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.
mtn. biking 101
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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    Idea! Best Mountain bike under $500?!

    Hi everyone.

    I'm literally completely new to mountain biking and I am on a pretty tight budget. Looking to find a decent bike for $500 or less. So far I have narrowed it down to the

    Trek Marlin 5 - Marlin 5 - Trek Bicycle

    Specialized Hardrock-
    Specialized Bicycle Components

    or The Diamondback Reponse even though it is a little bit more. -
    Diamondback Bicycles - 2014 Response 29


    Which of these would you recommend or is there another bike that will better fit my needs?

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    The forks on these all lack any rebound damping. That's fine for bike paths and dirt roads. They pogo on faster downhills when going over multiple bumps. Look for a bike with a Suntour fork with hydraulic lockout. Those forks use the lockout cartridge for fixed or adjustable rebound damping. Rockshox forks all have rebound damping. An air fork is a further upgrade.

    Two bikes for trails--
    Airborne Bicycles. Guardian 2.0
    Marin Bobcat Trail 29 2014

    If you want to start under $500 and upgrade the fork later if you need it, the Bike Direct Gravity Point 1 is $419.
    Save up to 60% off new Mountain Bikes - MTB - Gravity 29Point1 29er Mountain Bikes
    Suntour offers a loyalty upgrade program for a Raidon air fork 2 pounds lighter then the "X" series forks for $200.

  3. #3
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    You may want to check used bikes if you have someone who could help you make a final decision. I myself don't trust buying used online but right now is a great time to buy a used bike from a sports equipment re-sale outfit because of the season, especially if you live in a mountain sports town.

  4. #4
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    +1 on the Airborne. I did a lot of searching when looking for the same price range and they by far have the best components (X7, Rockshox, Hydraulic brakes) than any other bikes in that price range. Either that or search for a used bike to get your feet wet. Good luck and welcome to a great sport.

  5. #5
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    I would test ride as many bikes as you can, even if you have to drive to the next town to visit another LBS. Buy the one that feels the best for you. The more you like it the more you will ride.
    Yes you can get more bang for your buck buying used but if you are new to biking then a brand new bike will get you out there riding ASAP "Plug-n-Play". Plus you should have the support of the LBS you picked the bike up from to help you along the way..

    RIDE!!!!!!!!!!!
    Ride MORE = Live Longer
    Love Dirt / Hate Pavement

  6. #6
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    True most bike shops do offer a lot of help with the bike that first year and that's a pretty essential key to not only getting you out there but keeping you out there after that first year. I always buy new from a local shop simply for that reason, I just bought used my first year because I had friends that were pretty serious and the tech wasn't so advanced back then.

  7. #7
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    I think the bikes you listed might have lower end specs. For that budget you might be able to get something used with better specs for the price.

    If you're considering Diamondback Bikes and mail order, have you looked at the Diamondback Overdrive Sport as well:

    Amazon.com : Diamondback Bicycles 2014 Overdrive Sport Mountain Bike with 29-Inch Wheels : Hardtail Mountain Bicycles : Sports & Outdoors

    Nashbar sells it as well and have 20% off deals every once in a while. But for the Overdrive Sport it brings it to about the same price that Amazon has above. (about $450). And I'm not sure the next time Nashbar will have a discount.

    When I looked into it before I think the difference is that the Overdrive is a cross country bike like the Hardrock. And the Response is more of a downhill bike. I might have the part about the Response mixed up with another bike or wrong term.

    I think the specs are a bit better than the Response you linked to. Personally I probably wouldn't consider hydraulic brakes due to need and maintenance. But a lot of people prefer them and the Overdrive sport comes with Hydraulics and it looks like that Response doesn't.

    But if shop support matters to you, you can maybe see if a store will match Amazon's price or meet you somewhere in between.

    I'm fairly certain that the Hardrock SE linked above has the lower end specs. Specifically a freewheel hub versus a cassette. There was a post on here where someone posted pics describing the difference and the issues between them but I only came across it once and couldn't find it anymore. The basic thought about it is that freewheel isn't as durable as cassette and would be harder to upgrade because it'll require replacing the entire wheel.

    If you end up getting a bike with a freewheel (like I ended up doing), I'm sure you'll still have a blast on your bike. But if you have a choice in purchasing go with a cassette hub. It might not be exact or accurate but if I can't easily tell what type of rear hub a bike has from specs listed, I generally look to see if it's a 21 speed bike or has 7 speed shifters. If it does, I take it to mean that it's a freewheel. So try to go for something with 8 speed shifters and/or 24 speed and chances are that's a sign that it's a cassette.

