1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
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2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
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    $600 budget. I want an easily upgradeable 29er.

    I have been mountain biking about a month now. I purchased a cheap FS bike at walmart on sale and the only things I don't like about it are the fact that it's falling apart, 26", and pretty uncomfortable as they do not come in different sizes.

    I am looking for a pretty stoutly equipped 29HT that can be upgraded out the waz as I progress as a mountain biker. Budget is $600.

    I have been looking at:

    Diamondback Overdrive Disc
    Specialized Hardrock Disc
    Airborne Guardian 2.0 (Although the handlebars look uncomfortable)

    But maybe I should be looking at something else...

    Any help is appreciated.

    -Regards

  2. #2
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    Well, with that budget you will need to be upgrading parts fairly soon after you start riding it off road lol
    As you already found out with your supermarket bike.

    Still, at $600 at least the frame should be worth sticking better parts on as and when you need to.
    My wife had the Hardrock Disc and it's not a bad bike, a bit heavy but good for the money. It was used lightly and nothing broke or fell off.

  3. #3
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    X-Caliber 4 - New! - Trek Bicycle

    trek makes great bikes and it will last you awhile before you should have to start upgrading.
    When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.

  4. #4
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    Yes that looks alright.

    It is probably as good as you will get for the money, unless you can find a NOS 2011 or 2012 bike.

  5. #5
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    Airborne!

    Handlebars are cheap, and so are most of the components that came on the other two you listed!
    Blur LT & Highball

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Porch View Post
    Airborne!

    Handlebars are cheap, and so are most of the components that came on the other two you listed!
    Your logic checks out.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by TJB85 View Post
    X-Caliber 4 - New! - Trek Bicycle

    trek makes great bikes and it will last you awhile before you should have to start upgrading.
    Pay a little more and get the X-Cal 5 with a longer travel fork and better quality rims.
    Big Wheels Keep On Rolling

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  8. #8
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    I think being able to test ride is a major value added if you buy locally. It's important to get the size right if you want to keep the frame long-term. Also, make sure it comes out of the box with disc brakes or you're going to run up against compatibility problems early on trying to buy a nice bike a piece at a time.

    You probably already know this, but since nobody else has said it - buying a cheap bike and upgrading everything on it is a very expensive way to get to a nice bike. For stretching a buck, I'm a big fan of buying used.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  9. #9
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    Test rides are overrated. Chances are good that the manufacturer's suggestions are spot on. Worst case you can always post in the bike manufacturer's forum and see what others with similar measurements are riding.

    Now a trail ride, on the other hand...those are priceless, and really hard to arrange a lot of. That's why i just read a lot of reviews.
    Blur LT & Highball

  10. #10
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    Craigslist you can find some smoking deals as well on a really good used bike. Just have the seller agree to meet you at a bike shop and pay to have it checked out before buying
    When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.

  11. #11
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    I have a Trek Marlin I bought for that price range which I've been upgrading and love it. So the xcal would be along those lines. I've heard good things about the Airbornes too. That will get you slightly better components in some spots but not sure how much of it will be noticeable. That fork might be slightly better then the stock suntour crap. Factor in though with that price that you are not getting the lbs service that comes with most bikes and if you aren't a really good bike mechanic you should pay an lbs to assemble it for you.

  12. #12
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    Here's the deal. I've been in the bike industry for 20 years. At any price point whether it be $600 or $6000, the bike you buy will have almost the same exact components(or at least the same quality) Doesn't matter what frame you buy or what manufacturer. Yes, it may flux $50 here or there because an off the wall brand will not need to pay for the huge name. But on the other hand, the huge name produces and sells 100x's more bikes and has a lower cost, meaning their bikes will stay competitively priced with every body else.

    The Trek X-Cal 5 looks like a nice little bike. The Diamondback Overdrive Sport would be the one I'd look at as well. At the same price point you get hydro brakes. No, they aren't Formula's or Magura's, but they are hydros...
    Bike Doctor



  13. #13
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    Also as mentioned by another member... You might be able to pick up a 1 year old, well maintained bike that was in the $1200 range for around $600-700 right now. In which you would trade off a bike that's not brand new, but get much better components.
    Bike Doctor



  14. #14
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    My only question or advice I'd ask/tell the OP is to closely look at headttubes, that's about the only place that may limit your ability to do upgrades in the future as more and more forks move to tapered HTs for the higher end models and less and less straight steerer versions are available. Personally with this level bike I would worry about it though, because as soon as you're looking to spend more than the bike cost you, it's just better to buy another, new complete bike and either keep the old one as backup/loaner or sell it.

