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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    ... and if we just ... Newbie would appreciate opinions on a hardtail for AM/Trail.

    Hi there, a little intro about me and my riding style/areas first to help you help me!

    I'm a 5' tall, 115lbs (on a heavy day) female, currently riding a Gary Fischer Tarpon men's 15.5" bike (pretty comfortably). Just started riding again after 12 years of not so much as even looking at a bike, and already addicted.

    I ride on trails that occasionally have a few slight inclines, a few *little jumps/hills (no real drop, maybe 2ft at the highest point and you can ride down the other side if you take it casual pace), a lot of roots and some little rocks (no rock gardens so far). No berms or anything crazy like that around here but I am going to be hopefully hitting a few more "challenging" trails I've found through the 'net once I get a bit more comfortable with the basics.

    (the trails I've looked at online so far: Needham Town Forest Mountain Bike Trail, Pratt Farm Mountain Bike Trail, Adams Farm Mountain Bike Trail All in Massachusetts, all pretty "beginner".)

    Every time I ride I get more confident and a bit more aggressive--and I figure since this is how I generally pursue things I enjoy (aggressively), I should maybe get a bit sturdier of a bike so I don't break the GF since it's been good for me and good for my mostly flat trails around here (and hey, I got it barely used, but well maintained, for $50 -- I want it to last!).

    My budget is limited to $600 or under. I like trigger shifters, and 26" tires. Would prefer disc brakes. Don't care if it's "Men's" "Women's" or "Unisex". If it fits, I'll ride it.

    Here are the bikes I've liked (based on user reviews as well as reading what other's are riding or have started on) in my price range and would like some opinions on:

    Cannondale Trail 6:
    TRAIL 6

    Specialized Hardrock Disc:
    Specialized Bicycle Components

    Marin Wildcat Trail WFG:
    MARIN BIKES**|** Mountain HT**|**Alloy HT **|**Wildcat Trail WFG


    Which is the best "bang for my buck"? Any other suggestions?

    ***I should also mention that I'll be going to a LBS to purchase and will test ride any bike for a correct fit before laying my $$ down!

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Test ride them all and go with the bike and shop that feels the best. If you are in RI I would check out Blackstone Bicycle. They carry Rocky Mountain, KHS, and some other higher end stuff. Really great guys and super helpful.
    Bikes | Mountain | XC Hardtail | VAPOR

  3. #3
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    I don't think the other bikes are much if any better than your Tarpon.

    I don't think you will break your Tarpon frame. Most Trek stuff is rated at 300 lbs, and you're way way under that. You will probably taco a wheel or break yourself before you'll break the frame, and a replacement wheel wouldn't be that expensive.

    Consider riding what you have and meanwhile save up for a Cobia or X-Caliber-class bike.

  4. #4
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    A fork and front wheel/tire upgrade of your Tarpon would be night and day. Check to make sure your steerer is 1-1/8" A Manitou fork off ebay can be revalved for your weight and a super compliant ride. A Suntour Epicon could also work. You won't hurt your frame until you progress to downhill. The new fork would mean a new disc wheel, rotor and front brakeset. I'd go with M666 SLK for about $90+ rotor. A Stan's Crest wheel would be fine for your weight. I'd put Schwalbe Racing Ralph Performance 2.25 tires front and rear and run them at 20-25psi.
    The bikes you listed all need the same fork upgrade.

  5. #5
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    TrailPixie- thanks for your great post, we are in very similary situations. I too have a used gary fisher that I would like to upgrad a bit while saving for a better bike.

    PS: Eb1888: I love your advice and I am going to look into the parts you suggest. Would the same parts work on my 16" Gary Fisher Marlin WSD?

  6. #6
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    Yes. if your steerer is 1-1/8" an 80mm fork will slightly slacken the head tube angle if your old fork is 63mm but the signifigant weight loss off your front end will speed up steering response a lot. The fork will let you blast through rocks and roots.

  7. #7
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    I agree with Dennis F. Ride what you have and save up for something really good. I am riding a Trek 8900 from 98 until I get my Santa Cruz finished. The old bikes were hand built in the USA while all but a few new ones are made over seas. Even after I build my Santa Cruz, I will keep the Trek around as an XC bike. That is my personal experience anyways.

  8. #8
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    What is a "steerer"? My fork right now is 100mm travel I believe.

  9. #9
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    Keep an eye out for a used Kona Steely. The frame's geometry is geared toward more aggressive all mountain riding and the construction is going to be pretty durable. As you improve and you can afford upgrades you'll be able to keep the bike progressing along with your skills. Buying used will make that $600 go farther. Also, check out the AM hardtail thread in the All Mountain forum!

    EDIT: I also like the look of these. Gary Fisher GED. There is one for sale near me for ~$450.

  10. #10
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    I've been scoping the Hardtail thread as well as the "Your first AM bike" thread, to gain knowledge and insight. I think I will stick with the GF and then possibly upgradethe suspension and brakes as suggested, while looking for a full suspension and saving towards that. I know, I aim high, but it's in my nature! In the meantime I'll keep rockin' my hardtail and learning and pushing my limits, and the bike's. Thanks guys! And if others are finding this thread helpful, then keep it goin' for them!

  11. #11
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    I am running a Jamis Komodo for AM. It is a fun bike. I only paid 350 for it. Components aren't that great stock but I am enjoying upgrading as I learn what I need.

  12. #12
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    Do you have a Performance Bike shop nearby?

    They carry GT, and the Avalanche 2.0 might fit the bill. Though the appear to currently be $800ish on the website, they go on sale all the time for $550-650. If not, you could look at a 'lower' model Avalanche. And they do make that model specific to women so you should be able to get a good fit with either the men's or the women's model.

  13. #13
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    The GT Avalanche X is an all-mountain hardtail. Great component spec, and the Sector RL air fork (a $500 part alone) is sweet. I bought one recently and love it. I weigh 200lbs and throw it around like my dirtbikes, so the bike can take the punishment. You can pick one up from Bike Nashbar for $640, plus shipping (and tax depending on where you live), when they are running their 20% off sale. Best hardtail deal going IMO, and I looked very hard for a while.

  14. #14
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    Mike and Brendon at BlackStone Bike are Great and Super knowledgeable .

    I just bought my Rocky from them .

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by smac75 View Post
    What is a "steerer"? My fork right now is 100mm travel I believe.
    It's the tube running from the fork legs through the frame's head tube. Bikes with 1-1/8" steerers can use new suspension forks. On such bikes, the stem is separate and connects the steerer tube to the handlebar. When choosing a fork, make sure it can accommodate your brake type, i.e discs or v-brakes.

    Older bikes (lates 90's and earlier) often come with 1" steerers which are incompatible with a newer fork. They feature a one-pice stem/steerer, like below.

    Joe
    Chicago, IL

  16. #16
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    Help me chOose first bike

    Thinking about a 2012x caliber or 2010 trek fuel ex8,I'm new to the sport and will use this bike for everything,I'm 36 and have had a few back problems,that's why I was considering a fan bike,I would like some opinions.

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