Help with 1st New Mtn Bike in 25 years-
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  1. #1
    mtbr member
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    Jun 2020

    Help with 1st New Mtn Bike in 25 years

    Hello all.

    I'm a fairly aggressive road rider/trail runner looking for a fun 29er hardtail in the $1500-$2000 to get back into trail riding. My current mtb is a @1995 26" lightspeed obed that I built up myself and raced in the norba circuit (does that even exist anymore?) and rocky mountains circuit. it's still a great bike but a little harsh for my 50 year old body. I have no clue about current components. I'd really appreciate suggestions on where to start.

    Thanks for considering!

  2. #2
    mtbr member
    Reputation: Lone Rager's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    I suggest going to a larger bike shop with a lot of mtb stuff (may need an appointment) and have them show you the range of stuff. Look at hard tails, full suspension (mainly out of your price range), +bikes, look at 1x drivetrains, brakes, droppers, etc. to get a good visual idea of what the variety is and what possibilities are. They'll ask a lot of questions and tell you a lot of stuff. Then come back here with your questions.

    We'll want to know what your riding aspirations are, what the riding conditions/trails are like where you'll be riding, your size/condition, etc..
    What, me worry?

  3. #3
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Hi Keith, welcome to the forum.

    I was in a similar position about a month ago. My old mountain bike was a 25 year old Independent Fabrications hardtail. I was also primarily a road rider, although due to a back injury hadn't been on any kind of bike for about 5 years.

    Mountain bikes have gone though some incredible changes in the last 25 years, so you're in for some pleasant surprises, but also some significant adjustments in how you ride.

    Here are the changes I noticed the most:

    1. 29" wheels. These took me some time to get used to. The bike just feels a lot bigger and you lose some quickness. On the other hand, it encourages you to keep your momentum up and it's amazing what you can roll over.

    2. Dropper posts. I can't believe anyone ever rode without them. They radically improve downhill performance. With my old IF I going down steep hill I always felt like I was on the verge of a nose wheelie. No more.

    3. The new geometry. Along with the larger wheels, this was the biggest adjustment for me. On the plus side, these bikes are way more stable and capable on downhills and technical stuff. With the added suspension travel (I also got a softail) you just rollover obstacles and can take everything faster, rather than having to thread your way through rocks, roots, etc. On the other hand, I found that the modern bikes are not as quick handling as my old IF. Also, you really need to lean into corners, rather than trying to steer the bike.

    4. Disc brakes. YES. It took me about 30 seconds to adjust. Much better braking and one finger operation make a big difference.

    5. New drive trains. Not having to worry about shifting the front chainring is really nice. Shifts are pretty smooth, even under heavy pedaling and the range/gearing is more than adequate.

    After demoing a couple of different bikes I ended up with an Ibis Ripley. I will admit that it's taken 7-8 rides for me to begin to really bond with this bike due to the geometry and wheel size (also I hadn't been on a bike for 5 yrs and my fitness was pathetic). However, for the trails I've been riding (mostly easy and intermediate Colorado single track trails) I think this bike is perfect. Given that I'm not going to be hucking off cliffs or bombing down double diamond trails, I can't imaging this bike ever getting overwhelmed by the type of riding I'm going to be doing.

    Of course, I'm also 12 years older than you, with a bad back, so I concluded that for me another hardtail wasn't an option. But I had the budget ($5,000+) to get a really nice full suspension bike. If you're really looking to spend less than $2000, I think you're probably limited to a hardtail, although if you were willing to buy a used bike (which is something you should seriously consider) you might be able to get a decent full suspension rig.

    In any event, good luck and be sure to enjoy the journey.
    Last edited by houndogone; 2 Weeks Ago at 07:19 AM.

  4. #4
    Reputation: Cotharyus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Lots of good advice here. Remember you're still looking at a hardtail. If you really want to give your 50 year old body a break, get a full suspension bike.

    That said, if you pay more than $1200 or so, today's hardtails won't suck. But the suggestion to go to a shop is really the thing. The only hitch in that is you might arrive at a shop and find it looking like it was looted. Pretty much everyone has decided this would be a good time to get into or back into riding a bike, and as a result some shops don't have any bikes, and can't get any bikes until the next month or so when the 2021's start being released. The best I can tell you is good like finding something you like, and once you find it, enjoy it, because ...yeah. New bikes are pretty much all awesome in the price range you're looking at.

