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
    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.
    .

  4. #4
    ...idios...
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    Yesterday, I picked out all of the tomato from my sandwiches.
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    What luck for rulers, that men do not think - Adolf Hitler

  5. #5
    mtbr member
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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.
    bikes & beers (on my blog) http://idontrideenough.blogspot.com/

  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?
    sign here ________________________

  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.

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