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  1. #1
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    straight to FS for newbie?

    I posted a couple weeks ago my friend/boss showing me the ropes on road biking. I have been working on her to get a mountain bike. Our work parking lot connects to a trail for goodness sake, how much more convenient can you get? Well after watching me leave for a ride with another employee for the third time this week, I finally heard "I want a mountain bike" in a sad little kid voice. So we had her try our bikes on the parking lot. She kept saying that the bikes were too small. I tried to tell her that my bike is actually too large since she is 5'5" and my bike is 18". I'm sure it is just a totally different feel. I'm wondering if I should recommend FS since she is over 40 and has bad knees. Our job tends to make us prone to back/neck pain as well. Our local dealers have giant, cannondale, specialized, trek, and fisher. The Santa Cruz dealer is about an hour away. How do you find a comfortable bike that can still make it through hills with some rocky/rooty sections? I think our trail is rated as intermediate if that helps. I'm just a beginner, so I don't know what else to say except thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    Over 40

    I'm male but I am over (well over) 40. I have a rigid fixed/singlespeed, a hardtail, and a full suspension. I believe that young new riders are best served by starting out on a rigid bike to learn skills and how use the body's own suspension. However I think your friend would be better off on full suspension. She will feel less beat up, rocks/roots will be less intimidating, and descending will be more fun. As for climbing a good suspension design won't hinder (except for weight) and will help on rougher climbs where traction is at a premium. Of the brands you have available I like Giant, Specialized, and Santa Cruz. There is lots of opinion out there on what's best but fit has got to be #1(very important for climbing). I would also deal with a shop that has good service and treats you right. I know that a few shops can still be condescending towards women. Some of my favourite shops have women staff and mechanics who would understand her fit issues better than most men. I love to see people get started riding, especially those who get started a little later on in life.
    I got some bad ideas in my head.

  3. #3
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    Travis is right about gettting less beat up, but I'm a firm believer in learning bike handling skills on a hardtail first. There is a tendency (not everyone does it) to develop what I call lazy riding habits by putting a newbie on a FS. The tendency is for beginners to plant the butt firmly on the saddle and let the suspension take all the hits, being a "static" rider, instead of learning how be dynamic and use the body to work with the susupension.


    as for bad knees suspension has nothing to do with it, spinning vs mashing does.

    formica

  4. #4
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    How well does she road bike with bad knees? I would have expected road biking to make the knees stronger (as it did for me). Proper fitting is important for the knees, if she said the bike is too small she may be expecting a road bike posture. But check for leg extension.

    Mashing is not inherently bad, it's the posture that most mashers assume, over-flexed knees and pushing at the wrong time. Spinning forces riders to use greater leg extension - less knee flexing, or else they bounce.

    Another factor is that an FS will weigh more, refer to her fitness for its relevance.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by pacman
    How well does she road bike with bad knees? I would have expected road biking to make the knees stronger (as it did for me). Proper fitting is important for the knees, if she said the bike is too small she may be expecting a road bike posture. But check for leg extension.

    Mashing is not inherently bad, it's the posture that most mashers assume, over-flexed knees and pushing at the wrong time. Spinning forces riders to use greater leg extension - less knee flexing, or else they bounce.

    Another factor is that an FS will weigh more, refer to her fitness for its relevance.
    IMHO, mountain biking is harder than road for the knees. When you're in the trails, besides peddaling, the knees get to cushion rocks and ruts, so it may be easier for her on a road than a mountain bike.

    About weight, it depends on which bikes. You can get some pretty light full suspension bikes. They don't come cheap though. I think that the Blur is bike that can be build very light. Spec. Stumpjumper FSR are also pretty good. Well, I think they are, but maybe I'm looking at them from a man's view. I don't know about the Juliana or other bikes.

    I think that maybe a FS is a very good idea for her. She may not learn all there is to learn about mtb, but FS are good for recreational riding. I don't know her, but, how does she like to handle stuff? I don't mean biking, but does she like to get into stuff head-on, know and learn as much as she can? or more casual aproaches? If she likes to master whatever she enters, maybe a HT will give her better handling, but if she's not much into it, a FS may be great.

    Just my .02

    Have fun!

  6. #6
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    It doesn't matter what you learn on.

