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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    Looking for the right first bike

    A bit of info about myself first: I'm 5'10 and 225lbs (powerlifter), not sure if that has any effect on which bikes are suitable. I don't plan on really doing trail runs, at least for awhile. I mainly want something I can cruise around on, cut through fields, jump onto and off of sidewalks etc.

    I really don't know anything about bikes or what good parts are. I was looking at the Specialized Hardrock Disc, possibly the 29er disc. Is it worth it for me to get the 29er based on what I'm thinking of doing? Are there other better deals out there? I'm trying to stay at or below $600.

    Is it worth going for the newest revisions like the 2012 model Hardrock 29?

  2. #2
    It's all about the FSR!
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    That is a good bike for what you are looking for. I had a 2010 Hardrock 29er Disc, and rode that like you, and on the trails as well. It held up decently, but I did have to upgrade the brakes as they were garbage. The rest was fine though.

  3. #3
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    Thanks. So you would recommend the 29er even for my purpose? What exactly do they change from year to year, since I don't know anything about parts I can't tell what they upgrade. Are there any other brands that are comparable for the price, or any better than the Specialized?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by berfles View Post
    Thanks. So you would recommend the 29er even for my purpose? What exactly do they change from year to year, since I don't know anything about parts I can't tell what they upgrade. Are there any other brands that are comparable for the price, or any better than the Specialized?
    Trek and Giant. A 29er might be better, in your case, because you can get some slick tires for riding on the pavement, although for what you're describing you probably don't need a mountain bike.

  5. #5
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    I recommend getting a commuter of some type. If you are not going to be doing off-road riding, as in mountain bike trails and singletrack, you would be a lot more comfortable on a 700c commuter with a smoother and narrower tire.

    A mountain bike has a lot of drag on the road and thus not ideal. The best thing to do is not get your mind set on a type of bike, brand or model. Go to a shop, tell them what you want to do, ride a commuter, maybe road bike too, and a mountain bike. Find out what feels best for you and what you want to do and buy what feels and works best.

    The most common problem I see when people buy a new bike is they have their mind set on a type of bike. Many people think a mountain bike is a good all around town bike.....and really, there are many better suited bikes for that purpose. The only reason I would ever suggest a mountain bike to someone for that purpose is if they only could afford 1 bike and they knew they wanted to do some singletrack and off-roading regularly in addition to their commuting.

    I however strongly suggest that 2 or 3 bikes is better than one. I have more than that, but that's because I do so many things and bikes are my life. But I at least recommend a road/commuter only style bike for commuting and a pure off-road bike for mountain biking.....2 bikes. Yeah, costs more......but then you can get each bike fit for exactly what you need it for and your commuter can have racks, bags, lights, and all sorts of things that make commuting easier and things you don't want on a mountain bike because of weight and they will get thrashed on.

  6. #6
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    where are you located? i'm in NY and looking to sell my 1 month old 16" Trek 3900 Disc Matte black in order to pick up my buddies cannondale.. 3 series is good for light trail riding.

  7. #7
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    I briefly checked commuters out, Giant brand to be exact. I had a hard time finding other brands with "commuter" styles though, but I may have gotten sidetracked while looking.

    I can tell you I certainly don't want a road bike though. While I do plan on riding mostly flat ground, road bikes aren't going to cut it in fields or jumping off sidewalks. You never know what you may want to do in the future though.

    Given that most of my riding will be on flat grounds (or bumpy fields), would it also make more sense to get a singlespeed? I know those are for "more advanced" but I really don't think I'd have trouble with it given I don't plan on doing hardcore trails. I come from BMXing and have extremely strong legs, in my mind I prefer a single speed as I like relying on my legs to get me places instead of gearing. So maybe I'm thinking completely wrong there, I don't know. I've had bad experiences with cheap bike gearing where the chain popped off as I was pedaling and it left a bad taste in my mouth. I'd prefer standing and pedaling my ass off to downshifting to make the pedaling easier. It just makes more sense in my head to have a singlespeed when I think about what I'm going to be doing.


    Quote Originally Posted by staticuxo View Post
    where are you located? i'm in NY and looking to sell my 1 month old 16" Trek 3900 Disc Matte black in order to pick up my buddies cannondale.. 3 series is good for light trail riding.
    I'm in PA, and I don't know too much about sizing but 16" seems a bit small for my height. Plus I'm too early in the research process to make a decision this quick.

