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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    Disk brakes or not?

    Hi I'm new to the forum and looking to purchase a MB used off craigslist. Right now I'm looking at a Cannondale F7 and a Trek 3900 Alpha. Which one do y'all think would be better/more suited for a beginner? Also neither have disc brakes. I am just beginning but am fairly athletic 5'10" 165lbs. Do y'all think disc brakes are necessary for a beginner?

  2. #2
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    From the FAQ section:

    "Do I need disc brakes?
    No, not unless you have issues with rim brakes in general or your rim brakes in particular. Some people are quite happy with their rim brakes and others find that because of their riding environment (terrain and conditions) that rim brakes don't do the required job. You will find that as your terrain gets steeper and your conditions get wetter, disc brakes become more useful. Also some of us live in fairly flat, dry areas and we don't actually need disc brakes all the time but we want them for the times we do travel to steeper and wetter areas. Just don't get caught up in it - unless you want to, or need to of course. If you’re a heavy rider (200 pounds or more) you will certainly benefit."



    "Are disc brakes better than rim brakes?

    Usually our braking performance is limited more by the friction between tire and trail than by the friction between pad and rim. If we can lock up a wheel, then locking it up using less power is hardly much of an improvement. But the gain here would be during long descents where less finger pressure would lead to less arm strain. With disc brakes the maker gets to make the whole package - pads, rotor, lever, cylinders - so they can engineer them to compliment each other with minimum compromise. The limiting factor with rim brakes has got to be the soft alloy rims and pads that surrender stopping ability because of their needed softness necessary to prevent damage to these rims. Another limiting factor is their closeness to the water and mud that we ride through.

    But we do find that power, modulation (smooth application of that power), longevity, adjustability are generally better with disc brakes. Disc brakes suffer far less than rim brakes in poor conditions."


    Hope that helps!

  3. #3
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    For a beginner they are perfectly fine. I feel that disc brakes are very overrated unless you ride a lot in muddy conditions (which you shouldn't be doing anyway due to trail damage) or are doing long, steep descents, which you probably won't be doing a whole lot as a beginner.

    I just went from a trek 4500 (rim brakes) to a bike with mid-level discs, and honestly in the conditions I ride in there's really not a huge difference except for the ease of pull

  4. #4
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    I ride with XT level V-brakes. These were high level brakes from 2003 when discs were not standard. So they perform very well and are pretty light. I find no need to change to discs since I run in the desert with little to no rain.
    Joe
    2003 KHS Alite 4000 26" Hardtail - XC, All mountain, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  5. #5
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    Re: Disk brakes or not?

    Disc is definitely nice but v brakes will do the job just fine. Just ask any trials rider.

  6. #6
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    Re: Disk brakes or not?

    I skid off the trail just the same with rim brakes or disc brakes.

  7. #7
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    V-brakes are highly underrated. They stop just as well as discs in most conditions, except mud (when you shouldn't be on the trail anyway ). The biggest problem with v-brakes these days is fork and wheel compatibility. "Good" forks with v-brake posts are harder to find, so "upgrading" may require buying a set of disc brakes and maybe a new front wheel too.
    Surly Cross Check: fat tire roadie
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  8. #8
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    You know, my current bike has V-brakes, and I can definitely vouch for the statement from the FAC stating that friction between the tires and the trail is a much bigger deal. Pretty much the only time I can't completely lock up my wheels is if I've just ridden through a stream and my rims are wet. Even then, I usually just make sure I get on the brakes early or even preemptively, and I regain full friction in no time. I will be going with disc brakes on my next bike because they are nice, and I have the money, but if I found a bike I really liked and it didn't have disc brakes, that definitely would not be a deal breaker.

  9. #9
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    the real problem with rim brakes is parts compatibility. It's harder to find parts for rim brakes now as everyone is discs. If you're buying used, you should be able to get a disc bike no problem. Anything is with rim brakes is too old to buy used unless you really know what you're doing. What are the asking prices and model years of the bikes you are looking at. Keep it mine 90% of CL bikes are overpriced.

  10. #10
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    v-brakes work just fine and if set properly will lock up your tires efficiently and allow a good amount of modulation. Good quality (this being key) disc brakes are nice though for a number of reasons.

    Are they necessary for a beginner (or most riders) though? Absolutely not. I'm guessing that if you progress past the beginner stage, you'll upgrade your bike at some point anyway. Others have mentioned that you may run into issues if you want to upgrade your fork to a mid-high end model, but are you realistically going to do that? I would guess that you'd probably just upgrade the whole bike instead.

