: I agree. Used can be a gamble. I've had great deals but been burned too.
  • 4 0
 @mikelevy: So, GrimDo has outlasted some of the $8k bikes that were on test from actual manufacturers - I'll put that in the win column
  • 13 0
 "...your local shop deserves the chance to win you over before you go down that trail."

AMEN Mike!!!
  • 6 0
 1000 times yes. well said. now more than ever is a great time to consider how essential a good local bike shop is to your riding community, and to do your best to support them if you can.
  • 2 2
 @makudad: but when cost price to a Canadian store is higher than online retailers will sell direct, are you willing to pay an extra 20%+ to support your local store? I'm shopping for a new bike and REALLY want to support my local store, but the price difference is just too $$$.
  • 2 0
 @boybiskit: MSRP might be more for apples to apples spec, but an LBS can give a discount. My lastest bike I got 20% off MSRP and a free full service and 10% off accessories and free tubeless setup.

A previous bike (different lbs) was also below MSRP and I got 3 tune-ups.

Direct to consumer doesn't do any of those things. You pay the asking price and deal with maintenance yourself. If you have a warranty issue you can be stuck waiting. A good LBS will get warranty stuff done way quicker and my current lbs would definitely loan me a bike in the meantime. Oh, they also offer free pickup and drop-off for repairs.
  • 4 0
 @boybiskit: What I believe Mike means is that people should at least walk into their LBS and see what they have to offer. These days so many riders will never even step foot inside a LBS because they just assume there's no way they can compete financially, or they've had a bad experience in the past, so they instantly turn to direct brands or online retailers. At the end of the day it's your money and decision, but just giving the LBS their chance to make a sales pitch after you've explained the direct brand/online bike you're looking at, is at the very least, fair.
  • 2 0
 @Jamminator: Yes, exactly that. Just walk in the shop and ask some questions.
  • 1 0
 @boybiskit: Our town has amazing trail riding a large road riding community and a bike park that was build by Jay Hoots all of which was organized by the LBS. The shop runs 3 rides a week and supports an event every weekend in the summer if it were not for this shop cycling would be dead in my town. This is why you support local... also the shop employs 8 people not including the owners.
  • 1 0
 @mmjohnson: some people don't realise that no lbs means no local racing. yeah you pay 20-30% on lbs but that is repaid in some other ways.
  • 13 0
 Now I gotta find another excuse why I'm slow!
  • 88 0
 "I'm not slow, it's social distancing."
  • 7 0
 I do think as long as you're not using the cheap bike for something totally outside of what it was designed for then the durability issues will probably be long term issues. Cheap hubs will most likely survive a few weeks but still probably fail before a set of DT350's. My cheap Suntour Raidon took some good hucks to flat but the damper died in a few months.
  • 1 2
 Cheap hubs last forever, they just need service/adjustment often. I've never destroyed an entry level hub, forks are a different story.
  • 7 0
 "Would you believe that one of the bikes sports a quick-release rear wheel"

Unfortunately yes. Was it Boost 141? Can we please burn all Boost 141s with nuclear fire? At least (I'm assuming, since a front QR wasn't mentioned) that they all had thru-axle fronts. Any chance they were all Boost?
  • 2 0
 boost 141 is the worst lmao
  • 3 0
 QR on the back doesn't really matter to me, but thru axle up front is non negotiable.
  • 7 0
 I certainly hope that the Ripmo AF NX build is in this review. With great suspension, the biggest spec downside is the brakes. The geo is dialed, and the bike just rips. Extra points for LBS distribution too.
  • 1 0
 Guide T with 200/180 rotors seem fine to me. Obviously you aren't going to get Codes at that price point nor G2, but guides are fine. The T model doesn't have tool-less reach adjustment like the R, otherwise same thing.

I'd be sad if it came with SRAM level T.
  • 1 0
 @eh-steve: The Guide T are OK, especially in the front with 200 rotor, but with 29" wheels and a big aggressive Assegai contact patch, the rear is pretty undergunned. Came with organic pads, which are useless, but even with sintered, the rear is vague and underpowered... At least for my needs, lots of very steep riding over here. The bike absolutely charges, so it'd be nice for it to come with Codes for a small upcharge according to the OEM price difference.

