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
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    What to look for in a frame?

    Hi guys

    I am looking for an entry level hardtail and trying to learn a bit about the different components on a bike.

    I've learnt about the different levels of SRAM and Shimano components: X3, X4, X5, X7, X9, X0, XX and Acera, Alivio, Deore, LX, XT, XTR etc... I've also learnt a bit about Suntour forks: XCT, XCM, XCR, Raidon etc... (I know they aren't great but it's what I'm likely to get within my price range).

    So I've got a rough idea when looking at specs what to look for.

    But what about the frame on a bike? It's obviously one of the most important things, so other than it being comfortable, how do I know what to look for?

    Cheers

  2. #2
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    In entry-level hardtails, you don't get a ton of choice. In general, they're either a pretty upright geometry or a pretty traditional XC geometry.

    Trek tends to run to shorter top tubes for 3- and 4-series bikes. Good for someone who has a short torso or doesn't want to pedal much. Some other brands do this too. The Giant Revel is another example. Specialized and Cannondale are much more similar across their full lines. Cannondale is quite pointed about it.

    At the very lowest pricepoint, some frames aren't compatible with disc brakes.

    What price range are you looking in? From Suntour forks, it could be anywhere from $400 to $1800. Pretty big range.

    What kind of riding do you want to do?
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    What kind of riding do you want to do?
    Most important things for first bike?

  4. #4
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    OP, having looked at your other thread, ability to mount a real rack is going to be a pretty big deal. Getting a rack onto many mountain bike frames really sucks. The disc brake mount and caliper occupy some real estate you need.

    Since you've set a low budget, this may be more difficult. There are a few frames with off-road touring specifically (or at least tangentially) in mind. Gunnar, Surly and Salsa spring to mind. Look for the disc caliper to be mounted on the chainstay instead of the seatstay. Some more sport-oriented 29ers do this too, but it's not as common.

    I think your cheapest way in is to buy a cheap used mountain bike or one from a catalog like Focus, Cube or Fezzari. Here in the US, it would be bikesdirect, but I think import duties stop that from being a good deal for you. Also buy a nice, new frame. The Surly Ogre or Troll is likely to be your cheapest way in. Then, cannibalize the bike to build the frame. You might get a few bucks back out of the bare frame but don't count on it.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    OP, having looked at your other thread, ability to mount a real rack is going to be a pretty big deal. Getting a rack onto many mountain bike frames really sucks. The disc brake mount and caliper occupy some real estate you need.

    Since you've set a low budget, this may be more difficult. There are a few frames with off-road touring specifically (or at least tangentially) in mind. Gunnar, Surly and Salsa spring to mind. Look for the disc caliper to be mounted on the chainstay instead of the seatstay. Some more sport-oriented 29ers do this too, but it's not as common.

    I think your cheapest way in is to buy a cheap used mountain bike or one from a catalog like Focus, Cube or Fezzari. Here in the US, it would be bikesdirect, but I think import duties stop that from being a good deal for you. Also buy a nice, new frame. The Surly Ogre or Troll is likely to be your cheapest way in. Then, cannibalize the bike to build the frame. You might get a few bucks back out of the bare frame but don't count on it.
    I'm thinking of buying this.

    Rockrider 5.3 Mountain Bike, White B'TWIN - All Bikes Cycling - On sale at...

    Ridiculously cheap, and easily the best components I have seen on a bike in it's price range. It can be fitted with a pannier rack. Do you reckon it'll be suitable?

    There's also the 29er version...
    Rockrider Big RR 5.3 Mountain Bike, White B'TWIN - All Bikes - On sale at Decathlon.co.uk

    And the more expensive 26er...
    Rockrider 8.1 2012 Mountain Bike, Grey B'TWIN - All Bikes Cycling - On sale...
    As far as I'm aware this one doesn't have a place to mount a pannier but I'm very tempted by the spec. Do you think it would still be possible?

