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  1. #1
    I hate sugar sand.
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    I compared 13 bikes under $600 - here are the results

    First of all, I have a disease. It's a sickness. When comparison shopping, I have to rank products against each other numerically. I don't know why, but I do know it's not normal. I mean, I get pretty in depth and make up complex formulas in Excel to see how Product A ranks against Product B in a bunch of different categories. It's pretty borderline obessive, but it helps me make a decision.

    I am NOT showing you the spreadsheet I made, you guys would think I'm insane. I'll give you the gist of what I did to come up with my results. I'm not ranking overall performance per se, but the value - what you get for the money.

    Price
    I found the lowest LOCAL prices for as many bikes as I could find. Otherwise, I used the MSRP listed on the manufacturer's website. I tried to pick bikes that I could get locally and then added some internet only bikes to compare. Also, I chose bikes based on their everyday price, not a closeout or sale price.
    If the bike was an online order only, I added $50 for shipping (except the Ibex, only $35 for shipping) and $50 for professional assembly. I figured any bike you get from your LBS is going to be professionally assembled, so to make it even, ALL bikes have to be assembled bike a real bike tech.
    Sales tax is not included either.

    Weight
    This one was kinda tough. Some websites list an actual weight, I had to search for the weight on some bikes and I had to make an educated guess on others. Weights are not 100% accurate but the weight actually mattered the least in the rankings, because all the bikes are fairly close in range. I'm not comparing a 20 lb bike to a 50 lb bike.

    Components
    I used the following for comparisons:
    Fork
    Front derailleur
    Rear derailleur
    Shifters
    Disc brakes

    I figured these components were the ones that would have the greatest impact on how the bike rides...and I didn't feel like taking the time to research anything else. On the disc brakes, I didn't compare different brands against each other or against V-brakes, I awarded a point based on if the bike came with discs or not. The only reason I did that was for the sake of future upgradeability - forks, wheelsets, better disc brakes, etc.

    Points system
    This is where I'm going to seem like a lunatic with too much time on his hands (actually I've been unemployed for 3 months,so I do have too much time to do stuff like this).

    The components were ranked as:
    1 point for bottom of the barrel
    2 points for acceptable entry level
    3 points for decent entry level

    There's 4 categories with 3 points available in each and then discs brakes are an additonal 1 point, for a total of up to 13 points.

    Weight: the lightest bike was awarded 10 points, with other bikes receiving a percentage based on its weight.

    Price: same thing, the cheapest bike was awarded 10 points, with other bikes receiving a percentage base on its price.


    Here are the results:

    24.00 points - Forge Sawback 5xx ($419.99)
    23.81 points - Ibex Alpine 550 ($654)
    23.54 points - Gary Fisher Marlin (non disc) ($589.99)
    23.18 points - Iron Horse Warrior 1.3 ($350)
    22.33 points - Trek 4500 ($579)
    21.77 points - Specialized Rockhopper (M4 frame) ($519.99)
    21.53 points - Kona Blast ($649)
    21.51 points - Cannondale F7 Disc ($499.99)
    21.16 points - Giant Yukon ($499.99)
    20.62 points - Cannondale F6 ($529.99)
    20.50 points - Felt Q620 ($599.99)
    20.32 points - Trek 4300 Disc ($599.99)
    19.30 points - Specialized Hard Rock Comp Disc ($509.99)


    The Ibex and Kona are over the $600 cap, but I threw them in just to compare. And I bet you could probably find the Kona for $600 if you looked hard enough. I had to draw the line somewhere and I wasn't going to go up to $700, then $750 and so on.

    Cheapest bike - Iron Horse Warrior 1.3 - $350 after pro assembly
    Most expensive bike - Ibex Alpine 550 - $654 after shipping/pro assembly
    Best bike you can actually buy in a shop - Gary Fisher Marlin (non-disc)
    Best components - Gary Fisher Marlin, Ibex Alpine 550
    Lightest bike - Ibex Alpine 550 - 28 lbs.

