Choosing a bike should be fun- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Choosing a bike should be fun

    ..but I'm losing my goddam mind.

    The choice, the choice! Modern problems.

    I'm a total newbie. Uninitiated in the differences between suspension forks.. and going cross-eyed.

    OK experts of the forum, can you throw your opinions at these budget-ish options.

    My main question: at this level, is there *really* much difference in the specs here? Is chucking an extra 100 or 200 at it worth the bother?

    Or just buy cheap to a level and ride the arise off it.

    If anyone can be bothered helping, it's much appreciated. Understand if there are too many of these posts. This is a cry for help.

    Scott Aspect 950 2016:

    https://www.evanscycles.com/en-es/sc...-bike-EV253415

    Giant Talon 4 2016:

    Giant Talon 4 - MTB rÃ*gidas - 27.5 amarillo/gris | Bikester.es

    Specialized Rockhopper Sport 2017:

    Specialized Rockhopper Sport 29 Mountain Bike 2017 | Sigma Sport

    Specialized Rockhopper Comp 2016:

    https://www.evanscycles.com/en-es/sp...-bike-EV244881

  2. #2
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    Don't stress it too hard. Looking at the bikes you posted, it seems you are shopping on a budget. I would sit on some of those bikes and see how they feel. Take them on a test ride and get a feel for them. I would not stress the itty bitty details of each bike. I would worry about the details on your next bike after this one! The goal is to find your starter bike that feels right based around what you plan to ride. Have you thought about what type of trails you are going to ride on? Fire roads, single track, street/dirt combination, etc.

    Most lower priced hardtails tend to be somewhat similar in design and price.
    Trek Émonda | Transition Scout | Transition PBJ | Framed Attack Pro

  3. #3
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    The main problem is poor fork performance and the lack of a test ride to show you that. Manufacturers know you won't be able to test ride their lower priced bikes on any fun bumpy singletrack, only on a road or paved parking lot. Because of that they give you bikes at an entry price point with a fork designed for bike paths only.....these have only a spring inside usually only on one side. They have plastic bushings instead of metal. Plastic bushings will fail on bumpy singletrack right away. Many have no rebound damping and none have adjustable rebound damping....so it becomes a pogo stick when you go over a group of bumps quickly. Shop guys all know this and neglect to tell you somehow. Too bad they have it setup so it costs you $600 to find out you just blew $600.
    An air fork bike gets you minimum trail bike performance.
    https://www.canyon.com/en-gb/mtb/gra...on-al-5-9.html
    I'd save for that bike.
    No air fork but adequate with good bushings and rebound damping--
    https://www.canyon.com/en-gb/mtb/gra...on-al-3-9.html

    Maybe check the trail centers and see if you can get a deal on a rental bike from last season.

  4. #4
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    Don't stress it man, just buy one that feels comfortable and is within your budget. Trust me, once you start riding you will quickly figure out what kind of riding you really want to do and THAT'S when you start dropping coin for the right bike. That may entail upgrading the one you bought or saving for another. Just get one and go ride.

  5. #5
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    Thanks all for timely - and empathetic - replies.

    Ha, I'm not quite ready to jump off a cliff. The melodrama in post was admittedly high. Though judging by how the bike market is fragmented, analysis paralysis must be a common ailment.

    The air fork issue stood out as I boggled between the Suntour XTthisses and XTthats.

    Seeing it mentioned elsewhere was probably what drove me to post here.

    Which I guess begs the question: are there any recommended 'value' options that come with air suspension rather than coil?

  6. #6
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    Regarding where I'll take it, I guess the best answer is that I'm looking for something that is at least capable in most conditions, barring the MTB equivalent of black runs.

    An absolutely fine with the idea of this bike being the sacrificial lamb should i really get into the sport.

    Recently moved to a new town in Spain and hope to get a taste for proper mountain biking in the local wilderness.

    However they price of bikes here (and value of GBP) means I'll be importing from UK.

    I did briefly consider splashing a few more bucks on GT's very reasonably priced full suspension model (GT Verb?) before being steered away by a sneering review on another site.

  7. #7
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    Analysis paralysis seems to be getting worse.

    You would think that the internet would help, but that's far from the truth. For a certain type of person (the one that tends to analyze a purchase to make sure they're maximizing their return on a big expenditure, but is uninitiated in mtb tech so has a difficult time distinguishing between components), the internet makes things worse by providing too much.

    The effectiveness of budget suspension forks depends a lot on the terrain you subject them to. I see that you're in Scotland, and I do not have a good feeling for what the trails are like there. I've only been there once in 1994, and I wasn't even mtbing back then.

