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  1. #1
    Wrench
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    Mountain Biking on the Cheap: Let's See Them.

    First off, I just have to get something out there...

    I've got a lot of hobbies, and each hobby has its fair share of elitists. Creative writing? Oh yeah, some people really hate being told that their writing style blows. Competitive shooting/guns in general? Don't get me started on Glock vs 1911 vs 9mm vs .45 vs AR vs AK vs M1A vs FNFAL vs IPSC vs IDPA and on and on and on. Hell, coin collecting even. If it aint mint it's not worth it...

    But out of all of them, the one that has come off the most elitist and abrasive is Mountain Biking. I've had some HORRIBLE experiences in bike shops from the 20-something-bearded-white-guy-wearing-khaki-capris crowd. A little sample...

    Before I switched frames and built up my bike, I was riding and doing lots of mountain biking with a $200 Schwinn Ridge Al I purchased from Academy. I felt like trying to upgrade the bike a bit, so I asked about getting discs on my bike at a local shop. One guy was actually trying to help (sorta..) when from in the back comes this guy...

    He had been working on a bike previously. He decided to put down his tools, come to the front, interrupt the guy I was with, and tell me that my bike is a POS, not worth it, that I am just a simple "campus cruiser", and that it would be a complete waste of money to put something like that on my "cheap ass bike"

    I informed him that he was being elitist and that he wont sell anything with that kind of attitude. He started stammering and stumbling over apologies when I said that I mountain biked on the same trails as him.

    Needless to say, that soured me away from that particular shop. But hey, this is a college town, so there are at least five of these shops around.

    Each. And. Every. One. has its elitist snobbery attached. It's been pretty dissappointing. It seems like I'm not worth anyone's time, since my bike is cheap.

    Newsflash: In this semesters mountain biking class here at TAMU, on trails that range from beginner to technical and advanced, there's a guy that is burning everyone out with a $50 NEXT bike.

    It's not the bike, it's the rider. Not the Indian, but the arrow. Let's get that out right now. Not saying the toolset isn't important, but the mindset is more important.

    So I want to dedicate this thread to something very special: Cheap Frankenbikes.

    You see, my bike is a franken-bike. I built it up from spare parts from my old $200 schwinn and other parts I found abandoned on campus. The newest thing I've added is a BB7 disc. I'm cheap, I'll admit it, but I'm also resourceful. I use this bike every day.





    Arm of my reloading press got in the way in this pic.




    My dog got in that one. He's not camera shy at all.


    So the specs on my bike...

    Front derailleur: Shimano DX100 I bought used for $10
    Rear derailleur: Sram 5.0, came with the old frame.
    Frame: Motiv. They sold these at Costco a few years ago I believe.
    Rear brake: Avid BB7
    Front brake: Promax
    Fork: Mozo
    Seat: From old Schwinn
    Shifting/brake levers: integrated shimano, from old Schwinn
    Wheels: Rear, offbrand chinese. Front, your guess is as good as mine.

    One arm of my crankset is from an old disc-equipped Next frame. The other is original. Peddles are new at least.

    It's dirty, yes, I havn't had time to clean it. Also, you may notice the cable leading to the Front Derailleur...

    Well, the Shimano DX100 is a topswing and my bike was set up for a downswing, or so I believe. I had to do some quick 'n' dirty bike engineering with some old lengths of tubing, some washers, and a couple prayers. Looks wacky, but it works beautifully.

    So all in all I've probably spent around 100 dollars on this bike. It works great, but you wouldn't believe the dirty looks I've gotten in bike shops.

    So show me those frankenbikes! Those beat to hell cheapos! I'm tired of seeing pristine bikes that cost an arm and a leg. I could go out and put a $2000 DH bike on plastic, take pretty pictures of it, post it up on this site, but none of that would really make me a mountain biker.

    *Dons flame retardant suit*

  2. #2
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    I would agree about your point that its not the bike, but the rider. Single-speed riders are a really good example........most of the ones I know will out-climb me any day.......and I have had a hard time catching some of them on technical single-track downhills as well......and I have a Full Suspension XC bike......

    Its awesome that you have built your own bike out of used parts....actually, alot of people with "higher-end" frames do the exact same thing......they'll swap out parts and if there's is something available that is used but in good condition, why pay retail? In that sense, I think lots of mountain bikers have Frankenbikes........

    I don't know where you ride your bike (asphalt or flat trails or steep climbs or rocky trails, etc.) I don't know how agressively you ride (do you bomb through rock gardens at full speed?) I don't know how much steep climbing you do. I don't how how much mileage you do. However, it sounds like your current bike fits your needs at the moment and it gets the job done.