    So there you have it. Since the Warrior 1.3 is so cheap, it kinda skews the results. It really is pretty weak component-wise, but because it has the lowest price by far, it fares well against better bikes. The Hard Rock Comp Disc comes out to be the worst value. Similarly equipped to the Warrior 1.3, but it costs $160 more.

    I've read stuff here and there regarding the questionable quality of Forge's frame for the Sawback. Since I really have no way of measuring that, it wasn't included in the comparison. Same thing with resale value - Trek is a name people recognize, Iron Horse probably is not. That might be part of the decision in purchasing a bike, but it can't be quantified in any way.

    My system isn't perfect and my numbers may not be 100% accurate, but at least it serves as a general guideline. At least I now know which bikes I'm definitely not going to buy. Hopefully this info will help some of you guys out too.

  2. #2
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    let me get this straight. Honestly I didn't read your whole post but from the beginning you stated
    "found the lowest LOCAL prices for as many bikes as I could find. Otherwise, I used the MSRP listed on the manufacturer's website. I tried to pick bikes that I could get locally and then added some internet only bikes to compare."

    So you ranked 13 bikes without riding them? Sounds pointless to me.

  3. #3
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    Whoa, what a lot of work. It's a great example of the difference between precision and accuracy.


    Here's how i would look at it. GF genesis geometry doesn't suit my body type- it's out of the running. An undamped fork is unacceptable- that leaves the rockhopper, kona, f6, ibex, and giant. integrated shifters suck, can't be adjusted for my hands, and are a pain to replace- goodbye giant. I don't want to deal with waiting for my bike to be delivered, then driving a box to the bike shop that is bigger than my trunk/back seat, and then having to wait a couple days for the shop to build my bike, so ibex is out. Of the remaining rockhopper, f6, and kona, i choose the disk brakes and slacker head tube angle on the kona, which suits my considerable weight and steep terrain the best.

    Once you pick a bike, all those other bikes don't matter any more. Seems more prudent to pick something that fits YOUR needs, and not some abstract concept of 'best,' as shown by a spreadsheet.
    I like cheap stuff that works great and is very sturdy.

  4. #4
    ...idios...
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    Yesterday, I picked out all of the tomato from my sandwiches.

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  5. #5
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    While I wouldn't base a bike purchase on this list alone, I do think it is a useful tool for beginners looking to buy a bike. It seems there must be several questions a week on buying a new, entry level bike. I would always get on few and ride them, preferably a demo ride if possible, but comparing the quality of components and price is obviously a big part of the decision making process as well. This list is quite useful in that regard (assuming it is accurate).

    So I think newbies can take this list as a starting point for their own research and it can be quite helpful.

    My advice to a beginner looking for a new bike would be the following:

    1. The most important aspect of a bike purchase is fit (meaning it both fits you size wise and fits your intended style of riding).

    2. Try to demo ride the bike if at all possible, or at least take some time in the parking lot, to see if you are comfortable on the bike. (The problem for new riders here is that they don't yet know what they really like, and don't know how a great fit should feel for them, but you can still tell a lot even as a new rider by just riding around a little bit on a bike).

    3. A good local bike shop and their employees can be critically important resources in helping you make a decision. (But of course you also have to keep in mind that not all of them are necessarily placing your interests first because some may be just trying to sell you an available bike).

    4. Get the highest level of components you can afford within your budget, because they do make a real difference.

  6. #6
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    I'm new to this forum. As a beginner, I found this list to be very helpful. I went to three local bike shops and and test rode a raleign and a trek (both in the 400-500 range). In the end, after reading up on the importance of components and all the positive reviews , I took my chances with the Sawback 5xx. I haven't received the bike yet so cannot comment on it as of yet. However, I'm satisfied with my decision considering the components I'm getting on a bike that was $320 shipped.

    thanks for the list.

  7. #7
    too tired to be clever
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    I was unemployed for awhile, which is when I took up mountain biking and kayaking. It shifts your perspective from 'time is money' to 'unlimited time to save money'. While I didn't do anything similar to the OP's spreadsheet to choose my entry-level bike, I can understand the circumstances and motivation.