    The trails where I live are pretty varied. We've got quite a bit of smooth hard-packed clay where most of the bumps in the trail are exposed roots. Entry level suspension is fine on this stuff. It's not as good as suspension that is stiffer and offers more adjustability, but it won't magically fall apart the first time you take it out. I rode crap elastomer forks on this terrain for years. Entry level suspension will start to show major limitations in quality and durability when you start to introduce bigger hits and more speed. The more advanced trails here offer bigger rocks, opportunities to hit them with more speed, and fewer breaks between the chunky stuff. Especially if you're a bigger rider (north of 200lbs), you're going to put major hurt on that entry level fork and you'll wear out the bushings much faster. That's generally what fails on entry level suspension first.

    If you're going to buy an entry level bike with entry level suspension, you just want to make sure you can install a better suspension fork when you need to. Don't get a bike with a straight 34mm head tube with external cup headset that can only accept a straight 1 1/8" steerer fork. Get a bike with a straight 44mm head tube so you can put on a fork with a tapered steerer. That will give you quality replacement options if you get to that point.

    My choice, however, would be to buy a bike that has an entry level air fork on it now. That seems to appear at around $1000, or around £800 GBP retail for most brands these days. May be a touch less on some brands, or on closeouts.

    When looking at spec lists, minimize the amount of analysis paralysis you have by looking at the "big 3". That would be the frame, fork, and wheels.

    For the frame, make sure it has a straight 44mm or tapered head tube. Sometimes, that's not specifically given. So look for a "zero stack" headset. Basically, the headset cups are hidden inside the steerer tube. If both headset cups are external, it's probably a 34mm headset and you want to avoid that. FWIW, all of the bikes posted above meet those criteria.

    For the fork, you want good bushings first and foremost. Now, if you DO find a bike you otherwise like but it's got a crappy suntour XCsomething, you can upgrade that if the frame can accept a tapered steerer fork, with Suntour's customer loyalty program. Suntour makes better quality air forks, but you rarely see them. Suntour's customer loyalty program sets you up with a pretty good discount on a new fork.

    Wheels are tough at this price range. They're all going to be pretty basic quality stuff. Thankfully, inexpensive machine built wheels are better than they used to be. So the major thing I'd look for related to the wheels is whether the rear wheel uses a freewheel or a freehub/cassette. Stay away from freewheels. The bearings are closer together on the hub and you'll bend a lot of axles. You want a freehub with a cassette. Looking at the bikes linked so far, I think you're okay. Stay away from 7spd drivetrains with a Shimano Megarange rear cluster. 7spds can be found in either cassette or freewheels. Most Megaranges I've seen have been freewheels. Avoid for trail riding. Drivetrains are wear items. One positive thing is that if you've got a wheel with at least an 8spd freehub, you can upgrade the bike all the way up to 11spd if you want. That's probably be a bit more money than I'd want to throw at an entry level aluminum hardtail unless I absolutely LOVED it. But if you ride the **** out of it and wear it out (or wreck and break stuff) and want to replace it with upgraded parts, it's possible. Only thing you probably won't be able to install is a cassette with smaller than an 11 tooth small cog. Cassettes with 9 and 10 tooth small cogs will require a new freehub body, and an entry level wheelset probably won't have one available.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacRone View Post
    I did briefly consider splashing a few more bucks on GT's very reasonably priced full suspension model (GT Verb?) before being steered away by a sneering review on another site.
    Whatever you do, don't buy a cheap full suspension. Not from anybody.

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    Heartfelt thanks for the detail in these responses.

    Passion x Knowledge operating on a very high multiple here.

    Really, very much obliged.

    Re the cheap full suspension.. I did suspect as much, even as a novice. But I'd had a lot of coffee at that point. I was ready to go.

    Until that nagging suspicion got the better of me.

    And I realised the weight. No likey heavy bikey.

  10. #10
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    Air fork bike-
    https://www.canyon.com/en-gb/mtb/gra...on-al-5-9.html
    Suntour Upgrade Program is North Amer only.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by eb1888 View Post
    Suntour Upgrade Program is North Amer only.
    that's a bummer.

  12. #12
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    Thanks eb1888 I'll check out dem Canyons.

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    Any second opinions on em greatly appreciated.

    I'll also be running a new search filtered by air suspension and also frame / wheels per your excellent input Harold.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacRone View Post
    Thanks eb1888 I'll check out dem Canyons.
    Actually this one is worth the extra. Tapered fork Reba.
    https://www.canyon.com/en-gb/mtb/gra...on-al-6-9.html

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    Duly noted. Thanks.