  11. #11
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    i love my big shiny disc's but the V's on my old bike were pretty kick ass too
    for a 2nd hand bike if they still work they will do just fine till the bug bites and you buy a new bike anyway lol

  12. #12
    local trails rider
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    Quote Originally Posted by bolandjd View Post
    V-brakes are highly underrated. They stop just as well as discs in most conditions, except mud (when you shouldn't be on the trail anyway ).
    Close enough...

    ... except for the riding on wet/muddy trails thing, which depends on your location.
    In some areas, riding on soft trails can lead to catastrophic erosion - in many others, the only drawbak is that you need to clean the bike afterwards.
    Ask the natives, if you don't know.

    "it IS possible that you are faster or slower than anybody else who is having at least as much if not more or less fun"

  13. #13
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    Brakes are overrated. Buy a bike and rip them off! I really can go fast on my trails that way!

    But really, they hit the nail on the head. Depends on your riding conditions. Discs are fantastic and they look sexy on a bike. But V-Brakes do the job well too. If you're a newb, start cheap and feel out what you like and want in a bike.

  14. #14
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    An advantage of disc brakes is that even if the rim gets tweaked a bit, the brake does not rub as with a rim brake. However, I find wheels with discs to be a bit harder to install.

    Also, if you want two sets of wheels, there is an added expense for a rotor.

  15. #15
    local trails rider
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    A rotor doesn't have to cost all that much.

    Also, depending on conditions, rim brakes cause wear on the rims, so you may have to get new rims or wheels earlier. The more mud and grit you have between rim and pad, the more quicky your rims wear down.

    "it IS possible that you are faster or slower than anybody else who is having at least as much if not more or less fun"

  16. #16
    Ride the dream
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    As so many people have stated - conditions are very important.

    I'd suggest that how fussy you are about modulation (if you're relatively green, probably not much) will also be a factor - a good set of properly adjusted (and bedded in) hydraulics will generally allow for much more control than even the best Vbrakes in almost any condition (IMHO), cheap hydraulic or mechanical disks not so much.

  17. #17
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    Alright thanks everybody for your replies to my question! I did buy the Trek 3900 Alpha with V-brakes for $150, dude threw in some shimano clip pedals and shoes and a brand new saddle too. Barely used bike. IMO excellent price for a beginning bike and as I won't be riding in the mud/rain I'm not worried about the stopping power. The brakes will throw me off the bike if I pull too hard. I'm excited to get out on the trails.

  18. #18
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    Happy riding wacobkr )

  19. #19
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    If you are interested in MTB trail riding I would try to hold out for something with disc brakes. I prefer Hydro disks for there feel even though more maintenance is required. You can def trail ride without them but they are superior for braking in just about every way. I was a beginner when I nabbed a hydro disked full susp 3 years ago and havnt looked back. I learn how to work on it and love riding it.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brycetron View Post
    If you are interested in MTB trail riding I would try to hold out for something with disc brakes.
    Why?

  21. #21
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    Congratulations on your bike purchase,
    go out and ride that bike and have fun!!!!!
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  22. #22
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    I think $150 for a decent bike is a great deal!

    I have ridden low grade V brakes and low grade mechanical discs, and I can say without a doubt I prefer the discs, but you just can't beat that price.

    For me I either feel like I have better control with the discs, or I actually do.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by 8iking VIIking View Post
    Why?

    I pretty much said why in the same post. But to clarify. Much better modulation out of hydro disks. Instead of just being more of a on/off type of brake you can actually gradually apply more pressure easier. Mech disk brakes still suffer from more of an on/off feel, at least in my experience. Muddy/dusty terrain doesnt effect rotors as bad as your wheels = better braking surface.

  24. #24
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    So, to you v-brake guys, any recommendations for good replacement pads?

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by akaHector View Post
    So, to you v-brake guys, any recommendations for good replacement pads?
    I have liked Cool Stop, Avid Rim Wrangler (if they still make them) and Shimano XT (if they still make them)

    The two most important parts of v-brakes are the pads. Don't skimp on them. In my experience, the most significant difference performance-wise between a $20 v-brake and a $120 v-brake is the pads (good ones cost $10-$25 per wheel, depending on if you are getting the whole brake pad assembly or just the shoe insert).
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

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