    I know that this is probably not a very popular position but....
    It is a lot like learning to drive a stick before you drive an automatic. I guess there is some controlling charm in there, (like double-clutching, shifting an with your left foot on tje clutch, braking with your toe and throttling with your heel while you pull a 4-2) somwhere but it is utimateley irrelivant. I think it is the same for HT vs. Full Suspension. Ultimately you still go over the same piece of ground without crashing. Those HT "lines" become irelevant with a nice dually. You will probably hear a lot of technical babble about lines and using your body susupension with HT but all that is learned on any bike after you have been training for a while. I hate to say it but if you are riding a FS like an HT you are missing the boat.We HT riders take no little pride in our ability to do things some people can only do on FS. You ultimatlety learn these things anyhow.
    My question would be the wisdom of dropping $2800-$3400 on a nice Juliana for somone who hasn't really comitted to the sport.

  7. #7
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    Thanks!

    This has been extremely helpful! I will give her all your input today. I think that since she is wanting to ride for fun and fitness, she might go ahead and get a FS. The roadbiking may or may not bother her knees. Sometimes she doesn't know for sure what gets them going. The closest dealer has Giant and Specialized. I think we'll start looking there.

  8. #8
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    HT vs FS

    I'm not going open up that tired old debate, but. Go back in time 15 years or so and you could have the same argument over rigid vs suspension forks. All the same arguments apply.
    I got some bad ideas in my head.

  9. #9
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    I'm in the "hardtail first" camp with Formica. I personally think it forces you learn certain skills sooner, and as Formica said, can help prevent development of lazy riding habits (butt glued to seat).

    Just my opinion, and it stinks like everyone elses. ... as someone else said, an age old debate.



    Another thing to consider is price. She's probably looking at at least $1200 to get into a decent full suspension bike. That's a solid, no-frills, name brand FS bike. Spending less than that on a FS bike(unless used, possibly) is most likely a waste of money as the susension design and components are probably quite inferior. She can probably get into a decent starter hardtail for around $700.

    Also.... 'tis the season.... end of season sales should amplify her spending dollar a bit. Dealers are in the process of clearing out showrooms of this year's models to make room for the new stuff. Use this knowledge and shop a bit, but BEWARE!!! I can be really easy to get hooked into buying a bike that doesn't fit because is has a great sale price. If the bike doesn't fit correctly, it isn't worth a penny to her. Don't let her fall into that trap.

    Good luck!

    FRC

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike
    I know that this is probably not a very popular position but....
    It is a lot like learning to drive a stick before you drive an automatic. I guess there is some controlling charm in there, (like double-clutching, shifting an with your left foot on tje clutch, braking with your toe and throttling with your heel while you pull a 4-2) somwhere but it is utimateley irrelivant. I think it is the same for HT vs. Full Suspension. Ultimately you still go over the same piece of ground without crashing. Those HT "lines" become irelevant with a nice dually. You will probably hear a lot of technical babble about lines and using your body susupension with HT but all that is learned on any bike after you have been training for a while. I hate to say it but if you are riding a FS like an HT you are missing the boat.We HT riders take no little pride in our ability to do things some people can only do on FS. You ultimatlety learn these things anyhow.
    My question would be the wisdom of dropping $2800-$3400 on a nice Juliana for somone who hasn't really comitted to the sport.
    I totally agree with Mike. Just because we all learned our skills on ridgid bikes does not mean that a new generation of riders have to do it our way. Who knows a new rider that learns on a full suspension bike may be better or they may not. No way to tell and in the grand scheme probably dosn't make a bit of diference. I would be more concerned with blowing 2000.00+ for somebody that is not really into it. She should buy a "first bike". something lower end under 1000.00. Full suspension under 1000.00 start to suck. So I think she should go for a hardtail for economic reasons. No matter what if she likes the sport she will be uprgrading to something she feels is right for her. By then she should know for herself if her dream bike is a full suspension or not. Oh and don't ever let her sell her "first bike". Many riders myself included regret selling their "first bike". I would put mine in my private museum if I still had it.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maida7
    I totally agree with Mike. Just because we all learned our skills on ridgid bikes does not mean that a new generation of riders have to do it our way. Who knows a new rider that learns on a full suspension bike may be better or they may not. No way to tell and in the grand scheme probably dosn't make a bit of diference. I would be more concerned with blowing 2000.00+ for somebody that is not really into it. She should buy a "first bike". something lower end under 1000.00. Full suspension under 1000.00 start to suck. So I think she should go for a hardtail for economic reasons. No matter what if she likes the sport she will be uprgrading to something she feels is right for her. By then she should know for herself if her dream bike is a full suspension or not. Oh and don't ever let her sell her "first bike". Many riders myself included regret selling their "first bike". I would put mine in my private museum if I still had it.
    I think the decision on FS vs HT would depend on how much riding she wants to do. If she really want's to push the limit, HT is the way to learn. If she just wants to ride along some trails a FS is the way to go.