  6. #6
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    If you could find a deal on something like a used Surly Troll, I think you would be far, far happier in the long run. And in the short run, for that matter. For a regular trail-riding bike, I would choose something different, but given that it sounds like you're looking to use the bike for bikepacking on a regular basis, you're going to want something designed along those lines. You start putting a low-end XCish bike like the ones you posted through some loaded off-road miles, you're going to be asking more of it than it's got to give IMO.


  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    If you could find a deal on something like a used Surly Troll, I think you would be far, far happier in the long run. And in the short run, for that matter. For a regular trail-riding bike, I would choose something different, but given that it sounds like you're looking to use the bike for bikepacking on a regular basis, you're going to want something designed along those lines. You start putting a low-end XCish bike like the ones you posted through some loaded off-road miles, you're going to be asking more of it than it's got to give IMO.

    The frame on that bike looks great, however it seems way over priced relative to the ones I posted.

    Take the Rockrider 8.1 for example. About 550 and comes with SRAM X7 components and Rockshox forks. The Surly Troll at about 1200 comes with Shimano Deore components (equivalent to SRAM X5) and no suspension.

    If I was to buy the Rockrider 8.1 new, buy an On-One Inbred frame to replace the rockriders On-One Inbred 26er Slot Dropout (119) I would end up with better components (as far as I am aware) a decent quality steel frame, and still have more money left over than if I had bought a Surly Troll used.

    I don't understand what am I missing here?

  8. #8
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    The disc brake calipers on the Rockriders are in the wrong place. It's one thing if you're putting a couple lightly loaded panniers or a lock or something on your rack. But for actual touring, IMO, it needs to be a rack that mounts to eyelets in the frame itself, and with no weird spacers or the other compromises people make when they can't mount a frame correctly.

    The Inbred looks okay, though I've read that that style of dropout is annoying. Looks like the vertical dropouts move the brake mount to the seatstay. So you pretty much have to decide if getting vertical dropouts AND fender mounts AND serviceable rack mounts is $400 better than the Inbred frame.

    I was never proposing that you buy a Surly complete. They're more expensive than your budget and don't seem to go on clearance much. The frames list for a pretty reasonable amount for a frameset and let you source the components elsewhere.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    The disc brake calipers on the Rockriders are in the wrong place. It's one thing if you're putting a couple lightly loaded panniers or a lock or something on your rack. But for actual touring, IMO, it needs to be a rack that mounts to eyelets in the frame itself, and with no weird spacers or the other compromises people make when they can't mount a frame correctly.

    The Inbred looks okay, though I've read that that style of dropout is annoying. Looks like the vertical dropouts move the brake mount to the seatstay. So you pretty much have to decide if getting vertical dropouts AND fender mounts AND serviceable rack mounts is $400 better than the Inbred frame.

    I was never proposing that you buy a Surly complete. They're more expensive than your budget and don't seem to go on clearance much. The frames list for a pretty reasonable amount for a frameset and let you source the components elsewhere.
    Ok then, I will probably go for the Inbred for now as its much more within my price range. I will definetly consider the Surly later on down the line when I have more experience and want to do longer tours though.

    Cheers

  10. #10
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    BTW just to summarise the original question of what to look for in a frame, the conclusion I've got is that it's basically Geometry, Strength and Versatility (for me at least). Is that right?

    Cheers

  11. #11
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    As you had specifically said you wanted to do long-distance, heavily loaded touring with up to a month worth of supplies in your other thread, getting a suitable frame and fork that will handle that much gear is far more important than jumping up a bit in drivetrain compenentry, of which the difference in performance between levels can be all but negligable; going to higher levels usually is mainly about saving a few grams. If you're strapping a bunch of gear and racks on your bike, this is not something you need to worry much about (as you said yourself). You want strong, simple and cheap. If you're going out for weeks at at time, you want cheap enough that you're able to carry a spare. You also want something with much stronger wheels than what you're looking at on the bargain bikes. Loaded off-road riding is incredible tough on wheels.

