what's really different? - entry level bikes- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    what's really different? - entry level bikes

    hello all

    been reading around all sorts of entry level threads and i've got a couple of (perhaps misguided) ideas.

    1) in general, it seems like the lesser known branded bikes (forge sawback 5xx, dawes haymaker, airborne skyhawk, etc) are forced to compete with the more well known / more widely marketed brands in the entry world by offering better, higher quality components (true? maybe) on similarly priced bikes.

    now, if point 1 is correct (and i think it generally is), there are at least a couple of options for what follows from it and what i'd like to solve, finally (i know, you are welcome). is it that:

    a) the better known branded bikes (say a GT avalanche or karakorum, or a Giant Revel) are actually offering better, more upgrade-able, better designed, better built frames surrounded by lower quality components?

    b) the frames are not the same but the difference is not in quality. instead, the difference is in the novelty of the design. meaning, the lesser known brands often mimic older, proven designs (i.e. copies) while the more known brands (and more expensive) offer newer designs

    c) a third option is that the difference in the 'component gap' is not in the bike frame at all. these bikes, after all, all use similar materials and are put together in similar fashion by similarly modestly paid workers in taiwan or china (none in the US) and that what separates the bikes is marketing costs, pro team costs, and who knows what else (as an airborne rep argued here.

    so which is it? if in fact the components are better on the lesser known brands, what explains the 'component gap' (if the better known bikes are equally priced or more expensive as they generally are)? is it a, b, or c? or have i missed something?

    it seems to me that this is *the* question for all these entry-level 'what should i buy' threads because if its a) and/or b) then it makes more sense to buy the more expensively priced better known brands with lesser components because the life of the frame will inevitably be longer (better built and/or more upgradeable). if its c) however, well then, that's another story.

    so, which is it?

  2. #2
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    get the best looking one.

  3. #3
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    Down to their lowest-end models, the majors offer their frames in several sizes and with at least some degree of manipulation of the aluminum in the frame. Their cheaper bikes aren't light like their expensive bikes, but they don't hit 7 lb for a hardtail frame either. Actually not that big a deal one way or the other, but the sizing is important.

    If you're pretty close to an average-sized man and you don't mind (or would prefer to be) sitting a bit more upright, you'd probably be served at least okay by a lot of the catalog bikes.

    It's true that the majors spend a lot on marketing. They also spend a fair amount on R&D, waste a bunch on men in skinny jeans and V-neck T-shirts who come up with Bold New Graphics every year, etc.

    But it's hard to argue with fit. I care about a centimeter here and there on some of the dimensions on my bikes. Being able to test ride was real value-added for me, particularly with my mountain and 'cross bikes. If you fall outside the proportions and riding style that the catalogs are imagining, you're probably going to have an uphill battle getting both good fit and good handling at the same time.

    Rather than asking vague, general questions (see the "why the hostility" thread ) why don't you tell us a bit about yourself and what you want to do with riding, and ask the specific question. If you're just looking for something to ride to the liquor store, I have a different opinion about what would and wouldn't serve you well in a bike than if you're interested in mountain biking as a sport.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  4. #4
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    Basically with "entry level", hard tail bikes; ie. bikes below $700-800 you are going to get a similar frame in terms of weight and durability however there will be some differences in the geometry of the frames which may make one a better choice for some things or a better fit for some people over others. And the only way to really determine those differences (which in many cases may be subtle) is through riding/testing/experience with each one.

    All that being said, for the true beginner most of those differences will not be noticeable and because of that the actual differences in the "entry level" bikes comes down more to the components that they are equipped with more than anything else. Basically on an entry level bike you really should try to find the bike within your budget which has the highest quality components straight from the factory.

    How can you tell which components are better than others?

    (Third time today I have posted this...)

    As a comparison the ranking for component levels generally goes like this (from lowest/cheapest to highest/more expensive):

    Shimano Parts:

    SIS/Tourney/No name at all (cheapest possible) - Terrible
    Altus - Poor
    Acera - Poor/fair
    Alivio - Fair
    Deore/Deore Shadow - Good
    LX/SLX - Very Good
    XT - Excellent
    XTR - Superior

    SRAM Parts:

    X3 (cheapest) - poor
    X4 - Fair
    X5 - Good
    X7 - Very Good
    X9 - Excellent
    X0 - Superior
    XX - Superior

    In general, Shimano Deore or SRAM X5 or higher parts are what are considered the threshold for "decent quality" components for off-road use and will generally hold up to single track and more advance riding far better than lower level ones.

    As to the forks on these bikes, the RST and Suntour forks which come on the majority of bikes under $700 are essentially good only for very basic off-road use (smooth dirt trails, gravel roads, etc.) and are not especially helpful on even beginner level singletrack due to their lack of rebound compression. Honestly, in many cases you would be better off with a rigid fork over these low end coil forks for any type of technical riding at all.

    The next level up from the Suntour/RST forks is generally the Rock Shox line, starting with the Dart and XC (28, 30 and 32) series. These forks are not "great" but they are considerably better then the Suntour/RST forks usually seen on the lower end bikes and are capable of handling beginner (and some intermediate) technical riding.

    So basically when shopping for a lower end bike you really want to try to find something with a Rock Shox fork and Shimano Deore or SRAM X5 or better components when at all possible. Failing that you need to try to evaluate the components equipped on each bike to determine both its overall value as well as to identify areas of potential weakness which are more likely to be requiring repair or upgrades sooner rather than later.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by oifla View Post
    hello all

    been reading around all sorts of entry level threads and i've got a couple of (perhaps misguided) ideas.

    1) in general, it seems like the lesser known branded bikes (forge sawback 5xx, dawes haymaker, airborne skyhawk, etc) are forced to compete with the more well known / more widely marketed brands in the entry world by offering better, higher quality components (true? maybe) on similarly priced bikes.
    nah.. companies like airborne and bikes direct make up brands, buy cheap frames, and save cost by this, so that they can give somebody a reason to buy from them... mainly, by providing higher end parts. they aren't forced into anything, they are competing in a global marketplace. well, they don't make up brands, they buy names and use them for their own frames. granted, most frames come from the same place, so to argue over quality is an issue in itself.

    now, if point 1 is correct (and i think it generally is), there are at least a couple of options for what follows from it and what i'd like to solve, finally (i know, you are welcome). is it that:

    a) the better known branded bikes (say a GT avalanche or karakorum, or a Giant Revel) are actually offering better, more upgrade-able, better designed, better built frames surrounded by lower quality components?
    i don't see how one frame is more upgradable than the next, they all have the same holes.

    b) the frames are not the same but the difference is not in quality. instead, the difference is in the novelty of the design. meaning, the lesser known brands often mimic older, proven designs (i.e. copies) while the more known brands (and more expensive) offer newer designs
    larger companies have the resources to make unconventional designs work with large research budgets. i don't know if they are better. so yeah, pretty much. though, they do follow geo trends, just in a more basic form.

    c) a third option is that the difference in the 'component gap' is not in the bike frame at all. these bikes, after all, all use similar materials and are put together in similar fashion by similarly modestly paid workers in taiwan or china (none in the US) and that what separates the bikes is marketing costs, pro team costs, and who knows what else (as an airborne rep argued here.
    a lot makes it different. there's the 40% markup at the lbs, there's the lack of employees, budget, and everything else you mentioned. all this adds up to a company having the ability to provide a better bike cheaper, as long as they don't tell people about it, or provide it in their face. you have to search for them, because thats how they save money. none of my friends have heard of these companies, i had to tell them about them. which is great that i had the opportunity to.

    so which is it? if in fact the components are better on the lesser known brands, what explains the 'component gap' (if the better known bikes are equally priced or more expensive as they generally are)? is it a, b, or c? or have i missed something?

    it seems to me that this is *the* question for all these entry-level 'what should i buy' threads because if its a) and/or b) then it makes more sense to buy the more expensively priced better known brands with lesser components because the life of the frame will inevitably be longer (better built and/or more upgradeable). if its c) however, well then, that's another story.

    so, which is it?
    i don't see how any frame is more upgradeable than the next. and i don't think that in the budget arena, any frame is more durable than the next. maybe if you switch metals, or look at fs bikes, thats another story. but bottom of the barrel 500 dollar or less bikes generally are made of the same materials. components thrown on them are more to either save money, or gather customers, depending on the company.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luclin999 View Post
    Basically with "entry level", hard tail bikes; ie. bikes below $700-800 you are going to get a similar frame in terms of weight and durability however there will be some differences in the geometry of the frames which may make one a better choice for some things or a better fit for some people over others. And the only way to really determine those differences (which in many cases may be subtle) is through riding/testing/experience with each one.

