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  1. #1
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    Steel hardtail with air fork

    First post here, been researching mountain bikes, hardtail specifically. Have an old Cannondale M400 with a rocks box that I have not been using for 12 years or so due to lack of time, kids, etc. I now want to start riding again and want to upgrade my ride. I am 48 with a less than stellar back but even without budget constraints, would prefer a hardtail as that is all I have known. Based upon what I have read here, steel frame will be a bit more forgiving than aluminum. That being said, what are my options for such a setup, then steel frame with a decent (preferably air) fork? I am open to used. Would prefer to spend less that a $1000.
    Thanks for any\all feedback.

  2. #2
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    I forgot to say that thus far, then only contender I really see is the Marin pine mountain or a used kona. Really like them On One's but not sure I can swing them price with them added VAT.
    THANKS.

  3. #3
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    For the price range you should look for a nice used bike. You'll get much better components on a used bike for 1000, than you would a new bike for 1000. Where do you live/ what kind of terrain do you plan on riding? Are we talking straight xc, or more aggressive stuff?.

    These bikes come to mind:
    Salsa El Mariachi
    Surly Karate Monkey
    Soma Juice
    Niner SIR 9
    Ritchey P29

    Also, use the search feature on the upper right hand corner of the page to look up "steel hardtails" to find tons of threads on the subject.

  4. #4
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    Thanks MudderNutter. I have no issues with a used bike at all. We are talking more or less XC with a little bit of aggressive thrown in. I want the bike for what I will use it on most though, hence XC. Had not seen the Soma as a possibility yet.

    Good thing is, I am willing to keep looking for a bit longer before the urge to buy becomes too strong.

    I should add that due to my height of 5'7-5'8", I think I need to focus on a 27.5 wheel size versus a 29" with a medium sized frame.

  5. #5
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    I hear ya on the wheels! That will limit your frame selection a bit. I'm 5'9" and dig 29 inch wheels... but I also have no beef with 27.5. That being said... have you ridden a 29er yet? My gf is 5'4" and rocks a 29er, and she shreds on it. However, her next bike will be a 27.5.

    I highly highly recommend going to a demo day, or renting some bikes to ride on your local trails to see what you like. I have a tendency to research the hell out of things on the internet, and be dead set on what I want.... until I get out there and try something I never thought i'd like. Rentals can usually be had for 50-60 bucks a day.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ejb3 View Post
    I should add that due to my height of 5'7-5'8", I think I need to focus on a 27.5 wheel size versus a 29" with a medium sized frame.
    I also ask if you've ridden 29" wheels? For me, the wheel size I prefer depends on the bike. On some bikes, I like 29" wheels. On others, I like 27.5. It just depends. I've ridden some 29ers that I absolutely hated. I currently ride a full suspension 26x4" tired fatbike year round, which puts the wheel diameter at about the same as a 29er, and I love the bike. I'm about your height.

    OP, keep in mind that the El Mariachi has been discontinued, so you will ONLY be able to find used bikes and maybe the odd clearanced new-old-stock bike. Also, the Karate Monkey changed for 2017. The geometry is slightly tweaked, and it comes as a 27.5 plus, which means it's got 3" tires (just a hair smaller than 29" wheels with a 2.3ish tire). I actually really want the new karate monkey, which comes as a complete bike in rigid form with plus wheels. But you can put a suspension fork on it, 29er wheels/tires, it's super versatile.

  7. #7
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    Very valid point. have not hopped on 29er, yet. Looks like something to do this weekend...

  8. #8
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    Not sure what I think of Surly's Gnot Right dropouts.

    Kona has a few bikes that might fit the bill.
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  9. #9
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    Thorn in your Sidewall
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    Not sure what I think of Surly's Gnot Right dropouts.

    Kona has a few bikes that might fit the bill.
    I see what you did there. I haven't seten them in person yet. But I expect it is pretty much the same as the intermediate dropout widths used for awhile during previous transitions.

  11. #11
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    Okay, I am seeing this as an option to order from chain reaction, a 2016 Ragley piglet...

    Ragley Piglet Hardtail Bike 2016 | Chain Reaction Cycles

    And my local LBS has a 2016 GT Zaskar Comp for $800.
    Thirdly is this On One:

    On-One 45650B Sram X01 - Medium - Raw | On - One

    My budget likes the Zaskar but I like the looks of the On One.

    Thoughts anyone?