    I'm sorry, not even close between the X-Cal5 and the Guardian2, you'd have to step up to the X-Cal7 and above to get better components than the Guardian2. The only caveat as mentioned when buying online from a place like Airborne is knowing your sizing and having some experience working on bikes as basic setup and adjustment will be required, but $$ for $$ you can't beat the value. The only nod I'd give to the X-Cal over the Guardian is the geometry, it uses a different theory of greater offset fork and slacker HTA which produces a slightly differently feeling in the handling.

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackhawks01 View Post
    Here's the deal. I've been in the bike industry for 20 years. At any price point whether it be $600 or $6000, the bike you buy will have almost the same exact components(or at least the same quality) Doesn't matter what frame you buy or what manufacturer. Yes, it may flux $50 here or there because an off the wall brand will not need to pay for the huge name. But on the other hand, the huge name produces and sells 100x's more bikes and has a lower cost, meaning their bikes will stay competitively priced with every body else.

    The Trek X-Cal 5 looks like a nice little bike. The Diamondback Overdrive Sport would be the one I'd look at as well. At the same price point you get hydro brakes. No, they aren't Formula's or Magura's, but they are hydros...
    One day your life will flash before your eyes, will it be worth watching??
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  15. #15
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    None of the bikes in that price range have a tapered head tube. And if you compare components it's really splitting hairs. The Airborne(HUFFY) has hydros and about a slight step up in SRAM components over the Trek, but are pretty comparable to the Diamondback. To take a step up from there you're going from the OP's budget of $600 to $800+ in order to get a tapered head tube and another step up in components.
    Bike Doctor



  16. #16
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    DemoFly... You're in that "gray area" right now. Because I can't think of anything in the $600 range that's "easily" upgradable. If you can somehow hold out for another month and put another $150 in the budget. Then shop around for a deal? You'll be much better off in the long term.
    Bike Doctor



  17. #17
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    I agree that if going the upgrade route is your plan, you should be upgrading a frame with a tapered headtube. Of course, getting any old bike just because it has a tapered headtube and is the cheapest one you could find, isn't really that great of a plan either. There is a difference between frames, and if you're going to be pouring money into a bike like you seem intent on doing, I think it had best be a frame that you really like riding.

    That said, it looks like the newest Diamondback Overdrives have a tapered headtube, and the chainstays are only 440mm long. The rest is typical XC geometry. On paper, that's not a bad choice for what you're intending to do with the budget you're doing it with.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffj View Post
    I agree that if going the upgrade route is your plan, you should be upgrading a frame with a tapered headtube. Of course, getting any old bike just because it has a tapered headtube and is the cheapest one you could find, isn't really that great of a plan either. There is a difference between frames, and if you're going to be pouring money into a bike like you seem intent on doing, I think it had best be a frame that you really like riding.

    That said, it looks like the newest Diamondback Overdrives have a tapered headtube, and the chainstays are only 440mm long. The rest is typical XC geometry. On paper, that's not a bad choice for what you're intending to do with the budget you're doing it with.

    Only the Overdrive Comp and Overdrive Pro have tapered head tubes. Both of those are quite a bit over the OP's budget of $600. That's why I said he was in a gray area in order to get what he really needs to do this the right way.
    Bike Doctor



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blackhawks01 View Post
    Only the Overdrive Comp and Overdrive Pro have tapered head tubes. Both of those are quite a bit over the OP's budget of $600. That's why I said he was in a gray area in order to get what he really needs to do this the right way.
    Good catch. Then, and I don't have a crystal ball that allows me to know all prices from everywhere, the lowest priced bike I know of with a frame with a tapered headtube would be the GT Zaskar that Performance is selling for $749, and it comes with 10 speed drivetrain as well. The big caveat here is that they only have it in XL.

    Looks like getting something now would be considerably less cost effective than waiting a little and saving a bit more. Buying an entry level bike, and then pimping it out is almost always an exercise in wasting money. Those that can attest to this, may very have first hand experience in the process. I can say that I have done it, so I understand where the thought process comes from. Here's the thing, if you can afford to upgrade parts on the bike, you're going to be much better off saving a while longer and getting a higher priced model.

    One good reason to do this is underlined in the post above. To buy the lower end frame means you'll essentially be putting lipstick on a pig. Many times the lower end frames will also have less sophisticated features in places other than just the headtube, such as the shapes of the tubing in key places (chainstays, seatstays, top tube, and downtube).