    All that being said, for the true beginner most of those differences will not be noticeable and because of that the actual differences in the "entry level" bikes comes down more to the components that they are equipped with more than anything else. Basically on an entry level bike you really should try to find the bike within your budget which has the highest quality components straight from the factory.

    How can you tell which components are better than others?

    (Third time today I have posted this...)

    .......
    lol.... its like, no matter what you say, only one person reads it.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ou2mame View Post
    nah.. companies like airborne and bikes direct make up brands, buy cheap frames, and save cost by this, so that they can give somebody a reason to buy from them... mainly, by providing higher end parts. they aren't forced into anything, they are competing in a global marketplace. well, they don't make up brands, they buy names and use them for their own frames. granted, most frames come from the same place, so to argue over quality is an issue in itself.
    <soapbox>

    I can't speak for Bikes Direct, but I will say that Airborne doesn't really cheap-out on frames. There are many, many frame manufacturers in China and Taiwan and to say most come from the same place (which is often the saying here on MTBR) is a little mis-led.

    We work directly with 2 different frame manufacturers, one in China and one in Taiwan, and for the most part design and test all of our own frames (with the exception of the early models like the Taka and Marauder which are almost gone from our line-up now).

    As a product manager I have probably worked with 25-30 different frame manufacturers over the years and that only scratches the surface of the # that are out there, with more and more appearing every day.

    Truthfully where we save $$$ is where I mentioned in my other post; low overhead, lower marketing budget, no 40% mark-up for shops (this is the biggest one IMHO). We count on our customers to tell others about their experience.

    We also don't believe in gouging people, and charge what we think is a fair price for a good product and at the end of the day if we make enough to eek out a profit after paying our expenses we are pretty happy.

    Our goal is to get more people on bikes, and if those bikes are Airborne bikes that's a double-bonus for us.

    </soapbox>
    Please Note: I no longer work for Airborne. If you have an Airborne question or problem please contact them directly.

  8. #8
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    An upgradable frame, to me, would be one with the weight and geo an experienced rider would choose to build up from scratch. For an AL HT that would be 3.5lbs., a 69-70 tapered HT with a 73-74 seat tube 438 or less chain stays mean the seat tube is curved or positioned forward for tire clearance. The seat stays allow some vertical compliance. No entry level priced bike has that. The closest is a Canyon Grand Canyon 29 AL at $1100 for a bike equivalent. That is not yet available in the US. Or possibly a Scott Scale 29.
    Your alternative is to upgrade your entry level frame with parts to move to a better geo lighter frame when you reach an experienced level. You might choose a carbon or FS frame at that time.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    But it's hard to argue with fit. I care about a centimeter here and there on some of the dimensions on my bikes. Being able to test ride was real value-added for me, particularly with my mountain and 'cross bikes. If you fall outside the proportions and riding style that the catalogs are imagining, you're probably going to have an uphill battle getting both good fit and good handling at the same time.
    right, but being able to test ride is something that only works if the bike is sold at a nearby lbs (which in my case is tough because selection around here is limited) and it practically eliminates buying from the web (although i guess you could buy and if the fit is not good, return it).

    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    Rather than asking vague, general questions (see the "why the hostility" thread )
    i thought my question is very specific. i searched and could not find a thread where this issue was discussed head on

    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post

    why don't you tell us a bit about yourself and what you want to do with riding, and ask the specific question. If you're just looking for something to ride to the liquor store, I have a different opinion about what would and wouldn't serve you well in a bike than if you're interested in mountain biking as a sport.
    i have a bike to ride to the liquor store and, again, my preferences and/or needs are not really relevant. my question has to do with the actual, material difference between entry level hard tails and what accounts for the price difference and/or 'component gap' (yes, that is now my personal ™)

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luclin999 View Post
    Basically with "entry level", hard tail bikes; ie. bikes below $700-800 you are going to get a similar frame in terms of weight and durability however there will be some differences in the geometry of the frames which may make one a better choice for some things or a better fit for some people over others. And the only way to really determine those differences (which in many cases may be subtle) is through riding/testing/experience with each one.
    so your argument would be that there is effectively no difference, beyond fit, when it comes to entry level (sub-$800 let's say) bikes? i find this hard to believe.

    take two of the bikes i mentioned. Giant revel 1 and an Airborne skyhawk. relatively comparable components. both have SR Suntour XCM forks and both run SRAM X-4. the price difference, however, is $100 or 25% (setting aside the hydaulic disc vs mechanical disc difference).

    this is what i'm trying to asses, is the 25% difference in this case simply the fact that one is called Giant and sold at an LBS? or are you in some way getting more bike (quality, durability, etc)?

    Quote Originally Posted by Luclin999 View Post
    All that being said, for the true beginner most of those differences will not be noticeable and because of that the actual differences in the "entry level" bikes comes down more to the components that they are equipped with more than anything else. Basically on an entry level bike you really should try to find the bike within your budget which has the highest quality components straight from the factory.
    but to me that's putting the horse before the cart. right now i'd rather buy the most frame possible and upgrade as i need/can afford. now if all frames at this price point are the same then yeah, you are right. but again, that is the question i'm trying to get some consensus on. are these frames in fact all pretty much the same (save for fit)? in terms of quality and materials, are there any significant differences?

    Quote Originally Posted by Luclin999 View Post
    How can you tell which components are better than others?

    (Third time today I have posted this...)
    yes, some of us do read. i saw this comment on an earlier thread (thanks)

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by ou2mame View Post
    nah.. companies like airborne and bikes direct make up brands, buy cheap frames, and save cost by this, so that they can give somebody a reason to buy from them... mainly, by providing higher end parts. they aren't forced into anything, they are competing in a global marketplace. well, they don't make up brands, they buy names and use them for their own frames. granted, most frames come from the same place, so to argue over quality is an issue in itself.
    ok but you aren't really answering the question. the 'component gap' is real but what about the frames? that is, yes, as i said, the trend seems to be that the (let's say) new players vs. the established brands tend to give you more in the component department but what about the frames?


    [QUOTE=ou2mame;9634409]i don't see how one frame is more upgradable than the next, they all have the same holes.

    yes, they have the same holes (hahah that could be a dangerous comparison point) but so does a walmart bike. what i mean by 'upgradeable' is that one frame itself would be worth keeping and upgrading over another. an example using the two bikes i mentioned above. if the Giant Revel is a better (let's say lighter, stronger) frame than the airborne, that $100 difference in price is merited because as you slowly upgrade the components, the bike will continue to be worthwhile to do so (up to a point). now if on top of the $100 price advantage the Airborne has a better frame (again, let's say lighter, stronger), then the Giant logo on the Revel is really really overpriced. does that make more sense? (sorry if i wasn't being clear before)


    Quote Originally Posted by ou2mame View Post
    larger companies have the resources to make unconventional designs work with large research budgets. i don't know if they are better.
    again, that seems to be the key to making sense of the whole entry level price point. components aside, are there actual material differences between frames (weight, quality, durability), or is it the same thing with a really expensive sticker?


    Quote Originally Posted by ou2mame View Post
    all this adds up to a company having the ability to provide a better bike cheaper
    this is the expensive sticker argument then


    Quote Originally Posted by ou2mame View Post
    i don't see how any frame is more upgradeable than the next. and i don't think that in the budget arena, any frame is more durable than the next. maybe if you switch metals, or look at fs bikes, thats another story. but bottom of the barrel 500 dollar or less bikes generally are made of the same materials. components thrown on them are more to either save money, or gather customers, depending on the company.
    which is what i'm trying to nail down in terms of specifics (over impressions). is this then consensus on mtbr? that is, do most people on here agree that the difference in price point is the expensive sticker theory?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ou2mame View Post
    lol.... its like, no matter what you say, only one person reads it.
    again, some of us noobs do read. the issue here is that this basic information is scattered across many threads and there really should be a stickie on frame quality, weight, etc. for the lower entry point rigs just as Luclin999 summed up the component hierarchy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDaddyFlyer View Post
    <soapbox>

    I can't speak for Bikes Direct, but I will say that Airborne doesn't really cheap-out on frames. There are many, many frame manufacturers in China and Taiwan and to say most come from the same place (which is often the saying here on MTBR) is a little mis-led.
    well, now that we have your attention, can you make a statement (without the soapbox) on the range of frame quality at the entry level pricing point? are there any significant pluses to your Guardian frame vs. say a Giant or something comparable from the bigger companies?