    Are Canyon well regarded for their good spec:value ratio?

    Admittedly, I'd imagine the likes of Specialized and Scott are less so. Would that be fair?

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacRone View Post
    Are Canyon well regarded for their good spec:value ratio?
    Admittedly, I'd imagine the likes of Specialized and Scott are less so. Would that be fair?
    Direct sales accounts for the added value. At this price point it makes good sense.
    They had a few customer service hiccups last year. Hopefully that's over.

    Comparable Scott Scale-
    https://www.bike24.com/1.php?content...5D=1;orderby=2

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacRone View Post
    Any second opinions on em greatly appreciated.

    I'll also be running a new search filtered by air suspension and also frame / wheels per your excellent input Harold.
    I'll be curious to see what you come up with.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by eb1888 View Post
    The main problem is poor fork performance and the lack of a test ride to show you that. Manufacturers know you won't be able to test ride their lower priced bikes on any fun bumpy singletrack, only on a road or paved parking lot. Because of that they give you bikes at an entry price point with a fork designed for bike paths only.....these have only a spring inside usually only on one side. They have plastic bushings instead of metal. Plastic bushings will fail on bumpy singletrack right away. Many have no rebound damping and none have adjustable rebound damping....so it becomes a pogo stick when you go over a group of bumps quickly. Shop guys all know this and neglect to tell you somehow. Too bad they have it setup so it costs you $600 to find out you just blew $600.
    An air fork bike gets you minimum trail bike performance.
    https://www.canyon.com/en-gb/mtb/gra...on-al-5-9.html
    I'd save for that bike.
    No air fork but adequate with good bushings and rebound damping--
    https://www.canyon.com/en-gb/mtb/gra...on-al-3-9.html

    Maybe check the trail centers and see if you can get a deal on a rental bike from last season.
    Yes this is good advice. I just bought a new bike and I can tell you that at that budget you are looking at some serious compromises to meet that price point. All of those bikes you linked to have coil spring forks and if you plan on doing serious trail riding I think you could end up regretting those. If you are serious about this as a hobby then I would recommend you dedicate around $1,000 for a new hardtail. One thousand will get you a hardtail with a mid-range Shimano SLX groupset and air forks such as the Fox Float CTD or Rockshox Reba. If you can't budget that much for a new bike then I recommend looking at used bikes as they should offer better value for the money. Just last week I bought a used 2013 Trek Rumblefish Elite 29er for $1k. With all the upgraded components the previous owner put on the bike it's easily worth $1,500, and the original MSRP on the bike was over $3k.

    Bicycle Value Guide - Used Bicycle Value - BicycleBlueBook.com

  19. #19
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    Yep I definitely take the fork input.

    Mechanical dangers / benefit clear.

    Serious would be too strong a word at this stage. But I'm interested in a bike that can be given a dent run, won't break early and is ultimately good value.

    As in 'price is what you pay, value what you get'.

    So you don't recommend the Canyons?

    Comfortably inside your USD1k suggestion.

  20. #20
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    Also 2nd hand market here in Spain unlikely to be on a par with UK.

    Bikes already more expensive and GBP decreasing in value by the day!

    New bike shipped internationally looking best option.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacRone View Post
    Yep I definitely take the fork input.

    Mechanical dangers / benefit clear.

    Serious would be too strong a word at this stage. But I'm interested in a bike that can be given a dent run, won't break early and is ultimately good value.

    As in 'price is what you pay, value what you get'.

    So you don't recommend the Canyons?

    Comfortably inside your USD1k suggestion.
    I don't like the Canyon 3.9 because it has an older generation 9 speed groupset, Shimano Alivio components, and also a coil spring fork. In my opinion, Deore is the minimum Shimano groupset necessary for a trail bike. I do like the Canyon 5.9, it does check all of my boxes. The Rockshock 30 Gold TK is an entry level air shock, but it does appear to have good reviews online.

    Do you want to buy a new bike every year or so or to buy a bike that will last you a lifetime? The bike that I just replaced with the Trek Rumblefish Elite was a 19 year old Trek zx6000. I spent $1000 on this bike and if I get 10 years of use out of it it will have only cost me $0.28 cents per day to own it. I call that a good value. I also put about 3,000 mile a year on my bike, and over the course of ten years that's roughly 3,000 hours of use. If you're going to spend that much time with something then you want to make sure it's good enough to have a great experience with. The alternative is you could buy a new $200 huffy every year and throw it away when it breaks, but over time I believe you would end up spending more and your experience with using the bike would be much worse. If this is something you enjoy doing then put your heart into it.

