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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    First post... need some suggestions

    Hello all, very first post here.

    About 3 months ago I dusted off my 1995 Trek 820 (bought it new) and started riding again. My riding has been mainly green type trails for exercise. I do a 10 mile loop at a local park every few days. It's pretty flat, trails are fairly smooth and compact. There are some sandy areas.

    I'm just under 6' and 195 lbs. I've got a dirt bike background and mostly ride trails, etc. Not really any MX stuff. Offroad riding is not new to me. I search for the right lines, etc. and know my way around trails (on the east coast). However, offroad mtb is fairly new to me.

    Several weeks ago, I tried out a 29" Specialized Rockhopper. I found the *new* disc brakes to be very nice. The 29" wheel seemed decent and most of all the front fork felt great! Never experienced that on a MTB before... Nice!

    The 19" on the specialized bikes seemed to be about right for me. I think the 17.5" bikes might be a tad small, but I guess I wouldn't rule them out.

    I also tried out a large framed Cannondale Trail 6. Didn't like that bike at all. Did one loop in the parking lot and promptly returned it. Maybe it was too big for me, I don't know. Felt like I was splayed out. Front wheel felt too far forward. Think you guys call that slack geometry... ?

    To end the day, I tried out a 17.5" Stumpjumper comp HT (didn't have a 19"). Wow. Geometry felt really good. It was really light, fast, components felt crisp and clean. The front fork felt a lot better than the rockhopper. So, I think I discovered the baseline for my component level... I don't have any interest in the entry level stuff.

    A few days later I tried out some Trek bikes and just couldn't find anything comparable (feel, geometry) to that Stumpjumper. The lbs only had entry level models for me to try. Stock is pretty low. The closest bike I found was a Jamis 650 with somewhat similar components. Not interested in the 650 stuff. Would like to stick with a 29er.

    Yesterday, I hit some trails that a little more difficult. More roots, rocks, uphill, downhill... would have had fun on my dirt bike! Anyway, it got me wondering if I shouldn't consider a FS bike. I would say that 80-90% of my riding I wouldn't need FS, but the other 10-20%, damn it would be nice.

    So, I have two questions...

    What other HT bikes compare to the Stumpjumper Comp HT? Specifically geometry. I'd like to try out as many as possible. I don't have any boutique brands where I live, so we're talking major manufacturers.

    Second, what should I try out for a FS bike (never been on one). I don't want entry level components...

    Additionally, if I do buy a new bike, I'd like to stick to 2014 models for the cost savings.

    Thanks for the help!

  2. #2
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    First, I think you're assessment of frame size is on the money. I'm 6'1" and ride a 19 or 20 (depending on the manufacture). If I were looking for a street trials or jump bike I'd consider smaller perhaps and might go larger for a dedicated touring bike but probably not (due to crank length changes and other adjustments that would require new components). Also, you may want to look at 2013 and older models if a shop near you has a some left over (or you can find one on line). Of my last three bikes two were previous year's models an 11 Fisher Paragon and a 13 Salsa Fargo and the Trek my wife still rides was a Trek 8500 "scratch and dent". Between those three bikes I have saved well over $1K. Sorry you mentioned the 650 wheel size as that usually ignites a firestorm of debate. Welcome back to the sport.
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  3. #3
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    Re: First post... need some suggestions

    The majors are all in direct competition with each other for the same customers. The Stumpjumper hardtail is a XC bike for an athletic rider or racer. Everybody else's 100 mm hardtail at the same pricepoint will be pretty similar. In Trek, I think there's a Superfly hardtail in that bracket that would be more similar.

    In general, full-suspension bikes are much more diverse. There are plenty of entries that you'd see lined up at the same starting line as the Stumpjumper you liked. Expect to spend about $500 more for the same level of components. But FS goes all the way up to 200 mm front and back. Working upwards in travel, first they get a little vague but supposedly more forgiving (120 mm) then they get a faster speed limit on descents and a slacker geometry that makes it easier to lift the front wheel (140 mm and up) while sacrificing more and more balance and trail feel for climbing. By 200 mm, people usually get them to the top with a pickup truck or ski lift. I thought 140 climbed a lot better than I feared, and I haven't ridden 160 on steep enough trails to really comment. They're all getting better at both climbing and descending and travel to riding style isn't a hard and fast rule, more a correlation. More travel tends to also be more expensive. More expensive forks, frames made in smaller production runs. Not sure if shocks get more expensive too, they're typically sold with a bare frame and of course a complete bike is complete.

