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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    Help me find my first ride: used, CL/ebay in Baltimore

    Hi there! I'm looking to pick up mountain biking since there seem to be all kinds of trails a short drive away from my new 'hood. I am not in the market for a new bike. I want something used that I can learn on, then pass on, or else ride into the ground. I'm looking to spend no more than about $300 on craigslist or ebay.

    I am fairly confident with sizing; looking for a medium/17.5 or thereabout.

    I prefer v-brakes to disc because I know how to maintain them, and I'd also prefer a 26" ride over a 29er. I think this all lends itself to seeking out an older bike in good condition. This is where I need help: what kinds of things should I look for in an older ride? For instance:

    1. The fork. How does the technology of an older rockshox or manitou fork compare to current entry-level technology? Is there anything specific I should look for? And how can I tell what condition the shocks are in?

    2. Components: I just want something that works, and doesn't hinder my ability to ride. For older bikes I'm thinking at least deore level, since otherwise I'm probably better off with entry-level newer stuff.

    3. Frame: I'm not too picky, and most seem to be aluminum. Obviously, I need to make sure there are no cracks or dents. Are there any other considerations or differences in geometry I should pay attention to?

    4. Tires. What is the difference between cheapo-s and decent ones? How can I tell?

    What do you guys think of these local options:

    Gary Fisher Wahoo mountain bike (+ new tires... components look cheap, but this would be a ride into the ground type bike if I could get it under $100)

    Trek 6000 Mountain Bike, XT derailers, Hollowtech Crank (would need to test for size, and bargain down price, good components but fork?)

    Gary Fisher MTB Complete with RockShox Sid Amazing Condition | eBay (what about something like this if I could get it in my price range?)


    Any advice for you experienced folks is appreciated!

  2. #2
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    Hi.

    I can't help answer your specific questions, although from what I gather from this site, newer entry level components are better than top of the line components from 10 to 15 years ago.

    Not sure if it matters for your type of riding, where for me it wouldn't have mattered much.

    Just a tip, I'm not sure what part of Baltimore you are in, but I'd expand your search to check the craigslist sites in Washington DC and another surrounding area. I noticed Philly has a lot of bike postings for sale.

    When I did my search I looked at the Washington DC site (a lot of postings but some shady ones too), Frederick very little, and Baltimore (very few but some great deals, all of which I missed out one because I didn't look at the Baltimore site at first).

    I came across that Trek posting you posted after I bought my bike, and kind of regretted not being more patient and waiting. There seems to be a lot of great deals and bikes that came up after I rushed to bought mine two weeks ago or so.

    Good luck in the search!

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the tip. Patience is definitely key, which is hard with the weather getting colder! What bike did you end up with?

    I guess I should elaborate on the type of riding I'd like to do. I want to do the local trails, including technical single track stuff. I don't need the latest and greatest technology, but also don't want the bike to hold me back in any way.

  4. #4
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    I ended up with a 2009 Hardrock Disc. If you look at my first posting on here, I said it was a 2010 but after looking at it more closely I think it's actually a 2009.

    I didn't get the best deal on it, but based on what other people wanted for their bikes, I thought it was the best deal out there. I'm shopping for a bike for my wife now, which is why I'm still looking at the sites and hope to balance out what I paid for my bike.

    I used this site as a guide on what to pay:
    Bicycle Blue Book - Used Bikes

    I don't know how accurate it is, especially since they don't take into account the region that you live in. But figure it can be used as a reference point.

    I agree with you about not needing the latest and greatest in everything as well.

    The way I look at it, just try not to put too much money to get an initial bike. Then if the bike is decent enough, just go ahead and upgrade components slowly overtime whenever you come across a decent deal on it, I know a lot of people recommend against doing this but this is the route that I'll probably take. Or just splurge later on a better bike later on after you get an idea of what type of riding you'll do and that you'll like stick with.

    For my criteria, I'd realistically be just riding on trails and pavement with the family. But also wanted something with the capabilities to do more serious riding in case I ever wanted to. I have some buddies who splurged on expensive mountain bikes and took them to the trails, and wanted to be able to go along with them if I ever wanted to. Although talking to one of them last time, he said he only took the bike out once or twice so far after buying it a year or two ago. And that's exactly why I don't want to splurge on an expensive bike yet.

  5. #5
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    I am fairly confident with sizing; looking for a medium/17.5 or thereabout.

