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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    Women's Cannondale Lexi 3 vs Trail SL 2

    Hi there,

    Looking to pick up my first mountain bike. I hear it's better to spend a little more initially (if possible) so you don't have to pay for the upgrades later. Anyone have any experiences with or thoughts on the Cannondale Women's Lexi 3 or the Cannondale Women's Trail SL 2? I would be riding in southern california, mostly on dirt trails, fire roads, some pavement, nothing too crazy (too start).

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Two very different bikes, is there something that has led you to narrow it to these models? On sale or available in your area?

    The reason everyone suggests spending as much as possible up front is that you get better working parts that will last longer without the need for as much maintenance (usually). But that typically is a question that gets asked if someone was looking at, let's say, a Trail SL2 or a Trail SL3. At that point, it's probably worth upgrading to the SL2 if price isn't a hurdle. But you're going with bikes that have nearly the same parts attached to them and are designed completely differently so the price difference is caused by the rear suspension and linkages.

    Most people will benefit from having a full suspension (FS) bike from the beginning, it sort of eases the learning curve a bit. Some will call it cheating and demand that you start on a hardtail, but they're just jealous that they couldn't buy one when they started riding. The Lexi is the women's version of the RZ120 which is the bike I got for my wife as her first mountain bike. She really killed it on the thing and is looking to upgrade to a Firebird this season, but the RZ/Lexi is a good platform for nearly any riding you can think of.

    The downsides of choosing a full suspension bike include all the people will hate on you because you got a full suspension bike and they had to start learning on a hardtail, they weigh more which is more weight you have to lug uphill, they don't pedal as efficiently (in most situations), and they have more bolts that need to be checked for tightness than a hardtail would have. Back to up sides: the rougher the trail, the more efficient FS bikes become when pedaling in comparison to a HT.

    Finally, the geometry between the two is quite different as well. The Trail SL2 is more of a race oriented bike with aggressive geometry and riding position. The head angles of the two bikes differ by 1.5, this doesn't sound like much but in practice that's a large difference. No one can tell you which one you like better but most people will probably find the more upright seating position and slacker angles of the Lexi/RZ more comfortable.

    You need to ride them both and find out what you think of them. A bike is a very personal thing and it doesn't matter how much one costs or how nice of parts are attached to it, if you aren't comfortable on the thing then you'll never ride it. Your LBS can suggest which one might be more appropriate for the types of trails around you or maybe someone from your area could as well. I would generally suggest the Lexi, but you're going to have to make the decision in the end. There are other great bikes in or around your price range including the Giant Trance X4, Trek EX5, or the Specialized Camber comp and they're all worth considering. If you have other bike shops in your area, go check those out if you can. Really, you should be riding every single bike that's in or around your price range then picking the one you enjoy the most.

    If you are an very small person then the women's specific bikes could be a great benefit, but if you are average height then unisex bikes should be considered along side women's models.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  3. #3
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    Wow, zebrahum that was super helpful. Thanks so much!!!!

    These are two women's bikes available at the bike shop nearby. I'm about 5'6" - you think I can get away with a men's bike? The selection is much better. (obviously, I'll test them out, but are there any downsides for a girl riding a unisex bike if it seems to fit during the test drive?)

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockandroll322 View Post
    These are two women's bikes available at the bike shop nearby. I'm about 5'6" - you think I can get away with a men's bike? The selection is much better. (obviously, I'll test them out, but are there any downsides for a girl riding a unisex bike if it seems to fit during the test drive?)
    At 5'6" you aren't out of the realm of fitting on a unisex bike, it really comes down to your particular body proportions. I can't speak to Cannondale's take on what they call a women's bike except to say that they put "lighter springs in the fork", which isn't an issue because that's an air fork but every company is different. Some use shorter reach brake levers, some have different saddles equipped, most have subtle geometry differences, and many have different bars and stems.

    I think you should consider any bike as long as its the correct size. A unisex Cannondale bike seems to be equipped with longer than average stems so that might actually be a good reason to consider a women's bike. Reading through the geometry tables between the unisex and women's Trail SL 2 in size small you are looking at exactly the same top tube length and standover which would be two of the most important measurements of a bike. As for their differences, there aren't any parts that come on a women's bike that you couldn't put on yourself. The Lexi, however, is said to be designed with a different linkage to the RZ to accommodate smaller frame sizes, but without being able to ride size S bikes, I can't say what benefit that might have. I would assume it to be a good thing the smaller the frame size you need.

    When buying any bike, there are changes that you might want to make unisex or not. Saddles are spec'd to be cheap and fit the 95 percentile person, bars are usually left long and can be cut to size (though I think wide bars are the way to go anyway), pedals when equipped are always garbage, and grips can usually be replaced. The tricky part is that until you get the bike out for an hour's ride, it's hard to say what you might want to replace. Saddles always hurt on the first few rides, even if it's the perfect saddle for you. Your riding position won't throw up any red flags until you've been out a few times. It's best to get what feels the most comfortable initially and make adjustments as you go. Test ride a few bikes and choose the one you feel most comfortable on. Then, as you check out, buy a pair of pedals with good platforms and nice sharp pins (clipless is a sucker bet, especially for beginners) don't wait to buy good pedals and pair it with a pair of decent flat-soled skate style shoes. Almost every shoe store has a sale rack that has skate shoes on it, just buy a pair of those. Try and find the pair with the most stiff sole and if you like, throw a pair of insoles in them like a Superfeet one.

    Hopefully I'm not just confusing you more.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  5. #5
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    Thanks so much! Not confusing at all. I'll try to test out the bikes this weekend.

    (I love skate shoes, but never had a good reason to buy them!!!)

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