    Quote Originally Posted by BigDaddyFlyer View Post
    We work directly with 2 different frame manufacturers, one in China and one in Taiwan, and for the most part design and test all of our own frames (with the exception of the early models like the Taka and Marauder which are almost gone from our line-up now).
    since you bring this up, can you clarify where the Skyhawk and Guardian are made? the pics and videos on your site are angled in just such a way as to only show the "hand made in...." sticker but without revealing the country of origin

    Quote Originally Posted by BigDaddyFlyer View Post
    As a product manager I have probably worked with 25-30 different frame manufacturers over the years and that only scratches the surface of the # that are out there, with more and more appearing every day.
    again, all the more reason to hear your take on my questions (re: quality, weight, durability, etc.). care to make a statement and/or offer some data to back up that "Airborne doesn't really cheap-out on frames" quote?


    Quote Originally Posted by BigDaddyFlyer View Post
    Truthfully where we save $$$ is where I mentioned in my other post; low overhead, lower marketing budget, no 40% mark-up for shops (this is the biggest one IMHO). We count on our customers to tell others about their experience.
    here again you seem to be supporting the 'expensive sticker' theory. are you affirming that your frames are similar in terms of quality, weight, durability, etc. with those offered (for more money) by the more extensively marketed companies?
    Last edited by oifla; 08-28-2012 at 08:03 AM.

  14. #14
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    Luclin999 was spot on in his component assessment. Anything less than Deore / X5 will suffer from off-road thrashing.

    Addressing the topic of this thread:
    For the most part, it is "C" when you're looking at a simple hardtail bike. ou2mame mentioned the LBS markup, marketing costs, R&D budget, all of which add to the cost of all bikes made by the bigger companies. Even their entry level bikes share in this burden of massive overhead costs. I'll have more to say specificly regarding quality once my new Airborne is delivered, but I have had a chance to check out the formed tubing on IronHorse's bikes, they are reminiscent of Giant's frames in the same category. Even the welds on the IronHorse were nice and wide, cleanly overlapped single row with no pitting, burn holes from excessive heat, nor any other signs that indicated they weren't on par with Trek's or Giant's welds. I believe IronHorse and Airborne share the same frame production facility.

    Once you step up to full suspension, you could add in "B", novelty of design. Specific example: the multi-pivot designs (Giant's Maestro, anyone?) Here, you are no longer in the entry level bracket of the market, and this is where those extra R&D dollars are really put to use. Going with the major brands for a top tier bike makes sense, as it's their bread and butter.

    In a few cases, it may be a bit of "A", lower quality frames. Example: Walgoose frames are heavy, usually have horrible welds that look like snot, run oldschool quill stems with smaller headsets. At the far low end of entry level, the frames are in fact of lower quality. If you are buying a new bike for $200 these days, you aren't looking at a good frame. Nor good components.

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    Quote Originally Posted by oifla View Post


    again, all the more reason to hear your take on my questions (re: quality, weight, durability, etc.). care to make a statement and/or offer some data to back up that "Airborne doesn't really cheap-out on frames" quote?



    On all of our current complete bikes (like the Skyhawk, Sabre, Guardian, etc) the frames are 6061 T6 with butted main tubes on the bikes above the Sabre level. All bikes have integrated headsets. Those level of frames are produced in China, we don't attempt to hide anything in the videos or photos. We are very picky when it comes to weld quality, tube cutting, etc and are there on-site for all production.

    We have some higher end product coming out soon that will be 7000 series butted aluminum and is being made in Taiwan.

    All frames go thru extensive testing including EN and CPSIA standards.

    I'm not at liberty to share CAD drawings with you.

    Please feel free to contact us directly if you have any questions, thanks.
    Please Note: I no longer work for Airborne. If you have an Airborne question or problem please contact them directly.

  16. #16
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    Here's my take on the question (take it for what it's worth). If you take most of the entry level bikes with the SRAM X-4/Shimano Alivo component level just as themselves, they are pretty much equal. Now add graphics, which tires from which mfg (yes it does make a difference, just check the cost between WTB and Bontrager then multiply by how many thousand sold each year), do the same for pedals, grips, seats, handlebars. Add the cost of advertizing, supporting race teams, special projects crew that travel around doing factory demos and such. Then look at the warranty specs. Not all companies have good warranties, some are excellent and some are crap. That is large part of the price differences.

    As far as weather one frame is "upgradeable" or not the answer is yes and no. Yes in that unless the bike was built to some weird or obscure standard, you can bolt on what ever parts you care to buy, and as long as the geometry fits you can keep after it. No in that there is a reason that there are plenty companies that specialize in building just frames in just about any material and geometry you care to specify. The time and effort to build a entry level frame is less than half that of one of the high end frames of the same material. Why? Tube thickness, are the tubes double butted? Did they shape the tubes for aesthetics (ie: Lynsky) or to strengthen the frame somehow? The higher end frames are designed to handle a wider array of hardware and usage (like longer travel forks, adjustable angle headsets and such), and different types of bottom brackets. There is also the fact that the weld quality on entry level frames is just not as good as higher level frames.

    It all adds up, then after considering all the above then tack on the mark up from LBS or figure in the cost of tools and time to do your own wrenching (which you should consider if you buy a bike online as opposed to the shop). In some cases yes you're paying extra for a name but in a lot of cases that will be money well spent. You can save money buying online and you won't lose out assuming you don't need the services of a LBS. If you just look at the bikes themselves then no there's very little difference, but if you look at the whole situation not just the metal and rubber then there's considerable difference between them hence the "Which Bike Should I Buy?" threads.
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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by oifla View Post
    so your argument would be that there is effectively no difference, beyond fit, when it comes to entry level (sub-$800 let's say) bikes? i find this hard to believe.

    take two of the bikes i mentioned. Giant revel 1 and an Airborne skyhawk. relatively comparable components. both have SR Suntour XCM forks and both run SRAM X-4. the price difference, however, is $100 or 25% (setting aside the hydaulic disc vs mechanical disc difference).

    this is what i'm trying to asses, is the 25% difference in this case simply the fact that one is called Giant and sold at an LBS? or are you in some way getting more bike (quality, durability, etc)?
    It isn't just fit. Geometry plays a huge role. Just like fit, there isn't a better / worse geometry, rather there is a better / worse geometry for YOU.

    You have to decide if that extra 40% margin is worth knowing how well a bike fits or suits your riding style. Since this is the biggest benefit a bike shop offers over online sales, that's why showrooming is deadly to retail.

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    ... and if we just ...

    I did a fair amount of research when buying my first bike, just a few months ago. Mostly on the interenet. I originally was looking at the Guardian level bikes, and I ended up buying the Goblin. The difference in what value I felt I could get from Airborne vs a LBS with similar components was more than a several hundred dollars, really closer to 4-500 from what I found. AIrborne has a lifteime warranty on the frame by the way, which is why I think I leaned that way.

    I rode 1 bike before buying the Goblin. I did a demo ride on a Speacialized Carve Expert if I remember correctly. I see a lot of people say ride as many bikes as you can, but I always felt like a bike is a bike. I am out to get some excersise on mine. There may be subtle differences in the way it fits you, but I have changed out the bars and that's it. I always figured I could change the cockpit if needed. I am used to riding it, and maybe I don't know any better. Hell, I love it. Airborne has great customer service from what I've experienced and as long as you can do a little work on them on your own, I would highly recommend them. I don't work for them either

  19. #19
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    I found reasons to respond to each point, hope that's ok.

    Quote Originally Posted by oifla View Post
    hello all

    been reading around all sorts of entry level threads and i've got a couple of (perhaps misguided) ideas.

    1) in general, it seems like the lesser known branded bikes (forge sawback 5xx, dawes haymaker, airborne skyhawk, etc) are forced to compete with the more well known / more widely marketed brands in the entry world by offering better, higher quality components (true? maybe) on similarly priced bikes.
    This is somewhat true; the internet brands (what I will call what you refer to as "lesser known") generally come equipped with more expensive flashy parts like derailleurs or sometimes even suspension. They save quite a bit of money in the less visible parts like handlebars, stem, seatpost, and also in wheels and tires. I would generally say that the overall package is better at a given pricepoint but much less impressive than those companies would have you believe.