    So start by taking a stab at what kind of riding you want to do. Don't say "downhill" unless you actually have reasonable access to downhill trails. But there are plenty of guys in my region who mostly ride up hill on logging roads kinda slowly and then shred the descents. I like to spend more of my ride on trails, so I climb them too, and I'm the first to admit I'm not the best descender out there. An XC bike is a great fit for me, but those other dudes are on 140-160 mm of travel if they can afford it. 180+ is generally only used for lift-served or shuttled riding.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  4. #4
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    I think you will find Trek and specialized have very similar Geo. You're ahead of the game knowing your going to have to move on pass the entry level for anything you can hit the trail on. Like Forster said the wheel size is going to be up to personal preference, people have become very intrenched in the wheel size war. As for riding FS vs Hardtail, if I only had one bike it would be a hardtail. Good luck make sure you budget for all the accessories you need as well.
    2010 D440 Redline Rigid 1x9
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post

    So start by taking a stab at what kind of riding you want to do.

    80-90% of my riding will be fairly flat trails for exercise. I'm losing weight and loving that part of it.

    10-20% will be east coast single track.

    I don't have much endurance now. My uphill stuff will be slow. I can do a local 10 mile trail in 40 minutes... that's about all I got and it's pretty flat. I'm not sure how I'll ride small downhill sections. I presume if the suspension and brakes feel good I'll go at a decent clip only because of my dirt bike background. On a dirt bike I'd gas it on the first root and air it out over the others. Not sure if I can do that on a mountain bike or not.

    Does that help?

  6. #6
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    Hey man I just saw your from VA beach what trail are you riding on? The roots are crucial in VA on a hardtail its going to take a lot of body suspension you're going to have to stay physical on the bike. Some trails are just all roots but the VA beach trails are not as bad as say Richmond. There aren't many long climbs in the entire area. You won't see any sustained climbs unless your heading past Charlottesville. I would say my favorite trail in VA so far is a tie between fountainhead and JRPS.
    2010 D440 Redline Rigid 1x9
    2011 Trek Remedy 8 1x10
    2012 Jamis Dragon 2x10
    2013 Diamondback Sortie 3 1x10

  7. #7
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    I'm doing the 10 mile loop at First Landing State Park for exercise because it's close. I start at the north park entrance and then bike to the 64th street entrance and then loop around to the water and then back. A little more sand there than I like, but what can you do. There's one spot I can't peddle through, have to push the bike.

    Did some trails at York River State Park yesterday (near Williamsburg.) That's about 1 hour from me depending on traffic. I'm really only scratching the surface there. Need to get back and do a little more exploring... I know what you mean about roots. That's what made me think I should consider a FS bike, but I don't know. Seems like it might be overkill on my close to home riding.

    Heard good things about Freedom park, but I haven't been there.

    Will check out the trails you mentioned. Never been on them.

  8. #8
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    Trek and Specialized have different geo. Spec feels quick and light in the parking lot on flat ground. That comes from a steep head tube angle. This changes as you hit bumps at speed going downhill into twitchiness unless you are on the front with strong concentration on your line.
    From your background you may be a rider who likes that kind of handling.
    The Trek Superfly has new geo this year. It's fast steering with 435mm chainstays/51mm offset but more stable with 69.6* slack(for XC) ht angle on downhills. You don't have to be over the front all the time. I'm on that bike and it works for my style.
    The carbon Superfly 9.6 has engineered compliance at a lower price, weight and maintenance than a fs bike.

  9. #9
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    Re: First post... need some suggestions

    Quote Originally Posted by DirtViking View Post
    80-90% of my riding will be fairly flat trails for exercise. I'm losing weight and loving that part of it.

    10-20% will be east coast single track.

    I don't have much endurance now. My uphill stuff will be slow. I can do a local 10 mile trail in 40 minutes... that's about all I got and it's pretty flat. I'm not sure how I'll ride small downhill sections. I presume if the suspension and brakes feel good I'll go at a decent clip only because of my dirt bike background. On a dirt bike I'd gas it on the first root and air it out over the others. Not sure if I can do that on a mountain bike or not.