    However, if I rode your bike on my trails as fast as I like to ride, either I would get myself killed, or I would get the bike killed. Your bike has no rebound damping, no front disc brakes, not enough suspension for me to ride rock gardens at speed, a wheel-set that would probably go wobbly on me when I launch off my favorite trail features, etc etc. My typical rides are around 12 to 20 miles with about 2,000 feet of climbing. If I rode your bike on my trails, I would either develop thighs and calves as big as tree trunks or I would die of a heart atack because I bet your bike weighs at least 36 pounds, which would be fine for DH but not for XC style of riding.

    It sounds like the bike your have is a budget bike out of necessity and that's perfectly fine....alot of us have been there. But to say your Frankenbike is just like the super expensive bikes out there is plain wrong. When you get out of college and start making the big bucks, and if you are still into mountain biking, hopefully you can go out and get a $$$$ bike......I guarantee you won't go back to your Frankenbike from your college days.
    Last edited by osmarandsara; 02-26-2009 at 10:14 PM.

  3. #3
    Wrench
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    I have no fantasies of doing extreme down-hilling on this bike. I know that I would end up breaking it. However, don't count it out. The places I ride arn't too cushy and I also use this bike in a rather urban setting as well.

    It works for me, and it works very well for pretty rough terrain. And I've got $100 into it. I'll get another disc brake one day (The V brake on the front will throw me if I'm not too careful...), but hell It's good right now.

    When it breaks, I'll be fixing it. But until then it's rolling along with the best of them. I've seen people spend 20x what I've spent to do half of what I do.

  4. #4
    ride hard take risks
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    Swap wheels and put the disc on the front it'll work better that way.
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  5. #5
    dreaming of bottlerockets
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    I did this, too, back when I started mountain biking.

    The thing is you can fix all the parts you want, make all the budget upgrades you can, but eventually the frame will go because it's a cheap bike for a reason i.e. budget crappy steel or aluminium not engineered to be slammed into things. Compare the chainstays of these bikes with any "real bike" that has been engineered.

    These bikes also turn into a big money sink once you start breaking things, and the frame will still eventually go. I was around 170lbs at the time when this Canadian Tire Special finally went (2 months in), so I took it back on warranty, sold it, and bought a real bike to handle the chunk and gnar around here.

    I think any "real bike" that is 6 - 8 years old that you can get for cheap would be better than any frankenbike Walmart special, and I wish I did that back when I started.

    Of course the rider makes the difference - I race on a 7 year old rig, and made it to Expert this year. As long as you're having fun there's nothing wrong with the bike you ride, but if you ride fast and hard, and want to progress, you will break less things and have more fun if you invest some money. At least that's what I found out.
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  6. #6
    Seeeriously easy Livin
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    That is one ghetto bike, buying upgrade parts one at a time isnt a bad way to spread out the cost, and eventually end up with a bike you can count on, but I sugest you start out with somthing that has a parts actually built for offroad use. Rather that upgrading that bike further you would be better off looking for a decent used bike that would make a better platform for upgrades.

  7. #7
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    I am far from an elitist as I started out on a Next from wally world. But I would argue that those bikes are flat out dangerous if used for anything other than leisurely street riding. I think there was a sticker on the bike saying it was not designed for offroad use.

    I was pedaling pretty hard on mine then the chain came off the chainring. Racked myself pretty good. After looking at it trying to figure out what happened, I noticed that any real pedaling force at all caused the frame to flex making the whole crank wobble. Wobble enough to make the chain derail without the help of the derailleur.

    Considering you can get a solid hardtail for around $300 I would never recommend anyone to buy a dept store bike.
    Last edited by jimx1cr; 02-27-2009 at 06:30 AM.

  8. #8
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    My first real mountain bike was 1999 Trek 6000 that I bought in 2007 (picture here). I paid around $200 for it just like your new Schwinn, the difference being that this bike was really designed for off road riding. I put in a ton of miles on rough trails and two xc races on that bike before I sold it and it held up great. Like others have said, you can do much better with a used bike than a cheap new bike

  9. #9
    maker of trail
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    Quote Originally Posted by dogonfr
    Swap wheels and put the disc on the front it'll work better that way.
    I second that!

  10. #10
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    Trek 820's are around $100 used and are pretty sturdy bikes. It's Trek's entry level hardtail. I started off with one because my car broke down. Started off as a commuter, then started trail riding and then sold it when it came time to move on as I had upgraded to a nicer hardtail. They are just built to last longer. Check them out on craigslist or something.

    But like you said if it works for you then F**K IT! Roll it till the wheels fall off !

  11. #11
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    I have definitely witnessed some arrogant attitudes in bike shops, but it is almost always based on that individual's own insecurities. However, I've had a lot more great experiences in bike shops where the folks were friendly, helpful and treated everyone the same.

    The only advice I would give to FNFAL and others has to do with the strength & reliability of the wheels on many inexpensive bikes. Those wheels will "fold" much more easily than you might think and that's simply dangerous. If that happens on the "wrong" trail at the wrong time, you could easily end up in the hospital. I haven't seen many frames have catastrophic failures but I've see it happen to bad wheels often.