  8. #8
    It's all about the FSR!
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    A 16" bike, and you are 5'10"? Will be like a BMX bike for you. I wouldn't go any smaller than medium, probably large depending on your inseam. I am slightly taller than you, and ride a 19" large.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heavy Fluid View Post
    A 16" bike, and you are 5'10"? Will be like a BMX bike for you. I wouldn't go any smaller than medium, probably large depending on your inseam. I am slightly taller than you, and ride a 19" large.
    Kind of what I thought. My plan was to head to local places and get measured/fitted as a first step, then at least I'll have something concrete.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by berfles View Post
    I briefly checked commuters out, Giant brand to be exact. I had a hard time finding other brands with "commuter" styles though, but I may have gotten sidetracked while looking.

    I can tell you I certainly don't want a road bike though. While I do plan on riding mostly flat ground, road bikes aren't going to cut it in fields or jumping off sidewalks. You never know what you may want to do in the future though.

    Given that most of my riding will be on flat grounds (or bumpy fields), would it also make more sense to get a singlespeed? I know those are for "more advanced" but I really don't think I'd have trouble with it given I don't plan on doing hardcore trails. I come from BMXing and have extremely strong legs, in my mind I prefer a single speed as I like relying on my legs to get me places instead of gearing. So maybe I'm thinking completely wrong there, I don't know. I've had bad experiences with cheap bike gearing where the chain popped off as I was pedaling and it left a bad taste in my mouth. I'd prefer standing and pedaling my ass off to downshifting to make the pedaling easier. It just makes more sense in my head to have a singlespeed when I think about what I'm going to be doing.




    I'm in PA, and I don't know too much about sizing but 16" seems a bit small for my height. Plus I'm too early in the research process to make a decision this quick.
    No problem, just figured I'd offer. I'm 5'-10" also.


    Quote Originally Posted by Heavy Fluid View Post
    A 16" bike, and you are 5'10"? Will be like a BMX bike for you. I wouldn't go any smaller than medium, probably large depending on your inseam. I am slightly taller than you, and ride a 19" large.
    I'm 5'-10" as well.. I like having a slightly smaller bike to have more control over it.. especially in tight single track and some downhill.. Yes I could fit up to an 18" if I wanted (I was fitted for both at LBS).. but it's a preference.

  11. #11
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    Just an update, still haven't gotten to any shops yet, but my choices changed a bit (as well as budget, but not much).

    My top two at the moment are the Specialized Rockhopper and the Giant Rainier. The problem with test riding them is I don't even know how to gauge what the "feel" like, if that makes any sense. I'm so new I don't know if I can pick which one feels better, chances are they're going to both feel the same to me because I don't know what to look for.

    Thoughts on those two?

  12. #12
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    I have a Rainier. Great, light MTB. I have changed a number of items on my bike such as; derailleurs, shifters, tires and stem. Mine suits me for riding cross country. I have other bikes, all hard tail, that have different wheels/ tires mostly for around town and longer (20+ mile) pavement runs.

    Its all personal preference. You could take a Rainier and put the right tires on for your intended use. It's a nice light bike.

  13. #13
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    Something else I just noticed, Giant's site only lists the Rainier as a women's bike... did they stop making the men's version or something? I was a little shocked to read all sorts of comments about this bke only to see that they only show a women's model.

  14. #14
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    Maybe the Rainier is only womens now. Mines a 2001 model.

  15. #15
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    Seems that way, oh well, back to the Rockhopper for now I guess.

    How much is the Kona Caldera? They list a price on everything but that model on their site.

    EDIT: Seems like around $1100 I guess. It's really annoying researching and seeing these friggin bikes come up in "Best $800 bikes" posts from a few years ago only to find that they now jacked the price up $400 It's making an already difficult task that much harder.

  16. #16
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    Don't forget to use bikepedia to check out bikes. Great resource when comparing or just to check out a bike you don't know anything about.

  17. #17
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    Nice link, thanks. I'll definitely look around there.

    Another thing, what exactly is this Rockhopper model I'm looking at?

    Specialized Bicycle Components : Rockhopper

    I see all sorts of mention of Comp/Disc etc, but this one is just called "Rockhopper" and it has the disc brakes. I looked on Bikepedia and the Rockhopper there doesn't have disc brakes. Did they change the name on that too?

  18. #18
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    Specialized has made Rockhopper for years. Lots of changes to a great bike line over time. What you are seeing, on the current bike, is the various upgrades. Move up in price and you get better components like shifters, derailleurs, crank, brakes and fork.