    Even if you have a totally different set of criterion to use for your own personal decision process, an example of a disciplined thought process is useful as a starting point.

  8. #8
    i also unicycle
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    i'm not opposed to such a ranking system, but fit trumps absolutely everything on the list. and weight(while it may be important to some) is tough to get an accurate measurement of without physically weighing each bike, manufacturer numbers are always suspect. one other nit to pick, at this level, i'd rather have good v-brakes (with disc ready hardware on the bike) than crappy disc brakes. i think that rockhopper comes with bb5s (which would be acceptable) but i'm sure some/many of the others come with really really cheap/hard to adjust discs, and could have come with better functioning v-brakes for similar costs.
    mtbr says you should know: i work in a bike shop.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by DoinkMobb
    I've read stuff here and there regarding the questionable quality of Forge's frame for the Sawback.
    I've never seen anything questioning the quality of the Sawback frame. Giant Manufacturing makes it, along with the majority of frames sold in the US. I would look at the motivation of anyone who suggests otherwise. Interesting reading on frames here: http://allanti.com/page.cfm?PageID=328

    Still, if a bike doesn't fit well, it's no value at all.

  10. #10
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    What are your thoughts on the GT Avalanche 2.0 Disc? I know it is a litte over the 600 mark but I wanted to know what you guys thought of this bike. I'm a new GT dealer and your guys feedback would be helpful when I'm choosing bikes to bring in to sell.

    Thanks,

    Jaysled

  11. #11
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    I would not be surprised if mountain bike action uses some sort of formula like this judging by the results they post sometimes.....

  12. #12
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    For all you criticizing the OP, he did say it's a sickness. I think it's pretty cool. Can you now do that for $800 and $1200 bikes? Some of the prices seem way off, though. Like $499 for the F7. Of course riding the bikes is important to get the right fit and feel.

  13. #13
    don't thread on me
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    Man. Some of you guys were a little rough on DoinkMobb. There's always someone ready to stick a pin in your balloon on the forum. He did say it was a sickness. I prefer to think of it as a unique talent which I do not share.

    I think your analysis is pretty cool dude. When you get it narrowed down to half a dozen bikes, then I would worry about riding them and deciding on which one feels the best.

    BTW, I am about to purchase a big screen Hi-Def TV. Got any input for me?
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  14. #14
    I hate sugar sand.
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    I forgot to mention that yes, fit and how a bike feels is the most important thing. I'm not going to go out and buy the "best" bike according to my crazy spreadsheet. While it may be pointless to some, creating ranking/point systems like this must be at least somewhat useful, since every car magazine I've ever read has comparisons like this. Does 0.3 seconds matter in a 0-60 run? No, not really. But it does give you concrete data to say which one is "better". I think that's what some of you are missing.

    As far as disc brakes - I'd rather have decent v-brakes than cheap discs also. But if you want to upgrade later, it might be beneficial to have a disc ready bike to start with.

    Can some of you honestly say you've never compared specs on a car to narrow down your choices before test driving? This is the same thing. I know that I want to check out the Marlin and I probably don't want to bother with the Hard Rock Comp Disc.

    djp2k8 - http://ridingbicycles.com/itemdetail...iceasc&id=4567 '08 Cannondale F7 Disc - $499.99

    Manufacturers must feel that the components are important to the consumer, otherwise, why would they list them on their sites? If there is absolutely no way to compare bikes other than the fit, why even bother discussing the components at all?

    markf - if a $100 Walmart bike happened to fit you like a glove, would you buy it? Would you buy a bike from your LBS that was obviously way too heavy, had horrible brakes, and was $250 outside your budget, but fit better than anything else? I doubt it.

  15. #15
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    I think you did a great job with your crazy spreadsheet. It looks like a lot of time went into it and I know a lot of people will appreciated your hard work.
    It's also not an exact science but it is a start for those individuals who do not have access to actually riding the bikes before they buy.
    Of course you could have added another 10 or so bikes on to your list but I suspect an updated list in the near future.