    Quote Originally Posted by oifla View Post
    now, if point 1 is correct (and i think it generally is), there are at least a couple of options for what follows from it and what i'd like to solve, finally (i know, you are welcome). is it that:

    a) the better known branded bikes (say a GT avalanche or karakorum, or a Giant Revel) are actually offering better, more upgrade-able, better designed, better built frames surrounded by lower quality components?
    Sometimes, but not always. I would put more faith in the build and quality control of a Giant bike when compared to an internet company that buys a catalog frame and slaps their logo on it. But as you point out below, they are usually built in the same types of factories.

    Quote Originally Posted by oifla View Post
    b) the frames are not the same but the difference is not in quality. instead, the difference is in the novelty of the design. meaning, the lesser known brands often mimic older, proven designs (i.e. copies) while the more known brands (and more expensive) offer newer designs
    This is especially true of full suspension bikes though it can be seen in many of the other designs as well. Slightly odd geometry, strange part specs, and copies can all be seen in the internet bikes but to varying degrees. A hardtail mountain bike is well trod territory, you're not going to see too many mind blowing designs nor too many that miss the mark. Remember, that these are usually catalog frames and as such they have a pretty standard design. The full suspenion bikes, however, are another story all together. Most of the internet bikes will feature outdated or visually similar designs to mainstream bikes, but the differences can be monumental in a few millimeters difference in pivot location.

    Quote Originally Posted by oifla View Post
    c) a third option is that the difference in the 'component gap' is not in the bike frame at all. these bikes, after all, all use similar materials and are put together in similar fashion by similarly modestly paid workers in taiwan or china (none in the US) and that what separates the bikes is marketing costs, pro team costs, and who knows what else (as an airborne rep argued here.
    Obviously there is a cost to the marketing machine that the major manufacturers have and I do believe that to some degree that plays into the cost of bikes. It is completely reasonable to assume that when you don't pay for racing teams and sponsorship of events that you don't have much overhead cost to pay down. However, if these marketing costs drive sales then you start working into economies of scale; these large companies have control over their manufacturing processes in a way that the internet companies do not. They have their own quality controls, their own processing standards, and their own manufacturing methods. They can use the marketing dollars in R&D or in streamlining their supply chain. They can use the volume of sales to drive better prices from suppliers like Shimano or Rock Shox. In short, remember that when you heard that pitch from the Airborne rep that someone has to pay that rep to make comments. They aren't overhead free and they make their margins in a different way than the large manufacturers do.

    Quote Originally Posted by oifla View Post

    it seems to me that this is *the* question for all these entry-level 'what should i buy' threads because if its a) and/or b) then it makes more sense to buy the more expensively priced better known brands with lesser components because the life of the frame will inevitably be longer (better built and/or more upgradeable). if its c) however, well then, that's another story.

    so, which is it?
    I will defend to the death the fact that the only reason anyone should buy a bike is that they like said bike. If you are shopping for your next bicycle by seeing how many pennies you can save or how expensive a part you can get equipped on the bike then you're in it for the wrong reason. Don't get me wrong, everyone likes a good deal; but the monetary equivalency of two items isn't the only thing that is important when choosing between two bikes. I would argue that which one is a better deal should be a ways down your list when shopping for a bike; instead you should be focused on what bike will provide you with the most enjoyment for the money. Having a bike with XT derailleurs instead of SLX derailleurs won't mean a thing if that XT bike is too twitchy for you.

    Even if it doesn't end there, I believe that every new bike purchase should begin at your LBS. There you will be able to test ride bikes, test ride different types of bikes (26" vs 29" and so on), and compare the way that different brands approach the same goal. When you start at the LBS (or multiple LBSs) then you have a basis of comparison for your search. What is similar about the bike(s) you liked at the LBS when compared to online? Did one bike steer faster or slower? Did you like that? What aspects of the geometry or build led to that, and does the bike I'm looking at online match those aspects?

    Obviously, I like talking about this stuff but hopefully I added something to your questions.
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    Good job!

    Quote Originally Posted by Luclin999 View Post
    Shimano Parts:

    SIS/Tourney/No name at all (cheapest possible) - Terrible
    Altus - Poor
    Acera - Poor/fair
    Alivio - Fair
    Deore/Deore Shadow - Good
    LX/SLX - Very Good
    XT - Excellent
    XTR - Superior

    SRAM Parts:

    X3 (cheapest) - poor
    X4 - Fair
    X5 - Good
    X7 - Very Good
    X9 - Excellent
    X0 - Superior
    XX - Superior
    Thanks for this.
    Easy enough to figure out, but too lazy to put it together...

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    Quote Originally Posted by zebrahum View Post
    In short, remember that when you heard that pitch from the Airborne rep that someone has to pay that rep to make comments.

    The "rep" he's mentioning is me, and I'm really the Product Manager at Airborne that wears a few extra hats. We don't have any independant reps and have less than 10 employees total in our company. Hope that clears things up!

    Jeremy
    Please Note: I no longer work for Airborne. If you have an Airborne question or problem please contact them directly.

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    Most frames on $1000 under bikes are about the same in terms of strength, weight, and finish.

    If you were to look closely at the machining of the derailleurs, the quality difference is fairly obvious between the entry level and the better bikes.

    As for the shifters, there are some funky designs at the bottom end which may work fine in the shop but I doubt would hold up after 100 rides (my estimate for a moderately serious rider in the first year).

    I much rather have v-brakes than discs on cheaper bikes because they are so much easier to maintain, particularly on poorly crafted disc brakes. And giving the riding style of beginners, v-brakes will have plenty of stopping power.

    The wheels are a wash because of how all they are put together: by a machine. A handbuilt wheel is of the highest quality, which you won't get even on $2000 bikes.

    Finally, the fork. There the quality difference is huge. Poor stanchion machining and plastic internals means an early blowup if you plan riding regularly. I rather start with a rigid fork, which I know I can rely on, but believe it or not, that is usually on bikes over $500!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Luclin999 View Post
    Basically with "entry level", hard tail bikes; ie. bikes below $700-800 you are going to get a similar frame in terms of weight and durability however there will be some differences in the geometry of the frames which may make one a better choice for some things or a better fit for some people over others. And the only way to really determine those differences (which in many cases may be subtle) is through riding/testing/experience with each one.

    All that being said, for the true beginner most of those differences will not be noticeable and because of that the actual differences in the "entry level" bikes comes down more to the components that they are equipped with more than anything else. Basically on an entry level bike you really should try to find the bike within your budget which has the highest quality components straight from the factory.

    How can you tell which components are better than others?

    (Third time today I have posted this...)

    As a comparison the ranking for component levels generally goes like this (from lowest/cheapest to highest/more expensive):

    Shimano Parts:

    SIS/Tourney/No name at all (cheapest possible) - Terrible
    Altus - Poor
    Acera - Poor/fair
    Alivio - Fair
    Deore/Deore Shadow - Good
    LX/SLX - Very Good
    XT - Excellent
    XTR - Superior

    SRAM Parts:

    X3 (cheapest) - poor
    X4 - Fair
    X5 - Good
    X7 - Very Good
    X9 - Excellent
    X0 - Superior
    XX - Superior

    In general, Shimano Deore or SRAM X5 or higher parts are what are considered the threshold for "decent quality" components for off-road use and will generally hold up to single track and more advance riding far better than lower level ones.

    As to the forks on these bikes, the RST and Suntour forks which come on the majority of bikes under $700 are essentially good only for very basic off-road use (smooth dirt trails, gravel roads, etc.) and are not especially helpful on even beginner level singletrack due to their lack of rebound compression. Honestly, in many cases you would be better off with a rigid fork over these low end coil forks for any type of technical riding at all.

    The next level up from the Suntour/RST forks is generally the Rock Shox line, starting with the Dart and XC (28, 30 and 32) series. These forks are not "great" but they are considerably better then the Suntour/RST forks usually seen on the lower end bikes and are capable of handling beginner (and some intermediate) technical riding.

    So basically when shopping for a lower end bike you really want to try to find something with a Rock Shox fork and Shimano Deore or SRAM X5 or better components when at all possible. Failing that you need to try to evaluate the components equipped on each bike to determine both its overall value as well as to identify areas of potential weakness which are more likely to be requiring repair or upgrades sooner rather than later.

