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  1. #1
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    Looking for my first MTB

    I have been a road rider for a while and have some knowledge about road bikes. I'm 54 and will be retiring in about 3-4 years. I am committed to spending considerable time in retirement bikepacking and long distance riding. One of my concerns with road riding, however, is that it depends partly on others (in 3000 lb weapons) being considerate. So I am considering a mountain bike as a way to enjoy the same experiences with less dependence on others for my safety.

    Some background:

    I'm only 5'4";
    I'm pretty athletic;
    I'm not overweight;
    I am a regular at the gym;
    I tend to think I'm capable of things that I'm not capable of anymore (it hurts when I fall now);
    I don't have a LBS with much other than TREK or Specialized within 90 miles;
    I don't want a TREK or Specialized because you pay too much for the name (IMO)

    It sounds like most people prefer 29's, but finding 29's small enough is challenging. They are out there, but not sure if the geometry of a 27.5 is the better choice given my size.

    I'm a component person so its easy for me to get caught up in the shimano/Sram heirarchy and end up ignoring some bikes because they don't have components that are "good" enough. I'm not obsessed with them, I just like components that work reasonably well.

    I don't want to spend much money until I know this is what I want to do (bet you never heard that before). I'm not looking for a bike that can handle mega jumps, or highly technical trails. I just want to have a decent entry level bike that I can handle and wont kill myself on. If I decide that this works for me, then I will move up or upgrade. As a side note, I am planning on attending the Dirt Rag Dirt Fest at Raystown in May. I may have an opportunity to test some bikes there, but $500-600 bucks ain't going to brake the bank for me so Id like to have something to take with me.

    So, for you experienced MTB'ers out there, am I better off buying a new Vitus Nucleus, for example, or going to Bikes Direct and spending the same amount on a Motobecane Fanton 29 trail? These aren't the only two I'd consider, but I'm pretty sure a Vitus is in the mix (I also like the Voodoo Bizango 29 but its too tall for me).

    If I go Vitus I'm probably going to have to stick with a 27.5 because of the standover. It has an awesome shock (for the price), and has an Altus level drivetrain. I'm also betting it is considerable lighter.

    The Motobecane is a 29, but comes in an extra small with a nice standover for me, and has more of a Deore drivetrain. I'm sure the shock is inferior to the Vitus and will have some other cheaper parts like the seat. It will be heavier but I'm not sure that is critical at his point. The Motobecane just appears to be the most affordable 29 with decent components that will fit me.

    I'm probably making this too hard. Just buy a decent bike and go?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    There are a lot of mixed use bikes out there that would let one mountain bike but also bike pack or tour if they so wanted. A lot of Surly's bikes are set up that way. Additionally you can check out Velo Orange Piolet (https://velo-orange.com/products/vo-piolet-frameset) or similar bikes for an example of this. They usually come in a few pricepoints and have a nice mix of durable but good components. Additionally you can run 27.5 tires on a lot of them which may suit your height more than 29er wheels. There are tons of 27.5 tires available from straight up gnarly mountain biking tires to slick touring tires and everything in between.

    The other nice thing about an all arounder is the ton of mounting options they come with so you can bike tour, run fenders, carry packs, racks, bottles, etc.

    Also check out the classifieds here for a chance to grab something used but awesome: https://classifieds.mtbr.com/newdaily.php

  3. #3
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    A lot of bikepackers like to ride gravel bikes. That might be a good idea for you seeing you are a road cyclist too. Kona and Salsa have quite a few gravel bikes that may be of interest.

    Check out the Salsa Warbird or the Cutthroat
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  4. #4
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    Don't get caught up in wheel size trends or any of that. My wife is close to your height and she won't have anything to do with 29ers. So her old bike is a 26er and her new one has 27.5" wheels. That said, I know a lady who's not even 5' tall and she rides nothing but 29ers. But she has had to do some aggressive fit mods to make them comfortable. She's also a former pro racer and current skills instructor and is supremely confident on two wheels - I'm pretty sure she'd be confident on ANY bike.

    Don't discount name brands and don't get too stuck on a specific component group. You truly do get what you pay for. EXACTLY what you pay for. Bikesdirect's marketing BS makes it look like you get more from them. You don't. You might get better "flashy" components, but you're getting royally cheaped in other places like the frame and wheels especially. But you also have to be careful because BD appears to just buy lots of overstock components in bulk and some of their bikes have some dumbfounding component specs that don't make sense for the overall "build" of the bike. IMO, they're better for savvy and more experienced riders who know what they're getting and are ready to replace stupid components on a given bike.