    I prefer v-brakes to disc because I know how to maintain them, and I'd also prefer a 26" ride over a 29er. I think this all lends itself to seeking out an older bike in good condition. This is where I need help: what kinds of things should I look for in an older ride? For instance:
    I wouldn't cross off disc brakes or 29ers just because you are not familiar with them.
    1. The fork. How does the technology of an older rockshox or manitou fork compare to current entry-level technology? Is there anything specific I should look for? And how can I tell what condition the shocks are in?
    Nearly every old fork that I have ridden on when test riding old bikes needed service done. And when its a 10-20 year old fork, it can be hard to find service parts. Suspension tech has come a very very long way since the early suspension forks.

    2. Components: I just want something that works, and doesn't hinder my ability to ride. For older bikes I'm thinking at least deore level, since otherwise I'm probably better off with entry-level newer stuff.
    New Deore on up is quality stuff. Older XT works great too

    3. Frame: I'm not too picky, and most seem to be aluminum. Obviously, I need to make sure there are no cracks or dents. Are there any other considerations or differences in geometry I should pay attention to?
    Aluminum/Steel is probably your best bet at that price range.

    4. Tires. What is the difference between cheapo-s and decent ones? How can I tell?
    I think Tires are one of the most overlooked components on a bike. It is the only thing that is making contact with the ground. It doesn't matter how good your bike brakes, accelerates, or handles if your tires cant find grip. For your purposes, a good midrange tire should be perfect.


    That trek you posted looks pretty good, but I think this would be a better option:
    Specialized Rockhopper 29er

  6. #6
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    Also forgot to mention.

    A lot of your criteria is like what mine originally were. I would've been fine with v brakes, but this bike just happened to have disc brakes.

    I may not know everything involved so far, but mechanical disc brakes aren't that hard to adjust.

    They are kind of a pain, because everytime I put my front wheel back in, it seems like I need to adjust them again. But I think I may need to true the front wheel.

    The one good thing about buying a bike with disc brakes, is that if you ever wanted disc brakes, the mounting points would be there.

    So while I didn't really care about disc brakes, it I was choosing between a bike with a disc brake and one without one I'd go for the bike with disc brakes.

    But I wouldn't rule out a bike just because it has or does not have disc brakes.

  7. #7
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    Can mechanical disc brakes be adjusted/serviced as easily as v-brakes?

    Also, to clarify: my preference for a 26" bike isn't all due to a lack of familiarity with 29ers. I just prefer a more nimble and maneuverable bike. The 29er I test rode felt sluggish and I had trouble throwing it around beneath my 120 lb body (could def. be lack of skills at this point).

  9. #9
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    That Trek would be my choice of the 3 listed, couldn't really find anything better listed right now in that price range. I take it you will be riding at Patapsco; a good hardtail would be fine there. This is actually a bad time of the year to look for a used bike; CL is full of them in the spring, especially in the Baltimore/ Frederick area. You need to jump on one when you find it though, as they don't last long around here. I check CL almost daily, (for a good dirtjumper), and the deals come and go quickly. You can get new seals for older forks quite easily; I just re-sealed a 10 year old Bomber for under $20 to put on my DJ bike, so don't let the age of the bike hold you back.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by lyra View Post
    Can mechanical disc brakes be adjusted/serviced as easily as v-brakes?

    Also, to clarify: my preference for a 26" bike isn't all due to a lack of familiarity with 29ers. I just prefer a more nimble and maneuverable bike. The 29er I test rode felt sluggish and I had trouble throwing it around beneath my 120 lb body (could def. be lack of skills at this point).
    Good mechanical disc brakes are easily adjustable. For instance, Avid BB5 or BB7 brakes. The brakes on that Rockhopper look like the BB5s.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by EABiker View Post
    I just re-sealed a 10 year old Bomber for under $20 to put on my DJ bike, so don't let the age of the bike hold you back.
    I really know nothing about suspension forks. It makes me a bit nervous in evaluating older bikes. Can most be made to work properly by "re-sealing" (?) or are some unserviceable? Are there certain brands/models that are good bets even if old? Thanks!

  12. #12
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    Home Page | MORE-MTB

    Always good to check you local trails club's forum for local stuff for sale. I would check the 'for sale' forums and also post asking if anybody has something that fits the bill for you.


    As far as forks, in my experience the only old forks that can be kept running when ridden hard and often over a period of a lot of years are older Marzocchi Bombers. It's tough to kill those damn things, and you can still pretty easily find maintenance parts for them, all the way back to 1997. I've got a $1100 fork on my bike, and my buddy has been crushing me a few times on a week on the trails for almost 15 while running a 1998 Z1 Bomber. Just did it again yesterday as a matter of fact. I've got a few around that took a serious beating years ago and still see occasional service. Gotta love those things. Most other forks older than 6 or 7 years are pretty disposable though. Doesn't mean you can't get some good miles out of one that hasn't been treated badly though.

