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  1. #1
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    Teach me how to buy a bike

    I'm looking at bikes and I really have no idea what I'm looking at. I'm just lost and tired of feeling bike-stupid. I didn't look, maybe someone already posted this already. I don't really want you guys to recommend a bike for me to buy, just tell me what to look at.

    I'm 5'9", I've been riding for a while but still not very good at it.

    I don't think I need a carbon, or titanium frame or anything. Medium frame I think. Do I want 29" wheels? I read somewhere that they were harder for turning and I already suck at switchbacks.

    I know components are a big thing. But as beginner / casual rider (probably always will be) do I need high end components? "Components" are the shifters, derailleurs, shocks and brakes? Is there some kind of table or something that rates all of them? I looked up a Scott Spark and the prices range from $1200 to $4000 so I know it's component dependent, right?

    Definitely a cross country type bike, not a down hill. Full suspension over a hard tail.

    What's the biggest differences between a $10K bike and a $2K bike? At my level will I ever need anything that expensive?

    Ugh. Sorry. I'm just rambling and frustrated.

  2. #2
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    Well, best thing to do is to go out, and test drive some bikes.

    29er vs 26er is personal preference. 29er will roll over stuff easier, and 26er will be better in more technical sections, it gives you more control.

    Shifters and derailleurs are generally made by Shimano or SRAM. Their lines go like this, from worst to best:

    Shimano: Alivio / Acera, Deore, SLX, Deore XT
    SRAM: X3, X5, X7, X9, X0

    For a beginner, Alivios, or X3s will probably be ok. As you go up, you get a faster shifting response, more light weight components, and stronger, more durable components.

    For forks, the lower end stuff would be Suntour XCM, or XCT, or whatever, something like that. Then you go slightly up and you get RockShox XC28 - XC32. Then RockShox Recon, then RockShox Reba. Fox forks are also very good, as are many other brands. Higher end forks will give you better control, will be lighter, and will be more tunable.

  3. #3
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    Thanks so much. Just that little bit is so helpful. I found this website in another post, went and compared some bikes in my price range, and in the brands at the two shops I'd prefer to use and I now want to go try a Scott Spark Elite.

    Mountain Bikes (MTB) | Compare Components, Suspension, and Gearing

  4. #4
    Slothful dirt hippie
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    As I've stated before, the test ride IMO is the holy grail. You can over-analyze almost any aspect of a bike's setup, but the only thing that matters is how it performs on the trail. And don't dismiss a bike just because of it's frame materials... carbon is bleeding down into the 'mere mortals' level because it's a very useful and practical material for that purpose.

    You might want to start asking about/noting what other folks in your area ride. I know here almost every bike less than 5 years old I see on the trail is a 5-6" FS XC/AM all-day up-down sort of rig because that's what works on our terrain. In 2010 we happened to go down to Bend OR and we finally found out where all those hard tails were going, lol....

    Also might find out if there's going to be 'demo days' coming up this season where you can test ride on some nearby trails.

    And don't sell yourself short. I know my riding level went up once I got my first FS bike, then it's gone up by another noticeable notch since I upgraded to a lighter trail bike with more travel. I'd LOVE to say it's *all* about the rider, and there's always somebody out there happily riding trail X on a 'totally wrong bike'... but the right tools for the job DO make a difference.
    "...Some local fiend had built it with his own three hands..."

  5. #5
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    My husband is actually a very experience rider and even mechanic and could have answered all my questions for me but I'm tired of relying on him. He'd rather just pick out a bike for me then teach me how to buy one.

  6. #6
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    Buying a new bike should be the beginning of a long and happy relationship, so donít go looking solely for a deal. The key is to be a smart shopper. So before heading to the local bike shop, contemplate whether youíre planning to ride singletrack, log road miles, or commute to and from work. Also consider that on top of your budget you will need other gear like a helmet, cycling shorts, and basic repair tools to fix a roadside flat which can slice $150 to $300 from your budget. Next, find a retailer you likeóone with helpful salespeople who can answer your questions.