  12. #12
    ~Disc~Golf~
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    Quote Originally Posted by dogonfr
    Swap wheels and put the disc on the front it'll work better that way.
    yeah!
    the chain routing and derailleur mounting could be a bit tricky tho
    Honestly... ahh I give up

  13. #13
    Ride the dream
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    I suspect (like it often seems to be) the problem is more with communication than arrogance, and perhaps an element of not liking what you hear.


    In your shop example - if the first guy that was helping you was prepared to let you believe that sinking a couple of hundreds into upgrades is worth considering, then the other guy did the right thing by telling you that its not.
    Doing that by totally slating the bike (and you for that matter) isnt the right way to get the point across, but at the same time the guy was right to try and put you off putting money into it.


    Yes, if it holds up for what you're doing with it now, then great - enjoy it.
    But rather than upgrading it, save your money to plough into something thats worth upgrading and will hold up longer term if/when you decide to push yourself further.

  14. #14
    uhhhhhyea
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    I started on a similar bike made by Mongoose, in fact I think it had the same fork. it worked but it's a pogo stick... only problem with upgrading that frame I can see is that when you decide you want a new frame, you might end up stuck with parts that won't fit. but since you haven't really stuck a lot into those parts, doesn't seem like such a problem.

    Knowing what I know about that fork, that would be the place to spend a little bit... when you decide to go with a new frame, most likely the fork you get will swap onto any new frame you get. Keep your eyes peeled on ebay and craigslist, every once in a while some crazy deals pop up- when I built my first "real" bike I scored a Fisher hardtail frame, seatpost/seat , wheelset (rhyno lite / lx hubs), hubs for like 45 bucks.

  15. #15
    maker of trail
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    Quote Originally Posted by highdelll
    yeah!
    the chain routing and derailleur mounting could be a bit tricky tho
    FWD

  16. #16
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    As an ex shop mech (and yes, it was a fairly high end shop located on a college campus), I'd say the problem (for bike shop employees) with cheap bikes is this; for every guy you get in who is ripping the trails up on a $50 Next he's done some nice frankenbike upgrades on, there's 100 dudes bringing in Walmart specials that were never assembled propperly in the first place and expecting you to make it work like the bikes you sell on the floor for less than you'r normally charge because "its not an expensive bike".

    Cheaper bikes are HARDER to work on, have more / worse problems, and (typically) come with uninformed owners who take twice as long to expalin the problems / required repairs to. For me at least, it wasn't a matter of not elitism just simple frustration. I really, really like bikes as a form of cheap transportation, but don't enjoy working on the low end ones in a commercial setting; hence I'm and EX shop mech.

  17. #17
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    How's your flame suit holding up FNFAL?

    Right or wrong, at least you were mentally prepared for a dispute and man enough to post anyway

  18. #18
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    Cheers to u FNFAL for sharing views. This discussion can be argued either way forever.

  19. #19
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    I also have a roadie and see these bikes on the MUT. some of these guys can keep up with me on my roadie!! They probably like you are on a budget and on a mission to prove that they can ride as fast as anyone. I just wonder how much faster these guys would be an a true racing bike!

    btw re Elitest in hobbies, I am into rc cars and used to race on road and oval
    There are a bunch of guys that think they are very special because they can drive their toy cars faster than anyone else. Most of them smoke and are overweight, I wonder what would happen to them on a mt. bike?

  20. #20
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    btw elitism exhist at all levels. I bought my KHS AM 2000 for $1000 and replaced almost everything on the bike with xt/xtr pike fork and fox dhx shock. the lbs here that sells high end mt and road bikes, had just about the same opinion of my bike as your lbs when I brought it in for some suspension set up advice. He was very polite but scoffed at my bike in a back handed condesending way. He said XT was merely ok, but of course xtr is the best. and he didn't like my frame. I still enjoy my bike, although not a wallyworld bike, it does by elitiest standars have a cheap frame., my fram $400 his $2200. my xt crank $270 his XTR $500. His bike probably $5000. that is a lot of money. Where do I apply for a bail out?

  21. #21
    my fun has a hurting
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    i would walk out of any shop that scoffed at xt (or x9) level components. they are by far the best bang for your buck performance-wise. the main advantage of xtr and x0 is weight savings, and those extra fancy materials cost WAY more, hence the price jump. any shop that thinks xt/x9 or ultegra/force level components are no good, fails at life.

  22. #22
    Wrench
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    How's your flame suit holding up FNFAL?
    Comfy, a little tight around the groin, but I can't complain.

    Let me share another story, this goes along with the elitism portion. I was at another shop, and a couple of guys were talking about a see-saw they had built. I asked them if it was out at Lake Bryan (the c losest trails around), one guy turned his head slightly and spit out "Yeah, no ****."