All that said, I'm not complaining, I knew the brakes might not be up to snuff, bought it anyway. If it came with Codes, it couldn't be reviewed in an under $3000 bike test!
  • 2 0
 @mammal: sounds like you're riding pretty hard. I'd assume for your average rider riding it like a trail/AM it'd be ok. Excellent point about the pads. But yeah, if 180m on the rear with sintered isn't working time to upgrade brakes.

With the 2020 sight you have to bump up to an A2 model to get code r. The A3 has BR-MT420 which I've found to be worse than guides (YMMV). So it seems like a common place to save money on the base model.
  • 1 0
 @eh-steve: Interesting about BR-MT420, I've been eyeing those up as possible upgrades (guess not now). I was also looking at the Sight when considering what to buy, but my priority was to stay away from RS base-model suspension. Thanks for the info. I'm assuming you have the A3, and if so, how much does it weigh in stock form?
  • 1 0
 @mammal: my bad, I demoed a 2019 with BR-MT500 and they didn't have enough power for my liking. I bought a 2019 a1 (guide r) and upgraded the front disc to a centerline 200. Braking was already better than the mt500, but I bent the rear rotor and once I upgraded the front it was perfect.

Ripmos af came out weeks after I bought my bike. It may be my next (with a coil). I could use a touch more travel in the rear. Then swap over my gx bits. No clue on the alloy 2020 sight weight. Only person I know with a 2020 went carbon custom build. He loves it. Way better than his carbon range.
  • 1 0
 @eh-steve: Cheers. Thanks for the clarification. I have no doubt the new four piston shimano version would be more powerful than the 2 pot, but hard to say by how much.
  • 1 0
 @mammal: their whole naming convention is a pita hence thinking it was the 420. I was looking up inexpensive brakes for a hardtail build and I know those came up. Anyhow good luck. The one person I met with an AF loves it, the one person I know with a new sight loves it.
  • 1 0
 @eh-steve: Yeah, Shimano must have their engineers double as marketing staff. Both great bikes, agreed!
  • 1 0
 @eh-steve: The MT500 is only 2-piston. The 4-piston version is the MT520 which seems to be pretty reasonable.
  • 6 0
 I often think that the real test of a bike is it's base model. Looked like all the 20 Enduro tests were on the SWorks. If the Comp was reviewed you'd notice any frame kinematic changes. You know the higher spec bikes will ride better/nicely/faster and be lighter by virtue of the higher end build kit.
My dilemma is I want a new bike, but want a Mezzer and coil rear shock, so it's frame only, which isn't great value here, or take these items off and hope they're worth something.
  • 6 0
 I will point out that I often shop online due to the "bang for buck" mentality, but I recently bought something from my LBS and it ended up being cheaper than online after exchange, duty, and shipping. Definitely give the local guys a chance when you can. I'm sure they bring a lot to your local riding scene, organizing rides, trail maintenance, etc, and it would be sad to see fellow riders have to close up your local shop.
  • 2 1
 In the US we seldom pay duties. Shimano clamped down....I ride SRAM and Campy anyway.
  • 10 5
 "I had my quickest times around our test loop while on the least expensive bikes that cost under $2,000 USD."

Who cares about timed loops, especially at this price? The only metric that matters should be fun, more funner, and most funnest.

The folks buying these kind of bikes don't care if they shave 1 second off their Strava time. They probably don't even have any Strava times yet! All they care about is whether mountain biking is really as fun as their friends with the $6K plastic bikes insist that it is.

Not to say speed isn't fun, but shaving seconds just shouldn't matter a whiff for this category (really any category that's not $10K XC race whippet, DH race sled, or EWS race rig), but that's another story.
  • 6 0
 Agreed. Timing is just a small part of the Field Trip reviews.
  • 12 1
 Its just a metric to measure performance. Chill out.