    This should be a sticky if it isn't already. Very helpful information when comparing entry level bikes. Good post.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDaddyFlyer View Post
    The "rep" he's mentioning is me, and I'm really the Product Manager at Airborne that wears a few extra hats. We don't have any independant reps and have less than 10 employees total in our company. Hope that clears things up!

    Jeremy
    I was only saying that the company has to pay you and the other 10 employees for your work; they are not overhead-less even though the overhead charges will be much smaller than that of a larger organization.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sanjuro View Post

    I much rather have v-brakes than discs on cheaper bikes because they are so much easier to maintain, particularly on poorly crafted disc brakes. And giving the riding style of beginners, v-brakes will have plenty of stopping power.

    Finally, the fork. There the quality difference is huge. Poor stanchion machining and plastic internals means an early blowup if you plan riding regularly. I rather start with a rigid fork, which I know I can rely on, but believe it or not, that is usually on bikes over $500!!!
    I wish I could find a bike that had V-brakes and a rigid fork but good to high quality components. Does that even exist? I haven't seen it if it does. I wouldn't reverse engineer the brake system, but how hard would it be to swap a crappy suspension fork for a rigid fork?

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    Quote Originally Posted by oifla View Post
    so your argument would be that there is effectively no difference, beyond fit, when it comes to entry level (sub-$800 let's say) bikes? i find this hard to believe.
    Believe it or not, it is essentially the truth. Barring the purchase of some truly cheap ($200) bike you are not likely to see much of a performance or materials difference in the frames of most entry level bikes.

    take two of the bikes i mentioned. Giant revel 1 and an Airborne skyhawk. relatively comparable components. both have SR Suntour XCM forks and both run SRAM X-4. the price difference, however, is $100 or 25% (setting aside the hydaulic disc vs mechanical disc difference).

    this is what i'm trying to asses, is the 25% difference in this case simply the fact that one is called Giant and sold at an LBS? or are you in some way getting more bike (quality, durability, etc)?
    Yes, for all intents and purposes you are paying a higher price for the name on the bike and the markup which is required for that Giant to be shipped, and sold in a local bike shop. Mind you, they will also be assembling that bike for you (basically $60 in labor) and may also offer other added value services at the shop such as fitting assistance or after purchase tune-ups but as to the bike itself, there will be little to no difference in durability or overall quality between the Airborne and the Giant.


    but to me that's putting the horse before the cart. right now i'd rather buy the most frame possible and upgrade as i need/can afford. now if all frames at this price point are the same then yeah, you are right. but again, that is the question i'm trying to get some consensus on. are these frames in fact all pretty much the same (save for fit)? in terms of quality and materials, are there any significant differences?
    Nope. not on "entry level" bikes priced below $800.

    So buy the entry level bike based upon the components. If you want a "Good" frame then expect to either pay $500-1000 for just the frame itself or $1400-3000 for a bike already built around a "good" frame.
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    I bought an entry level Hardrock Disc. And I like it a lot. I knew coming in that there are better bikes, but that comes with a higher price tag.

    But I realized that everything can be upgraded on my bike, so that's the route I'm taking. Sure, there are others that say it's a waste of money and I'm better off selling it and buying a better bike. But the way I look at it is that I already have the bike and buying top of the line components over time will help ease the pain of spending more than what the bike is worth and I'm OK with that. I'm already used to spending money on upgrades on a depreciating asset (see: my WRX ).

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    Quote Originally Posted by OldsRocket View Post
    I wish I could find a bike that had V-brakes and a rigid fork but good to high quality components. Does that even exist? I haven't seen it if it does. I wouldn't reverse engineer the brake system, but how hard would it be to swap a crappy suspension fork for a rigid fork?
    I think you can put a different drivetrain on this if necessary, but looks solid as is for people in Florida or other flat areas.

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  29. #29
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    This thread brings up some important implications for the industry and how we buy bikes.

    Traditionally, people pay their LBS a 40% premium to assemble and set up their bike for them. If you are reasonably handy, however, and have access to the google, this doesn't have to be the model any longer. Look at airborne or even the costco bikes. The internet is making this possible, and it is a natural progression in a 'free market'. Someone will figure out how do something different/better/cheaper than you do it.

    If you are not handy, then it would seem like people would be much better off shopping for a bike shop, not a bike. I mean if the differences between 2 LBS models at a given price range are so small, and your paying 40% premium for service, then shouldn't people be picking the best service provider, and caring a lot less what brand of bike they walk out with?

    My problem is that the only service I remember paying for where I didn't feel cheated was my landscaper, and yes, he is probably illegal. Every mechanic or person I or any of my family has dealt with in the last 5 years was looking for easy money, not to provide great service at a fair value.

    I think that we will see increasing 'direct to consumer sales' over the years to come, and consolidation of the LBS market, where the ones providing the best service without trying to rip anybody off will be the ones that thrive.

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    about rigid forks and vbrakes... a lot of frames still have vbrake posts, so you could just sell the disc brake setup from a new bike and buy some vbrakes for a fraction of the price. same goes for the fork. just throw it up on cl or ebay, or here or wherever. at a decent price someone's bound to buy it relatively quickly.

    about lbs' competing with online stores.. i look at it like this... throwing money at somebody to work that i can do is a waste of money. while i won't attempt to rebuild the transmission on my car, i'll replace valve cover gaskets to save 500 bucks. same goes for my bike. i see no reason to pay somebody to do something that i can do. these people aren't geniuses, they aren't trained engineers with decades of experience. most of the people i see working on bikes are younger than i am. sure there are older dudes doing it to, but the shops by me, its mainly younger people with probably less experience than me. you teach yourself, and you know how to do it for life. it's not rocket science. i understand people are too busy to learn how, or they just don't want to, and thats what keep these shops in business. its a shame there's not more people throwing money at these shops so that they can be more competitive. but they will have to be very shortly, because there are more and more online based companies popping up, and they're going to eventually eat away at their profit. nevermind the internet and the information that's available, you can just watch a video and turn a few screw drivers and save yourself a hundred bucks. seems like a good deal to me.

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    Good job!

    Quote Originally Posted by Luclin999 View Post
    Basically with "entry level", hard tail bikes; ie. bikes below $700-800 you are going to get a similar frame in terms of weight and durability however there will be some differences in the geometry of the frames which may make one a better choice for some things or a better fit for some people over others. And the only way to really determine those differences (which in many cases may be subtle) is through riding/testing/experience with each one.

    All that being said, for the true beginner most of those differences will not be noticeable and because of that the actual differences in the "entry level" bikes comes down more to the components that they are equipped with more than anything else. Basically on an entry level bike you really should try to find the bike within your budget which has the highest quality components straight from the factory.

    How can you tell which components are better than others?

    (Third time today I have posted this...)

    As a comparison the ranking for component levels generally goes like this (from lowest/cheapest to highest/more expensive):

    Shimano Parts:

    SIS/Tourney/No name at all (cheapest possible) - Terrible
    Altus - Poor
    Acera - Poor/fair
    Alivio - Fair
    Deore/Deore Shadow - Good
    LX/SLX - Very Good
    XT - Excellent
    XTR - Superior

    SRAM Parts:

    X3 (cheapest) - poor
    X4 - Fair
    X5 - Good
    X7 - Very Good
    X9 - Excellent
    X0 - Superior
    XX - Superior

    In general, Shimano Deore or SRAM X5 or higher parts are what are considered the threshold for "decent quality" components for off-road use and will generally hold up to single track and more advance riding far better than lower level ones.

    As to the forks on these bikes, the RST and Suntour forks which come on the majority of bikes under $700 are essentially good only for very basic off-road use (smooth dirt trails, gravel roads, etc.) and are not especially helpful on even beginner level singletrack due to their lack of rebound compression. Honestly, in many cases you would be better off with a rigid fork over these low end coil forks for any type of technical riding at all.

    The next level up from the Suntour/RST forks is generally the Rock Shox line, starting with the Dart and XC (28, 30 and 32) series. These forks are not "great" but they are considerably better then the Suntour/RST forks usually seen on the lower end bikes and are capable of handling beginner (and some intermediate) technical riding.

    So basically when shopping for a lower end bike you really want to try to find something with a Rock Shox fork and Shimano Deore or SRAM X5 or better components when at all possible. Failing that you need to try to evaluate the components equipped on each bike to determine both its overall value as well as to identify areas of potential weakness which are more likely to be requiring repair or upgrades sooner rather than later.
    Excellent info for noobs like me, i appreciate you compiling this in one post. Make it a sticky somewhere.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by oifla View Post
    i have a bike to ride to the liquor store and, again, my preferences and/or needs are not really relevant. my question has to do with the actual, material difference between entry level hard tails and what accounts for the price difference and/or 'component gap' (yes, that is now my personal ™)
    I think your needs should be very relevant, but since they're your needs, I can't really make you care if your bike addresses them.