    Does that help?
    LOL, doesn't help much. Let's get aspirational - in 2-3 weeks, when you've got some more time in the saddle and trundling up and down the flat stuff is boring, what kind of riding would you like to do?

    After all, if it was only about exercise, you could ride a stationary bike. They're all over Craig's List for a couple hundred dollars. There's something else that pulls us to MTB.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    There's something else that pulls us to MTB.
    2 worlds: Adrenaline rush!

    Welcome to mtbr OP!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    LOL, doesn't help much. Let's get aspirational - in 2-3 weeks, when you've got some more time in the saddle and trundling up and down the flat stuff is boring, what kind of riding would you like to do?

    After all, if it was only about exercise, you could ride a stationary bike. They're all over Craig's List for a couple hundred dollars. There's something else that pulls us to MTB.
    I see what you're looking for.

    The draw to mtb, is the same draw I have to dirt bikes. Riding singletrack as fast as my ability will allow. I kind of need to be right on the edge. Not dangerous, just close enough to be safe. A finely tuned suspension is a thing of beauty. Feeling it soak up roots, rocks, bumps, etc. that would be cool. Being in balance with a machine. Learning to ride faster. Learning to be in better control. Having that front tire absolutely planted in a fast turn. Having confidence that it will hold its traction.

    I've got to get some air over anything. Might be a small root or a lame bump, but I'll make it into something. Big air, no thanks. Don't have the desire for that. Body wouldn't hold up anyhow.

    I've raced dirt bikes before and part of me wants to try a MTB race. Adrenaline, passing someone, beating someone... anyone, finishing, exhaustion, achievement, is the kind of stuff that gets me going. Probably got no reason doing that... Bad knees, bad back, bad endurance, broken ribs, sprained thumb, should slow me down, but it doesn't and it won't.

    That's what I'd like to do... Or should I say, that's the type of stuff I'd like to experience.

    Is that any closer?
    1995 Trek 820

  12. #12
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    Check with your shops about any factory demos or other opportunity to demo a few bikes on trails.
    Or just get the Superfly 9.6 and start racing.

  13. #13
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    OP, now we're talking.

    I hear XC, but in the old-school, like-you-mean-it sense, not the current euphemism for not really mountain biking sense, in what you're saying. But I love XC, so I could just be reading that in.

    People race all sorts of bikes in all sorts of races, but I think it does work better to have a good match - XC for XC and endurance, bigger bikes for Enduro, Super-D, DH, and Dual Slalom and Four Cross. Ask around a bit and see what's available for you. In my region, I think the majority of mountain bike racing is still XC, but the margin's shrinking - we've got a fair amount of endurance and enduro, and a little super-D. XC and endurance racing are almost always massed start, with XC being a much punchier kind of racing. People take joy hops and drop small- to moderate-sized ledges in XC all the time, but you shouldn't run into any big air.

    Anyway, if I'm reading you right, hop on a bunch of XC race bikes and buy your favorite. I'd be a bad fanboy if I didn't shout out the Kona Hei Hei. For disclaimer, I didn't get it at retail.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  14. #14
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    Sounds like a hardtail would do for you at first, but if you're like me you quickly get to the point where you're riding rougher trails very defensively so as not to wreck your new bike. If I were you I'd buy an older FS bike with 140-150 mm travel and fix it up. That'll be cheaper than buying new and you may well end up with a nicer bike as well. Hope this helps!

  15. #15
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    This is an interesting discussion, I rarely see people recommending XC race bikes as first bikes to someone with a moto background. I'm not sure I'm going to jump on that wagon just yet, myself.

    To me, pinning corners, slaying roots, and catching air are not strong suits of XC race bikes; they're a bit too twitchy for my tastes. Of course, competitive racing is one of the furthest things from my mind when I get on a bike (except enduro, I'm missing the Wasatch Enduro this weekend and kind of wish I could give it a run). Race bikes are made to be suffered upon, I think what you might prefer would be a good ol' fashion trail bike.

