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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    Hardtail Options for Next Year Around 2-2.5k Budget

    Hello everyone, here's the story. I bought a used Trek 3700 to get into riding and have been having a blast so far, but my first beginner trail experience was slightly scary. Speed + a root followed by a six inch drop off had me bouncing to the side of the trail for an emergency stop. I went to a demo yesterday to try other bikes and found out that I really like the higher travel bikes (120-140mm), so now I'm planning my purchase for tax season to be better prepared for next season.

    Myself:
    Location - USA
    Height - 5' 11.5"
    Weight - 240 (hopefully 200-215 by the time of purchase)
    Frame preference - 19-20"
    Expected Riding - Gravel, mud, trails, hopefully growing to advanced trails and pump tracks (very little jumping, no racing)
    Skill level - Low
    Wheel preference - Not 29"

    So far I have demoed the Santa Cruz Chameleon and I tried my buddy's NS Eccentric. I really liked the Chameleon, but I'm skeptical of how long an aluminum frame will last with my weight. The Eccentric was pretty fun, but with it being at the top end of my budget I want to see what else is out there. I love the look of the Cotic BFe (Burly Iron), but that would require sourcing everything and building the bike myself.

    I know that the companies I mentioned have 1 year manufacturer warranties on the frames, but I'm hoping to find a bike that I can grow with for the next few years. Are there any other great options for 26/27.5" hardtails with 120-140mm travel in the $2500 and under price range?

  2. #2
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    Unless you go with something stupid-light, aluminum will generally be fine.

    $2,500 26" hardtails are mostly dead these days, as in not many (if any at all) being made unless it's from the boutique brands.

    Curious why you've ruled put 29" wheels?

    There are several that might fit the bill of what you state to be your preference (other than the size of the hoops). Something like a Canfield Nimble 9 or Yelli Screamy, the new Ibis Tranny 29 w/120mm fork, Diamondback Mason, Niner ROS, Trek Stache, Banshee Paradox, Airborne Goblin EVO, Carver Ti420, and Transition TransAm, to name some of the models that are not your garden variety 29er hardtail XC machine.

    There are more and more 27.5" hardtail offerings being developed and released lately, so I imagine that market will be catching up with 29ers at some point, but I don't think it's quite there yet. I would merely suggest that you keep an open mind, and try some of the offerings mentioned above.

    If you're worried about the wheel strength of 29" wheels vs. smaller wheels, it's simply a non-issue (as is your concern about the durability of aluminum frames), especially for the riding you describe.

  3. #3
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    I did not like the 29ers that I demoed. It would probably be different at speed, but turning the 29ers just wasn't as comfortable. A lot of the local trails have really narrow switchbacks and I'm more comfortable on the 26/27.5s

    You mentioned the diamondbacks which I find interesting. So many people gave me negative attitude when I mentioned diamondback locally because they are a "big box" brand, but I get a killer discount on them. Sadly their 27.5 offerings are minimal, and 100mm travel which I did not like at the demo. If only they offered that 140mm travel on the axis :P

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirden View Post
    You mentioned the diamondbacks which I find interesting. So many people gave me negative attitude when I mentioned diamondback locally because they are a "big box" brand, but I get a killer discount on them. Sadly their 27.5 offerings are minimal, and 100mm travel which I did not like at the demo. If only they offered that 140mm travel on the axis :P
    Don't worry about what other people think. Just because their business model is different and instead of being strictly LBS, they choose to do LBS & big box retail/wholesale. Most hardtails are intended to be used as XC bikes which popularly use 100mm forks. When you start going up in travel, your choices start to thin out rapidly because you want to stay away from 29er's.
    Bike Doctor



  5. #5
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    If you want a long travel hardtail, this thread is a set of beauties.

  6. #6
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    Those are some nice toys. There are a few nice options for 27.5" frames that I could get shipped to the states, but I'm not sure that someone one season in should be trying to build their own bike. I am slightly partial to the 27.5" but this bike caught my attention last night. Supposedly they do free worldwide shipping but I'm not sure if they will ship a complete bike:

    On-One 456 Evo2 Sram X9 Mountain Bike | On - One

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirden View Post
    Those are some nice toys. There are a few nice options for 27.5" frames that I could get shipped to the states, but I'm not sure that someone one season in should be trying to build their own bike. I am slightly partial to the 27.5" but this bike caught my attention last night. Supposedly they do free worldwide shipping but I'm not sure if they will ship a complete bike:

    On-One 456 Evo2 Sram X9 Mountain Bike | On - One
    I've looked admiringly at that bike too. Looking at their page, it seems like they would ship it to you for about $100. You might have to pay some customs duties though, I'm not sure. I'd ask the company if you're interested.