    Since you're a road rider without mtb experience, I STRONGLY recommend that you ride some bikes. There's WAY more variety in mountain bikes than there is in road bikes, and that can result in two mtb's that look outwardly very similar to an untrained eye handling very very differently.

    Do not be afraid to travel farther to find more shops or to demo bikes. It can be very worthwhile. I've lived in places where there were 1 or 2 shops within a half hour drive. I have driven several hundred mile (round trip) to demo a bike I couldn't find locally. I once drove several hours and across a mountain range to buy a used canoe from someone. I have also spent many hours in the car to demo, and later to purchase, a used bike that a guy offered to let me demo, and then offered to me for sale a couple months later, from a small brand with no dealers whatsoever within hundreds of miles of me.

  5. #5
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    I'm pretty new at this too and perhaps others here could confirm or deny, but I've heard some experienced mtbers say you're better off going fully-rigid than getting cheap suspension. By "cheap" I think they're talking hardtails under about $800, and more for a full suspension.

  6. #6
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    Just to add, if you went fully-rigid you could add some to your tyres for a bit of "poor-man's suspension".

  7. #7
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    The Vitus has an XTC air fork(one side) with a sealed no maintenance damper on the other side. One metal bushing and one plastic on each side. This is the minimum model Suntour recommends for mtbiking on rougher trails. Their lesser coil forks are good for bike paths and smooth trails.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by starion814 View Post
    I have been a road rider for a while and have some knowledge about road bikes. I'm 54 and will be retiring in about 3-4 years. I am committed to spending considerable time in retirement bikepacking and long distance riding. One of my concerns with road riding, however, is that it depends partly on others (in 3000 lb weapons) being considerate. So I am considering a mountain bike as a way to enjoy the same experiences with less dependence on others for my safety.
    Quote Originally Posted by BobBracket View Post
    I'm pretty new at this too and perhaps others here could confirm or deny, but I've heard some experienced mtbers say you're better off going fully-rigid than getting cheap suspension. By "cheap" I think they're talking hardtails under about $800, and more for a full suspension.
    I think you're wise getting off the road... it's only a matter of time.

    When I hear "bike packing", my first thought is always Salsa and Surly

    Salsa Fargo for a drop-bar mixed use experience (available again in Ti too) or Surly Krampus for more of a trail experience. Add a suspension fork as needed.
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  9. #9
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    admitted Surly fanboi here, and that being said, I would look at the Ogre, or Troll, and maybe even the Krampus if you can.

    Starting on rigid with some fatter - plus size - tires can give you a decent amount of cushion to start.

    I think it is smart to get a set up that will allow you to be versatile as you grow into your version of MTBing..

    I have a Krampus, which is like getting multiple bikes in one for me...it is a trail bike; touring bike; snow riding bike; gravel bike; rec trail bike all in one. Just depends on how I set it up.

    I do not race, and don't do the crazy downhill "X games" type riding, so I am probably in the same mind set as you as far as the type of riding I do. Given your size, the Ogre or Might be the better fit if you want smaller wheels, but as many have said, wheel size is not always the 'make or break" of fit
    Go practice. Figure it out. - Fleas

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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by sXeXBMXer View Post
    admitted Surly fanboi here, and that being said, I would look at the Ogre, or Troll, and maybe even the Krampus if you can.

    Starting on rigid with some fatter - plus size - tires can give you a decent amount of cushion to start.

    I think it is smart to get a set up that will allow you to be versatile as you grow into your version of MTBing..

    I have a Krampus, which is like getting multiple bikes in one for me...it is a trail bike; touring bike; snow riding bike; gravel bike; rec trail bike all in one. Just depends on how I set it up.

    I do not race, and don't do the crazy downhill "X games" type riding, so I am probably in the same mind set as you as far as the type of riding I do. Given your size, the Ogre or Might be the better fit if you want smaller wheels, but as many have said, wheel size is not always the 'make or break" of fit
    However he's looking for something $600 max!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobBracket View Post
    I'm pretty new at this too and perhaps others here could confirm or deny, but I've heard some experienced mtbers say you're better off going fully-rigid than getting cheap suspension. By "cheap" I think they're talking hardtails under about $800, and more for a full suspension.
    The price point where that happens is somewhat of a moving target, but I generally agree that no suspension (with larger tires) is better than shitty suspension. But I will say this, too, that today's low end coil forks are much, much better than my first elastomer fork.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobBracket View Post
    However he's looking for something $600 max!
    well, he could look used, or frame set....