  13. #13
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    You need to know that most older forks don't have parts available.There a couple of things to look at ,if the lower legs are worn or marred ,stay away from that bike.If the seals are leaking ,then most likely there are other problems. The components can be worn out no mater if they are low end or xtr.

  14. #14
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    So a bit of an update and some venting. I've replied to a few ads on craigslist for things priced in the $350-$500 range, making initial offers about 75% of asking. The sellers seem enthusiastic at first until I ask whether the suspension fork is in reasonable working order, at which point they start ignoring me.

    Seriously?! So these guys just want to offload their bikes once the most expensive component is shot? Are the honest and reasonable CL sellers few and far between?

  15. #15
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    At least you're getting responses.

    For half the time I was lucky to just get a response. I wouldn't mind if the bike was sold or something but then I'd see the bike reposted again later. There would've been a good chance I would've bought the bike if they responded to my e-mail.

    I was just thinking about you. Have you checked out pinkbike?

    I never heard of it until surfing these forums recently and see some decent looking bikes on there. For example this one looks interesting and I think your size:
    Specialized S-Works Hardtail - Pinkbike

    I don't know much about these but I gather these types of frames are pretty good. Or at the very least not everyone will have them?

  16. #16
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    Cool, thanks for another great resource.

    About the lack of response, I've gotten that too, but haven't seen any bikes reposted (yet). If you sound too intelligent when you inquire, then that's probably a disadvantage. I figure that those bikes probably have something wrong with.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by nmum View Post
    I never heard of it until surfing these forums recently and see some decent looking bikes on there. For example this one looks interesting and I think your size:
    Specialized S-Works Hardtail - Pinkbike

    I don't know much about these but I gather these types of frames are pretty good. Or at the very least not everyone will have them?
    Not many of those around for sure, as it's probably around 15 years old and they were very prone to cracking.

    That XTR stuff is pre-2000 also. And it looks like it still gets ridden. I dunno if I'd jump at that deal. Not to say it couldn't be a fun bike and run alright for you, but you've gotta factor in the age in this case. M2 bikes were really stiff and somewhat brittle, specially the lightened-up S-works ones. Had to keep a close eye on the chainstay/BB junction. On a bike purchased new, it wasn't a big deal cuz Specialized's warranty department would give out new frames like candy at that time. Between myself and a couple friends, we must've got at least 10 replacement frames over 4 years or so (mostly FS bikes, but a few S-works HTs too). I guess what it boils down to is that without knowing how hard it's been ridden in the past, I'd shy away from a bike that old in general.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Not many of those around for sure, as it's probably around 15 years old and they were very prone to cracking.

    That XTR stuff is pre-2000 also. And it looks like it still gets ridden. I dunno if I'd jump at that deal. Not to say it couldn't be a fun bike and run alright for you, but you've gotta factor in the age in this case. M2 bikes were really stiff and somewhat brittle, specially the lightened-up S-works ones. Had to keep a close eye on the chainstay/BB junction. On a bike purchased new, it wasn't a big deal cuz Specialized's warranty department would give out new frames like candy at that time. Between myself and a couple friends, we must've got at least 10 replacement frames over 4 years or so (mostly FS bikes, but a few S-works HTs too). I guess what it boils down to is that without knowing how hard it's been ridden in the past, I'd shy away from a bike that old in general.
    I agree it could be risky, but on the other hand, as a 120 lb female, and a beginner who wont be going off of drops more than about a foot high, I am probably less prone to breaking a frame. If there are no obvious structural problems on inspection and the components shift well, then it may be a risk worth taking.

    In general, if I buy an old bike I'm assuming that I can replace parts as they fail with modern shimano bits... or is some older stuff incompatible with the newer tech?

  19. #19
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    The only major compatibility problem you'll run into with bikes of that age is upgrading to disc brakes. Most don't come equipped with mounts; those that do use an old mounting standard that doesn't play well with the newer stuff. Besides that, you would have no problem at all replacing/upgrading parts.

    One thing to keep in mind: even if you aren't stressing the bike much, you don't know what it's been through. This really matters with older aluminum frame, particularly the one mentioned above; with a steel frame, it's a lot less of a concern. Unless you know what you're looking for, you may well buy a frame that's compromised. Probably not, but not as rare as you might think.

    Most important thing of all to keep in mind when bike shopping (besides budget of course) is fit. That top tube scares me and my inseam is 32.

    Again, since you seem enthusiastic about getting into riding, check out the local group, post a 'wanted' ad. I'm sure somebody could point you in all the right directions, not only with finding a bike but also with where to ride, etc. Local knowledge is best.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    The only major compatibility problem you'll run into with bikes of that age is upgrading to disc brakes. Most don't come equipped with mounts; those that do use an old mounting standard that doesn't play well with the newer stuff. Besides that, you would have no problem at all replacing/upgrading parts.