  16. #16
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    So I tested 5 of the bikes on your list, and the one that felt right for me is the lowest down your list of the 5. What does your spreadsheet say about that?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by emery14
    So I tested 5 of the bikes on your list, and the one that felt right for me is the lowest down your list of the 5. What does your spreadsheet say about that?
    Obviously you have low standards

  18. #18
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    yea, fit is important, I'm supposed to ride a 17" frame, but after test riding all the bikes on my mental spreadsheet I found myself feeling better on the larger models, and eventually got a 20" Giant Yukon against Kona blast and specialized hardrock, and more...

    it's a great bike and I bought the cheapest model so I could upgrade it as I'm already doing.

  19. #19
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    Yes...fit is very important...so is just the look of the bike...and color as well.

  20. #20
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    post the spreadsheet, crazy mofo! =)

  21. #21
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    x2 i wanna see this masterpiece

  22. #22
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    I'm curious why you felt the need for pro assembly? Final assembly of an internet bike is not difficult and takes less than an hour. Even getting a bike from a shop, I would want to spend time checking everything out before hitting the trails. LBS's frequently don't have their top wrench assembling bikes, it's frequently a part high schooler. I suppose not everyone works on their own bikes, but MTB's require a lot of maintenance and I can't see how anyone could be hauling the bike to the shop all the time.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaysled
    What are your thoughts on the GT Avalanche 2.0 Disc?
    Jaysled
    This guy doesn't think much of them: Funny Craigslist Bike Ad

    Seems like a decent bike, but I don't know much about them. I saw that ad and thought it was funny. I emailed the guy about it because I thought it may be an upgrade from my forge, but lost interest when I looked at the specs.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by ad6mj
    I'm curious why you felt the need for pro assembly? Final assembly of an internet bike is not difficult and takes less than an hour. Even getting a bike from a shop, I would want to spend time checking everything out before hitting the trails. LBS's frequently don't have their top wrench assembling bikes, it's frequently a part high schooler. I suppose not everyone works on their own bikes, but MTB's require a lot of maintenance and I can't see how anyone could be hauling the bike to the shop all the time.

    Do you do the same with your car? How about your refrigerator when it breaks?

    Some of the posts here are simply ludicrous.
    "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." -Albert Einstein

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianthebiker
    Do you do the same with your car? How about your refrigerator when it breaks?

    Some of the posts here are simply ludicrous.
    Comparing a bicycle to an auto or refrigeration system isn't too bright. No offense, but bicycle maintenance ain't exactly rocket science. Sure, some people don't have the skills or inclination to wrench, but I agree with ad6mj. That same teen that assembles bikes would probably get my order wrong if they were working a drive-through window. To each his own...

    Not knocking teens or young people. I just feel more comfortable doing the work myself.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianthebiker
    Do you do the same with your car? How about your refrigerator when it breaks?

    Some of the posts here are simply ludicrous.
    Yes, I do check a car over when I buy it. I check all the fluids lights etc. These should be checked routinely. When I buy a motorcycle, I check more stuff, ie bolts, fluids chain. Why? Because things are more likely to seriously injure me if they aren't right. Same with a bicycle. On MTB's more things can and do go wrong. I give my MTB a thorough check of brakes, cables, shifters, chain, quick releases, stem bolts, tire pressure, spokes, pedals and fork before every ride. I don't want to be needlessly injured or having to walk a long way home.

  27. #27
    don't thread on me
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    Let's see you spreadsheet

    Doinkmobb,

    Please post your spreadsheet so we can take a look.
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  28. #28
    SSolo, on your left!
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottzg
    Whoa, what a lot of work. It's a great example of the difference between precision and accuracy.