    A friend of mine started with a FS, and he went

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by rzozaya1969
    A friend of mine started with a FS, and he went

    Where did he go?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by rzozaya1969
    I think the decision on FS vs HT would depend on how much riding she wants to do. If she really want's to push the limit, HT is the way to learn. If she just wants to ride along some trails a FS is the way to go.

    A friend of mine started with a FS, and he went
    I'm not sure where you were heading with this, but I learned on a FS and then went pretty quickly to racing DH and doing a lot of technical XC/trail riding and now after several years of racing expert, I finally bought a hardtail (for dual slalom racing mostly). I don't think it hindered me at all - on the contrary - there is no way I could have handled (or had any fun at all) riding with the people I ride with if I was trying to learn on a hardtail while they were dragging me along on rides they were hammering on long travel bikes. Learning to get your butt off the seat and handling and picking a line are all things you can do on any bike if you put some effort into learning.

    I also have bad knees and I think my FS bikes do feel easier on my knees than my hardtail does. I've ridden a few trails at Deer Valley on my DH bike, Yeti 575 and GT hardtail on the same weekend - and my knees (when they're feeling sore particularly) can DEFINITELY feel a difference.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by connie
    I'm not sure where you were heading with this, but I learned on a FS and then went pretty quickly to racing DH and doing a lot of technical XC/trail riding and now after several years of racing expert, I finally bought a hardtail (for dual slalom racing mostly). I don't think it hindered me at all - on the contrary - there is no way I could have handled (or had any fun at all) riding with the people I ride with if I was trying to learn on a hardtail while they were dragging me along on rides they were hammering on long travel bikes. Learning to get your butt off the seat and handling and picking a line are all things you can do on any bike if you put some effort into learning.

    I also have bad knees and I think my FS bikes do feel easier on my knees than my hardtail does. I've ridden a few trails at Deer Valley on my DH bike, Yeti 575 and GT hardtail on the same weekend - and my knees (when they're feeling sore particularly) can DEFINITELY feel a difference.
    Sorry about the mid-post, had to go to a meeting

    This is what I wanted to say, a friend of mine went directly to a Jamis XLT 3.0 bike, which is a nice FS rig. He had no problems learning to ride some trails. But after a while, his learning curve went flat. I think he needed some technical background. I just think that having some miles on a HT will give you some advantages later on, even if you move soon to a FS.

    This was what I wanted to say, and part of what I really think of HT vs FS.

    But after some thoughts, I'm thinking that maybe this 'base training' on a HT method may yield different results depending on different people. I started with a HT and then went on a FS (actually, I had 3 FS rigs in the last year) and I'm learning a lot on my FS. My HT training helped me, but looking on my personal experience, I'm always trying to learn new stuff, read a lot (both online, magazines and books), and maybe the type of suspension just don't come in the equation on wether I learn or not new things.

    Now, I think that my friend has a lot expectations on the bike, and when it comes times that the bike is not the problem, he is afraid to learn it, or he tries, but he's not too consistent.

    In a generarly loose way, now I think that the type of bike to start is not a black & white issue, but a lot of different factors come it, like expectations, terrain, personality, etc..

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike
    I hate to say it but if you are riding a FS like an HT you are missing the boat.We HT riders take no little pride in our ability to do things some people can only do on FS. You ultimatlety learn these things anyhow.
    I agree. I've seen this happen with HT riders who jumped on a FS and just didn't get it right away. You have to learn to ride it the way it was meant to be ridden or you might as well have gotten a more expensive, heavier hardtail.

    The other thing I see in these discussions is this. I think that say, a rigid singlespeed could be fun on the right trails - but we had a friend join us on a moderately techy ride this summer on his rigid singlespeed. Sure, it's impressive that he can suck it up and do it - but on the jarring descent he'd roll up and practically need someone else to peel his cramped, shaking hands off the bars. That's fun? (And maybe it's just me, but it doesn't seem like a good idea for the long term use of your hands and wrists either...) Sure it takes skill - but some of it is just plain masochism. And I'm not sure that's the route to inspiring newbies to take to the sport.

    Take some time out on rides to go over handling techniques and skills, instead of just dragging them along at their top speed. Play around on obstacles. Go back and try things again. That's going to teach them skills a lot faster than any bike will.

  16. #16
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    ^^ what she said.

    Here's the bottom line: Do you want your friend to enjoy her initial mtnbiking experience and long for more, or do you want to make it difficult for her and drive her away? For a newb, full suspension is going to be sooo much easier technically and sooo much easier on the body physically. Someone who has never mtb'd before probably doesn't really care about learning the "art" of riding a rigid bike. The newb is probably more concerned with just having a good time.

