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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    Headset/fork questions

    Hey all, I'm new to these forums and mountainbiking in general. I bought at schwinn from Wally world a couple years back for some local trails to ride with friends, but didn't have a ton of money or knowledge to jump head first into an expensive bike. I wanted to make sure I stick with it first, and now I've riden about 15 miles of single track trails once or twice a month since I purchased it. The bike is as heavy as a small dirtbike but I don't really mind it, just trying to get excersize and have fun. I have been thinking about purchasing a new bike, but have been very satisfied with my bike and it's outlasting my friend's Specialized. My only concerns for it's performance at my level are it's weight, and the front fork is complete junk. When I'm pumping hard the tire shifts back and forth onto the brake pads. The shock itself isn't smooth and nearly useless, so to satisfy my need to have new things I'd like to upgrade the fork.

    My questions today are about forks and headsets. Currently my bike has a 1 1/8 threaded fork, and I am having a hard time finding a similar replacement with good reviews. Everything seems to be theadless and I'm perfectly fine with not having threaded, but I can't find anywhere that says it's interchangable. I'm having a hard time using the search function on this site as well for some reason... Google hasn't provided much help, I'm assuming because I don't know exactly what to type. I looked up some frames to see if they say threaded/nonthreaded but can't find anything other than size.
    So if I was to replace my threaded fork, would I be able to use a threadless fork in the same frame? Does the frame deturmine "threaded" or "nonthreaded" or does the fork? I understand I'd need to purchase a few parts and replace the handlebars as well, but would the frame accept it?

    I'd like to get a halfway decent fork to hold me over a wile until I eventually replace the frame including drivetrain(get a new bike and add my nicer fork). I've been looking in the <$200 range and think I will go with the Suntour Epicon. Seems to have great reviews, and I'm sure does much more than I'll require. Our trails are in florida, so elevation never changes more than 10ft and our jumps are small compared to what I see up north. It's mostly palmetto stumps that I'm looking to conquer .

    Lastly, is this something worth doing? My bike as-is seems to be just fine, I need it to last me about another year before I can purchase a true xc mountain bike. If I am able to use a threadless fork with some minor modification would the fork be good for my next bike as well? Seems like every bike other than mine has a 1 1/8 threadless head tube installed from what I've attempted to research.

    Thanks for any help, sorry if this is common knowledge! Other than just riding the bike I have about 3 days of not so excellent researching mountain bikes under my belt.

    HS

  2. #2
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Re: Headset/fork questions

    Headset standards are a little bit of a disaster.

    "1-1/8" threaded" describes your steer tube. It would probably even measure that if you removed it and got out some calipers.

    Nobody makes anything nice to that standard anymore. Sounds like you figured that out already.

    Threadless headsets drop into the same frames as threaded headsets for the same size steer tube. In other words, if you bought a fork with a 1-1/8" threadless steer tube and a 1-1/8" threadless headset, the combination should work in your existing frame.

    You will need a new stem. You won't necessarily need new handlebars, but there's been a standards change there too, so you might. Can you post some pictures of the front end of your bike?

    Other problems you may run into are brake and wheel compatibility, and travel on the new fork vs. what your frame's designed around.

    What can you spend on this project?

    "Worth doing" is tough. My instinct is that it's not. You won't get any money back out of this conversion and you're already talking about buying a new bike. Just do that now. You can get race-ready for $600 in my city if you're not precious about new vs. used. Since you already own a bike, you might also consider a catalog bike.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  3. #3
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    after you spend the money on a new fork, stem, and headset, and then pay a bike shop to install and tune it all, you will have half-way to the price of a new bike. cut your losses now and focus on getting a new bike.

  4. #4
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    Even if you change out the fork ,you will still have shifters ,brakes ,wheels and a frame you aren't happy with. Save the money for a different bike.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the input! The main reason I don't just buy a bike right now is financial reasons. My wife had our first baby 5 weeks ago so spending a thousand dollars isn't in my cards right not, $250 won't kill me but I understand where you're coming from with no return on investment. In a year, would a $600-700 bike have an equivilant fork than the one mentioned above? Most of the reviews on it were replacing "good" entry level bikes. Obviously reviews are always taken with a grain of salt, but sometimes they hold truth.
    My second concern is these "good" entry level bikes quality. Just because you slap a Specialized or Trek badge on a bike doesn't make it quality. The two main people I ride with have specialized, a thousand dollar rockhopper and a $700 (rock something). New bikes, purchased within the last year and both have had derailer failures, both have had peddles snapping (not a big deal, but my Walmart peddles have no issue) and the cheaper of the two has had issues with his rear sprocket(cassette?). I snapped a tooth on my sprocket(cassette?). I want to have a bike I can trust wont fail me.
    So I'm hesitant now if I want to move forward on my tank. What would be some of the differences from my Schwinn to a cannondale? Is it completely crazy to think I could slowly buy good quality parts and piece together a "better than entry level" bike in the next year or two? Are things like derailers and cranks(not sure proper name) fairly universal? Realistically, could I put e few hundred dollars at a time into my crappy frame and eventually just buy a better solid frame, and transfer it all over? Like a project race car, but different lol. I'm not trying to be a smart *** here, these are my true questions and thoughts. But there seem to be a limited number of moving parts on a bike that can fail.