  5. #5
    mtbr member
    Reputation: OzarkFathom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Do your homework first.
    Though I expect you already know most of this.
    This site is a good start.
    Think about maintenance and what type of riding you will realistically be doing beyond 50.
    As stated above the supply is low right now and the summer heat is rising. Spend some time here and on YouTube to evaluate what suits you, then pick a few. Then you can refine it down to components. Read lots of reviews and if you are near a Bike Shop, you might take em some coffee and donuts one morning, get to know em a bit.

    A lot has changed since that last bike you bought so you are in for a treat. I was thrilled with things like 29 tubeless tires at lower pressures, soooo much smoother on an Old Mans back, one ring up front, hydraulic brakes, and love the dropper post, concealed cables. Lots of refinement since I had bought my last bike back in the late 90s.

    The Bike Shop I ordered mine through was nice enough to order the bike I was pretty sure best suited me, a few months before it was even available, with a fixed price and no obligation to buy if I changed my mind because it was a pretty popular mainstream model.
    I do most of my own maintenance but still would not hesitate to recommend using them for the purchase again or maintenance if need be.
    They had it ready so after a little fine tuning for fit, I tried it in the parking lot. My wife said she remembers the big grin when I went over a few curbs with those big tires.

    I could not be happier with my purchase, due to the improvements made in the last decade or so and the qualty service from the folks at the Bike Shop.

    I chose a Giant Fathom 29 1 which is a pretty good entry level hardtail with good bang for buck. Came with a pretty good dropper post and tubeless ready. Only upgrades were pedals and Ergon grips.

    Enjoy the anticipation and the rides to come.
    Freedom is a shield against the negative consequences of the Foolishness of others.

  6. #6
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Jun 2020
    Thanks for the thoughtful advice everyone. I really appreciate it. I have a good relationship with our local shop, but they carry such limited stock (our town pop is maybe 5,000) that it's hard to get a feel for what's out there, so any specifics are super helpful.

    I have been riding my son's Trek ProCaliber and like it though it seems a little slow on twisty, rooty trails - though that just might be me used to the handling of 26" wheels.

    Again, thanks, everyone.

  7. #7
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    Join Date
    May 2020
    Welcome! I was in pretty much the same position about a month or so ago as well. My last mountain bike was a 1995 GT Avalanche. Like others have said, there are a TON of new advancements in the mountain biking world. It looks like @houndogone covered most of the big ones. Other than availability, it is a great time to be buying a bike. There are a lot of really cool options and directions to go. I ended up going with a FS bike, but I would have been happy to get an updated hardtail as well. I just wanted to have a good bike for out here in the PNW.

    My advice would be to embrace a lot of these new changes and not be afraid to go all-in on some of these changes that have happened in the past 25 years. Pay attention to the geometry numbers on these bikes. The newer thinking is that slacker head tube angles, 65 and under or thereabouts, steeper seat tube angles, and longer reach get you into a different more aggressive position on the bike.

    There are plenty of people doing GREAT reviews on youtube that are a fantastic resource. Check out "hardtail party". He gives thoughtful reviews and does a great job explaining each bikes characteristics.

    Good luck!

  8. #8
    mtbr member
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    This is a challenging time to be looking for a bike, but there's still some inventory out there. I ended up getting good advice on this forum and just bought a Santa Cruz Chameleon from Competitive Cyclist. This was the first time I ever purchased a bike online, without trying first, but it worked out - the bike is amazing.

    The last time I bought a bike was a Cannondale F29 in 2007, so I was used to the 29" wheels with my new bike, but a lot has changed in the last 13 years. If you're looking after 25 years, there are even more differences, all well documented above.

    One thing I will add is how much heavier bikes are now, but don't let it put you off. Carbon Fiber cross country bikes are very light, but for a versatile aluminum mountain bike, they're around 28-30 lbs. It looks like they're designing more for durability, and the longer travel forks add some weight too (I'm used to a Lefty fork which is pretty light). But I will say that the although the Santa Cruz weighs more than my Cannondale - it handles much better and feels a lot more nimble than it's weight on paper would indicate. I still have my steel Kona from 1996, and that bike is super nimble, so I don't feel like I'm losing anything handling-wise with the Santa Cruz.

    Good luck, let us know how you do!

  9. #9
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    Reputation: k2rider1964's Avatar
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    Apr 2010
    txnnvt....I've been on MTBR a long time and I don't think I've seen a thread with so much useful advice. Every single post is full of helpful information. I frequently get asked by friends to help them find a bike and when they are in your shoes, I frequently point out the Santa Crus Chameleon mentioned above. That being said, if you have more $$, look for a full suspension because if you get hooked, you'll be looking for one soon enough.
    Carpe Diem!!

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