    ?

    Well I asked them where it was at lake bryan. The smartass tells me it's on a certain road. No specifics, like between these two trails, just a nebulous "well it's on this 6 mile stretch of road somewhere."

    They then proceed to finish their conversation in the back area. Pretty prickly shop they ran.

    As for you people still concerned....

    My bike fund comes from money I make fixing and selling other bikes around campus. Right now I have around $50 in that account, which will be going to (hopefully) a broken Specialized Hardrock I found on Craigslist. Needs repairs, but looks like some important parts are still there. I figure another round of me playing Mad Scientist is in order, if I get it.
    As for wheelsets? Again, when I get the money. For now I'll fix what needs to be fixed and stay away from 30 ft drops. Deal?

    Swap wheels and put the disc on the front it'll work better that way.
    Don't get me started. If I ever have free time on my hands, I start tinkering. And from there there's no telling where I'll go.

    Cheaper bikes are HARDER to work on, have more / worse problems, and (typically) come with uninformed owners who take twice as long to expalin the problems / required repairs to
    trust me, Pal. I have a metric crapton of experience with cheap bikes. Do you think I've got my hands on Specialized, Marin, Chumba, etc when I fix bikes on campus? Hell no. I've done what some would consider magic with those cheap bikes. One was so bad I simply set the deraileurs on one rather medium gear and turned it into a single speed. For five bucks, I figure I could have done worse.

    I started on a similar bike made by Mongoose, in fact I think it had the same fork. it worked but it's a pogo stick...
    You think that's bad? My old bike's fork would bottom out on a two foot drop, easy. Yet I road it hard and harder and hardest until I started swapping parts out to make this bike.

    That old academy bike is what gave me respect for cheap bikes. They are in no way as weak as some people, even certain people in this thread, seem to think. I committed some rather heinus acts upon that bike, and other than the Shimano SIS giving me hell occasionally, it stood up to all the crashes and drops and logs and rocks I put it through.

    But like you said if it works for you then F**K IT! Roll it till the wheels fall off !
    As all things should be ridden. I don't baby my tools.

  23. #23
    uhhhhhyea
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    lol, i wasn't even counting the bike i had before the mongoose... Literally destroyed the suspension to the point where just getting on the bike bottomed it out. I think it came from Target. $70 dual pogo XD

    Actually I had a similar experience when I took the Mongoose to the shop to look at some forks. The guy at the shop discouraged me from bothering with it, and to this day I'm glad he did. They ended up selling me a used schwinn Moab hardtail which was better in every way, for around $100. That's the bike that REALLY got me hooked on MTB... or at least held up for long enough for me to realize my addiction.

  24. #24
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    It would be cool if you could take a picture of you on the bike riding the narliest, rockiest, steepest technical trail you have in your area.....I think it would make a lot of people believers......

  25. #25
    Ride the dream
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    Quote Originally Posted by lpranal
    Actually I had a similar experience when I took the Mongoose to the shop to look at some forks. The guy at the shop discouraged me from bothering with it, and to this day I'm glad he did. They ended up selling me a used schwinn Moab hardtail which was better in every way, for around $100. That's the bike that REALLY got me hooked on MTB... or at least held up for long enough for me to realize my addiction.
    Very good and important point.



    I'm purely guessing here - but I would be willing to bet that the guy who dissauded you do so rather more politely than the guy in OP's example.
    Not trying to be funny, but telling someone that their bike is basically not worth upgrading (and frankly they'd be better ditching it altogether) is not easy to do well.



    I understand you wanting to be able to do this cheaply - and you can (relative to what alot of us spend, and I'll admit I do spend quite alot), but perhaps not quite so cheaply as you might have thought.
    Knowing when to give up is important - yes, what you've got there will get you around fairly smooth trails ok, but when you want to push yourself and move onto more technical trails, you'll reach the limits of what it can handle and what's safe.

    In time, you'll probably end up outgrowing it and moving onto something more suited to hard riding - and you'll understand why so many people spend so much money on higher level equipment.


    Enjoy it - but please, please dont spend too much money on it, it truly isnt worth it. And please dont ride it on rougher trails, cheap bikes really are a safety risk.


    PS:
    If you're looking for reasons why people may seem "elitist" (being wary of riders on cheap bikes), and why many experienced riders will dissuade you from using cheap bikes on rough trails...

    We've seen them busted at the side of the trail, many many times.
    Very few things kill your riding buzz more than seeing someone unable to ride on (or in serious cases, hurt badly) - you feel duty bound to stop and help them try to fix it.

    Yes, some people are just looking for an excuse to lord it over you - but there are some genuine reasons that some of us will try to dissuade you from exceeding the limitations of such bikes.
    Last edited by EnglishT; 02-27-2009 at 03:42 PM.

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