    I often shoot from the hip in one way or another when I buy my bikes. But when I bought my cyclocross bike, I had no particular loyalty to any one shop or brand. I had a number I wanted to spend, and I wanted a bike that would take fat (by roadie standards) tires and let me hammer out of turns. I was getting no love from Craig's List, which is my go-to (or whining on Facebook) for getting bikes inexpensively.

    So I went to a few different shops and test-rode some different bikes. The Redline Conquest Sport rode okay but had shifters I couldn't imagine not pissing me off during a race. The Masi CXR was awesome but more expensive than I wanted to spend. The Kona Jake was available for my figure and while I found it a bit uninspiring in the 54 cm size, it really came alive in the 52 cm size. Probably a matter of having the drops a little bit close to my hips, for a little more efficient sprint. Maybe also a little shorter wheelbase. Whatever the reason, I was and am glad that I rode both sizes. It'll probably be my reference bike when I cycle out my road bike.

    Given what I had planned for the bike, which is basically how I've ended up using it, I think I got a lot of value out of going to some shops. While a good chunk of the stock build isn't on it anymore, it's not like BD wouldn't have hosed me with a FSA crank and crappy headset if I bought from them instead. And I might have gone with a 54 because I've ridden 54s in the past.

    I think I did fine with my Kona. Despite paying MSRP for it, something I'm usually better able to avoid. It's a durable good, this'll be my fourth season of banging it around 'cross courses and I imagine I'll be inflicting a few more years of that on it before I either move somewhere without 'cross or have enough money to throw around to make a vanity upgrade. So I'm amortizing the extra cost out over a pretty long period, and every time I go to a 'cross practice, a race, or out on a mixed-surface ride, I have a better bike than I'd probably have ended up with doing the catalog thing.

    On the other hand, I never spend that much on my commuters, and I've generally ended up on something a size or two big, just because 54s and 56s are more common and still acceptable-ish for that use. They're bikes that are supposed to save me money, and I think I do well on them too.

    So for me, my needs are very relevant.

    Others have covered differences in frame construction and other sources of extra cost for bikes from the majors; no need to rehash that.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    I think your needs should be very relevant, but since they're your needs, I can't really make you care if your bike addresses them.
    again, this thread is not about anyone's particular needs. from the get go, it was not intended as a should i buy x or y bike thread. i was trying to centralize info so that noobs can really get a sense of what they are looking at when visiting their LBS or looking online at the $300-800 range (roughly)


    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post
    Others have covered differences in frame construction and other sources of extra cost for bikes from the majors; no need to rehash that.
    by others you mean others in this thread, right? i'm not being facetious, just getting clarification on that because if there's a thread elsewhere (like this one) where folks built up a consented criteria on the issue of frame construction (and cost) of entry level bikes, i've not seen it (and would like to).

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    by way of a preliminary conclusion, it seems like the following can be pretty much agreed upon:

    - in the entry range ($300-800) there isn't a whole lot of difference between frames and the 'component gap' (i.e. manufacturers offering better components vis a vis competitors in this price range) can be a explained as a way to make up for brand loyalty / recognition, sweeting up the deal, and whatnot.

    - ultimately, it serves to shop for the components over anything else because (apparently) the frames are similar enough that there isn't anything of significance beyond your personal fit (how you adapt to the geometry of this or that other bike). [Luclin999's nicely laid out component hierarchy should be stickied because it really clarifies things in that department (esp. for noobs!)]

    it seems like these two points are pretty rock solid. afterall, if Airborne (or any other manifacturer's rep here) had anything to say to the contrary, i would imagine that they would be screaming it from the rooftops.

    the point that was made a couple of times about wrenching your own is also important in making the decision of where to buy what but really only for those who don't/can't DIY.
    Last edited by oifla; 08-29-2012 at 08:35 AM. Reason: clarity

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    Quote Originally Posted by oifla View Post
    - ultimately, it serves to shop for the components over anything else because (apparently) the frames are similar enough that there isn't anything of significance beyond your personal fit (how you adapt to the geometry of this or that other bike). [Luclin999's nicely laid out component hierarchy should be stickied because it really clarifies things in that department (esp. for noobs!)]
    When noobs give other noobs advice, you end up at conclusions like this. Good luck with your bike search.
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    Quote Originally Posted by zebrahum View Post
    When noobs give other noobs advice, you end up at conclusions like this. Good luck with your bike search.
    meaning exactly? i wasn't giving advice, just trying to sum up the conversation thus far

    if you disagree with how i summed up or have something else to ad, let's hear it

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    Quote Originally Posted by oifla View Post
    meaning exactly? i wasn't giving advice, just trying to sum up the conversation thus far

    if you disagree with how i summed up or have something else to ad, let's hear it
    Meaning if your focus in buying a new bike is to pick the components first then you will end up with an unknown commodity which will look great in your garage and on your profile. Personally, I choose bikes based on how they perform rather on what parts are attached to them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by zebrahum View Post
    Meaning if your focus in buying a new bike is to pick the components first then you will end up with an unknown commodity which will look great in your garage and on your profile. Personally, I choose bikes based on how they perform rather on what parts are attached to them.
    this was a thread about value, i.e. what sort of angle should one look at when buying entry level.

    how do you test perfomance on a bike that is available on the web only? or, for that matter, on something that you get to ride around the block while your LBS loans it to you? how do you decide on anything if the only LBS near you has limited selection and can only special order stuff?

    all frames being more or less equal (again, assuming that is the case and as consensus thus far shows on this thread), it is helpful to make an educated decision and make sure you are comparing apples and apples to look at the components.

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    Quote Originally Posted by oifla View Post
    this was a thread about value, i.e. what sort of angle should one look at when buying entry level.

    how do you test perfomance on a bike that is available on the web only? or, for that matter, on something that you get to ride around the block while your LBS loans it to you? how do you decide on anything if the only LBS near you has limited selection and can only special order stuff?

    all frames being more or less equal (again, assuming that is the case and as consensus thus far shows on this thread), it is helpful to make an educated decision and make sure you are comparing apples and apples to look at the components.
    A bicycle is far more than the sum of the parts attached to it. I made my point above and everyone has their own opinion. If you are shopping simply to buy the highest visual impression of parts for the dollar then so be it. To me, the value of a bicycle purchase lies in the way the bike actually performs.

    When I bought my entry level mountain bike (it's been a few years) I had a budget set out of around $500. I test rode three bikes at the LBS around the lot and around the block and ended up buying the least expensive of the group even though my heart had been set on the most expensive one before I set foot in the shop. I choose the bike based simply on the way it rode; the fact that I still have and ride that frame (now converted to a SS) makes me very confident that purchasing the bike based on the ride was the proper way to choose a bike.

    I would have been remiss had I not chimed in with my view that value is not the monetary total of the parts amassed under a price tag it is instead the performance of the package. If, through test riding, you can not determine what one you like best then I would go down this list: what one looks better, what bike shop treats you better, what shop provides the better service or discount plan, what parts are attached to the bike.
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    Quote Originally Posted by zebrahum View Post
    A bicycle is far more than the sum of the parts attached to it. I made my point above and everyone has their own opinion. If you are shopping simply to buy the highest visual impression of parts for the dollar then so be it. To me, the value of a bicycle purchase lies in the way the bike actually performs.
    Which is in turn greatly dependent upon the quality of the components which go into a bike. A Shimano Tourney or Altus derailleur is just not going to perform as well or hold up as long as a Deore or higher version of the same part. If they did then no one would ever purchase any components above Altus/X4 levels.

    When I bought my entry level mountain bike (it's been a few years) I had a budget set out of around $500. I test rode three bikes at the LBS around the lot and around the block and ended up buying the least expensive of the group even though my heart had been set on the most expensive one before I set foot in the shop. I choose the bike based simply on the way it rode; the fact that I still have and ride that frame (now converted to a SS) makes me very confident that purchasing the bike based on the ride was the proper way to choose a bike.
    Ride *is* important (as I already said before) however, ride characteristics (especially on lower end or "entry level" bikes) are extremely variable and are effected greatly by things as simple as changes in stem length, seat, seat position/height, grips, etc.