    Once at the store, find bikes that best fit you. You will likely ride a bike that feels and fits well as opposed to a bike that has amazing specs but has a lousy fit. Remember that manufacturers match each other closely on price and components, especially on lower-cost models, so mostly what sets bikes apart is fit and feel. Plan to test-ride at least a couple of different bikes to get the one that seems the most comfortable, and remember that a few minor adjustments can almost always improve any ride. Some shops charge for an extensive fitting--around the ballpark of $100. Some lbss like REI provide free fitting services, but it is only useful if you buy the bike with them. When you test ride bikes ask the staff to help you set your saddle in the right position and determine the correct stem length.

    Then consider the components. I believe this is what concerns you the most. In choosing a bike, pay close attention to frame material and size options. The larger manufacturers such as Trek, Specialized, and Giant typically offer more frame sizes, which lets you find a better fit.

    Then look at wheels, the rear derailleur, and shifters, and prioritize frames outfitted with parts made by reliable brands like Shimano or SRAM. Youíll also need to choose between a triple crank or a double with compact gearing. A triple provides easier gears for pedaling uphill, but adds weight. A compact crank works more smoothly and will give you nearly as many climbing-friendly gears, but you may not be able to go as fast on the flats.

    Also, with mountain bikes it is important to focus on components like the front suspension, wheels, disc brakes, and the drivetrain. Look for brands such as RockShox, Fox, SRAM, and Shimano, which have reputations for quality, even with their lower end products. This lets you make value comparisons. For instance, mountain bikes that cost about $1,100 are often equipped with either RockShox XC 28 suspension or the more expensive XC 3. The XC 30 may be a better deal in this example.

    For bikes in the sub-1000 range, you will notice that the front suspension will most likely be equipped with SR/Suntour like the XCTs and XCMs that often come with models like the Giant Talon or the Specialized Rockhopper. These forks are by no means "bad" but you will probably be served with better ones that come with the more expensive bikes. In any case, a fork is an easy upgrade the more you progress in this sport. Another important consideration are the brakes. Disc over v/rim brakes. Most sub-500 bikes will likely sport v-brakes and those that are priced at 500+, even the entry level models will lkely have discs. Hydraulic is arguably better than mechanical but more expensive. Disc brakes are a huge breakthrough in mountainbiking, specially when one is doing technical stuff. The ease of riding with all fingers on the grips and breaking effectively using only 1 or 2 fingers really is a huge benefit. Most entry level bikes will be equipped with Avid or Hayes and are good brand disc brakes for entry level bikers.

    As for other components, if you are not sure which parts to go for-- manufacturers post component details on their websites so you can compare bikes before going for a test ride. Read reviews and look at the specs provided in the manufacturer's websites or forums so that you are well equipped to ask questions about the bikes before you head out to your local lbs. Most lbs have sales in March or April that are perfect for bargain hunters. You can also find discounts during the fall, especially if you are an oddly taller or shorter rider.

    Most important of all, remember that you are looking for a bike that you will WANT to ride. No bargain is worth it if you end up with a bike that just collects dust in yuor garage.
    Last edited by TikiGoddess; 04-19-2013 at 03:54 PM.
    I'm hard yet soft, I am coloured yet clear, I am fruity and sweet. I am jelly. What am I?

  7. #7
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    Thanks ladies.

    I've been riding for several years actually. My first bike was a $500 Fugi w/ V-brakes that was apparently too big for me (it was a large frame, not sure what the dude who sold it to me was thinking). After I realized that (like after 8 years of riding it) I switched to my husband's old bike, medium frame, full suspension with mechanical disks that he had added on (we're the same height). I'm still on that one and it's a decent bike, just old and not mine. I've got a helmet, clothes, shoes, a pump, multi-tool and pedals already.

    I'm actually looking to spend $2000-$3000.

    So, I went to the shop my husband races for yesterday and rode 3 around the parking lot, a used 26" Gary Fisher with top of the line components and wheels, the bike shop owner's wife's 29" Ibis (which she isn't sell and an new Ibis is NOT in my price range but he wanted met to try a 29" and I guess he forgot about the next bike I rode, which was also a 29"), and a Scott Spark 29". I felt like the Scott fit the best even though he didn't think there was much difference in size, maybe just a slightly different geometry. It has good components and is a decent price (plus he'll give me a bit of a discount since my husband races for him, not the racer's discount but something). You can lock out all the shocks from the handle bars which is super cool. He didn't have a demo in my size to take on trail but he said Scott was coming to his shop in early May and they'd have it, and let me demo for free, so that's the plan. But what I rode was the carbon, and he didn't think that was worth the extra money and recommended I get the same version but in the aluminum (27lbs vs 30lbs, both way lighter than I've been riding). So looks like I'm leaning toward this one:

    SCOTT Spark 940 Bike - SCOTT Sports

    I'm super excited. I've never had my own good bike. I feel kind of like a tool on a "husband-hand-me-down" around other women riders, like I'm one of "those" riders who only rides because their husband does.
    Last edited by Rae6503; 04-20-2013 at 10:14 AM.

