Beginner bike for a non-enthusiast

#1
Well I'm not a complete novice, I've had bikes, just not for many years now. Matter of fact I think my parents bought me my last bike, maybe it's been longer than I thought....

I've been thinking about trying mountain biking for a while, as in actually using trails tailored for and intended for that purpose. It would benefit my health to get into some more physically active pastimes and it's something I've thought I might actually enjoy and do. I'm wanting to stick my toe in and have a good enough mountain bike that I'll have some success at it if I do trails, or at least not hate my bike after a few rides. That said, if I just don't get into it and don't use it much, I don't want to be out a ton of cash on a high end piece of gear, and still have a bike I can enjoy in a variety of situations besides purely trail riding.

Given this activity has all the complexity of any other field, it's a bit much for me to absorb and a lot of details I'll surely miss if I just grab one off the shelf or buy one online.

For now I'd say all in if I can keep it around or under $500 or so I might go for it. I'd prefer less but I don't want a piece of crap. I know there are some other things I might need, like a helmet, and a tire pump perhaps as they use some oddball valve correct? I also need a 2" receiver hitch carrier.

Doing some preliminary research it sounds like a hardtail fits my needs. I also notice some features I think I want, like good brakes (disk style not the rubber pinch the rim kind) I'd like the bike to be versatile enough so I can ride it in a variety of situations, not just on dedicated mountain bike trails, I might want to go on gravel roads, pavement and such. Just like with my vehicles I expect on pavement comfort to suffer for off pavement ability.

I'm 6'-3" tall, I'm thinking I need an XL size frame, and my first impression reading about the differences is that I might be happier with a 29" wheel size as opposed to the 26" but of course I don't know that for sure.

I'd welcome some suggestions for getting into this, and models to check out. I might buy online but I do think there are some local bike shops I can look into. Before I go I really need to know what I'm looking at. Thanks for any advice.
 
#2
I would suggest joining here: https://www.bikeforums.net/forum.php

be advised, there are some attitudes on the forum, but there's also a bunch of good guys that are willing to help. there's a special "Clydesdale & Althenas" section if you're interested. for the budget, you'll most likely be looking at a used bike. not a big deal, since these guys can be fiends getting a new 6k or 8k bike every year or two because it's trendy cutting edge stuff.

ADV forum has a pretty good bicycle thread going, too: http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/bicycle-thread.486499/page-649

but I've been bounced out of there more times than you can say "jo momma".

what I've found is that biking may be hard to get started (NE winters sucko), but it's twice as hard to stop. you'll have fun!
 

Co-opski

Expedition Leader
#3
I think you can find some nice bikes in the Fuji line up. The Nevada is a 29er but also look into the 27.5+ bikes. Wheel size is similar to the 29er but more tire and sidewall. Or if you wanted to stay in the 29ers I would say find a hardtail bike with 29 x 2.6 tire would work well for you. Also look at Cannodale Catalyst, Raleigh Tokul or GT Karakoram. Or a used Salsa Timberjack or Surly Karate Monkey.
 
#4
I think you can find some nice bikes in the Fuji line up. The Nevada is a 29er but also look into the 27.5+ bikes. Wheel size is similar to the 29er but more tire and sidewall. Or if you wanted to stay in the 29ers I would say find a hardtail bike with 29 x 2.6 tire would work well for you. Also look at Cannodale Catalyst, Raleigh Tokul or GT Karakoram. Or a used Salsa Timberjack or Surly Karate Monkey.
Thanks, you certainly gave me some good options to look at. I do like what I've read on 27.5+ bikes, actually sounds perfect for me. They do seem harder to find near my price range though.

I did find this, a bit over my target but not too far: http://www.jensonusa.com/GT-Pantera-Sport-Bike-2018

Seems like around the $600 range, but not a plus bike, I start to see hydraulic brakes more. I'm not opposed to upgrading components over time if I get a bike that allows such easily, but I would like something I can start out on without needing to swap parts.

It's as bad as I feared, getting into this stuff can be worse than trucks it would seem.
 
#6
I don't know anything about bikes. Not bikes for single track at least. I have a Trek DS 8.3 that I've had for a couple years and I really like it, but we mainly ride gravel trails and roads. I would like to get into mountain biking more but not sure how much abuse I can throw at my current bike in it's stock form.
 
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#7
For your price range almost any major brand will have an entry level bike of similar quality. My suggestion would be to talk to local shops and find a shop you feel good about. Then explain what you're doing and your price range and take their suggestion. No one company has a big advantage in tech or design in the entry level category. When you are just getting started having a bike that fits you correctly (which a good shop helps you do) and having good support is more important then the actual hardware brand choice. Making it fit is more than just frame size, but that's where it starts. Disk brakes are great and I doubt you'll find an actual mountain bike in a good shop with anything else, even on entry level bikes. As for 29" or 27.5" wheels, it just depends. Test ride a couple bikes and see which feels better to you. No matter what bike you buy in this range, it will get you out on the trails so you can experience the ride without holding you back. If you really enjoy it and start riding a lot, you will outgrow any bike in this range in a year, so don't overthink or over-invest in it. Just get one that fits and feels good from a shop you can lean on.

You can also get some great deals on used bikes, but I still advocate for building a relationship with a shop. If you buy something used, take it to a shop you like for a tune-up. Ask them to help you set it up to fit you - it will likely involve buying a few cheap parts. A good shop is open to doing this for someone starting out because they know they'll reap the rewards for years if you really get hooked.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
#8
IMO it's a common theme, new cyclists still think of bikes as kid's toys and can't imagine spending any kind of real money on them. As a result they end up with a clunky bike that's just not really enjoyable to ride.