It also validates that you don't have to spend $10k to go fast.
  • 7 0
 Hang on, only people spending $2K+ want to go fast? For a lot of people that's the most we will ever be able to spend on a bike, even if we obsess about bikes all day, ride hard most days, and enjoy racing many weekends.
  • 2 1
 @jimmy-tiddlebun: no, that's not the point I'm trying to make.

Imagine you're helping someone buy their first or second bike. They're new, they're still getting their head around maybe wearing knee pads or even getting special shoes for biking. Is it going to help them to say "this bike is 1 second faster per minute on some idealized trail with equal parts up, across, and down", or is it better to say "this bike is nice and balanced, easy to maneuver, has good options for the price, and is quite durable"? I'd say the latter is much more important and the former is literally useless in light of the rest. Especially since everyone keeps pointing out that you don't need a fancy bike to go fast. Every one goes fastest on a bike they feel comfortable on, and one that isn't broken. If they sacrifice fit or durability because Levy said this other bike was 1.25% faster on Perfect Loop Trail #2, that's a shitty compromise. Now, yes of course the best fitting and most durable bike might also be the fastest, but that's personal and doesn't change the fact that the choice should be made on pretty much every other factor except miniscule speed difference on one trail for one or two people that aren't the purchasing rider.
  • 3 0
 @mikelevy: To be fair, whenever somebody is trying to justify spending more with 'but I'll go faster', that's the real argument that can be squashed. A lot of those are dubious, but what they really end up with is something they enjoy more, which is just better.

Mostly, I'm betting that bike was quick everywhere because the geometry was correct, the tires were actually usable both up AND down the hill, and that the cockpit wasn't so horrendously uncomfortable that it's going to introduce problems with operating the bike... things that previously have been issues up to the $3000 price point, but are now hopefully going the way of the dodo
  • 3 0
 There are alot of people for whom this price range isnt a beginner bike. Ive been riding for most of my life at this point, but a 2000 dollar mtb would be the 4th most expensive thing ive ever bought, after house and our cars. Serious riders, with student loans and kids and mortgages buy these bikes too, and i wish we wouldnt just assume that its only brand new riders buying reasonably priced bikes.
  • 1 1
 @just6979: I get what you're saying mate, but you're still coming at things from the angle of 'People spending under $2k are beginners buying their first or second bike'. My point is that there are plenty of rippers who want to win races and train and race hard and who also don't want to or cannot spend even more than $1000 on a bike. They don't need my advice, they've been riding for 20 years, can burn me on any terrain and they don't care about comfort.
As an aside, I disagree that everyone goes faster on a bike they feel comfortable on, and also that those people who are most comfortable are having the most fun. MTB for me (and I'm sure at least some others) is about feeling a bit sketchy, fighting on, fearing for your safety and coming out of it with a big grin... you don't need comfortable bikes to achieve this.
  • 1 0
 @jimmy-tiddlebun: i'm not talking about the comfort of riding tame trails or trails well within your skill level. You can ride trails that take you out of your comfort zone on any bike you choose, but it's arguably safer if you're on a bike that fits you well, regardless of that bike's "fit" for the trails.

A bike that fits (mostly reach, stack, and front & rear centers), and allows the rider to efficiently and effectively make the small adjustments that riding awesome sketchy stuff requires, but without having to over compensate for a bike that is: too long, too short, too tall, too easy to endo, too easy to loop out, etc etc.
  • 7 0
 $3500 CDN is a pretty good price point IMHO for a decent do it all rig. That's about $2400. Gawd that's a depressing conversion...
  • 6 0
 As a 16 year old whose parents don't allow him to get a job during the school year, I can confidently say MTB is very, very expensive
  • 4 0
 I agree, this field test is going to be awesome.

I also would like to see an "Essential Upgrades" video.Having just bought my first real Full-Suspension I went the LBS route for financial reasons...
Wait what?
let me explain.
Heres a reason the LBS is good,
I had invested $600 in demos for 2019 and they applied that to buying a demo bike at 30% off msrp.

I mod everything, so getting a good frame on a rideable platform was all I needed.