    I guess like many are saying here, if you pay $600 for a bike, you "get what you pay for" you are not going to allow yourself to really experience it.....especially if you are coming from a background where your tools were specifically designed/spec'd to a certain degree of demand

    I am not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but when I want to get into something new, I try to avoid the "bottom end" of the spectrum in equipment if I can...it makes no sense to sink ~$5-700 into a (cheap)bike...and then another 5-700 to make it actually rideable...

    I should have mentioned "look used" first tho
    Go practice. Figure it out. - Fleas

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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by sXeXBMXer View Post
    well, he could look used, or frame set....

    I guess like many are saying here, if you pay $600 for a bike, you "get what you pay for" you are not going to allow yourself to really experience it.....especially if you are coming from a background where your tools were specifically designed/spec'd to a certain degree of demand

    I am not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but when I want to get into something new, I try to avoid the "bottom end" of the spectrum in equipment if I can...it makes no sense to sink ~$5-700 into a (cheap)bike...and then another 5-700 to make it actually rideable...

    I should have mentioned "look used" first tho
    Agreed. At that price you could get a passable entry-level secondhand hardtail. If he has an experienced mtb friend who knows their bike mechanics and can look at second hand bikes with him, that would be the go. When I've looked at online markets, upwards of 95% of the bikes are vastly overpriced ripoffs and a looong way over what they are worth second hand.

    Having said that, there was a hardly used small-sized Surly Moonlander in gumtree going for $500 a few weeks ago!

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    Thanks for all the great advice. Someone earlier in the thread mentioned that there are more choices in mtbs than road bikes. You aint kidding. I'm usually a pretty decisive person but this bike thing has me waffling all over the place. It really isnt about 5 or 6 hundred dollars but I just dont want to spend haphazardly.

    It's also nice to see others so willing to help a noob. Not every site is like that so kudos to you all.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by starion814 View Post
    Thanks for all the great advice. Someone earlier in the thread mentioned that there are more choices in mtbs than road bikes. You aint kidding. I'm usually a pretty decisive person but this bike thing has me waffling all over the place. It really isnt about 5 or 6 hundred dollars but I just dont want to spend haphazardly.

    It's also nice to see others so willing to help a noob. Not every site is like that so kudos to you all.
    I've been doing off-road bikepacking for a year now although I'm still a noob on the subject. This forum is full of veterans who really know their stuff. I agree not to just go out and buy anything. My first mistake was buying a "bikepacking rig" with too-small tyres and road-aggressive geometry. As an ex-road racer from the 80s and 90s I was programmed to think differently about things like efficiency. I've since sold that bike, losing some money in the process.

    I'm also now acknowledging the value of a bike already designed for bikepacking, a dedicated bikepacking rig. I've found logistical issues often arise with the mounting of bikepacking paraphernalia when using anything, although most of it can usually be worked around with a bit of expert mucking about and hacks.

    From what I gather and generally speaking, a "decent entry-level mtb" begins around $1,000. Bikes like you linked from BikesDirect and so forth are considered one step up from department store bikes or borderline department store bikes. You'll likely get nothing but problems from them and the problems will start sooner rather than later.

    A dedicated entry-level off-road bikepacking rig will usually be more than $1,000 but will have all manner of mounts and design considerations thought out for bikepacking. For a bit of bikepacking here and there I'd say use just about any entry-level mtb rig. However if you're planning to do a lot of it as a primary pastime, it might be worth it to start with a dedicated entry-level bikepacking rig, either fully-rigid or hardtail. Fully-rigid will be more affordable but it depends on the terrain you're frequenting as well.

    I used to be a bigger fan of Surly than I currently am, especially when it comes to their bikepacking rigs, however I think they've become overpriced for what they are. However I think they put good thought into design.

    Unless you're planning a lot of soft snow or sand like bikepacking into sandy desert country where you'd need a fat bike, my suggestion is look at a fully-rigid plus bike. Those 3-inch tires will provide some degree of suspension dampening as well as float for loose stuff, that might the the most affordable but sensible bikepacking option.