    So, if you're thinking that you can buy a bike to ride, and then by hanging a bunch of nice parts on the entry level frame that you'll eventually have a nice bike, you're really going to end up with a bunch of nice parts on a frame that isn't going to perform as well, and may have issues with parts compatibility going forward if you're wanting to put higher end parts on that frame.

    Nicer frames are now coming with (in addition to tapered headtubes) 142mm hub spacing, and a multitude of bottom bracket standards. There are also less critical differences that are still nice touches such as internal cable routing, braces between the chainstay and seatstay to offset braking forces, direct mount front derailleur mounts, and some sort of additional accommodations for the routing of dropper post remotes. Entry level frames can also have shorter tubes to allow a more relaxed (as in upright) riding position that will be less desirable as your skill increases.

    If you're going to get a nicer fork, I can't imagine doing so without also wanting to use a through axle in either QR15 or 20mm. A lower end bikes is almost certainly going to have standard 9mm QR wheels, so that will mean a front hub upgrade (and relacing it into the existing rim with new spokes at the very least) at a minimum, but more than likely, it would be the best time to also upgrade the wheelset, so that will need to be done at that time. That is going to be a major chink of change with a decent upgrade on a fork is going to start in the neighborhood of $300 to $400 just for the fork, and wheelsets worth buying are going to be at least $200. That is $500 to $600 that will need to be spent all at one time.

    Another similar situation will occur with the drivetrain as most entry level bikes will have 8 speed or 9 speed drivetrains. Upgrading to nicer new drivetrains will necessitate a move to 10 speed as even nicer 9 speed drivetrains are going the way of the dodo bird. That means at a minumum, the shifters, derailleurs, chain and cassette will all have to be done at once. If you're on 8 speed (most likely to be the case with a $600 bike), that will be best to change the crankset/chainrings as well.

    An upgrade of brakes to anything worthy of spending money on, will also be a chunk of change in the neighborhood of at least $200+/- for hydraulic or $100 for BB7 mechanical disc brakes.

    Now, let's look at getting a bike like the Airborne Goblin for $1,149. It comes with a Rock Shox REBA fork, X.7 drivetrain, and Decent hydraulic brakes. The biggest 'meh' for me would be that the fork has standard 9mm QR dropouts. Not ideal, but I could live with them.

    Bottom line is that if you have the means to be upgrading, you'll be far better off to buy more bike up front. So, money is an issue here or you'd be able to just get the better biker bike now, but you will have the money to upgrade as time goes on. My advice is to ride what you have and only replace what breaks with modest parts that will get you by for the time being. Save up for a bit for a nicer bike down the road.

    Good luck.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Porch View Post
    Test rides are overrated. Chances are good that the manufacturer's suggestions are spot on. Worst case you can always post in the bike manufacturer's forum and see what others with similar measurements are riding.

    Now a trail ride, on the other hand...those are priceless, and really hard to arrange a lot of. That's why i just read a lot of reviews.
    You may not win but you're at the top for some of the worst advice given on here.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoTone View Post
    You may not win but you're at the top for some of the worst advice given on here.
    Have you ever bought a bike that was the "wrong" size? If you did, i'd assume you're either between sizes (which is totally valid) or you've never heard of aftermarket components (because what you SHOULD have done is bought the bike that was the correct size for you, and then put the handlebars, stem, or seatpost on that made it fit you better).
    Blur LT & Highball

  22. #22
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    My brother had the exact same amount to spend a few months ago, after checking out every bike in that range the Trek came out on top, im a huge Giant fan, but the Trek had better brakes and a great frame, he is super stoked with it.
    Dont ever let the truth get in the way of a funny story....

  23. #23
    meh... whatever
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    ~post deleted~

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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by monogod View Post
    the fork on a $6000 mtb costs more than the entire $600 mtb. sometimes twice that, in fact. same with the wheelset, brakes, and drivetrain on a $6k bike.

    suggesting the alivio drivetrain (common on bikes in the $500-600 range) is the same quality and offers the same performance as xtr or xx1 (common on bikes in the $6000 range) is beyond ludicrous.

    a $6000 bike is not merely a $600 bike with different colors, decals, and a higher pricetag. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.

    Pretty sure he was talking about different price points, not comparing a $600 bike to a $6000 one.