  8. #8
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    I just went through as much as I could of their page and it seems that you are correct about the bike shipping. I'll have to check out the customs duties but I know none of the parts I've bought from England cost anything extra, though they also weren't as large as a bike :P

    Sadly the customize option on their site is not working for me, but I would be interested in seeing what options they have for the evo 650b. As long as the shipping fees don't push it out of my price range, the evo2 or possibly the evo 650b and the chameleon are the two front runners at the moment.

    I had also thought about this bike before my phoebia of aluminum bikes came up. However, after research it seems aluminum will be fine so this may be another option and is designed more for the trail/pump track:

    NS Bikes 2014 - Stay True!

  9. #9
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    Did you not like the full suspension bikes? $2500 is maybe a little hard on a retail long-travel FS, but it's enough for a good trail bike or if you leverage your discount.

    The first thing I did after I rode a full-suspension and liked it was find out what I have a line on and get a hold of one to demo. I really love my shiny new bike. Given what I was comfortable spending, I was going to have to like the Specialized Camber Comp 29 hundreds of dollars better than the Kona Hei Hei Deluxe, which retails for more. This was last year, so the '13 models - Kona has changed things up some, and I don't think I'd have been able to stomach "my" price on the current Hei Hei DL.

    So in your shoes, I think I'd be looking a little more closely at some of the Diamondback offerings that touch on the specific thing you're looking for right now - maybe the Mason, Mason FS, and Mission FS, and it looks like the Sortie has gotten a bit taller too. Maybe one of those bikes will really sell itself to you if you give it a shot.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  10. #10
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    I did take a look at the diamondback offerings, but I'm really trying to stay away from the 29er hardtails so that knocks out the Mason which is their only hardtail with more than 100mm travel. If I go with a full suspension I can get a Mission 2.0 for 1750. Have to love the discount but I have not tried out any FS bikes yet. I'm looking for a bike that will last for a while without too much major maintenance and the extra moving parts seems like I would be asking for trouble.

    However, may be worth checking into since I can get their top of the line Mission Pro 27.5" for a little over 3k

  11. #11
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    Demo some full suspension bikes.

    And demo more 29ers.

    I think it may be harder for me to turn mine in a tight circle with my ass planted. But when I'm out of the saddle, I can't say it makes much of a difference.

    Leaning into an uphill switchback is certainly an odd feeling...

    On giving your first post a marginally closer read, pump tracks really call for a little different style of bike. Not that one can't get a Big Bike around them. But there's a reason people have dirt jump bikes.

    It's good that you already have a bike. The first bike's really the hardest. Now you have time to demo lots of different things and really inform yourself - it's not like you're going to lose chunks of the best part of the season waiting. So really, no reason to try to make a decision now. Try to ride all the different bikes you can, and figure it out next winter.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  12. #12
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    $2500 budget next year, look for 2014 closeouts. You can get super awesome deals. I got a $3000 bike for $1700 a few weeks ago. It was a 2013 closeout. Just a thought. Of course brands/models/sizes are hit or miss.
    Quote Originally Posted by Psycle151 View Post
    Friggin' coward. Give me a red chiclet instead of debating like a man. You don't deserve your green blocks.

  13. #13
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    AndrwSwitch, that's the one thing that has me so torn about the NS Clash 1. Geo wise is is closer to a dirt jump bike than any of the others, but it still has decent seat positioning for trail riding. Next year I will be moving in between Nashville and the Kentucky line so I'm hoping to find a pump track and better trails/singletracks than these Georgia swamp trails I have now.

    I could split the budget and grab a DB 2nd Assault and Mission 1.0 27.5". Best of both worlds? :P

  14. #14
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    Here is another bike comparible to the NS Clash 1:

    Instigator 2.0 | Bikes | Surly Bikes

    I found a dealer in Nashville that is a Surly partner so if I haven't decided by the end of the season I will grab one to test/rent when I go up to look for a house. It looks good to m, but the odd tire size makes me think the Clash will be the better bike of the two. So far these are the only two that I could see for trails and pump tracks equally in sub 29" tires.

    I am going to check in with a Kona/Santa Cruz/Cannondale demo Tuesday so I'll try a few 29ers, but I'm not sure I'm getting a real feel for them in a parking lot demo track.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirden View Post
    I did not like the 29ers that I demoed. It would probably be different at speed, but turning the 29ers just wasn't as comfortable. A lot of the local trails have really narrow switchbacks and I'm more comfortable on the 26/27.5s
    Find something with better geometry.
    Many of the trails around here are tight, twisty with lots of switchbacks and the majority of riders here ride 29ers. I wouldn't rule them out yet, you probably just have not been on the right one.