    Someone mentioned not wanting to spend the money on a nice bike until the newbie had "committed" to the sport. What better way to prevent someone from committing is there than sending them out on a junky and/or uncomfortable bike? We all have nice bikes, many of them full suspension, so why should someone just starting out be denied the same? I've seen this play out both ways a dozen times as I've watched others try to introduce spouses or friends into cycling. Sell her on a nice full suspension bike. She'll thank you later and you'll have a new mtbing buddy long term.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berkeley Mike
    I know that this is probably not a very popular position but....
    I totally agree with you. All the bad things I ever did on a bike were because of that stupid HT and it's lack of decent geometry (because most HTs are too XC oriented), lack of traction (up and down), lack of comfort, going around obstacles while widening trails and pinch flatting tires when I did hit obstacles.

    FS is the way to go...especially for a new person, because it inspires more confidence.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruary
    ^^ what she said.

    Here's the bottom line: Do you want your friend to enjoy her initial mtnbiking experience and long for more, or do you want to make it difficult for her and drive her away? For a newb, full suspension is going to be sooo much easier technically and sooo much easier on the body physically. Someone who has never mtb'd before probably doesn't really care about learning the "art" of riding a rigid bike. The newb is probably more concerned with just having a good time.

    Someone mentioned not wanting to spend the money on a nice bike until the newbie had "committed" to the sport. What better way to prevent someone from committing is there than sending them out on a junky and/or uncomfortable bike? We all have nice bikes, many of them full suspension, so why should someone just starting out be denied the same? I've seen this play out both ways a dozen times as I've watched others try to introduce spouses or friends into cycling. Sell her on a nice full suspension bike. She'll thank you later and you'll have a new mtbing buddy long term.
    Ruary, it's not as black and white, but I keep leening more towards your point of view It's not wether buy a 100.00 wallmart bike vs a 5,000.00 Titus with XTR/king/dt-swiss/etc. bike. Or just a definite path that she should start HT or FS.

    Now, regarding price, it's just a question of how much money she can confortably assign to mountain biking (including helmet, although she probably already have one). A FS will require more $$$ for the same quality. Spending too low is the same mistake as spending too much. But in this case, maybe beegirl's boss is used to spending lots of money on bikes (roadie :P ), so a mere $4,000.00 bike won't frighten her.

    I think it finally would depend on the goals of whoever is starting (in this case beegirl's boss). If she's really the kind of person that likes to get into whatever sport she's wanting, and likes to get the most out of it, a HT is the way to start. It doesn't matter if her final bike will be a FS, a HT will give better handling skills. If she's more like I just want to ride off-road now and then (she's already a roadie, so it's most probable that she won't be always mountain biking on her free time), and not really intrested in going big, a FS would be a very good option, maybe better that a HT for the reasons you posted. But this are 2 different scenarios.

    Of course, she may start FS and she will always keep exploring her limits and learning good skills. Finally, learning and enjoyment would depend more on the rider than the bike.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by beegirl
    I posted a couple weeks ago my friend/boss showing me the ropes on road biking. I have been working on her to get a mountain bike. Our work parking lot connects to a trail for goodness sake, how much more convenient can you get? Well after watching me leave for a ride with another employee for the third time this week, I finally heard "I want a mountain bike" in a sad little kid voice. So we had her try our bikes on the parking lot. She kept saying that the bikes were too small. I tried to tell her that my bike is actually too large since she is 5'5" and my bike is 18". I'm sure it is just a totally different feel. I'm wondering if I should recommend FS since she is over 40 and has bad knees. Our job tends to make us prone to back/neck pain as well. Our local dealers have giant, cannondale, specialized, trek, and fisher. The Santa Cruz dealer is about an hour away. How do you find a comfortable bike that can still make it through hills with some rocky/rooty sections? I think our trail is rated as intermediate if that helps. I'm just a beginner, so I don't know what else to say except thanks in advance!
    I commented on this post in another forum, but came in here to read it first-hand...and i'm glad I did.

    From your description, she would be better off with suspension and gears. That way she is not going to get pounded by the harshness of the trail.

    In any case, taking a beginner rider on an 'intermediate' level trail may not be a good idea.

    Apart from this, a nice full suspension geared bike is going to maximise the experience for her, because of the bad knees & bad back / neck problems.

    It's all very well to be "purist" and recommend a HT for a beginner to learn on, and in most cases I would agree with this recommendation, but in this instance I say that the full suspension bike gets my vote.

    Get her riding on a few demo bikes before she decides anything. If she can be professionally fitted, all the better.


    R.
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