  6. #6
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    Phone died when I was writing that, luckily this forum is thoughtful and saves written progress! Here are a couple pictures, not sure what you were interested in so I took it apart.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Headset/fork questions-image.jpg  

    Headset/fork questions-image.jpg  

    Headset/fork questions-image.jpg  

    Headset/fork questions-image.jpg  


  7. #7
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    You are correct that just because there is a brand label doesn't make it good. Trek or Spec don't make derailleurs, pedals or cassettes. When you compare bikes in the same price range they are much the same.You should go to some shops and test ride bikes in different price ranges to see if you can tell the differences.Building bike from parts most often costs more than it costs to buy a complete bike. There are other things to think about when building up a bike,the fork needs to be the right travel ,head set diameter ,steerer tube has to be tapered or not .The cranks and bottom bracket need to be the right ones for the bottom bracket shell . The front derailleur need to fit the tube and be the right pull (top of bottom).The spacing for the wheels have be correct for the frame and fork.

  8. #8
    Redcoat
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    You don't need to spend a thousand bucks. Spend 400-500 bucks on something like a specialized hard rock. I really don't see it a wise choice to invest any more in this bike.

  9. #9
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    Check out used bikes on Craigslist. There may some good deals to be had depending on your location. I have not had much luck with Craigslist due to the relatively small MTB community down here in Houston, but it is definitely worth a look.

  10. #10
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    I wrote a longish post that got around to saying "retail sucks for people who can't spend $2000, just buy a used bike," but I think the following may be a bit stronger.

    Since you started the thread asking about your fork, let's talk about what you're going to need to put a contemporary suspension fork worth owning on the front of your bike.

    -the fork itself ($300 or go home)
    -a new headset (can be done for $40)
    -a new front wheel (can also be done for $40, though it might be better done for $100.)
    -if you stick with mechanical, a new brake caliper and rotor. (lately, I think this is about $40)
    -a new stem (easy enough for $20)
    -if you don't want to scrounge for a weird stem (and scrounge for cheap bars down the road, they do break,) new handlebars (about $30)

    This is going to run you around $500 without some pretty serious effort. A 2011 bike that came with that same fork would probably run you around $500 too. But, you'd get a do-over on your frame sizing, matched brakes and a nicer drivetrain.

    The catalog pushers will probably log on in a bit and recommend a few of those bikes at whatever price; you can log on and have a look at the specs for yourself. If you want to try that, ask about sizing. If you do used, you can probably take care of yourself fine on test rides. I think about the best value going is used from a shop: you'll get the opportunity to ride a few bikes that way. Play It Again Sports probably has the best selection of higher-end bikes in my area, though we have a few others shops in that market as well.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  11. #11
    turtles make me hot
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    I like turtles

  12. #12
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    Thank you guys for all the detailed advice. I'll jump on Craigslist tomorrow and see what's available, I don't think mountain biking is too popular down here but I'm not afraid to drive. I got on for 30 seconds before writing this and saw a 2011 giant talon for $500, so there are at least some options! I'll also try some play it again sports out.
    Again, thanks for the input. You most likely saved me lots of money and hassle down the road... I'll keep this bike forever, just like my first surfboard lol ill write back once I get something and ill be patrolling the forums checking out reviews secretly for a wile.

    Take care

    Wile I still have attention, would you consider the fork the most valuable part on a xc mountainbike?
    Last edited by HeavySchwinn; 11-11-2013 at 08:03 PM. Reason: Snuck a post in

  13. #13
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    you bike has a dangerous amount of rust. have you been storing it outside? near chemicals?

    most bike shop brand bikes (specialized, trek, giant, etc) have suspension forks on them that cost about 1/3 to 1/2 of the total price of the bike if you were to buy the fork after-market. so a $1200 bike will often have a $500-600 fork. IF you could find a replacement fork exactly like the one on your bike (not that you would want one!) it would probably be less than $100.

    overall, as I said before, it would be a waste of money to buy a new fork for your bike. do some research on used bikes or save you pennies for a new one. a lot of people get into mountain biking with a really nice bike, then only ride a few times and give up. then it goes on Craigslist- their loss, your gain. it seems that your bike served its purpose- it got you interested and now you know that your equipment is holding you back. it might be overstating the situation to say you would be "polishing a turd" but that's not far from the truth. you will not get out of your bike in terms of performance what you put into it in dollars. you don't have to spend thousands but you now know that there is a difference in quality that is at least somewhat reflected in the price.

    your friends' bike failures are part of riding. you mostly get what you pay for in terms of durability and performance. assuming their bikes are tuned correctly, they have probably shifted and braked better than your bike, and have better designs in terms of geometry, materials, and components. you will notice a world of difference when you move up to something that was truly designed to do what you are doing with it. your bike was designed to be ridden casually on bike paths and roads.

    how tall are you? post some links on here of bikes that interest you on Craigslist and we can recommend some to you.