    I personally wouldn't bother with a low end suspension fork for this type of bike. It will limit your loading options and isn't going to do much for you ride-wise. Though something like the Troll might seem a little expensive off the bat, I think by the time you buy both a frame and a full bike to strip parts off, transfer the parts, re-buy the stuff that didn't end up swapping over as well as the tools you need and a couple trips to the shop to do stuff you're not going to want to do at home (chase and face the frame for starters), you will have spent about the same for a bike that's not going to work as well for your intended usage as you would for a complete bike that would be perfect for what you say you want to do with it. I think you'd be much better saving up a bit longer and getting the right tool for the job right off the bat.

    Course, you can always just grab any old bike and backpack and get out there too. A trailer is another great option to make almost any bike a bike-packing rig; I always preferred them myself. Nice to be able to drop the trailer at a moments notice and ride the bike without any racks, etc hanging all over it. This is all specially nice if you're thinking of doing what I used to enjoy - haul to somewhere that has a bunch of good singetrack riding, drop the gear at a likely spot, go rip trails, camp out, rinse and repeat. As a bonus, you can very likely get a trailer and big drybag a lot more cheaply than a full set of decent racks and panniers (which may end up costing you a good bit more than what you're thinking of spending on the bike itself).

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    As you had specifically said you wanted to do long-distance, heavily loaded touring with up to a month worth of supplies in your other thread, getting a suitable frame and fork that will handle that much gear is far more important than jumping up a bit in drivetrain compenentry, of which the difference in performance between levels can be all but negligable; going to higher levels usually is mainly about saving a few grams. If you're strapping a bunch of gear and racks on your bike, this is not something you need to worry much about (as you said yourself). You want strong, simple and cheap. If you're going out for weeks at at time, you want cheap enough that you're able to carry a spare. You also want something with much stronger wheels than what you're looking at on the bargain bikes. Loaded off-road riding is incredible tough on wheels.

    I personally wouldn't bother with a low end suspension fork for this type of bike. It will limit your loading options and isn't going to do much for you ride-wise. Though something like the Troll might seem a little expensive off the bat, I think by the time you buy both a frame and a full bike to strip parts off, transfer the parts, re-buy the stuff that didn't end up swapping over as well as the tools you need and a couple trips to the shop to do stuff you're not going to want to do at home (chase and face the frame for starters), you will have spent about the same for a bike that's not going to work as well for your intended usage as you would for a complete bike that would be perfect for what you say you want to do with it. I think you'd be much better saving up a bit longer and getting the right tool for the job right off the bat.

    Course, you can always just grab any old bike and backpack and get out there too. A trailer is another great option to make almost any bike a bike-packing rig; I always preferred them myself. Nice to be able to drop the trailer at a moments notice and ride the bike without any racks, etc hanging all over it. This is all specially nice if you're thinking of doing what I used to enjoy - haul to somewhere that has a bunch of good singetrack riding, drop the gear at a likely spot, go rip trails, camp out, rinse and repeat. As a bonus, you can very likely get a trailer and big drybag a lot more cheaply than a full set of decent racks and panniers (which may end up costing you a good bit more than what you're thinking of spending on the bike itself).
    Fair enough, I didnt really think about the cost and practical difficulties of actually swapping a frame over. Until I can afford something better I'm going to get one of the cheap rockriders and go lightweight backpacking with it, I need a bike anyway and I don't mind buying two in the end.

    The Surly is obviously very versatile, would I be able to put good suspension forks on it with a long travel and use it as an all mountain / downhill bike? I probably wouldn't be doing anything too intense but if I was to spend that much money on a bike I'd need to know that it could handle anything.

    Secondly, are the any other suitable bikes which come close to the Surly? Good frame, wheels, forks etc?

    Finally, how do you know if the wheels on a bike are good or not? I went into a bike shop the other day and was told all wheels are pretty much the same unless you spend 1000 on them. I won't be going there again lol. Is it just a case of seeing what wheels are on a bike and googling it or are there things to look for? I know for instance that more spokes = stronger.