The Fuel EX 5 is what I got an am in love.
I agree the fork needs upgrading as well the brakes, they work ok but brakes are spongy, heavy and ugly.
I demoed the Fuel EX 8 with the Fox 34 and it was waaaay better then the 32mm Recon. I plan to grab a 140/150mm Pike and see which is better.

Great Article, thanks Mike!
  • 3 0
 Would be interesting if PB did a poll on how much everyone's bike costs that they are currently riding, how much in upgrades they've spent on it (not including replacement parts), and where they primarily ride (state-wise). I'd be very curious to see a real-time cost spread.
  • 2 0
 Hopefully people would also be honest about it. I know I don't want to be honest with myself on that (since both bikes are wearing as much or more in upgrade parts than I paid for the base bike)
  • 1 0
 @tehllama: Ditto, I think the only thing left on mine is the frame and rear shock!
  • 4 1
 " Then again, they had such low power that you pretty much needed five fingers to lay down a good skid. " Oh my god those puny little 160mm rotors with shimano entry level hidraulic brakes! The brakes are good, but those droky disks are terrible. Semi mettalic pads and the biggest rotor you can find, you get some excellent braking with minimal money.
  • 1 0
 Also "organic-only" rotors with useless organic pads. What would it be, like an extra $5 USD in OEM cost, to swap in regular rotors and sintered pads?
  • 3 0
 Regarding the last thing (LBS vs Online): I have a YT Jeffsy and I belong to a YT owners FB group. I would say a quarter of the posts there are questions about sizing. This wouldn't be a problem for those looking at bikes by any of the big three, of course. I am lucky enough to live just a few hours from YT's California location, so I bought my bike knowing it will fit. These companies like YT and Canyon should try and make deals with local bike shops who cater to those who'd spend 3-5k on bikes where they'll stock mediums, maybe larges. Anyone who tries those sizes will know if that's their size, or if they'll have to size up/down. The sale will (hopefully) happen at the shop too. But then, the Coronavirus...
  • 2 0
 Geo is catching up for cheap bikes. Crappy brakes are ok and still work (levels need to move in!). The BIG PROBLEM is the freaking fork. No one, NO ONE makes an affordable cheapo fork that's worth a damn and none of these sub 2k bikes ever spec anything nice. Its the big deal that matters. Our budget giant bike has a fork that is SO bad the damper doesn't even exist, its just a plate with oil.

It doesn't have to be this way. Case in point...look at what YT and even Norco have done with their 24" kids FS bikes. The YT model is freaking 1899$ and has an uber nice fork with Manitou's BEST damper and best airspring (dual chamber)! Plus a sick McLeod shock that's nicer than Fox's imo and the 4 position level is usable (flow or gnar modes are usable...not just lockout/climb. It doesn't stop there tho...the wheels are sick, all the touch points are nice and its got DHF/DHR2 tubeless rubber too. Brakes are ok I guess and the geo is dope. All this for a small market.

Norco's kids 24" FS 1899$ bike is a step down (same fork but missing the critical air spring, wheels and tires kind of suck, etc) but its still decent and even has a dropper with nice paddle remote. So...why can't some of these big, global corp companies do something similar to the YT bike (maybe a step down) for adults? I'm hoping Giants new budget OEM fork is a big step forward as that seems to be the big thing that's missing. Looking at a Giant Stance 1 for 1800$...the fork is hot garbage. Not even close to my kids 24" Manitou fork that's on that YT/Norco kids bike. MSRP on the kids fork is 450$, yeah its cheaper than it should be but that Recon on the giant sure ain't MSRP at 450$.
  • 3 0
 Do I spy a Calibre Bossnut? (second pic down)? Wins every budget test in U.K. magazines. If it is a Calibre, interested in PB’s take on it.....
  • 7 0
 Yup, it's the Bossnut. The boss of low cost. Review soon!
  • 1 0
 i've been trying to get my hands on a Calibre Sentry Pro in XL, but have missed the boat I fear as not sure Calibre are making more of them. Anyone know otherwise???
  • 2 1
 I remember when I rode a specialized pitch for a summer. Horrible mistake, some people like the pitch, but honestly (it was 2017), the brakes didn’t work, the shock might’ve been rigid, and yeah. Because of the unpredictability of the rebound, and compression, I would rather ride that thing locked out on some technical enduro sections. My other bike got stolen, so I needed to use my commuter bike. Anyway, that was my experience, which could differ from yours, or someone else’s.
  • 2 0
 @mikelevy: I have to ask, did you take one of the high bikes to use as a metric?