    Here's how i would look at it. GF genesis geometry doesn't suit my body type- it's out of the running. An undamped fork is unacceptable- that leaves the rockhopper, kona, f6, ibex, and giant. integrated shifters suck, can't be adjusted for my hands, and are a pain to replace- goodbye giant. I don't want to deal with waiting for my bike to be delivered, then driving a box to the bike shop that is bigger than my trunk/back seat, and then having to wait a couple days for the shop to build my bike, so ibex is out. Of the remaining rockhopper, f6, and kona, i choose the disk brakes and slacker head tube angle on the kona, which suits my considerable weight and steep terrain the best.

    Once you pick a bike, all those other bikes don't matter any more. Seems more prudent to pick something that fits YOUR needs, and not some abstract concept of 'best,' as shown by a spreadsheet.
    X2! and it hardly seems proper to compare some of these due to the wide range of prices you have listed for them...some are alot less $$$ than the others....hardly seems a fair comparison.
    Last edited by Natedogz; 06-22-2008 at 11:11 PM.
    Get off the couch and ride!

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by scottzg
    Whoa, what a lot of work. It's a great example of the difference between precision and accuracy.


    Here's how i would look at it. GF genesis geometry doesn't suit my body type- it's out of the running. An undamped fork is unacceptable- that leaves the rockhopper, kona, f6, ibex, and giant. integrated shifters suck, can't be adjusted for my hands, and are a pain to replace- goodbye giant. I don't want to deal with waiting for my bike to be delivered, then driving a box to the bike shop that is bigger than my trunk/back seat, and then having to wait a couple days for the shop to build my bike, so ibex is out. Of the remaining rockhopper, f6, and kona, i choose the disk brakes and slacker head tube angle on the kona, which suits my considerable weight and steep terrain the best.

    Once you pick a bike, all those other bikes don't matter any more. Seems more prudent to pick something that fits YOUR needs, and not some abstract concept of 'best,' as shown by a spreadsheet.

    The Giant and Kona both use Shimano Alivio shifters.

  30. #30
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    Good job!

    Kudos to the OP for all the work. I think it has a lot of value and was a great approach. Most already know that the bike needs to fit you but this gives somebody buying a bike for the first time a great starting point. Especially when comparing price/components.

    I think some of the people on here just lurk around waiting to bash people with obvious statements like " So you ranked 13 bikes without riding them? Sounds pointless to me." Especially when they don't even read the whole post...

    Anyways, great info. and I agree with one of the other posters, you should do this with a higher end range of bikes.

  31. #31
    I hate sugar sand.
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    Quote Originally Posted by emery14
    So I tested 5 of the bikes on your list, and the one that felt right for me is the lowest down your list of the 5. What does your spreadsheet say about that?
    Uh, well my spreadsheet says you've picked a bike that was statistically inferior to 4 other bikes. But if you were to ask me, I'd say you picked the bike that was the best fit.

    ad6mj - to make the comparison fair, I felt that all bikes needed to be professionally assembled. As far as I look at it, that's part of the price you are paying when you buy a bike from an actual shop.
    If the dude at the bike shop said to you,"Tell you what, we'll knock $50 off the price if the bike is assembled by some guy that barely knows how to operate an allen wrench instead of the bike tech", would you take that deal? I wouldn't.

  32. #32
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    great idea man, I totaly see your thinking. I learned how to do this in my computer class at school. Sweet deal, and great work!

  33. #33
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    I think you should have listed the IH warrior 3.0 instead of the 1.3.

  34. #34
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    No matter if it's good information or bad...it's going to be helpful to someone here.

  35. #35
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    DoinkMobb, did you compare weight....OH NEVERMIND Id rather know what front derailleur a bike has.... lol

  36. #36
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    I'm new to this, too, and I actually made my own spreadsheet, so you're not that crazy. I didn't go so far as to assign a numerical score, but I like what you did there. Don't worry about the haters I also compared geometry specs, particulary the standover and top tube (effective) measurements...to get more at the fit issue.