    Cheers

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by billy17 View Post
    ..if I was to spend that much money on a bike I'd need to know that it could handle anything.
    FWIW, a good DH fork alone costs more than that entire bike.

    I think you're in a situation where first of all you need to bring your 'want' list into line with your budget. You also need to narrow down your intended purpose, a lot. You're not going have one bike that performs well for DH one day, then goes out for a monthlong bikepacking tour the next.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    FWIW, a good DH fork alone costs more than that entire bike.

    I think you're in a situation where first of all you need to bring your 'want' list into line with your budget. You also need to narrow down your intended purpose, a lot. You're not going have one bike that performs well for DH one day, then goes out for a monthlong bikepacking tour the next.
    Yeah I see what you're saying. I have a pretty clear idea what I need to do now, and it involves lots of money :P

    Thanks for the advice

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    No reason at all you can't pick or build up something decent in your price range that may not excel in any particular area, but is a good all around bike that can be pressed into service for whatever you want to do with it. Something like the Inbred would be a good choice, and if you're fairly confident in your mechanical ability and willing to make a lot of runs back and forth to the local bike shop to buy random tools and widgets, you could try the part swap route. Knowing how to work on your own bike saves you money, and saves you some walking when things break down on the trail. Probably not as straightforward a process as you'd hope, but not usually terribly difficult either.

    I think I personally would do a search on local used bikes and see if anything jumps out as a good deal, and if not, pick up one of those Rockriders (the better one if you can swing it) and just start riding the hell out of it. People do all the stuff you want to do on 'lesser' bikes. While you ride it, figure out what works for you about it and what doesn't in different situations. Get familiar with how to adjust and repair things. By the time you've worn it out, you'll have a much better idea of what you want out of your next bike.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by slapheadmofo View Post
    No reason at all you can't pick or build up something decent in your price range that may not excel in any particular area, but is a good all around bike that can be pressed into service for whatever you want to do with it. Something like the Inbred would be a good choice, and if you're fairly confident in your mechanical ability and willing to make a lot of runs back and forth to the local bike shop to buy random tools and widgets, you could try the part swap route. Knowing how to work on your own bike saves you money, and saves you some walking when things break down on the trail. Probably not as straightforward a process as you'd hope, but not usually terribly difficult either.

    I think I personally would do a search on local used bikes and see if anything jumps out as a good deal, and if not, pick up one of those Rockriders (the better one if you can swing it) and just start riding the hell out of it. People do all the stuff you want to do on 'lesser' bikes. While you ride it, figure out what works for you about it and what doesn't in different situations. Get familiar with how to adjust and repair things. By the time you've worn it out, you'll have a much better idea of what you want out of your next bike.
    Yeah that's what I meant. I realise I'm not gona be able to get a perfect bike with my budget so I'm gona get the Rockrider 8.1 for now, and when I have more experience, (I haven't even done any off road riding before) look at either doing a frame swap or getting a whole bike set up like a Surly

  17. #17
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    FFS. Have you done any bicycle touring before? Or is this whole thing a wild hare?

    I mean, we all have to start somewhere. But I think getting into custom builds is a great way to spend a whole bunch of money on spec, without much assurance that it's even what you want.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    FFS. Have you done any bicycle touring before? Or is this whole thing a wild hare?

    I mean, we all have to start somewhere. But I think getting into custom builds is a great way to spend a whole bunch of money on spec, without much assurance that it's even what you want.
    No I haven't done any touring before, that's why I'm in the beginners section lol

  19. #19
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    I don't really like to have a lot of crap strapped to my bike so TBH, I haven't toured either.

    Here's my advice to you: get reasonably good late-90s to early-2000s mountain bike with V-brakes. Try mountain biking. Try touring. Try off-road touring. See what sticks. V-brakes don't present the rack compatibility issues that discs do, so you don't need a new frame. And going used is going to reduce your exposure if you decide you have the wrong bike for whatever clicks, or if you figure out you need a different size. Not that either of those every happens to anyone. :-P
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

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