  12. #12
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    If you're willing to build your own, there's a ton of frame options and you shouldn't have a terribly difficult time getting under $1000.

    One that I had in my watch list: Voodoo Cycles Bizango 27.5 Wheel Medium (2015) | eBay
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  13. #13
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    Not sure I am capable of building a bike, unfortunately. Never have done much more than tune old skool brakes (calipers) and change a ton of flat tires.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ejb3 View Post
    Okay, I am seeing this as an option to order from chain reaction, a 2016 Ragley piglet...

    Ragley Piglet Hardtail Bike 2016 | Chain Reaction Cycles

    And my local LBS has a 2016 GT Zaskar Comp for $800.
    Thirdly is this On One:

    On-One 45650B Sram X01 - Medium - Raw | On - One

    My budget likes the Zaskar but I like the looks of the On One.

    Thoughts anyone?
    Those Ragley bikes look like a good bang for buck. Especially that Piglet that is 45% off. Has anyone ever bought a bike from ChainReaction? How did it arrive and what was the import duty?

  15. #15
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    Tires will have much more influence on how smooth the bike rides than frame material. I currently own steel, carbon, and aluminum hardtails, and the difference is noticeable, but not significant, especially if you're dealing with pain. Changing tires from normal 2.2 to something like a 2.4 makes a big difference. 2.4 to 2.6 is even smoother. Fat or plus tires start to feel like bike with a small amount of suspension travel.

  16. #16
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    Thank you for that perspective as an owner of three types of frames.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by ejb3 View Post
    Thanks MudderNutter. I have no issues with a used bike at all. We are talking more or less XC with a little bit of aggressive thrown in. I want the bike for what I will use it on most though, hence XC. Had not seen the Soma as a possibility yet.

    Good thing is, I am willing to keep looking for a bit longer before the urge to buy becomes too strong.

    I should add that due to my height of 5'7-5'8", I think I need to focus on a 27.5 wheel size versus a 29" with a medium sized frame.
    I am 5'7 and ride small or medium (depends on frame mfg) 29er. I would not want to ride 27.5 HT. The 29er's roll over rocks better. I do have 27.5" 5" FS bike.

    As for steel and air fork. I ride one SS. Vassago Verhauen
    Steel hardtail with air fork-img_1917-s.jpg

    Looking around you can get a Vassago Jabberwocky and fork for under $1000. That is just frame and fork however. If you want a complete bike under $1000 in steel it will have to be used. New bikes under $1000 are pretty much all aluminum. These days steel is sort of a boutique material or is reserved for really cheap 50lbs walmart specials. Good steel will cost some money but is well worth it.
    Joe
    '12 Santa Cruz Highball 29", '13 Santa Cruz Solo 27.5",Vassago Verhauen SS 29" XC, AM, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  18. #18
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    JoePAz,
    Do you find that there is much difference between a 27.5+ versus a 29er as far as riding?

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by ejb3 View Post
    JoePAz,
    Do you find that there is much difference between a 27.5+ versus a 29er as far as riding?
    Before I bought it the Vassago was set-up 27.5+. 2.8 on 35mm wheels. Soft plush ride, but marshmallow handling. Lots of grip straight line, but I could not be confident in the cornering grip. Plus was slower to accelerate out of turns despite light plus tire and good wheelset. So I bought the frame minues the wheels and put in normal 29er wheels with 2.35 front tire and 2.2 rear. Not as plush, but alot more responsive.

    Now if you want the softest riding Hardtail then get a 29+. Big wheels will roll over alot rocks and 3.0 tires and low pressure will absorb alot. However plus tires are expensive. My Verhauen frame will fit 29x3.0 tires and I have considered doing it with a rigid fork. However I am not really sold yet.
    Joe
    '12 Santa Cruz Highball 29", '13 Santa Cruz Solo 27.5",Vassago Verhauen SS 29" XC, AM, blah blah blah.. I just ride.

  20. #20
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    Thanks. Do not think I can, unfortunately.

  21. #21
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    If you don't want 29", Surly Instigator is a steel 26+ complete build with Fox fork. Good spec for the price, but MSRP is a few hundred more than $1000. Tough to find a steel frame complete for $1000 particularly with an air sprung fork. It's hard to find an aluminum frame complete build with an air sprung fork for that price.

    The 26+ rides nicely and is the overall diameter of a 27.5. If you so choose, it will fit standard 27.5 wheels. The frame rides really well and is similar to the new Karate Monkey, whose geometry is similar to the Instigator.