    When I decided to get back into riding a couple months ago with a new "sub-$500" bike, I tried bikes from Specialized, Trek, GT, Diamondback, Giant, Felt, Motobecane, etc. and while some frames (notably the ones from Bikes Direct) felt a bit "chunky" to me in comparison to others, generally all of them could be tuned/adjusted to the point where they felt comfortable to sit on and ride.

    I almost walked away from the Avalanche that I ended up purchasing because it felt "off" to me however after I had the salesman at Performance move the seat and change out the stem for one 20mm shorter the bike felt as good under me as the Trek and Specialized bikes that I had otherwise been seriously considering.

    I would have been remiss had I not chimed in with my view that value is not the monetary total of the parts amassed under a price tag it is instead the performance of the package. If, through test riding, you can not determine what one you like best then I would go down this list: what one looks better, what bike shop treats you better, what shop provides the better service or discount plan, what parts are attached to the bike.
    And you are certainly entitled to your personal opinion.

    If you are the type of person who *needs* to have their bike worked on by a shop then the relationship with the local stores does have to factor into consideration.

    If however, you are the type of person who can handle regular bike maintenance and upgrades on your own and has no problem with ordering bikes and parts on-line then in my opinion a relationship with a local dealer drops far down the list below the overall cost/value of the components that you are purchasing.
    Last edited by Luclin999; 08-29-2012 at 02:20 PM.
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    The frames are the same. the components are slightly different. The ride around the parking lot can be adjusted with some cockpit and seat changes, so they will all be ok.
    What about the fork? Some have a fork you can ride off road on technical trails for a couple years or more before you want a carbon frame and a Reba or Tower fork. Some should stay on the bike paths. That seems like a difference.

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    I would also look at how the bikes from different manufacturers are geared. Some of them are geared taller and lower so depending on how you are actually going to use the bike that may make a small difference. I have been looking at the components but I have been looking at the gearing just as much. I plan to go up some steep trials/fire roads and do considerable travel on the street so it is important to have gearing that is going to suit your needs.

  43. #43
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    Value is the total cost of ownership compared to the alternatives. You can only understand what the alternatives are when you understand the problem you are trying to solve. Everyone has a unique problem and unique requirements. Most often they base a decision based on price.

    The market is supposed to determine price based on supply and demand by making rational decisions based on information provided by the supplier and other consumers. What really happens is we make purchase decisions based on emotion and use available information to rationalize the decision.

    Emotion is dictated by the level of importance of the problem they are trying to solve. Some people want to buy a bike so they can ride around the neighborhood with their kid. Some want to get out in nature - some on paved trails, some on un-paved trails. Some want to be part of a group of people they admire. Some simply want to get in shape in a fun way. While others want to impress their mom.

    What's different is the emotion one bike arouses in the consumer over the other. One thing I can't stand is when someone is happy with their new bike until some a-hole tells him he shouldn't be happy because it has a crappy fork, frame, wheels set or whatever. Then they pine over new parts thinking, I'd love this bike if it just had this part, or that part without knowing if the cost of that part is really going to do whatever it is they think they need it to do.

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    bikes perform differently based mainly on 2 things. one is fit. you will always perform better on a bike that fits you. the second is the quality of components. you can't tell me that a bike with crappy components performs better than a bike with awesome components. this whole idea of "go to the store, spend lots of money...." well.. i disagree with that entirely. i say don't go to the store, and spend less money, and get better parts. because at the end of the day, a bike is only a pile of parts bolted to a frame. you go to the lbs and get a specialized hardrock, right? right off the bat, the fork sucks. everybody on here will tell you that. 2nd, the brakes suck. 3rd, the derailleur sucks. so now we know that the suspension sucks, the bike won't stop well, ever, and it will never shift quickly/properly, esp a year in. now, you go online and spend 600 bucks instead, and you get a decent work, great brakes, and a very nice derailleur... the only difference is, the bike will perform better, because a) it can stop, b) it can shift, and c) the fork isn't craptastic.

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    In for later

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    There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio, than dreamt of in your philosophy.
    Hundreds get a year's worth of info without spending 800-1000 and the time on one side of the balance as opposed to a disgruntled salesman sentimentalist on the other.
    Last edited by eb1888; 08-29-2012 at 07:58 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ou2mame View Post
    you go to the lbs and get a specialized hardrock, right? right off the bat, the fork sucks. everybody on here will tell you that. 2nd, the brakes suck. 3rd, the derailleur sucks. so now we know that the suspension sucks, the bike won't stop well, ever, and it will never shift quickly/properly, esp a year in. now, you go online and spend 600 bucks instead, and you get a decent work, great brakes, and a very nice derailleur... the only difference is, the bike will perform better, because a) it can stop, b) it can shift, and c) the fork isn't craptastic.
    ou2: The fork sucks compared to what? Not everyone here will say a Hardrock fork sucks. I have several friends who ride Hardrocks with the stock fork. They are happy with what they have. And to say that the brakes won't stop the bike and will never shift properly is just silly.

    What if they buy a bike online and pay for it with their credit card because their budget was $300 and they got talked into buying a $600 bike online and never adjust the derailleur cables and a year later they have ruined the front dérailleur and decide the bike is a piece of junk?

    What if all they want is a bike to ride a flat, well groomed trail system behind their house because off road trails have more shade than the paved trails?

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    Are you listening?

    Some experienced people have pointed out that a bike is not just a collection of parts. I agree with them. You can't just assign points for component value, total the whole thing up, and decide which bike is best. A wise person will listen to posters with lots of experience.

    The basic question of the quality of the frame, and its long-term desirability is not something you can generalize. I will suggest that if you want a bike frame which will last you a long time, see a maker like Salsa or Surly.

    To cut to the chase, however, I think you should just freaking buy something and ride it. Mountain bikes are like guitars. You are not likely to pick the right one the first time. You might as well just take a shot at it, and make your mistakes as soon as possible. Only after that will you know what you want.

    If all you want is bragging rights on which derailleur you have, you will be embarrassed by guys on the trails zipping by at speed with no chance to see what components they are sporting.

    BTW, I don't have lots of hours on the trails, but I will gladly listen to those who do have lots of hours on the trails.

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    I've been looking at entry level bikes and the biggest difference between them seem to be components and fork. I'm l

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    I've been looking at entry level bikes and the biggest difference between them seem to be components and fork. I'm looking at the GT Kara 2.0 and Airborne Guardian. Both are very much alike and the fork is the main reason I've narrowed it down to these two. It's not rocket science. To me the cockpit On either can be adjusted to fit me, I just want a better fork than the sun tour. All of this jibba jabba about why one costs more than the other doesn't mean a thing.

    Whoever said showrooming is killing the LBS was spot on by the way. Thanks to Luclin for the post about components too.

    Now back to your scheduled Internet pissing contest...

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    I believe that:

    "well known" brands pay to be well known. when you buy this bike you are helping pay for their pro sponsorship, advertisement, and other marketing material.

    You get more value by buying a non- well known brand. Hardtail frames are insignificantly different, compared to component lines. Brand should be ignored. Fit can and should be changed with experimentation by end user.

    For component lines (except shocks), you are mainly paying for weight savings. I think durability argument is false. That said, weight loss on a bike is significant improvement in riding experience. For shocks, in my limited experience, the low end ones are not only really heavy, but lose travel, don't suspend well, etc.

    Here's a heiarchy of shocks
    XC (Cross country) shocks
    from least < best
    Suntour base models < rockshox dart 1=2=3 < rockshox tora < rockshox recon = manitou tower/minute elite < rockshox reba = manitou tower pro (29er)/minute (26er) pro < fox

  52. #52
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    Entry-level frames are not all the same as one another.

    Trek and a lot of the catalogs favor very upright geometry for their lowest-end bikes. I think it would murder my back to try to climb fast on something like that.

    Down to the lowest level, the Fisher-branded Treks have the long top tube and different fork offset that the Fisher brand has always been known for.

    Giant (aside from the very cheapest model,) Specialized and, IIRC, Cannondale have extremely similar geometry from their least expensive hardtails to their raciest. Actually for me, that's been very useful. I got a Hardrock on a halfway whim in 2007, and I'm actually still on it. I chose to write about my 'cross bike earlier because with the Hardrock, I already had a shop I liked okay and I didn't want to spend a lot of time screwing around. So I went there, I rode the 17.5" and 19" and I bought the one that I thought fit better. So I wasn't exactly leveraging the bike shop process, although it was still useful to ride both sizes. Having to "smaller" a 19" would have given me a bike that handled oddly. The 17.5" has been great from my first few rides back off-road up through 50 mile races.