    The Stumpjumper Evo HT has a 4" travel fork which makes it a little less twitchy, little more trail oriented. The Kona Honzo or Explosif are pretty wild little bikes. Trek has the Stache which, while I've not rode it, looks great. All these bikes are built (to one degree or another) to hit the trails rather than top the podium. Bikes made with the express purpose of going fast (Superfly, the non-Evo SJs) make concessions in other aspects in order to eek out the most speed available. Steep angles, aggressive posture, and light weight parts all round out a package which takes more concentration to really attack technical trails successfully. The more relaxed "trail" (or AM or enduro, or whatever the hell they'll call them next model year) bikes on the other hand are not as efficient as their race counterparts but are more forgiving and more fun when the trail gets rough. I would argue that for the majority of riders they will be faster and have more fun on a trail bike than on a race bike, which means that for anyone who doesn't already have advanced bike skills that they will be faster on a bike they are comfortable on rather than a bike considered a "race" bike and therefore have better race results.

    One note of caution I will add is that you're new to this. Stop making assumptions on what wheel size you do or don't want, what components you do or don't want. Start making decisions on what kind of riding you'll enjoy, make decisions on places you'd like to go or trails you'd like to try. It's hard at this point to know for sure, but watch some videos, read trail descriptions, and try to understand what's available to you. Talk to the guys at your local shops about what bikes are good for the types of riding that's around you or the types of riding you'd like to do. It won't do you any good to spend $5k on an Epic when all you want to do is ride the lifts at Snowshoe. I ride 26" wheels on a 7" travel bike in a town where everyone else seems to ride hardtail 29" bikes; do you want to know why: because I like that bike so freaking much. When I get into the types of trails which I enjoy the most, that 7" travel bike shines like a diamond, everywhere else it might as well be any other bike.

    What you need to do is ride everything that you can get your hands on in your price range. Go back and ride that Jamis 650b, go find a full suspension bike or two near your price range and see what that's like. And even better: go find a dirt demo or a shop that offers demo bikes. It was stated pretty well above that the Treks and Specialized bikes will feel much different at high and low speeds because of their differing geometries. Once you find a bike that you like, try it going fast and slow. Run over something with it; take it onto dirt (assuming that the shop is ok with that, some aren't), take it onto gravel, ride done some stairs, bring your helmet.

    Well, that went on longer than I had initially planned...
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  16. #16
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    I appreciate the responses from everyone.

    I'll need to digest the information a bit more before commenting.

    I did try out a 19" Specialized Crave Comp today. I liked it. I felt it was very similar to the Stumpjumper Comp HT I tried the other day. For giggles, I jumped on another 19" Rockhopper. I just don't like how that bike feels. Again, I felt splayed out. I'm not into that type of riding position...
    1995 Trek 820

  17. #17
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    Must have been something about the setup. I'm too lazy to double-check, but IIRC, the geometry among the different Specialized hardtails is extremely similar.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  18. #18
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    Are you set on Specialized? I ride a Giant Trance X 29er, and LOVE it. It's a FS, more of an all-mountain style riding bike. It can handle the XC stuff but also can make a jump feel smooth and professional. I'm like you, I like some air but I'm not trying to see what's going on above the clouds by any means (I jump mine anywhere from 1 to 4.5 feet in height.) Going off of your dirtbiking background is what made me post this. I don't have a dirtbike background, but three of my friends do. They've all ridden my Trance X, and literally their first words were "Whoa. This feels like a dirtbike." So it might be something worth trying if there's a Giant dealer in your area. Plus if you want the hardtail feel, you could lock the rear up when you wanted. Good luck in your choice, but there's my $0.02.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by ColeSJ View Post
    Are you set on Specialized? I ride a Giant Trance X 29er, and LOVE it. It's a FS, more of an all-mountain style riding bike. It can handle the XC stuff but also can make a jump feel smooth and professional. I'm like you, I like some air but I'm not trying to see what's going on above the clouds by any means (I jump mine anywhere from 1 to 4.5 feet in height.) Going off of your dirtbiking background is what made me post this. I don't have a dirtbike background, but three of my friends do. They've all ridden my Trance X, and literally their first words were "Whoa. This feels like a dirtbike." So it might be something worth trying if there's a Giant dealer in your area. Plus if you want the hardtail feel, you could lock the rear up when you wanted. Good luck in your choice, but there's my $0.02.
    I'm not set on Specialized. It's just that it's the only bike I've been on that's felt right.

    I'm glad you brought up that Giant bike and your dirt riding friends. That's good stuff. Not sure I want to take a leap to FS just yet, but I may. My area is pretty lame when it comes to a good stock of higher than entry level mtb's. I've been trying to find a Trek Superfly in the area to test ride and no one has one. Of course, if I buy one, they'll have it here in 2 days... I've asked about the Giant HT models but only the base models are kept in stock, from what I can tell. I'll keep my eye out for that Trance.