  22. #22
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    I'll also add that the first thing you should decide is if you want 27.5", 27.5" Plus, or 29er sized wheels. If I bought a brand new bike it would be 27.5" Plus because you get all the benefits of a 29er combined with all the benefits of a fat bike. Best of all, a 27.5" Plus can accommodate virtually any wheel size including 29ers because 27.5" Plus is about the same outer diameter as a standard 29er. A hardtail 27.5" Plus would also make for a smoother ride since you can run the tires at a lower pressure.

    Big Tyred Trail Bikes | On-One Bikes

  23. #23
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    I like 26's.
    Trek Émonda | Transition Scout | Transition PBJ | Framed Attack Pro

  24. #24
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    Those Canyons eb1888 suggested are good bang for your buck bikes, the 5.9 has an air shock, I believe. I've got a mate whose brother owns a Canyon, they're good bikes.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Battery View Post
    I like 26's.
    Well then, I've got a ton of them for you here:

    https://wholesaler.alibaba.com/produ...380271091.html

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacRone View Post
    Also 2nd hand market here in Spain unlikely to be on a par with UK.

    Bikes already more expensive and GBP decreasing in value by the day!

    New bike shipped internationally looking best option.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...ring_companies

  27. #27
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    I seem to feel further from choosing a bike than when I started. Ha!

    All good, I've asked some retailers to point me to their best value air suspension bikes. Let them do some of the leg work.

    Canyons also being investigated.

    Direct to Consumer model makes a lot of sense in a world of commoditised components.

    Cheers

  28. #28
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    The On One Parkwood would be a better Plus capable setup if it had a 148 Boost rear instead of 135 quick release. That frame doesn't even have 142x12 thru-axle yet.
    And the forks they're offering aren't 15x110 Plus forks. They're regular 29 15x100 forks. This limits you to 2.8" tires that measure 2.7" because of the lack of Plus width space between the stanchions. The frame has short reach for each size.
    Maybe some other value priced 27.5+/29 option will be announced at Interbike in a month.

  29. #29
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    Yes. yes, I was thinking the very same.

    No 142-12 thru axle. Utter fools!

    *Frantically checks Google Translate for bike-speak*

    Nah seriously, I'll work that out in time.

    Be an expert in a week at this rate

    I do prefer the speed, responsiveness of smaller wheels. Am 6' - not overly tall.

    OK Evans Bikes in UK have offered these for consideration against the air suspension + value brief:

    Pinnacle Iroko 1 2016:

    https://www.evanscycles.com/pinnacle...-bike-EV244132

    GT Zaskar Sport 2016:

    https://www.evanscycles.com/gt-27-5-...-bike-EV240511

  30. #30
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    Well you're coming along but not quite at expert level yet.
    27.5 is useless unless you're 5'2" or otherwise short.
    29 or 27.5+ or 29+ are faster rolling up and down. Over stuff and with current correct geo as quick turning as you'll ever need. More so can be twitchy. Maybe if you're main riding involves spins and other tricks then a lot more expensive light setup then you're looking at might be right.
    And the Reba on the Canyon will take a 29+ Panaracer Fat B Nimble 29 x 3.0 because it's actually 2.7". You need at least a 30mm inner width rim wheel and preferably a 40mm. But this stuff is for down the road. Just don't pick 27.5 because it doesn't go there.

    Are 27.5+ wheels and tyres better than 29ers? - BikeRadar USA

  31. #31
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    This development may be of interest.

    I was taken by your rant on coil suspension and retailers encouraging folks to learn the expensive way, eb1888.

    So I asked a retailer - Evans, in UK - on Twitter.

    Because when I enquired about reasonably priced bikes with air forks, they seemed to exhibit the behaviour that has you in a hot funk.

    Anyway, here's the exchange:

    Take a look at @CamNeilo's Tweet: https://twitter.com/CamNeilo/status/...438895104?s=09

  32. #32
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    Ha, I'll never be an expert on this topic. Happier to consult then be a consultant.

    Wheels talk all makes sense.

    Retailer has asked to take the Twitter discussion offline.

    Their previously warm tone has somewhat cooled. Not surprised!

  33. #33
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    What you're questioning is the current foundation of mtbike retailing. Every shop and most manufacturers are linked together by the lack of true demoing options at most shops in conjunction with the novice mtb customer's likely lack of the skill level to safely complete a true demo ride. What's needed is a safe capable bike at the entry level price point.