Even if you guys didn't mention the bike, it would have been really interesting to see the times of the sub 3k bikes vs. the 10k bike.
  • 4 0
 No, but that would have been a good thing to do!
  • 1 0
 > it makes all the sense in the world to check out what's online.

so much this, as much as i would like to support LBS (and i do for upgrades and repairs) there is literally 0 reason to shop there for new parts of bikes

i dont think there a single shop in like 50km around me that would have any decent mtbs in stock that are not super light XC or sub 300$ trash
  • 5 0
 Quality content. We the peasants are greatful my lord.
  • 3 2
 A big thing to add to the cheap vs expensive where's the difference section is weight. When I went from a fairly budget aluminum bike to a full carbon high end build I dropped a few lbs in weight from bike and all my uphill PRs were destroyed. Weight equates to speed to some extent, and maybe only uphill, but if you care about that, and I don't know how you wouldn't when you're riding with friends, that makes a big difference.
  • 1 0
 My $3k hardtail is more fun than my >$7k full suspension bike (and we're talking on the chunky, loose trails of the CO front range). Sure, it's not as fast on certain descents, but it's faster nearly everywhere else, makes less technical trails fun, and puts a huge grin on your face when you outrun people on bikes that are 2-3x the price.

At the same time, when someone on a beat up sub $3k bike blows past me while I'm riding my >$7k bike, I realize I'm doing something wrong.
  • 3 0
 @DaneL the worst part is when the cheaper fox 36 works better than the one year older 36 RC2.
  • 5 0
 Did a group ride with some fellas I met the other day, one of my favourite ride days to date. Bikes ranged from brand new 29ers with all the bells and whistles, to a few years old, and even one Specialized Big Hit. We all had fun, we all enjoyed the day, nobody cared what bikes we were riding
  • 2 0
 @DHhack: True. Both of my bikes have the latest generation of their components, but it sure will be sad when I realize that new mid-tier bikes/builds are better all around than my current-gen top tier bike.

The biggest downside I see with spending so much on a bike is that it's that much harder to justify keeping it when you buy a new one. It's not too hard to justify having a $7k bike that you ride 5 times a week, but what about 2 times a week? What about once every other week? I can confidently say that I'll be holding onto my hardtail for many years to come. I wouldn't be surprised if I never sold it. The still-worth-over-$4k full suspension bike, on the other hand... I don't know. I love it, and I don't want to sell it, but that's a lot of money to have depreciating in the garage once I have two or three other bikes that I ride more frequently.
  • 1 0
 @spaceofades: Agreed. As long as everyone is on a safe bike, it's always a good time. The 'safe' part is key, though. It's no fun riding with people who are crashing left and right because they either have a bike that wasn't intended for the terrain or they haven't ever done any maintenance on their bike.
  • 1 0
 @DaneL: this time around I built up a hardtail that I can hopefully keep longer than my normal 2-3 years. Took my time and the total price was just a smidge under $2,000. The primary trail bike I picked up used for under $1900, luckily for me Giant doesn’t hold value very well and I got a 6 month old bike for roughly half price of new. I’ll probably sell the Giant in the next year and probably not replace it. The dh bike, this year I jumped on a deal on a leftover 2019 YT. Really going to suck if the bike parks don’t open... it’s the nicest bike I own!