  22. #22
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    Where did you pick up the 4130 at? I cannot find a Tokul 4130 anywhere! anyone have a lead? I saw a good review for the bike. looks well equipped.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by coke View Post
    Tires will have much more influence on how smooth the bike rides than frame material. I currently own steel, carbon, and aluminum hardtails, and the difference is noticeable, but not significant, especially if you're dealing with pain. Changing tires from normal 2.2 to something like a 2.4 makes a big difference. 2.4 to 2.6 is even smoother. Fat or plus tires start to feel like bike with a small amount of suspension travel.
    Yep. I own a 29er aluminum hardtail and found the biggest improvement came from a wider rim and tire in the rear with low air pressure. I'd make sure the frame you get has clearance for a 2.4 tire, at least a 2.3. Or go with a plus sized wheel if you're looking for comfort over performance. If you're an advanced rider, I'd get that Piglet. Great parts spec, nice wheels with sealed cartridge bearings, modern slacker geometry, and a dropper post? That's an awesome deal!

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by ejb3 View Post
    Where did you pick up the 4130 at? I cannot find a Tokul 4130 anywhere! anyone have a lead? I saw a good review for the bike. looks well equipped.
    Did you ask your local Raleigh dealer? If they don't have one, they can probably find a dealer who does.
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  25. #25
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    Updare. Just ordered a Dee Dar from On One in the UK. Steel frame, SAM NX1 components, SAM Guide R brakes and rokshox sector gold fork. Price was $800 with another $150 for certified delivery to my address. So, got what I wanted for under $1000 for a new bike. Love them anthracite paint job as well. Bike is normally $1150 but grabbed it on sale as it was used at an exhibition.
    Thanks to everyone who provided input on my original request.

  26. #26
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    Nice find, ejb3. I think you will enjoy that build.

    I strongly considered buying a DeeDar frame as I'm replacing the old alloy frame (dented top tube) on my 26" hardtail and upping it to a steel 650b. I ultimately went with a Surly Instigator 2.0, but that DeeDar should bring the grins.

  27. #27
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    I ordered Wednesday AM, and then bike is supposed to be here by COB today, cannot wait. That was a quick turnaround.

  28. #28
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    Killer price! Be sure to post up some pics

  29. #29
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    Steel hardtail with air fork-20170225_145226.jpg

    Pic of new bike, I think....(First time uploading a pic!)

  30. #30
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    Nice Pic!

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by ejb3 View Post
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	20170225_145226.jpg 
Views:	168 
Size:	105.7 KB 
ID:	1123827

    Pic of new bike, I think....(First time uploading a pic!)
    It's not even my bike, and i'm stoked on the deal you got! That's one heck of a rig. Enjoy!

  32. #32
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    -1 for reflector
    -1 for non-drive side photo

    Serious question though- is your saddle really low or are your bars just really high?
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  33. #33
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    Seat is usually a bit higher but bars are on a long stem with a 6-7 degree rise. Go with what is comfy, right? I have bad back and prefer to be a little more upright.

    I get the ding on the reflector but I will also put some light on this for my early AM rides which will start from home on streets.
    Not tracking you on the non-drive side photo bit?

  34. #34
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    Had no clue on the rims until I researched them after I got the bike. PACENTI SL28's.
    Tires are WTB Vigilante 27.5's While the set up came with tubes- next step is to go tubeless.

  35. #35
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    Look at a bicycle magazine- the best way to photograph your bike is on the drive side to display the drivetrain. It's just a better way to show off your bike. A less cluttered background is a good idea too. Not a big deal, just trying to help with a cheeky critique.

    The pedal reflectors WILL fall off and become litter on the trail. Remove them and get that over with.
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  36. #36
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    Good copy to both the drivetrain and the reflectors.
    Thanks for the feedback, Mack!

  37. #37
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    New bike looks sweet, ejb3. Hope it sees a lot of trail.

    I'd echo Mack's concern about the saddle height. When fully extended (downstroke), is your knee slightly bent or very bent?

  38. #38
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    Hardly to slightly bent, sir.

  39. #39
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    Have you been able to get it on some dirt yet?

  40. #40
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    No real dirt yet, just mild trails.

  41. #41
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    Same here. But I'm not complaining--just over two weeks ago, I was skiing on some of the same trails, so progress is progress.

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoePAz View Post
    I am 5'7 and ride small or medium (depends on frame mfg) 29er. I would not want to ride 27.5 HT. The 29er's roll over rocks better. I do have 27.5" 5" FS bike.