    Here's a link that I came across recently that has good information on buying a bike:
    Noob Buyer's Guide

    I didn't find it until recently but it contains a lot of information that I used to look for consolidated into one thread. ie the hierarchy of components, etc.

    btw the Hardrock has a different wheel size (26") versus the other two (29"). Did you determine what size wheels you want and considered the 27.5" wheel options as well?

    Also as others mentioned in this forum, when it comes to budget don't forget to take into account accessories. Where I think that almost came out to be $100 for me, with the helmet, lock, pump, etc.

  8. #8
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    I concur with Lightyear..check out CL..you can probably get a much better MTB..albeit, might be a few years old..but realistically, and everyone does, you'll upgrade soon..you'll get more mileage..and fun..getting as much bike as you can off the bat.

  9. #9
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    I would advice against buying used unless you have someone experienced to help you spot what may need work. A used bike can easily turn into a money pit.
    Unless you are buying 1-2 years old, in which case there really won't be that big of an upgrade in components.

    It's like telling a 1st time car buyer to go buy a used car alone, you just don't do it.

    In anycase I got a GT Backwoods and upgraded it as a I saw fit. Right now it's sitting with an upgraded air fork and tires. For the money I spent ($650) it's hard to beat the performance of the fork.

  10. #10
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    As has already been mentioned the Airborne Guardian is a fantastic bike at $599 delivered.

    That said, if you could provide some insight into your desired use, we can give more specific recommendations.
    '14 Giant Anthem Advanced 27.5

  11. #11
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    Of the bikes you listed, the Diamondback
    Look at the Overdrive line too.
    Airborne is a good buy.

    But,....
    Go to competitive cyclist website and use the fit calculator.
    With those numbers, go to the manufacturer's website and look at the geometry.
    This will give you a good baseline on what size bike will fit.
    A high level bike that doesn't fit is worse than a entry level bike that does fit And i'm not just talking about how it rides, you can damage your body (knees, back, neck).

    With information in hand, head to the bike shop and test ride the bikes!
    In a nutshell, entry level bikes are pretty much all the same component-wise. There is some performance differences but unless you are a experienced rider, chances are you will not notice the difference.

    I ride a Diamondback Overdrive. This last summer it was warrantied and replaced with this bike
    Diamondback Bicycles - 2014 Overdrive only difference on spec sheet is mine came with Promax brakes, not the Tektro as listed. At first I wasn't sure about it as my previous bike had SRAM and this one has Shimano. Guess what, works the same. shifts the same, the only negative is the Shimano integrated brake/shift levers. Thats only a negative if you plan on piecemeal upgrading parts. I don't. Any upgrading will be a new bike or replacing broken/worn out parts.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by asanatheist View Post
    I would advice against buying used unless you have someone experienced to help you spot what may need work. A used bike can easily turn into a money pit.
    Unless you are buying 1-2 years old, in which case there really won't be that big of an upgrade in components.

    It's like telling a 1st time car buyer to go buy a used car alone, you just don't do it.

    In anycase I got a GT Backwoods and upgraded it as a I saw fit. Right now it's sitting with an upgraded air fork and tires. For the money I spent ($650) it's hard to beat the performance of the fork.
    You have a point insofar that if one has no clue about bikes then buying used can be risky. But most people who want to get into mountain biking know some other people who know something about bikes. You can also ask a LBS mechanic to check out a bike for you. That will probably run ~$30 or so but will give a buyer a good idea about the state of the bike. The online bike blue book can verify that the used bike isn't overpriced.

    My first "real" Mountain bike purchase was a 2007 aluminum 26er Stumpjumper FSR. At the time about $3k. I put several thousand miles on the bike before understanding many of its compromises and have moved on and on and on to different bikes. The bike is well maintained with Avid brakes, mix of SLX, XT and XTR components and rebound adjustable Fox fork and shock. It weighs 27#. As a 7 year old 26er big manufacturer (Specialized) bike there is no way I could ever sell it for more than $500. Yet I'd argue that there is no bike out there for less than $1k that you can buy new that could come close in performance to that 7 year old Stumpjumper. I would have no hesitation guiding a friend to buy such a used bike versus any new bike that costs 50% or even 100% more.

    If the bike must be new then I'd also recommend the Airborne.

    Bottom line if you are selective but aren't obsessed by wheel size, newness or the latest greatest components you can get some pretty darn good used bikes for $500.

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