Who knows, maybe I can convince myself to keep the hardtail as my forever bike and just get a dh bike every 2-3 years?
  • 6 5
 Bike shops also add stability to the industry,
which is necessary for the evolution of bikes.
The technology used on bikes today,
in the frames, drivetrains, suspension, etc,
has been developed over decades,
with roots stretching back beyond internet.
I think it's unfair that direct to consumer brands
can select the same components
that a non-direct brand can, at the same price.
Trek could sell their bikes at the same prices as YT,
but only Trek would make money,
not 1000s of employees of Trek retailers
throughout the world.
DTC brands are benefiting from the blood, sweat, & grit
of retailers.
It's the way of the world (#youareonnativeland)
but that doesn't make it a good thing.
Honestly, I could be wrong, just my two cents,
as I watch these brands develop,
and retailers/brands struggle to adapt.
  • 5 5
 At the end of the day....we all pay bills too....the guys at the LBS are not my problem. Just this past (2) weeks I have been waiting on a part Amazon would have had to me in two days, and saved me some money.
  • 3 1
 @RoadStain: unfortunately true. I like supporting my local shop, but they sell small bottles of chain lube for $16. I give them as much of my service work as I can, but its difficult to voluntarily take a 100% markup and a foggy window of arrival.
  • 1 0
 @RonSauce: Bike shop margins suck, trust me. It can be half as expensive on amazon because their cost is much less and amazon doesn't have the overhead/shipping/order minimums that a shop has. If I order someone a $14 set of grips I have to add that to an order that meets $ minimum to get a deal on shipping. If I just special order the grips, the shipping takes longer and is more $ than the purchase. It sucks, but that’s why small shops can’t have your part the next day a lot of the time. The supply chain needs to be more like the car service industry but it isn’t.
  • 1 0
 @emptybe-er: I understand, but at the same time I'm not going to lose sleep over the struggles of any business. I do support my local shop and appreciate what they do. I'm actually going in with a shopping list of 2 new drive trains and a new wheelset I want built and installed.
  • 1 0
 @RonSauce: I don’t think anyone wants sympathy, but understandIng that just because something can be acquired cheaper and faster doesn’t mean it’s “Marked up” at the bike shop. It means you are deciding to send your $ to amazon instead of a bike shop that safely keeps people on their bikes, provides knowledge, and supports local riding culture. If the shop doesn’t do that stuff, find one that does. Without small bike shops, a lot of people can’t ride. Most people. So the impact will come full circle when people decide bikes are too much of a pain in the ass because the nearest supershop (surviving on service alone not possible for most small shops) is 100 mi away.
  • 1 0
 From my observation bikes pass 4 or 5 k does not gain much of the performance however provide more self ego to owner, however bikes below certain point I would say 2,5k, have reliability issues in long run especially with wheels and bearings and tires, so you will spend anyway and bike price will match 4k upgrading them during 4 year period rather then ride shit out of your mid price range bike;
  • 1 0
 "Geo is everything" I couldn't agree more. Spent time aboard a dressed to the nines Factory level Yeti SB150 and a budget level '19 Specialized Enduro. This new crop of bikes with strong consideration for front center vs rear center measurements and forward thinking seat tube angles make riding techy steep trails like cheating relative to bikes of the past no matter what parts are draped from them. Don't let component enve keep you from this new crop of geometrically dialed in wonder bikes!
  • 4 0
 As a member of GONAD (Group of North American Dentists), I cannot condone this blasphemy.
  • 1 0
 Just bought a complete Vitus Mythique 27, SR Suntour Aion 35 boost forks and Renthal lock on grips for $1500 otd LMAO!! Ive had Trek, Santa Cruz, Ibis, Nukeproof with some over $6000+ dentist builds and never been happier with my purchase this time around. Love where the budget industry is going!
  • 1 0
 The thing about upgrading costs, is that unless you have a mechanical knowledge, there is also the labour costs to take into consideration. I am not knowledgeable / confident to attempt swapping out drives, wheels hubs, etc, so tend to go to lbs for anything more tech than brake pads! But the cost of labour is a not inconsequential cost factor too in upgrading.

I look at previous years winners in reviews, then try to find them on sale. After all, I hope to have a bike about 3 years, so it doesn't have to be this year's model.
  • 1 0
 In all honesty, my riding wasn't up to the level of a higher end bike when I started in 2001. As the years progressed, and my riding, skill, and fitness grew, I understood what I needed next, and why it was worth the price. But I agree with @mikelevy, it all starts with good geo that fits your body, riding style, and trail choices. Besides, drooling over upgrades for months and researching the crap out of them before affording them is one of the best parts of couch mtbing.
  • 1 0
 A friend of mine has a 2012 Intense Uzzi. 26" with 180mm of travel. He wants to upgrade, but doesn't want to spend the money.