    Saw one on CL, but the frame is too small for me and it is a 26". Seemed like it was way overpriced, like all the CL stuff in this area...

    Thanks again for the info.
    1995 Trek 820

  20. #20
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    First post... need some suggestions

    Yea no problem, if you decide to get one now or later I'm sure you'll love it. I started out just 'riding for exercise' in March. Now I'm entering races, hitting jumps, putting in around 100 miles a week. I started on an $80 Schwinn sidewinder (also overpriced) and upgraded to this Trance in the last week of May. I don't regret my extreme transition at all, it makes you a better rider and allows you to try trails and areas you never thought you could handle. A nice hardtail is next on my list though. It'll be a while, as I'm a college student, but it is on my list. Probably a Giant Talon.


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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by DirtViking View Post
    ...and it is a 26".
    ...grumble
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  22. #22
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    Tried out a 2014 Specialized Camber Comp 29 (Large) today. It was my first ride on a FS bike. It was definitely nice! Suspension soaked up everything. Rode over roots, stumps anything I could find. Quite happy with the handling. It's really got me thinking... I can definitely envision myself having fun on this bike. Overkill for my boring exercise route, but might be money on the trails.

    I actually thought the brakes on the bike were pretty good. No issues there. The SRAM X5 shifters didn't feel quite as good as the X7 stuff on the HT Stumpy I tried out. Not quite and clean and crisp. I guess that means the derailleurs as well.

    The front forks were not set to my weight. Is it a big deal to demo a bike and ask them to set the fork to your weight??? They didn't offer and I was running out of time. Will probably go back and ask, if that's a common request.

    MSRP is $2600... I didn't even ask and they came down to $2300. What price is decent for that bike as it's a 2014? Is 2K realistic? 2100?

    Think I finally found a shop that I like (out of 6 places). Everyone is pretty straightforward and seem to be eager to move inventory. One of the salespeople is a MTB and road racer. He showed me a video of himself tearing up a mountain trail. It was cool. Seems to know his stuff. He thinks a FS Stumpy (which he owns) or Camber is the way to go in our local area. According to him, it can handle anything nearby or the mountains in the western part of the state and can be raced as well. He told me about an upcoming race in August about 45 minutes away. Going to have to check out the trails. He races AA Expert, or something like that.

    Going to hit another shop tomorrow that deals in Giant, GT and Fuji. Will see what they have...
    1995 Trek 820

  23. #23
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    First post... need some suggestions

    Can't wait to hear back on your Giant testing! I would definitely ask if they can set it to your weight. You're about to drop 2000+ in their shop, I would hope they wouldn't mind adjusting it.


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  24. #24
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    I've had X5 Sram and it sucks compared to the X7 and above. I know what you mean by crisp shifting. I won't buy anything but x7 and above from now on. I've raced some Cat 3 stuff on a Hardtail and wished I had FS bike. I too am casually looking for an upgraded rig. Glad you are trying out all these bikes and not settling. IF I was a betting man I bet you'll be torn between Giant and Specialized Camber Comp.

  25. #25
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    Tried out a 2014 Trek Fuel Ex 7 29er (19"). For the most part, I liked it. The suspension was set a lot closer to my weight than the camber I tried yesterday. It felt pretty good. It was a bike I wanted to ride more than just a few minutes. Brakes felt good. Shifting felt ok, but it needed a tune. Not sure I'm convinced I need a 3 X 10 setup. Think I might agree with most that 2 X 10 might be better. I did everything I could in the parking lot, but really needed some trail conditions to make a better assessment. If I had to choose today, I'd probably go with this bike. To be fair, the camber suspension wasn't set for my weight (way too soft) so I'll go back and let them dial the bike in for me to try again.

    That same shop had a Pivot bike in there, but it was at a much higher price point. IIRC, it was $3800 and was already marked down $900.

    Couldn't find a Giant bike in my size. Really no inventory in this area... Will keep looking.

    Tried to test ride a GT Sensor, but the guy wanted a credit card, a waiver signed, a helmet and I can't remember what else. Kind of lost interest. First time I've been asked for that... Not sure I like the shop anyway, so it was easy to walk.
    1995 Trek 820

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