    My Spot Brand Honey Badger is incredibly nimble. It has 100mm of travel which I find to be enough but if you are set on more, check out the Kona Honzo with 120mm.
    Both have steel frames which do a lot for comfort on a hard tail.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirden View Post

    You mentioned the diamondbacks which I find interesting. So many people gave me negative attitude when I mentioned diamondback locally because they are a "big box" brand, but I get a killer discount on them. Sadly their 27.5 offerings are minimal, and 100mm travel which I did not like at the demo. If only they offered that 140mm travel on the axis :P
    I had a DB Overdrive as my first bike. It was an awful piece of sh!t.
    I can't speak for other DB's but mine was horrible.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  16. #16
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    Hardtail Options for Next Year Around 2-2.5k Budget

    Quote Originally Posted by Nubster View Post
    $2500 budget next year, look for 2014 closeouts. You can get super awesome deals. I got a $3000 bike for $1700 a few weeks ago. It was a 2013 closeout. Just a thought. Of course brands/models/sizes are hit or miss.
    Also look at demo-bikes. I got mine at a significant discount and it's in great shape with a few scratches on it. Now I don't have to worry about being the first to get a scratch. I was able to get into a carbon fiber this way 👍


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  17. #17
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    Carbon fiber sounds scary. I know Foundry makes carbon frames with 10 year warranties, but something about being 240lbs flying down a hill on a 2lb tooth pick doesn't seem like a good idea :P

    I'm willing to try out other 29ers, but I don't see me buying one. The roll over factor seems nice, but I won't be rolling over much on pump tracks and I'm not sure how a 29er would perform in that environment.

    I'm just looking for the best possible bike in my price range for a combination of singletrack and pump track. So far the clash 1 and chameleon are at the top of the list, but do any of you know of bikes with similar geo? Sadly there aren't any NS dealers near me so I can't demo one, but I'll get back on a chameleon Tuesday at the pump track demo.

    Santa Cruz Chameleon

    NS Bikes 2014 - Stay True!

  18. #18
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    Re: Hardtail Options for Next Year Around 2-2.5k Budget

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirden View Post
    AndrwSwitch, that's the one thing that has me so torn about the NS Clash 1. Geo wise is is closer to a dirt jump bike than any of the others, but it still has decent seat positioning for trail riding. Next year I will be moving in between Nashville and the Kentucky line so I'm hoping to find a pump track and better trails/singletracks than these Georgia swamp trails I have now.

    I could split the budget and grab a DB 2nd Assault and Mission 1.0 27.5". Best of both worlds? :P
    Don't buy anything until after you move.

    Even with your discount, I bet you see a big drop in value the minute you buy a new bike. They're terrible assets, and it drives me nuts to see people use that language to describe them. About the only way I can see them making financial sense is as commuters or if you start throwing a bunch of intangibles at it, which I find suspect. For me, the value in my bikes is in the joy I get from riding them. Much as I hate to admit it, probably even my commuter - I could always walk or ride the bus.

    So if the money you put into a new bike is just gone, how long do you need to ride it to be comfortable with that? Ten seasons? Five? One? (Seems to be about five for bikes I buy to ride athletically, two for commuters that I'm trying to keep cheap.)

    See where you're at after you move. You don't have to speculate or hope about the kind of riding you'll do. For all you know now, your trail access might even be worse. Maybe you'll want a road bike.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  19. #19
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    Good advice as always AndrwSwitch. + rep for you. Until I get a chance to be on the intended trails and parks there is no way to know which of these bikes will be best for the new area.

    Next month I will know exactly where the new building will be for work so that will determine where I end up moving in a year. I've been looking at trails between Nashville and Bowling Green and there seems to be a lot of diversity. I thought buying the first bike was supposed to be the hard part

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirden View Post
    Carbon fiber sounds scary.
    Carbon fiber is very rigid which is a property that I personally would not want in a hard tail mountain bike. I think it is great for a full suspension where you want the suspension to do the work but in a hard tail I feel that steal or titanium are better choices for comfort and compliancy. Aluminum isn't so bad but after riding a steal hard tail I will not buy any other material unless I can afford titanium.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirden View Post
    I thought buying the first bike was supposed to be the hard part
    The first bike is the easier part. That is the bike that gets you out and riding so you can find out exactly what you like for yourself. Then, you save up for the 2nd bike, which is much more likely to be 'the one' you will live with for a while (provided you do your due diligence and get the bike that suits you.