  17. #17
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    ^^ Here is a great deal under $1k (OP can upgrade stuff later)



    sorry better link:

    https://www.jensonusa.com/Kona-Unit-...QaAjQ9EALw_wcB
    Surly Krampus
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcd46 View Post
    ^^ Here is a great deal under $1k (OP can upgrade stuff later)



    sorry better link:

    https://www.jensonusa.com/Kona-Unit-...QaAjQ9EALw_wcB
    Now we're talking!

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcd46 View Post
    ^^ Here is a great deal under $1k (OP can upgrade stuff later)



    sorry better link:

    https://www.jensonusa.com/Kona-Unit-...QaAjQ9EALw_wcB
    JCD and his Kona bikes. It's as if he is sponsored or something
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  20. #20
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    Lol I can see you two have some kind of long-standing special relationship. But sponsor or not, he's come up with the goods!

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobBracket View Post
    Lol I can see you two have some kind of long-standing special relationship. But sponsor or not, he's come up with the goods!
    Yeah...we spam Family Guy memes a lot. It's a special bond.

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  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobBracket View Post
    Lol I can see you two have some kind of long-standing special relationship. But sponsor or not, he's come up with the goods!
    lol not sponsored, I was looking at that bike but my taste is more expensive than my bank account so I went with a Krampus.

    As for Battery, he is always up for people joining his weekly group ride, no speed necessary.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWdik29MTrE
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcd46 View Post
    Omg

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcd46 View Post
    As for Battery, he is always up for people joining his weekly group ride, no speed necessary.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWdik29MTrE
    Dude, you promised not to share that with anyone! Now everyone will want to join!
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  25. #25
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    Gentlemen behave

    OP if you want to go the fat bike route you can't do any better than this for the price https://www.norco.com/bikes/mountain...num/bigfoot-2/

    I have the Bigfoot 1 version with dropper post, they both have 11 speed 1x drivetrains, mounts on forks as well as under the frame (downtube), rack and fender mounts if you want them, and good geometry for trail riding too. I've put 4.0 Jumbo Jim tires on mine for trail riding and will swap out with the wider stock tires for off the beaten track bikepacking.

    Suspension corrected fork too if you want to swap out with a suspension fork.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobBracket View Post
    I'm pretty new at this too and perhaps others here could confirm or deny, but I've heard some experienced mtbers say you're better off going fully-rigid than getting cheap suspension. By "cheap" I think they're talking hardtails under about $800, and more for a full suspension.
    I think what they meant is cheap full suspension. I was thinking of doing rigid on the front and a 2.8 tire for a cheap bike, but ended up doing a $130 air fork (that sucks, maybe as good as a coil XCT) but it's just 3.7 lbs and I can put it on lockout, only about 1 lb more than rigid anyway. So not the end of the world.

    For a hardtail it's easy to put on an air fork, dropper post, better brakes later, maybe a wider wheelset, etc. Yes that's more money later, but if you start with a decent aluminum frame with modern geometry then you can choose to upgrade later either way. Rome was not built in a day at an entry-level price. Don't analyze to the point of paralysis, get something, ride it, later you will know when it's time to upgrade.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by richj8990 View Post
    I think what they meant is cheap full suspension. I was thinking of doing rigid on the front and a 2.8 tire for a cheap bike, but ended up doing a $130 air fork (that sucks, maybe as good as a coil XCT) but it's just 3.7 lbs and I can put it on lockout, only about 1 lb more than rigid anyway. So not the end of the world.

    For a hardtail it's easy to put on an air fork, dropper post, better brakes later, maybe a wider wheelset, etc. Yes that's more money later, but if you start with a decent aluminum frame with modern geometry then you can choose to upgrade later either way. Rome was not built in a day at an entry-level price. Don't analyze to the point of paralysis, get something, ride it, later you will know when it's time to upgrade.
    Fair points.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by starion814 View Post
    Thanks for all the great advice. Someone earlier in the thread mentioned that there are more choices in mtbs than road bikes. You aint kidding. I'm usually a pretty decisive person but this bike thing has me waffling all over the place. It really isnt about 5 or 6 hundred dollars but I just dont want to spend haphazardly.

    It's also nice to see others so willing to help a noob. Not every site is like that so kudos to you all.
    we were all noobs on the site once, so we are just "paying it back"...just trying to help a brutha out

    ...and sometimes spending "too little" is spending haphazardly if you are not carefull.

    (whispers : get.......the.......Krampus!!! )

    what ever you do get, don't forget to post pics of New Bike Day (NBD) and then your rides in the "Did You Ride Today" thread
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    I appreciate all the love for the krampus guys but with a 770 stand over probably out of the question for me. I need to be closer to 710 max.