  8. #8
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    That first new bike is exciting. I find what helps a pre-written list of what you are looking for in a bike (ie-wheel size, frame geometry, component preference, trail type, skill level, etc.). This way the salesperson don't really have that much room to sell you something over the top. I found most dude salesperson to do not really listen (like most guys). Also, ride a ton other bikes even if you think you have found the one you want. Ask for a the tax rate (sometimes it can break the deal) and if they have a cash discount (usually around 2% to save the shop from processing fees). Good luck

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray6503 View Post

    SCOTT Spark 940 Bike - SCOTT Sports

    I'm super excited. I've never had my own good bike. I feel kind of like a tool on a "husband-hand-me-down" around other women riders, like I'm one of "those" riders who only rides because their husband does.
    That seems like a pretty solid bike, nice Fox CTD fork, good brakes and solid SLX/XT components. If you like it and it fits you then you can't go wrong with this purchase. But I do suggest you try out as many bikes out there just so you can compare the fit and feel as compared to this one. The good thing is that you have a workable budget and at this price range you can get a decent bike that you can live with for years without needing to upgrade immediately.

    Good luck! Show us your ride soon as you get it. =)
    I'm hard yet soft, I am coloured yet clear, I am fruity and sweet. I am jelly. What am I?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray6503 View Post
    I'm looking at bikes and I really have no idea what I'm looking at. I'm just lost and tired of feeling bike-stupid. I didn't look, maybe someone already posted this already. I don't really want you guys to recommend a bike for me to buy, just tell me what to look at.

    I'm 5'9", I've been riding for a while but still not very good at it.

    I don't think I need a carbon, or titanium frame or anything. Medium frame I think. Do I want 29" wheels? I read somewhere that they were harder for turning and I already suck at switchbacks.

    I know components are a big thing. But as beginner / casual rider (probably always will be) do I need high end components? "Components" are the shifters, derailleurs, shocks and brakes? Is there some kind of table or something that rates all of them? I looked up a Scott Spark and the prices range from $1200 to $4000 so I know it's component dependent, right?

    Definitely a cross country type bike, not a down hill. Full suspension over a hard tail.

    What's the biggest differences between a $10K bike and a $2K bike? At my level will I ever need anything that expensive?

    Ugh. Sorry. I'm just rambling and frustrated.
    I wrote up a post about buying a used mountain bike. Perhaps it could help.

    Used mountain bikes: the ultimate buyers guide - Used Mountain Bikes HQ

  11. #11
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    Finally got one. Went in for the Spark 940 but they had a demo 920 for just a bit more. My husband races for the shop so they'll honor the warranty and do any work it needs even though it was a demo.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ray6503 View Post
    Finally got one. Went in for the Spark 940 but they had a demo 920 for just a bit more. My husband races for the shop so they'll honor the warranty and do any work it needs even though it was a demo.
    Congrats on buying your bike! Sometimes it can be a stressful decision, sometimes it can be easy. What were the deciding factors for you?
    MTB4Her.com: mountain bike site for women, by women

  13. #13
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    I tried 4 or 5 different bikes, in the $2,000 to $3,000 range including 29ers and 27.5s. At the price I could get on the Scott it had a lot better shamano components and the multi-point, locking rear shock. I also really just liked the fit and how it felt. A lot of the 29ers felt big (and I'm 5'9") but this one didn't. Good stand over height, really light weight, etc.

  14. #14
    Dudette
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    Congratulations on your new bike! Fitting well and feeling good on your bike are the most important aspects, IMO. It'll give you the confidence to try new things.
    MTB4Her.com

  15. #15
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    New here. Fourd this thread really helpful because I was about to post one thread like this to absorb some information in purchasing a new bike.

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