Both of us are about the same size, both wear flats. So we "wife swapped" on our weekly night ride a few weeks back. I was really expecting to be disappointed, and have MORE ammunition to convince him to get a newer bike. I have a 2017 E29 frame I was basically going to give him, he just needed to build it with old parts and scrounge some stuff up. By the end of the ride, I was convinced that he should save his money. Was it as good as my '18 E29? No, I like my bike better. Was it good? Yes, it was damn good. I had a ton of fun, and told him to save his money and just keep riding it. Only thing I told him I would change is I would go 11 speed with a 10-42 cassette (but not 12) instead of the 10 speed 11-36 he currently has. That's it.
  • 1 0
 I bought a demo 2019 GT Sensor Comp from a bikeshop who was selling it on the Pinkbike classifieds. Talking with the shop guy, he said he'd only rented it out a few times, as people wanted to rent his Cannondale bikes instead. Got this barely used GT for $1500 - saved about $1k. I couldn't be happier with the bike (worlds better than my old Turner 5-spot), and the price was just irresistible. That said, I'm over 50 and trying to keep the 3' hucks to flat to a minimum, but even the 'cheap' bikes are WORLDS better than the good stuff of even a few years back. Never been a better time for bikes than now.
  • 1 0
 I do agree with one thing... The forks make the biggest difference, and seems to be the one piece that manufacturers hold back on. I have been looking for a decent Dirt jumper, and you have to go top of the range in most brands to get a Manitou Circus Expert (not to mention a Pike DJ). I would rather pay the money for a good frame and fork with lower range components that are more likely to get damaged and cheaper to upgrade or replace... most of us don't NEED a full XTR setup, but we can make use of quality tunable suspension
  • 3 3
 I still remember this summer i went along with some of my LBS' crew on a demo ride, i took my "low end" hardtail out, and they were all using demo bikes in the 3+k range- sure most of the trails we hit were on the easier side, but i never really struggled with any of it, despite being on a "cheap, old hardtail" and was for the most part able to keep up with them (or even drop one of the guys on one of the climbs)
  • 6 0
 The biggest thing for me with something like this is fun factor. Someone I ride with always reminds our group that (It's 90% rider and 10% bike!) and I just shake my head. Sure, throw Sam Hill on a $500 Hardtail and he's still going to smoke me on my $8000 bike down an Enduro segment. However, throw me on that $500 Hardtail and I'm going to have alot less fun than I used to. Also it seems to me I have alot more fun riding with this guy in my group than he does on his 5-year old 100mm bike.
  • 8 0
 @yupstate: Fun for me and you is riding bikes. Fun for guys like @dragoonxx is bragging and talking people's ear off about how his 2005 hardtail doesn't slow him down for the most part and if you don't watch out he might catch you on a a climb with it.
  • 1 0
 @kookseverywhere: fun for me is riding bikes as well. and the "me keeping up with them despite being on an older bike" comments...were actually from the other guys, but hey, you do you.
  • 1 0
 $1,400? You all splurged. I managed to get a Jeffsy on sale for $1,100 shipped to my door directly from YT two years ago. Best bang for the buck I've ever had in anything related to mountain bikes.
  • 1 0
 I'm looking forward to these reports. I like to keep a few cheap bikes around for when I pedal down to the casa for a margarita. I feel a lot better parking and leaving my $2.6k bike instead of my $7k bikes.
  • 7 4
 Mike wheres the grim doughnut
  • 27 0
 It's in my shop. I'm looking at it right now.
  • 2 1
 Is the Donut included in those field trips? Jokes aside, bikes under 3k are good thing to read about and consider buying one one day maybe, who knows...
  • 2 3
 "It's worth noting that the entry-level front suspension didn't affect the times on our trail bike-appropriate test track, even if it was noticeable, but they were certainly a factor on our bigger test rides that included much hairier, scarier trails."