    Trying to buy a first bike that will be 'the bike', is like expecting to marry your first girlfriend. You chances of getting it that right with the first is not very good. The same goes for your first bike.

    Andrew touched on a good point. Since you're moving in a year, maybe you could get something used and cheap that will get you around for the time being. When it comes time to move, you could probably sell it for around what you paid, and then get something that suits you for the new area you'll be riding. Then again, if budget is not really an issue, then knock yourself out and get what you want for the time you have where you are, and worry about next year. . . . . well. . . . next year.

  22. #22
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    Yea, I listened to AndrwSwitch a few weeks back and picked up a used Trek from my LBS. That is what lead me to posting this because I have already found some flaws in the Trek, but it is good enough to carry me through the season barring any crazy tumbles or moving trees.

    After my first downhill + root + six inch drop going at pretty good speed, I realized that the low travel RST fork on the Trek was not working for me. I went out and demoed a haro 27.5 with a rockshox fork and almost fell in love, but the fork would almost bottom out on six+ inch drop offs (I'm 240lbs so that didn't help) so I tried demoed a Santa Cruz Chameleon with a higher travel fork. I then tried a specialized 29er with a fox fork, and hated trying to manuever it around the demo track. It felt awkward on switchbacks and the front was really heavy compared to the other bikes. That was my only test on a 29er.

    In retrospect, if I had been allowed to adjust the air pressure in the Haro fork I probably would not have been that close to bottoming out.

  23. #23
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    I mean no offense when I say this but if you are bottoming out a fork on a 6" drop there is a good chance that you are lacking certain skills and expecting that equipment will make up for that. I am not bottoming out 100mm on my hard tail off 2' drops.
    Just stick it in granny and start grinding.

  24. #24
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    The Trek RST fork is a 63mm travel fork and the Haro RockShox 100mm was not adjusted for my weight. There is a great possibility that I may not bottom out 100mm forks if they are adjusted properly, but at 240lbs and a low skill level, the fork didn't feel right. This was during a demo and I was not given the chance to adjust the fork.

    It is possible that the chameleon was set up better for my weight and that could be why the higher travel fork felt better, I'm not sure. The main purpose is to find something that I can grow with. No offense taken toward the statement about lacking skills because, as I said in my first post, that was my first beginner trail experience.

    That said I do know that I like higher travel air forks and didn't have a problem on the drops with those. Again, it may have just been set up better for me.

  25. #25
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    Re: Hardtail Options for Next Year Around 2-2.5k Budget

    Setup is huge. That's one of the things I really dislike about cheap coil forks, actually - for me, the spring rates are always too stiff, for you, they're probably always too soft, and for the guys who happen to weigh the right amount to use all the travel and not bottom harshly, they still flex in torque and bending, and maybe they pogo. I'd rather have a rigid fork.

    I actually had an RST when I came back to MTB. A Capa, I think? Not that it really matters. I found I had a lot of trouble holding a line over roots. I thought it was just me being rusty, but when circumstances led me to put something else on the front of the bike, I found I was miraculously a lot better. Riding I've done on rigid MTBs and my 'cross bike since then is part of what's led me to my "I'd rather ride rigid than RST" attitude. I figure if I'm going to add weight, complication, and, usually, money to my bike, it had better be an improvement over what I had before.

    I tune my 100 mm fork based on bottoming, actually. I look for the little o-ring to go to the top of the stanchion on a typical ride, but I don't want to feel the fork bottoming out. I can certainly imagine enjoying something that gives a plusher ride, but if I run my fork softer, I bottom out and it doesn't really improve control anymore to have that happen. So it's too bad you couldn't tune the Haro, at least to the fairly rough level of matching the pressure (assuming an air fork) to RS's recommendation printed on the lower. You'd probably feel differently about it.

    I think you should get a few more miles on the Trek. Maybe a month, give or take, and work on learning to manual. Then decide if you want to live with it for the rest of the season, if you want to cut your losses, or if you want to double down (sort of, it won't really cost as much as your purchase in the first place) on a different fork for it. A nice thing about used bikes is that you can resell them and get your money back out. Kind of like no-fault divorce.

    I felt locked in once I'd thrown a few parts at my Hardrock, although it did have the advantage that nothing cost as much as a new bike. Getting a new bike that's purpose-built for what I want and nicely spec'd right out of the box has been really nice, though, now that I'm in a place in my life where I can afford it.

    So a few things to think about. But given where you're at today, I think you might wait at least a month, ride everything you can find on your Trek, hit another demo day if a tour rolls through, and see where you're at then.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

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