  14. #14
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    Re: Headset/fork questions

    Hard to say. It changes with pricepoint. Buying an inexpensive bike is a lot like buying an inexpensive build kit and getting a free frame thrown in. With increasing price, for a while I think the build kit gets nicer while the frames stay about the same. For example, in Specialized's line, I don't think the difference between the Hardrock, Rockhopper and Carve frames is nearly as significant as the difference between the builds going from the bottom to the top of the line.

    At a certain point, the frame becomes the most expensive part, and with some of the boutique brands, adding a fairly competent build doesn't actually add that much to the price, in proportion. For example, any of Santa Cruz's carbon bikes with the DXC build.

    Lately, I tend to think of a bike as an assemblage of four subsystems: the frame, the fork, the wheels, and the drivetrain, including brakes. I think a lot of mid-priced bikes divide their budget relatively evenly among those areas.

    I don't think that necessarily matches the importance of each area that well. Since a fork is an expensive part to replace and you can't replace half a fork, I think a lot of inexpensive bikes might be better served with a nicer fork and maybe a sacrifice in the drivetrain, which can be replaced piecemeal. I think it's a lot easier to get a cheap drivetrain to work well, too. So in general, for me, I think it makes more sense to spend additional money on the fork until somewhere around $500, when diminishing returns kick in. The companies would get a better price than that, but I think an actual number is useful here. Since it's possible to spend a couple thousand each on a frame and wheels if you really want to, you can see how with higher-end bikes, the fork starts to fall behind as contributing a lot of value.

    Everyone has an opinion, so you're likely to see some pretty uneven builds going on Craig's List. There are probably also going to be a fair portion of near-stock bikes that hung in someone's garage, and some older bikes with basically none of their stock build left.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  15. #15
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    The Giant Talon is a good bike. Check them out in a LBS first I think they retail for around $700 for the 2014 models 27.5.

  16. #16
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    Thanks again for the excellent replies. It seems very one sides so I am looking or something new(well, new to me at least). I'm 6 feet tall, an have seen several helpful sizing charts on these forums plus some others. I honestly don't know what a bike should feel like so ill have to read up a little before I buy anything. I'd like to swing by a lbs but I really don't want to be suckered into buying something new... I'll measure my bike today and see how close I've made it to "standard". Maybe see if I can find something similar.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    Hard to say. It changes with pricepoint. Buying an inexpensive bike is a lot like buying an inexpensive build kit and getting a free frame thrown in. With increasing price, for a while I think the build kit gets nicer while the frames stay about the same. For example, in Specialized's line, I don't think the difference between the Hardrock, Rockhopper and Carve frames is nearly as significant as the difference between the builds going from the bottom to the top of the line.

    At a certain point, the frame becomes the most expensive part, and with some of the boutique brands, adding a fairly competent build doesn't actually add that much to the price, in proportion. For example, any of Santa Cruz's carbon bikes with the DXC build.

    Lately, I tend to think of a bike as an assemblage of four subsystems: the frame, the fork, the wheels, and the drivetrain, including brakes. I think a lot of mid-priced bikes divide their budget relatively evenly among those areas.

    I don't think that necessarily matches the importance of each area that well. Since a fork is an expensive part to replace and you can't replace half a fork, I think a lot of inexpensive bikes might be better served with a nicer fork and maybe a sacrifice in the drivetrain, which can be replaced piecemeal. I think it's a lot easier to get a cheap drivetrain to work well, too. So in general, for me, I think it makes more sense to spend additional money on the fork until somewhere around $500, when diminishing returns kick in. The companies would get a better price than that, but I think an actual number is useful here. Since it's possible to spend a couple thousand each on a frame and wheels if you really want to, you can see how with higher-end bikes, the fork starts to fall behind as contributing a lot of value.

    Everyone has an opinion, so you're likely to see some pretty uneven builds going on Craig's List. There are probably also going to be a fair portion of near-stock bikes that hung in someone's garage, and some older bikes with basically none of their stock build left.
    This is kind of how I was looking at it. Bikes are fairly simple, and on my current bike the part that I think separates it most from a 1000+ bike is most likely my fork. My drive train may be clunky or shift a little slower, but it should last me a bit longer and it's easy to fix parts of a system. The weight of my bike obviously holds me back, but again it's minor, and only makes me stronger. This is how I was thinking before you guys convinced me otherwise. In the end, I'll just have an average bike that I payed to much for. Although I enjoy building my own things, its not worth the time and energy right now with my newborn here.

  18. #18
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    The idea that heavy bikes hold us back is very self-serving. I don't know if you've ever used panniers, but it takes a swing in weight on the order of 20 lb to make a big difference. I can just about guarantee you your bike doesn't weigh enough to lose that much weight.

    FWIW, my older MTB is a Specialized Hardrock that I replaced almost every individual component on. It's pretty reliable now, but my shiny new one blows it away right out of the box. Except the drivetrain, maybe I just don't understand how to tune SRAM...
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

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