    One thing to keep in mind: even if you aren't stressing the bike much, you don't know what it's been through. This really matters with older aluminum frame, particularly the one mentioned above; with a steel frame, it's a lot less of a concern. Unless you know what you're looking for, you may well buy a frame that's compromised. Probably not, but not as rare as you might think.
    Well you know, it would be a risk... but point well taken.

    Most important thing of all to keep in mind when bike shopping (besides budget of course) is fit. That top tube scares me and my inseam is 32.
    Ha. My inseam is longer than yours by about 2", and being female, top tubes don't instill that kind of fear in me. I'm more concerned with reach than stand over, but that's nothing a test ride wouldn't check.

    Again, since you seem enthusiastic about getting into riding, check out the local group, post a 'wanted' ad. I'm sure somebody could point you in all the right directions, not only with finding a bike but also with where to ride, etc. Local knowledge is best.
    Again, you are probably right, but in a google search I didn't really find anything so far as local groups. Perhaps I'm not searching in the right way. Did I mention I'm in to vintage bikes? I own two 90s road bikes, one of which I built up from the frame myself with late-90s 105 stuff that works flawlessly. However: I can see how for mountain biking the technology may have improved more and that components generally take more abuse. So perhaps "old and gold" is not the way to go.

  21. #21
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    Road bikes are a completely different animal. Being a pretty young sport, MTB design has changed pretty drastically for the better since the 'old days'. I still keep a few of my old frames from the 90's around. Every time I get all nostalgic and build one up, I take it for a ride or two and wonder what the hell we were thinking.

    If you are determined to go with a 'classic' bike for whatever reason, you would be doing yourself a favor going with steel. Or at least not a frame well known for cracking.

    Home Page | MORE-MTB is a good place to start for local info. They've been around a long time. There's also regional forum on this site you could check out.

  22. #22
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    Thought I'd mention something else.

    Have you heard of the Bike Swap in Westminster they have once a year:

    STOP SWAP AND SAVE | East Coast Indoor Bicycle Swap Bike Expo

    If I didn't pick up a bike by then I was planning to stop by there to see if I could find something.

    I figure that since it should be full of mostly enthusiasts there should be some quality stuff to pick from and at reasonable prices.

    Westminster is kind of far from me. So I doubt I'll go now unless I happen to have nothing to do that day and want to try to look for some used parts.

  23. #23
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    Hey guys, I have a bike! Not that I don't value good advice (slapheadmofo I'm talking to you), but I jumped on that old s-works. I paid $250. It's a 25 lb bike, with a fun ride. The shocks work well with adjustable travel and rebound. The front disc brake is great. I can't believe I was so set against them. The wheelset is nice and light, true, and well tensioned (the red anodized Hope Pro II hubs are almost worth what I paid) with conti explorer pro tires. Headset and bottom bracket are smooth. All the barebones of a good bike are there if/when I need to replace the frame. The XTR 8 speed group is working but on its last legs. The first thing I replace is probably going to be the rear derailleur. But I'm just going to ride the heck out of it for now!

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    Nice! I think that's a good price for it. They're definitely good bikes - I put in a few seasons on them bitd and really liked how they rode.

    Don't give up on that old XTR stuff before you have to - it holds up really well, particularly those rear derailleurs. I'm still running 8 speed myself, and I think my shifter is probably from about the same era. Maybe throw a chain-cog-rings job on it when you have a chance. Make it run sweet.

    Have fun!

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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    Nice! I think that's a good price for it. They're definitely good bikes - I put in a few seasons on them bitd and really liked how they rode.
    Which incarnation did you have? I've been trying to find my particular frame on bikepedia without luck. The 1997/98 M2 didn't come in black as far as I can tell, and I can find any old S-works that came stock with XTR groups. There's a black 2000 M4 that might match. Unfortunately all the decals have rubbed off, and with it any evidence of lineage.

    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post

    Don't give up on that old XTR stuff before you have to - it holds up really well, particularly those rear derailleurs. I'm still running 8 speed myself, and I think my shifter is probably from about the same era. Maybe throw a chain-cog-rings job on it when you have a chance. Make it run sweet.

    Have fun!
    You know what, I just tuned things up (it needed some major love), and I think you are right about the rear mech; it seems to be snappy and precise. There are some small hiccups in certain positions, but I suspect it's because the shifters are sticking a bit. I'm going to throw some WD40 at it when I have time. It will be awesome if the they can be restored to their former glory!

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