    I got brief test rides at my LBS on a Rockhopper Comp (17" RH Disc unavailable at the time, and I was going for fit) and GF Marlin Disc. I was genuinely undecided then I started considering the Haro Flightline Comp and Kona Blast based on the specs I'd gathered and actual magazine reviews I found (few and far between in this price range). However when it came down to it, the wife didn't want me spending $650-700 on my first bike, so I immediately went and ordered the Forge Sawback 5xx, which definitely seemed like a great value from everything I'd researched. I think it was a good choice in the end.

    I got it a couple weeks ago, and actually just took it on my first real ride this evening. It was all on-road, but maybe I'll get some easy trails in later this week. I definitely need to ease into it and bring my fitness level up a couple notches before I hit some real trails.

  37. #37
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    good job.post the spreadsheet. Check out the Fantom Trail and the Fantom29 from bikesdirect.com. Only available through mail order though.(more sizes due in shortly according to bikesdirect.(Price-$595 for each one)

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by DoinkMobb
    First of all, I have a disease. It's a sickness. When comparison shopping, I have to rank products against each other numerically. I don't know why, but I do know it's not normal. I mean, I get pretty in depth and make up complex formulas in Excel to see how Product A ranks against Product B in a bunch of different categories. It's pretty borderline obessive, but it helps me make a decision.

    I am NOT showing you the spreadsheet I made, you guys would think I'm insane. I'll give you the gist of what I did to come up with my results. I'm not ranking overall performance per se, but the value - what you get for the money.
    Hey, great post. I have also done this to a lesser extent for certain products (usually tech stuff)- it's fun and really helps with the purchase decision.

    Ignore the posters who try to slam you for this kind of approach. One thing I quickly is that in the world of mountain biking, subjective opinion is seen as far more important than any kind of objective ranking criteria. Unless you're German

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    I don't know about you, but I would add to the list the raleigh Mojave 8.0 which has better components than half the bikes listed there, comes in at $570, and has disk brakes. The only problem is that it is a bit heavy, which isn't bad.

    However fit is more important. I was looking at the 4300 when I bought my Mojave and compared and went with the Mojave because it felt better and was worth the extra $80 to get that and the disk brakes. By the way Disk brakes cost ~$200 for 2, so awarding 1 point for having them is like saying $200 dollars worth of parts is not as important as upgradings each derailleur from alivio or sx to lx parts or whatever(which is like a $100 difference) Some parts are worth more and are more important.

    DoinkMobb, did you compare weight....OH NEVERMIND Id rather know what front derailleur a bike has.

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by bch1985
    I don't know about you, but I would add to the list the raleigh Mojave 8.0 which has better components than half the bikes listed there, comes in at $570, and has disk brakes. The only problem is that it is a bit heavy, which isn't bad.

    However fit is more important. I was looking at the 4300 when I bought my Mojave and compared and went with the Mojave because it felt better and was worth the extra $80 to get that and the disk brakes. By the way Disk brakes cost ~$200 for 2, so awarding 1 point for having them is like saying $200 dollars worth of parts is not as important as upgradings each derailleur from alivio or sx to lx parts or whatever(which is like a $100 difference) Some parts are worth more and are more important.
    If you're talking about the 2008 model, the Mohave is the best $600 bike I've seen yet with the Tora fork and all. Thanks for the tip. (26er)

  41. #41
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    nah, you can get bb7s for about $125.00 including flack jacket cables. That's for both ends.

  42. #42
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    i think people are just pissed that the specialized came in last LOL

  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by capn 35
    nah, you can get bb7s for about $125.00 including flack jacket cables. That's for both ends.
    Where at?

  44. #44

  45. #45
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    Clydesdale note

    I don't have all knowledge, but I think it's more so the fork (Tora 289) that makes the Mohave 8.0 stand high among bikes in this price range.If anyone knows of any other bike in this price range with an upgrade above the Darts and Suntours etc., please let me know. The Tora is Clydesdale friendly which I like. BB5s are not BB7s, but I could live with them and not have to compromise fork performance.Remember I'm looking at this from a Clydesdale point of view.

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