    Quote Originally Posted by Blackhawks01 View Post
    Here's the deal. I've been in the bike industry for 20 years. At any price point whether it be $600 or $6000, the bike you buy will have almost the same exact components(or at least the same quality)

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffj View Post
    Good catch. Then, and I don't have a crystal ball that allows me to know all prices from everywhere, the lowest priced bike I know of with a frame with a tapered headtube would be the GT Zaskar that Performance is selling for $749, and it comes with 10 speed drivetrain as well. The big caveat here is that they only have it in XL.

    Looks like getting something now would be considerably less cost effective than waiting a little and saving a bit more. Buying an entry level bike, and then pimping it out is almost always an exercise in wasting money. Those that can attest to this, may very have first hand experience in the process. I can say that I have done it, so I understand where the thought process comes from. Here's the thing, if you can afford to upgrade parts on the bike, you're going to be much better off saving a while longer and getting a higher priced model.

    One good reason to do this is underlined in the post above. To buy the lower end frame means you'll essentially be putting lipstick on a pig. Many times the lower end frames will also have less sophisticated features in places other than just the headtube, such as the shapes of the tubing in key places (chainstays, seatstays, top tube, and downtube).

    So, if you're thinking that you can buy a bike to ride, and then by hanging a bunch of nice parts on the entry level frame that you'll eventually have a nice bike, you're really going to end up with a bunch of nice parts on a frame that isn't going to perform as well, and may have issues with parts compatibility going forward if you're wanting to put higher end parts on that frame.

    Nicer frames are now coming with (in addition to tapered headtubes) 142mm hub spacing, and a multitude of bottom bracket standards. There are also less critical differences that are still nice touches such as internal cable routing, braces between the chainstay and seatstay to offset braking forces, direct mount front derailleur mounts, and some sort of additional accommodations for the routing of dropper post remotes. Entry level frames can also have shorter tubes to allow a more relaxed (as in upright) riding position that will be less desirable as your skill increases.

    If you're going to get a nicer fork, I can't imagine doing so without also wanting to use a through axle in either QR15 or 20mm. A lower end bikes is almost certainly going to have standard 9mm QR wheels, so that will mean a front hub upgrade (and relacing it into the existing rim with new spokes at the very least) at a minimum, but more than likely, it would be the best time to also upgrade the wheelset, so that will need to be done at that time. That is going to be a major chink of change with a decent upgrade on a fork is going to start in the neighborhood of $300 to $400 just for the fork, and wheelsets worth buying are going to be at least $200. That is $500 to $600 that will need to be spent all at one time.

    Another similar situation will occur with the drivetrain as most entry level bikes will have 8 speed or 9 speed drivetrains. Upgrading to nicer new drivetrains will necessitate a move to 10 speed as even nicer 9 speed drivetrains are going the way of the dodo bird. That means at a minumum, the shifters, derailleurs, chain and cassette will all have to be done at once. If you're on 8 speed (most likely to be the case with a $600 bike), that will be best to change the crankset/chainrings as well.

    An upgrade of brakes to anything worthy of spending money on, will also be a chunk of change in the neighborhood of at least $200+/- for hydraulic or $100 for BB7 mechanical disc brakes.

    Now, let's look at getting a bike like the Airborne Goblin for $1,149. It comes with a Rock Shox REBA fork, X.7 drivetrain, and Decent hydraulic brakes. The biggest 'meh' for me would be that the fork has standard 9mm QR dropouts. Not ideal, but I could live with them.

    Bottom line is that if you have the means to be upgrading, you'll be far better off to buy more bike up front. So, money is an issue here or you'd be able to just get the better biker bike now, but you will have the money to upgrade as time goes on. My advice is to ride what you have and only replace what breaks with modest parts that will get you by for the time being. Save up for a bit for a nicer bike down the road.

    Good luck.
    I agree 99.9%. lol Like I said, I've been in the industry for 20 years. and I really am not an advocate for buying low and upgrading high for 99% of the reasons you mentioned. I see a lot of bike owners get stuck in this mindset and when you compare apples to apples, it really doesn't add up. Especially since a majority of noobs won't have the knowledge or the tools to completely service/build up their bike with these "upgrades". I get parts at cost and do every upgrade myself, and I still CAN'T upgrade my bike to make sense. My bike is XT/SLX. If I upgraded to XTR it would nearly cost me the entire purchase price of the bike. For what? To save a 1lb maybe 1.5lbs?

    Buying a bike with the intent of upgrading the crap out of it later is never a good option(with a few exceptions). Buy a nice little $700-$800 bike with something like SRAM X5 on it, and then look up the cost of upgrading to X9 or XO components... And that's excluding upgrading wheels and fork.
    Bike Doctor



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