  19. #19
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    So even the "entry level" Rockhopper has the disc brakes etc. now? What confused me was that Bikepedia listed the 2011 "plain" Rockhopper as the one without disc brakes.

    I guess they're all fairly similar at this price point, I'm just trying to compile a list of them so I have something concrete to check out at various shops. I need a list of sorts, I can't just try bikes I see on a whim.

  20. #20
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    Good info. I am also looking into a first bike.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by berfles View Post
    So even the "entry level" Rockhopper has the disc brakes etc. now?
    It seems so, yes.

    What confused me was that Bikepedia listed the 2011 "plain" Rockhopper as the one without disc brakes.
    My wife has a women's specific full suspension rockhopper from 2003. But there are also rockhopper bikes from '03 that are hardtails. You have to look closely at the frame, geometry and, now, wheel size, because not all rockhoppers are the same.

    Bikepedia is a good site, but, as you've found, it contains some inaccuracies. Still, it's sometimes the best reference available for many older bikes. If you want to research older Specialized bikes, they have a very good archive dating back to 2002. (Look for "Archive" at the bottom of the "Bikes" menu.)

  22. #22
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    Basically, here are the conclusions Iíve come to:

    For $800 and under, most, if not all bikes, have a similar component set and itís not worth beating yourself up over finding one that is ďbetterĒ on paper. Iíve looked at probably a dozen different bikes now and canít find any concrete evidence as to which one is better than the other. In reality I suppose getting the best frame you can is a priority, since youíll likely be upgrading parts anyway. I guess it really is true that you need to ride them and see how they feel, though Iím still wary about that given how I have no experience with them and wonít know what to look for.

    Trying to research online is proving next to impossible because of what I mentioned earlier. Topics older than a year are almost useless; the bikes have surely changed since then and the impressions donít even apply anymore. Iím coming across posts from 2005 where people are in love with a bike, then other posts a year later where people are saying the quality when downhill, and vice versa. Itís all very hard to keep straight in your head.

    I have three shops on my list to check out. One is a Specialized dealer, one is a Trek dealer, and the other carries Trek, Giant, Santa Cruz, and maybe a few others. I do have a couple models on my list that Iím interested in but I know specs on paper donít mean a ton. Thatís not to say that I still donít feel like I absolutely need to have a choice picked out before I go. Itís kind of annoying to me that I canít do that, Iím so used to researched the hell out of something and knowing exactly what I want. Going into a store totally blind and having no clue what I want beforehand is unnerving to me and a completely new experience.

    Hopefully this will help some others in my position, there are so many choices itís overwhelming.


    EDIT: Is it going to be hard finding 2011 bikes now that 2012s are coming out? I just e-mailed the Specialized dealer I was going to go to and they said they only have one Rockhopper, and it's a 2012 Comp 29er. Kind of puts a screw to that plan now, awesome.
    Last edited by berfles; 08-11-2011 at 07:30 AM.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by berfles View Post
    Something else I just noticed, Giant's site only lists the Rainier as a women's bike... did they stop making the men's version or something? I was a little shocked to read all sorts of comments about this bke only to see that they only show a women's model.
    The Talon is the male equivalent.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by fireball_jones View Post
    The Talon is the male equivalent.
    The brakes aren't that well received though so I'll probably pass on it for the price they want.

    Another bit of info i just came across regarding different Rockhoppers: It seems every year, that base model is the previous year's "Comp" version. The 2011 Comp has Tektro hydraulic brake discs, the 2012 base RH has the same brakes. I'm not sure if the 2010 Comp had the BB5 disc brakes, it looks like it did though, and the 2011 base model has the same brakes

    I was thinking of going for the 2011 Comp but it appears to not be any better than the base 2011. Too bad, because I like the color scheme a lot better.

    Everything just keeps going back to the 2011 Rockhopper for me. I'm really hoping the dealer issue was a fluke and that not all of them will only be getting 2012s in from now on, because it seems like they took a step backwards component wise.

  25. #25
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    Brakes, at that level, are relatively inexpensive, and for the most part, they all work equally well (or poorly, depending on how you look at it). I'd be most concerned with getting a frame you like, a decent fork, and wheels that will last more than a few rides. Those are the important things, and the items you want to last, as they're the most expensive. The running gear is mostly expendable on a mountain bike.

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