"didn't affect the times" - So any bike can be ridden fast... meaning times are meaningless, but still got at least 2 mentions just in the preview article.
  • 4 0
 I mean, maybe you can just disregard that 20 seconds of the video?
  • 3 0
 $3000usd is $4350 Canadian. Exchange rate is rough right now.
  • 2 0
 it's $5120 Australian but by the time we get them here they round them up to $6000.
  • 1 0
 @DrRiptide: yeah I looked up that conversion too. Yikes.
  • 1 0
 Yep. My Ripmo AF (2999 USD) was $4195 CAD all-in, in February.
  • 2 1
 Also worth noting that even if you get a direct to consumer online bike, your local bike shop will be happy to service it and supply parts and upgrades should you so desire
  • 1 0
 I've ridden everything and raced a lot my 2k eur spectral for the last 3 years. Amazing value. Dropping dentists is cool too haha
  • 1 0
 Hey @mikelevy : decathlon has shown a very interesting bike last Roc d'azur event: Rockrider AM 500S Ltd Sram X01. Built with Pike and Sram GX/NX for 2300€, coming soon.
  • 2 0
 Riding a $900 trail bike down doube black diamonds gets me going like nothing else
  • 4 2
 ok fine fine fine great BUT GRIM DONUT!
  • 1 1
 Dude, the grim donut is the pinnacle of quality, and modern design.
  • 2 1
 Field test: how many minutes does it take a SR Suntour XCT to pop up, Anwser=30-40
  • 2 0
 But did any of them fail catastrophically like two of the expensive ones?
  • 1 1
 The biggest difference is weight. Yes, it makes a difference in climbing. Downhills not so much, but perhaps even a little more stable on the downhills.
  • 2 0
 Well said regarding the online/direct to consumer vs LBS.
  • 2 0
 Is there a better 3k bike than the Ripmo AF?
  • 2 0
 Process 153 SE and a few others...
  • 2 0
 @woofer2609: I'm in the market for my teenage son - would appreciate the list if you have a minute. Ripmo AF / Kona Process have been high on my list but realizing I don't have great exposure all brands
  • 1 0
 several inexpensive, top of the line bikes from the mid to late 2000's -2015 available
  • 1 0
 Geo is Still Everything

Dear @mikekazimer and @mikelevy please give us a privateer 161 review
  • 2 0
 That's the plan - we're just waiting for a full production model to be available.
  • 1 0
 @Noeserd, only for pre-order.
  • 1 0
 @mikekazimer: oh, got it
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: thanks Mike for that clever article that might question mtb lovers about WHAT they are riding and WHY...
  • 3 2
 Shouldn't you be riding the donut?
  • 9 0
 Rode it yesterday, but I might go out on it again today. Good idea!
  • 7 0
 @mikelevy: Your implying that the front end did not snap off in your first ride! Good news!
  • 2 0
 @mikelevy: excellent trolling
  • 2 1
 Inexpensive as to Huffy? That’s my definition of inexpensive!
  • 2 0
 that is cheap and inexpensive
  • 1 1
 I know it predates that, but would love to see that dirty face pic of Mike as the opener for the Grim Donut review
  • 1 1
 TIMES TIMES TIMES! How much less can you spend if it's not all about times?
  • 1 0
 Keep reviews about Uber bikes and affordable bikes. And you are. Thanks.
  • 1 0
 Yes, that's more than overdue! Can't wait!
  • 1 0
 What about the value of not feeling like a rich a-hole?
  • 1 0
 The best bike is the one you're on.
  • 1 0
 So when is the full story coming out?
  • 1 0
 Real soon Smile
  • 1 0
 I can't wait for this!
  • 1 0
 YES! good to see...
  • 1 1
 Inexpensive is under 2k by the way
  • 4 0
 We had four bikes in that category, so you'll have some videos / articles to read very soon.
  • 1 0
 That's good news.
  • 1 0
 Penny pinchers
  • 1 2
 Too many words....Make to Video

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