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    Quote Originally Posted by starion814 View Post
    I appreciate all the love for the krampus guys but with a 770 stand over probably out of the question for me. I need to be closer to 710 max.
    I do agree you're much better off with a 275, especially when you're talking plus bikes. Apart from that the Krampus is a decent entry-level bikepacking rig. But price for cheap steel frame and those specs?!
    Last edited by BobBracket; 01-30-2019 at 06:29 PM.
    It's not your bottom bracket

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    Don't know if it's suitable but was looking at bikes and just noticed the low 686 standover height of the 27.5+ Aluminium version of this hardtail: https://www.santacruzbicycles.com/en-US/chameleon
    It's not your bottom bracket

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    Surly Karate Monkey. It takes either 27.5"+ or 29" wheels. Great for bikepacking and trail. It's suspension corrected, so works with an upgraded suspension fork if you want, it also has dropper routing. Mine is fully rigid. Very fun ride. I'm also primarily a road rider, and it's a good bike for those that don't necessarily want suspension yet, but might try it one day. A size small would probably fit you. But they also make extra small.

    Any shop can order a Surly from QBP (quality bike parts).

    Caveat, mountainbikes have 'forward' geometry, meaning you will use a short stem and use a much longer bike than you expect. Don't end up on a too small bike the first time (like I did) because you got stuck on road sizing. A bigger bike has a higher head tube, so you sit up more. You want that with bike packing.


    https://surlybikes.com/bikes/karate_monkey

    I think the new ones are around $1800.00 so maybe when you are ready later. Surly's are made to try different options, which is one reason I like them.
    2018 Surly Karate Monkey 'dingle' speed
    2013 CAADX 105
    2012 Pinarello Quattro
    2002 Zurich LeMond

  33. #33
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    I just noticed your caveat on standover. What is your inseam? 710 is hard to find, 5'4" isn't that short.
    2018 Surly Karate Monkey 'dingle' speed
    2013 CAADX 105
    2012 Pinarello Quattro
    2002 Zurich LeMond

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    This Jamis Dragon has been on sale for awhile. Really sweet deal. Not many use a small. Unless the standover is too high.

    https://www.jensonusa.com/Jamis-Drag...t-29-Bike-2016


    An the Sala Timberjacks have low standover. You might need to take a road trip to find one, but perhaps worth it.

    https://salsacycles.com/bikes/timber..._nx_eagle_27.5
    2018 Surly Karate Monkey 'dingle' speed
    2013 CAADX 105
    2012 Pinarello Quattro
    2002 Zurich LeMond

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    I could lie and say 28, but 27 at best

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    Quote Originally Posted by starion814 View Post
    I could lie and say 28, but 27 at best
    Fargo in XS?

    https://salsacycles.com/bikes/fargo/...steel_frameset

    Unit X in S

    KONA BIKES | MTB | MTB HARDTAIL | Unit X

    Marin Pin Mountain in S

    https://www.marinbikes.com/bikes/201...-pine-mountain
    Last edited by J_Westy; 02-01-2019 at 05:07 AM.
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  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by starion814 View Post
    I could lie and say 28, but 27 at best
    Timberjack size XS has a 686 mm Standover, and size small 702.


    The Marin Pine Mountain is a lot like a Karate Monkey. Nice bike

    A thought, replace 27.5 wheels with 26" on whatever bike you buy. That will lower the standover. People say not to because the bike wasn't designed for it blah blah, but they would doubtless fit you better and you wouldn't have to get a bike that is too small overall to accommodate standover. And the shop could rebuild hubs to fit whatever bike you want. Places like Velomine have nice wheels for good prices.
    2018 Surly Karate Monkey 'dingle' speed
    2013 CAADX 105
    2012 Pinarello Quattro
    2002 Zurich LeMond

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Muirenn View Post
    Timberjack size XS..

    A thought, replace 27.5 wheels with 26" on whatever bike you buy.
    I think the Timberjack’s bottom bracket is already notoriously low - no?
    --------------

    [WTB] 1987 Cannondale SM800, 20", Pink with airbrushed graphics.

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by J_Westy View Post
    I think the Timberjack’s bottom bracket is already notoriously low - no?
    I think the Timberjack is one of the few with a low enough standover.
    2018 Surly Karate Monkey 'dingle' speed
    2013 CAADX 105
    2012 Pinarello Quattro
    2002 Zurich LeMond

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