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  1. #1
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    What should I be looking for in a first trail bike?

    I made the possible mistake of already getting my wife a mountain bike. I got her a Trek 820 which she loves. She is the type that doesn't like to spend a lot of money so after talking to the guy at the bike shop this seemed like it would suit her well. Apparently I should have done more research because there is a female version of this bike the noz at the shop never told us about. All that being said, I want to do it right when I get my bike.

    I'm going to use the bike mostly for trail riding and the possibility of road riding several miles to get to the trails. I am a beginner at trail riding but I have been flying through the woods on dirtbikes all my life so that is the sort of riding I am looking to do. I wanna ride some gnarly trails and jump off some roots and such. I plan on shopping around. Instead of going to the first shop outside the military base I live on, I will go to a big city like Louisville and stop at all their shops. I am thinking buying used might be the best idea that way I could get more bike for the money, right?

    My budget will be between $500-600. The less I spend the better. I realize this is a small budget but let's not forget I am merely a beginner and this is why I am thinking used might be the way to go. What sort of features should I look for in a bike? At my price range is there certain brands I should try to get and certain brands I should try to avoid?

  2. #2
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    Look for something without a Suntour fork. The fork is the most important performance component.
    For new a BD Gravity point4 has a useable fork and good components. Compare used options to that.

  3. #3
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    If you plan on jumping and riding aggressively, I'd suggest a used 26" full suspension bike. For example two to three year old Trance's and Fuel's can be had in good nick with decent components for $1000-1400, sometimes less. Obviously this is over budget but based off the fact you have some dirty riding experience, you'll probably beat up/get tired of entry level components fast. If you want a 29er, again used but the price will probably be a bit higher for a FS.

    Another idea is the burlier, longer travel "all-mountain" category of hardtail 29er. I've seen used Canfield Nimble 9's for just over a thousand here and there. Kona Honzo, Diamondback Mason, or Trek Stache fits the bill too but newer bikes, might be harder to find on a budget. Maybe a first gen Paradox. Airborne's Goblin Evolution is awfully cool at $1600.00.

    Good luck!!!

    Edit: thought about this a little more. I started out with a 2011 Trance X. It took me a long time to advance my fitness as (and I probably didn't have the rear end set up right) the bike just didn't pedal that well. I made much greater strides when I got a basic HT 29er (singlespeed) and could really hammer hard on the pedals. That said, the Trance was exceedingly capable and since I also had years on motorcycles, it could do anything I asked of it, technically.
    Current roster:
    2013 Trance X1 29er
    2013 Mukluk 3
    Banshee Paradox V1
    2011 Defy 1

  4. #4
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    This is sort of akin to asking "what should I have for dinner?" I'd suggest renting a bike or finding a loaner to at least determine if you want a rigid, hardtail or full suspension bike. Budget wise, you're in used hardtail territory. The comments above about the fork are spot on in my opinion. Your moto background means you'll probably eventually graduate to the point of wanting a full suspension bike. The question is if that'll happen on your second ride or second year. You'll have a hard time finding a good FS for $500 though.

  5. #5
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    From your description, you should up your budget, what you're looking to spend WILL NOT buy you a bike that will handle what you want to do, not safely anyway IMHO. Unless as you say you luck out and find a steal of a deal, anything you get for that price would be better off with a rigid fork most times.

    For what you describe, I'd be looking at the likes of a Banshee Paradox, Canfield Yelli Screamy or Nimble9, Trek Stache, Kona Honzo to name a few bikes that would give you an idea of what you should be looking for. Another option is the soon to be released Airborne Goblin EVO, very similar geo to the previously listed bikes, but from a direct to market brand with no distributors, shops etc., so $$ for what you get is quite a bit more than those other brands listed who have distributors and shops who all have to make a little something themselves.
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  6. #6
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    If you rode dirt bikes and want to jump stuff and fly around trails, and want to spend less than a couple grand, buy used for sure. Otherwise, minimum I see you wanting a full suspension bike that you shouldn't skimp on. Pro tip: Find some demo days, ride some bikes, especially bikes you don't think you want because they may be too expensive. Then ride a bunch of stuff in your price range. Then decide what you can and can't live with. But based on what you say you want to do, I suspect your budget is woefully inadequate.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for all the responses, perhaps I got a bit ahead of myself. It is also worth noting most of my riding will be done with my wife on her Trek 820, so I do not need to outclass that bike too much. I understand that my budget is severely inadequate for what I am asking, so what if we change my criteria to a light-moderate trailbike that can handle some difficult sections but nothing too extreme? This is a new hobby for me so I am not looking to go all out and spend much money.

    I am about to return from Afghanistan and then exit the military several months later. My quality of life will drop substantially once I return from deployment, then will go down even more once I am working part time while attending college. Otherwise, I may spring for a better bike but it is not a smart move right now. Without knowing much of anything at all about bikes, I was thinking the Trek 3700 Disc is likely the best match for me and my price range. I could buy one brand new with my budget. What would you recommend, similar to that bike, that would be under $600 and handle some light-moderate trail riding?

  8. #8
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    So many people spend a small amount on a bike & then 2 months in buy a bigger budget bike because they didn't spend enough in the 1st place.

    Don't spend any money until you have a clearer idea of what you need.

    Get to some demo's & learn more.

  9. #9
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    Yeah you really need to ride some bikes. But I would rather a $600 used than a $500 new. The 3700 has some weak stuff on it. Maybe find a used trek cobia or a specialized stump Hopper.

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  10. #10
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    I'm turning far left on this one. I'd suggest a bikesdirect ( Save up to 60% off new Mountain Bikes - MTB - Gravity 29 SS Single Speed 29er Mountain Bikes ) or Nashbar (Nashbar Single-Speed 29er Mountain Bike - Mountain Bikes ) rigid singlespeed. Why? Because instead of getting a poopy drivetrain and fork, you skip all that and get a bare bones bike that you can abuse without breaking. Sure, it isn't a plush ride but you'll have fun and for cheap. You'll hopefully be ok with the singlespeed idea as I'm assuming you're already fit.

    A suggestion (if you go this route) would be to research ghetto tubeless setups, get the biggest tire that'll fit, and run fairly low pressures to smooth things out. Hoping you have some BMX experience and the rigid idea will work for you.

    Last idea is of course CL or a local MTB forum for something used. Buddy of mine just bought an Redline Monocog with a Reba for $350.00, so deals do exist. You could always meet at a LBS to have them look it over. If you want, let me know what size you are and the area, I can poke around CL for ya. Good luck!
    Current roster:
    2013 Trance X1 29er
    2013 Mukluk 3
    Banshee Paradox V1
    2011 Defy 1

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