If the budget is a hard limit, I would give serious thought to buying used. Nashville is a bit of trip but, as an example, for $440 this Haro is way more bike than that new GT you linked.

https://nashville.craigslist.org/bik/d/haro-beasley-650b-275-new/6599252433.html
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
#9
FWIW, I'm a solid 29'er advocate but for new riders I suggest 650b/27.5" wheels. When the choice was 26 or 29 I would say the bigger diameter but now that the middle size has taken over and isn't a niche anymore I would only say consider 29 due to your height. But several aspects favor the 27.5, easier to accelerate, more forgiving handling.

Don't get hung up on hydraulic brakes. If you need to get cable actuated brake to hit a price point that's fine. The SRAM BB7 is tried and true, works very well. I would go that way if it meant you could bump up other places.

Buy a bike with a high quality frame that's worth upgrading or at least retains value if you choose to resell. The next best place to spend money is on the wheels, particularly good rims and an overall good build quality. Fill in the rest as you can, workable shifting and brakes. Don't skimp too much on the touch points, get a good saddle, definitely.
 
#10
You can also get some great deals on used bikes, but I still advocate for building a relationship with a shop. If you buy something used, take it to a shop you like for a tune-up. Ask them to help you set it up to fit you - it will likely involve buying a few cheap parts. A good shop is open to doing this for someone starting out because they know they'll reap the rewards for years if you really get hooked.
If the budget is a hard limit, I would give serious thought to buying used.
I'd be down to buy used, its just is a more daunting proposition given I'm not that familiar with what I'm looking at. Right now I am more confident in my ability to buy a used vehicle and not get screwed. I may be naive, but I don't see anything on a bike that scares me from a mechanical perspective, I'm always tinkering and building on things, so buying used and upgrading components to fit me sounds like a great plan. It just seems like a big jump from no exposure to building bikes.

Also I don't anticipate great success finding a used bike in Sasquatch size locally.

I like the shop suggestion as well, but I fear my options locally are extremely limited. In the city I work in there are 2 bike shops I know of. One I won't set foot in, they sell other outdoor gear and I've visited them many times looking at kayaking gear, and just have no respect for the place. They are just there to sell trendy overpriced athletic clothing to out of town college kids, I wouldn't trust them to tighten a screw. The other place I've used for their locksmith service and had keys made, I liked them and am planning to visit. They do all kinds of bikes not just MTB. While I agree a good working relationship with a shop would be great, were I live I'm a 70 mile round trip from anywhere, I just don't see me being a frequent visitor to even my closest shop, it's just too big a logistical inconvenience. If that one shop I mentioned works out that is the only possibility I have for any re-occurring interaction, and even then at a significant inconvenience (they close about time I get off work so I can't swing by while I'm in town, I may be able to get there in time to drop something off as they lock up, maybe.)

IMO it's a common theme, new cyclists still think of bikes as kid's toys and can't imagine spending any kind of real money on them. As a result they end up with a clunky bike that's just not really enjoyable to ride.
Well, kinda, but I'm growing to respect the hardware a bit more now. If I thought it was a toy I'd have already got a Wal-mart bike instead of asking. For me it's kinda like the buying a boat problem. I think mountain biking is cool but I haven't done it in any meanful way so If I spend a lot of money and find it's just not for me or I don't do it as much as I thought I would, I've spent $500-$1000 for nothing more than a bike I might goof off on riding on the gravel road down by the river a few times a year, which any old Wal-mart bike would do for under $100. I live in BFE and don't have any local friends that do this, very few not quite local friends that do ( @4runnerteq ) so it's not like I've got much to work with in the way of trying out or test rides.

I'm hoping my next step is to try that one local shop and just see what they have and tell me. At least see some stuff in person.

Thanks for all the input. :)
 
#12
Finally. 27.5 or 29 would be fine for you. I would at least move into something with hydraulic brakes. And Id rather have a single sprocket in the front, however, that's easy enough to have changed. Or, as good as you are with your build stuff, you could probably do it yourself. I, on the other hand don't have the patience for that tedious stuff. Pretty good idea to shop used. Bikes don't hold much value very long. My $1500 Rockhopper Evo, only 2 years old, according to bicycle blue book is now only worth about $650. Yes there is a Bicycle Blue Book. Go to Pisgah with us, rent something at The Hub or Sycamore Cycles and lets go to DuPont Forest. Awesome there
 
#14
The 29er is more forgiving, than the faster rolling 27.5, but honestly it comes down to what feels better for you. Don't get hung up on wheel size. I noticed a huge diffrence in ride quality when I went from a coil sprung shock to an air shock (Suntour XC to a Fox Float 34), and being able to lockout the front shock is awesome.

You can ride any of my bikes anytime you want, well honestly my Syncr' Pro is the only one that would fit you. Low Hollow is right in the middle of Bowling Green, and is a pretty decent 2.6 miles.

Howards had several bikes on sale when I was in there Thursday. If you get something used; I am slowly getting a collection of Park Tools and doing my own maintenance, so I can help you out there too.
 
#15
...Don't skimp too much on the touch points, get a good saddle, definitely.
don't ride in jeans. I know there's thousands of real explorers that have developed their collective leather scranus and will only ride in their original Buddy Lee overalls, but after a couple of miles that seam will make you think your sitting on a straight razor. you don't have to go Total Fred to wear comfortable riding kit.

and go on and introduce yourself to Sheldon Brown. you can thank me later.

http://sheldonbrown.com/

ps: front "sprocket" is a chainring.

your bike doesn't have "gears". https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sprocket