  34. #34
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    I've went through a few different methods of picking a bike from basically just riding what was given to me to researching and spec'ing exactly what I want.

    Here's what I'll say about that: they all were fun.

    You don't know what you don't know, until you do.

    You could start off with a high end, super capable bike (if you could afford it) and you'd never know about the stuff that many experienced riders go on and on about.

    Or you could just buy the simplest, sturdiest bike you can afford and beat the snot out of it until it dies. The low end bike industry has changed a bit from when I started, but my first bike never died actually. I gave it away in fully functional form. I could still be riding that bike today and I was never very nice to it. It was built like a tank and had no suspension. You'd break yourself before you'd break the bike in rough terrain, so you learn to pick lines, control your speed, etc.

    Given the industries need to fit forks and disc brakes even on the lowest end bikes, most likely whatever bike you buy will die. If you don't kill it, well then you probably don't ride enough and don't need to buy a new bike. If you do, you'll be wanting a new bike anyway.

    Get out and ride and you'll find out what you like and what you don't and be ready to figure out your next bike.
    Life is too short to ride a bike you don't love.

  35. #35
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    I see links to mail order sites for the bikes you're considering. are you going to buy the bike online or in a shop? it could cost a little more from a local shop, but I highly recommend at least buying your first bike from a local shop. assuming it's a reputable shop, test riding a few bikes, getting professional assembly and continued support is well worth it. when you have been riding a while and learn how to work on your own bike, buying online is worthwhile, but until you get to that point, it's more trouble than it's worth.

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    Yeah I'm leaning to ride the snot out of basic option. Was the original intent.

    That or pick decent-ish frame (not a total dog) with basic kit. Upgrade kit when willing, able n a bit more qualified.

    I'm not the type to muse over this too long.

    Re local shop. I hear you, but current state of play we're talking average 20% price difference, often more.

    I figure get it delivered and if problems I have local contacts that can help.

    Thanks all

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    Chain Reaction Cycle is based in the UK, have you checked here?:

    Mountain Bikes | Chain Reaction Cycles

  38. #38
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    How much will your local bike shop charge to assemble and dial in a new bike? IME, a new bike needs about an hour of work with trained hands and special tools if you want to give it a real chance to perform and to last. New bikes out of the box always have a tons of peoblems.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by l'oiseau View Post
    Given the industries need to fit forks and disc brakes even on the lowest end bikes....
    Giant finally got a clue and started offering their least expensive mtb with a rigid fork. The ATX Lite. Cuts quite a few pounds off the total weight of the bike (IIRC, it's sub-30lbs). And for a bike that few will ride on actual mtb trails, it makes a ton of sense. But even for an entry level bike, why not put a rigid fork on it? If the rider really likes mtb riding, they can upgrade to a decent suspension fork and skip the crap suspension altogether. They can either save a few bucks on initial purchase, or get a better-equipped bike for the same price as one that includes suspension.

    I don't subscribe to the logic that dictates a wheel size based on a rider's height. I have a friend who's barely 5' tall who prefers 29ers. My shop is trying to track down a carbon 29er SS frame for her for a build and it's difficult. Not many options. But who's to tell her that 29er wheels are too big for her height? It's what she likes. If the bike fits otherwise, it's not the wrong answer.

    Similarly, who's to tell a tall rider that a 27.5" wheel is too small for them? It all depends on what that rider likes, and to figure that out, you've gotta test ride some bikes.

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by mack_turtle View Post
    How much will your local bike shop charge to assemble and dial in a new bike? IME, a new bike needs about an hour of work with trained hands and special tools if you want to give it a real chance to perform and to last. New bikes out of the box always have a tons of peoblems.
    When I bought my Diamondback my LBS quoted me $150 to assemble, inspect, tune, and fit the bike.

  41. #41
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    That is a bit steep, but not far off if they do a thorough job.

  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by nbritton View Post
    When I bought my Diamondback my LBS quoted me $150 to assemble, inspect, tune, and fit the bike.
    Doesn't that pretty much equate to the 20% markup you mentioned? might as well just buy from the shop.

    Edit: doh, never mind, got poster confused. Anyways I think this is a still a good point. I would personally pay the 20% mark up if it was first bike considering all the benefit for a beginner who has never put together a bike.

  43. #43
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    Reputation: mack_turtle's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Posts
    9,117
    My point exactly. Assembly, tuning, fitting, subsequent service, warranty backup, ect from a good bike shop is definitely worth the meager 20% "markup, " especially for a new rider. The mail order sites can charge much less precisely because they don't provide those services.

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