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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    Judging a Mountain Bike in a Parking Lot

    Iím trying to get back into mountain biking after a several year hiatus. In looking for a new bike, Iím trying to follow the general advice of buy what feels right.

    While this makes sense, Iím wondering if what feels best in the parking lot will feel good on the trail. The bikes Iíve tried out that I like are all fairly stiff with a snappy feel (specifically, the Specialized Camber and Cannondale Rush). Whereas the softer bikes (Giant Trance/Anthem, Trek Fuel) havenít felt very good in the parking.

    How well does riding in the parking lot translate to the trail? Should I still get the best feeling bike, or should I try to guess how it will feel on rough terrain?

  2. #2
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    I wouldn't concentrate on how soft or harsh the suspension feels on concrete. When test riding a bike at a shop, you're looking at fit and how your body feels with the bike's geometry. The suspension could always be adjusted and should be before heading out to the trails. There isn't a common suspension setting so bikes in a shop can differ in feel from one to the other.

  3. #3
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Do you still have your old bike?

    Do your local shops offer demos? The two big local shops in my area do. It costs money, but you can probably get a little movement on price to offset that.

    If you can't get on a trail to demo, at least try to get rad. Ride up and down curbs, banks, stairs, whatever you can find.

    Try to get some help setting up suspension. When I demoed Giant's XC bike, it felt, if anything, too firm.

    If you really can't tell, all the bikes you mention would be fine to start on. Go with your gut.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  4. #4
    Kitty! Kitty! Kitty!
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    Parking lot riding tells you a lot about feel, fit and comfort on the bike but does not translate to trail riding..... Really at all. I'd try what Andrew said... See if they have a demo day at your lbs and actually try it out.
    I tried a couple bikes in the parking lot and immediately felt the most comfortable on the bike I ended up buying.

  5. #5
    Picture Unrelated
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    I wouldn't say that the parking lot test doesn't translate to the trail at all. You can get a feel for how the bike handles at high and low speeds, you can get a feel for how easy or difficult the front wheel is to get off the ground, and the most important thing about a bike on the trails is how it fits.

    Suspension between those bikes is different and is almost certainly set up differently so making comparisons is difficult. I think of it as the more suspension travel and the easier the travel moves the more it will smooth out bumps generally at some amount of loss in efficiency to pedaling. Unless you're racing or your trails are glorified dirt sidewalks most people find the "softer" bikes easier to work with on the trail.

    Like Andrw said, get them on dirt if you can. If not try and find things to ride over on your test ride. As long as you don't damage the bike or get it dirty the shop should let you give it a bit of a beat. If there's a stair set nearby go ride down it, drop off a curb or two, hit some potholes (ones that aren't full of water or you're going to get banned from test rides), do what you can to simulate a trail. Hang your butt off the back like you're dropping a steep chute, stand up and hammer, do some low speed tech moves. You can learn just about anything you need to know to make a decision about one bike vs. another with a decent parking lot test.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  6. #6
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    The parking lot ride is kinda useless more or less. The two bikes I was testing where the Camber comp and 27.5 Giant trance, being a bigger guy I just felt better on the 29er.

  7. #7
    Bicyclochondriac.
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    I'd use the parking lot to ball-park the fit.

    But in terms of suspension performance, and geometry feel on the trail, it does not tell you much.
    15mm is a second-best solution to a problem that was already solved.

  8. #8
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    The parking lot is enough for me to feel the difference between a 26" and a 29" Hardrock.
    What works for me may not work for you. What's best for you depends on many factors. We are different from each other.

  9. #9
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    Do you know anybody that rides already? If so, ask to ride theirs on the trail. If not, try to demo or rent a few bikes from LBS you plan on buying from. Most will deduct the rental cost from purchase. Tap into the knowledge of the shop. They should be familiar with the local trails and your riding preferences. Personally, don't think you can wrong with either the fuel or camber.

  10. #10
    I Tried Them ALL... Moderator
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    Try doing slalom on asphalt to see how the bike corners. Also, try finding some rock features to feel how the bike plows through it. Lastly, see how it climbs, if at all possible.
    "The mind will quit....well before the body does"

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