    As for steel and air fork. I ride one SS. Vassago Verhauen
    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	IMG_1917-s.jpg 
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ID:	1120135

    Looking around you can get a Vassago Jabberwocky and fork for under $1000. That is just frame and fork however. If you want a complete bike under $1000 in steel it will have to be used. New bikes under $1000 are pretty much all aluminum. These days steel is sort of a boutique material or is reserved for really cheap 50lbs walmart specials. Good steel will cost some money but is well worth it.
    Out of curiosity is this a small frame?

  43. #43
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    Steel frames are more comfortable than aluminium, no question there, but if it's comfort you want then a full-suspension bike kills it. Kills it, buries it, digs it up and kills it again!

    You can get an alloy full-sus that will weigh the same or less than a steel hardtail. Ultimately, a hard-tail will be faster on most tame trails but a full-sus is so much more comfortable it's not funny. You get to the end of the ride and you don't feel beat up, stiff and sore. Definitely worth considering.

  44. #44
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    The OP mention of Marin is the direction I went.
    I had it narrowed to a steel bike, hard tail and 27.5 then went 27.5 plus as the PM One. Loving the comfort of the chubby tires and compliant ride over my old 26" alum h/t.

    I'm getting older and more brittle but I knew full sus was overkill for me and my type of trails. The very things fat bike fans love and talk about seem to overlap some on the plus tire bikes too and Fat seemed just a bit too dedicated to sandy beaches and snow that were not on my hit list.
    Without going plus tires, full sus would likely not be overkill even if just searching for the ride attributes alone.
    Last edited by bachman1961; 05-20-2017 at 01:50 PM.
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  45. #45
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    @ejb3

    Really curious to know what you think of the On-One 456. I looked into getting the Summer Season years ago but never pulled the trigger. Now, looking for a do-it-all hardtail, i'm very curious to know how the newer 456s handle. Thinking about the 4560b or the DeeDar from On-One as my purchase to try to get back into the sport.

  46. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tower View Post
    Really curious to know what you think of the On-One 456.
    I built one up for my son a few months ago but he hasn't been on the thing once yet! I've had a roll around the garden on it but when we do get to a trail centre I'll have a proper go.

    I think that how it rides is largely going to depend on how you build it. Allegedly, it will work with forks from 100 to 150mm, hence the name. What you fit, and what width of bars and stem length are going to make a huge difference to how it rides.

    It's a tidy frame. My two complaints would be that it only takes straight steerer tubes, a pretty major feckup if you ask me, and tyre clearance on the back is not terrific. I put a 2.35 High Roller on the back and I reckon that's pretty close to your limit.

    Steel hardtail with air fork-001-2-.jpg

  47. #47
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    I love On One stuff but it for some reason they keep making out-dated stuff (small head tube) long after it's old news.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    I love On One stuff but it for some reason they keep making out-dated stuff (small head tube) long after it's old news.
    What do you consider small? It seems like the 100-125mm head tube should be relatively normal. It's actually might be quite large compared to some similar bikes it would seem.

  49. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tower View Post
    What do you consider small? It seems like the 100-125mm head tube should be relatively normal. It's actually might be quite large compared to some similar bikes it would seem.
    They're talking about the diameter of the head tube. The 456 in the pic only takes an EC34 headset, and will only fit a 1 1/8" steerer fork. Which limits which forks you can use, since a lot of really nice forks on the market nowadays are ONLY available in tapered steerer arrangement. This frame is really meant to be something inexpensive to hang your old parts on. For a new bike for me, I'd go 44mm head tube minimum. Still keeps things simple. Easy for straight steerer, easy for tapered. Frankly, that right there is a deal killer for me on a new mtb. I'd ride it if I had it already, but no way would I buy one new with that head tube spec.

    This one does just that.
    On-One 45650B Frame | On - One

  50. #50
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    @Harold I see, alright then.

    The new 456 (45650b) is what I was looking at and it seems to be running 44mm head tubes. I was originally inquiring about ejb3's bike as it seems he had purchased the 45650b. I've been going back between the 45650b and the DeeDar, as well as some other hardtails like the Transition Throttle, Ragley Marley, Bird Zero, and the Orange p7.

    The Bird Zero and either of the On-Ones seem to be where i'm leaning as they seem to be the best deals. Was curious to know how ejb3 liked his new 45650b.

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