    So even at the low end, there're distinctions in geometry, and they matter.
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrwSwitch View Post

    So even at the low end, there're distinctions in geometry, and they matter.
    And I agree with that.. For more advanced riders.

    As I said before, there are differences however those differences will generally only be noticed by more advanced riders performing actions that people who are new to the sport will not.

    For the person new to the sport who literally has no clue what he is about to get into, a shift of a few degrees in frame geometry will hardly be noticed, especially if the person in question never graduates in their ride beyond basic off-road trail use (as many never do).

    In general, if a rider is experienced enough to be able to know that "more upright frames are worse for the type of climbing that they will be doing" then they are probably past the point where they will be asking questions like "What $500 bike should I get??" in the beginner section of a site like this and can generally determine the overall value of the sum of a specific bike's components already.

    So as a general rule, if the person in question is so inexperienced as to not even know what they really expect to do on their new "entry level" bike then it is probably a good bet that most of the bikes they test out in a store's parking lot (if fitted reasonably well) are going to feel and ride very similarly to them. Leaving them confused as to which bike is a "better deal" and thus the reason why they are coming here for advise.

    And it is in a situation like this that in my opinion the overall value of the parts which are on the bike should become a significant factor in their decision process. Because if for no other reason it is probably better that they purchase the best components up front to help them have a better experience overall.
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  54. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by wmac View Post
    ou2: The fork sucks compared to what? Not everyone here will say a Hardrock fork sucks. I have several friends who ride Hardrocks with the stock fork. They are happy with what they have. And to say that the brakes won't stop the bike and will never shift properly is just silly.

    What if they buy a bike online and pay for it with their credit card because their budget was $300 and they got talked into buying a $600 bike online and never adjust the derailleur cables and a year later they have ruined the front dérailleur and decide the bike is a piece of junk?

    What if all they want is a bike to ride a flat, well groomed trail system behind their house because off road trails have more shade than the paved trails?
    i'm talking about all things being equal, and adequately maintained. yes, an unadjusted derailleur will most certainly not work. but i'm talking about one that is adjusted properly. i'm also not talking about their means of purchase. if someone has 500 bucks to spend, they will get a better bike online. hands down. unless they go used, but that's another argument entirely and off topic in this thread. so you're telling me that a person should spend the same money on less of a bike because their intended purpose is paved road? then they shouldn't be getting a mountain bike to begin with.

    oh, then you say, what if they do decide to take it off the paved trails. well, yeah? why not get a better bike for that to begin with? i just don't see the point in spending tons of money for subpar parts, because some people like to think that companies take the time to make their least money making bikes perform like expensive bikes. they don't. i've ridden 500 dollar bikes from the lbs. i've owned 500 dollar bikes from the lbs. i've ridden 500 dollar bikes from bikes direct. the only thing that i noticed was that they came with better parts, and functioned better because of it. if you want to pay the lbs a ton of money for less parts, that's fine. but know what you're paying for. you're paying for their rent and employees. you're paying for their inventory. they offset that by giving you a free tune up when the cables stretch. which should be like 25 bucks of service. i hear people say that their lbs offers lifetime tuneups, but i haven't seen a shop here that does that. maybe tune ups for a year, but that's it.

    i think that people should be doing that themselves, that way if something goes wrong on the trail they know how to fix it. its all connected... my advice to 99% of people is to buy a better bike online if you don't have money to throw at the lbs, learn how to tune and fix it, and you will benefit. spend more money for a lesser bike from an lbs, don't learn how to fix it on the trails, and end up walking a lot and hating the sport. hey, if you've got the money and want something name brand, go for it. but if you have a tight budget, why not get the most for your money? at least you won't outgrow the components in a year... oh, and have we talked about durability yet? you're telling me that the bottom end of shimano's are as durable as the mid levels? same goes for sram... or course they're not. one will last longer than the other given the same abuse. if we start talking about what if someone treats one better than the other... and whatever other silly factors you can throw in, again, that's another story. but given the same use, same neglect, same abuse... the better the part, the longer it will last.

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    We're coming to a point in manufacturing that you'll find what used to be unique brands are often nothing more than the same parts made in the same factories assembled in different places.

    I would say that name brands are better because they are made in the USA... but that's just not true anymore. It's all made in China. Choose your poison.

  56. #56
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    My MTB only cost $600. I "got away with something" and earned my first couple upgrade points last night on a track bike that cost less than $300, and retailed for only $600 or $700 when the woman I bought it from bought it several years ago.

    People buy bikes according to how much money they have to spend on them. Very few people who can afford nice bikes decide to get an entry-level bike because of their skill level. And while skilled riders are more likely than casual riders to make some sacrifices and move up a pricepoint, there are also plenty of strong riders who don't update, or only update components and make small changes. Certainly most of the bikes I see "in the wild" are being ridden by men having midlife crises and who have their financials pretty together. But I also see '90s Fishers, I've bumped into someone on a much more stock version of my bike, I've had faster Sport class guys show me their V-brakes as they passed me, etc. The former teammate who sold me the '01 suspension fork I have now is still on a Brodie with Vs on his XC days, and he races Expert. Nicer stuff that he has is often a result of people wanting it seen on bikes he's riding.

    While it's difficult to quantify well (hate the online calculators, btw,) I think that if someone who, at least, can ride a bike already rides a series of bikes with some subtle differences in geometry, he will feel it. It's subtle, and he might not be able to put his finger on it, but the differences are there. Even beginning riders can and should give themselves credit for having some intuition. This isn't like audiophiles and expensive speaker wires vs. coat hangers.
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    When I decided I wanted to run marathons, I bought my first pair of training shoes from a local shop because they watch you run, they consider your training schedule, they consider your weight and a couple other variables. If I went on the marathon forum and said, "What shoes should I buy," I likely wouldn't get the same answer.

    I bought my hiking shoes off Zappos because I knew what I wanted and I couldn't find them in my local stores.

    I bought my last bike off Pricepoint.com because I knew what I wanted and can do my own maintenance.

    It's the silly factors that make a difference. Everyone's situation is unique. Everyone calculates value differently. Here's a silly factor for you. If I asked you what bike should I buy, what would your reply be? How long of a thread would it become before anyone figured out what was important to me?

    To say someone shouldn't get a mountain bike if they plan to ride only paved roads is silly. Yes, I'm saying someone should pay more at an LBS for a mountain bike with lesser components if they are planning on riding paved roads in certain instances. Do you know what the first thing my wife said to me when I told her to shift into a lower gear the first time we rode together? "What's a gear?"

    If I weren't around and she wanted a bike, what and where would you recommend she buy a bike from? Do you know she prefers a mountain bike because the tires are softer? Do you know she prefers a lower end entry level bike because it sits more upright? She doesn't like road bikes because she has to lean over too far.

    What I see around here is when some asked a question about what bike to buy, they immediately start spouting off exactly what THEY would buy if they had that amount of money. Rarely do I see anyone ask questions that get to the question of what is important to that person, why is it important and how would your life be different if you had a bike.

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    yeah, but you should read the threads. anyone in the sub 500 dollar range is looking for a bargain. they literally come out and say it. whats the most bike i can get for ____ dollars? they say that they want to do trails, they want to do paved roads, etc... and then people offer suggestions. nobody really cares what bike they buy, we're just offering them opinions that they may not have considered yet. the best bargain though is not the lbs. never will be. you can make the bike more upright with a shorter stem that has a bit of raise to it. problem solved. i'm all about people getting bikes that fit them, but unless they know what specific criteria they are looking for, they don't even know what fit means. all they're going to do is walk into an lbs with a wad of cash, sit on a bike and pedal around the parking lot and the dude's gonna be like, hey how does it feel?" done deal. seen it a million times. there's no personalized fit instructor type guy coming out with tape measures and a clip board. hell, i do motion capture for a living and we could literally mocap you and see where you're stretched and where you're cramped, but they don't do anything even near that. that ****'s for the olympics. so if you want someone to tell you you're comfortable, go to the lbs. if you can put a book in your crotch and use common sense, save a few hundred bucks and get something a few tiers above what you can afford at an lbs.

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    Tag, thanks from a 6'5" guy trying to figure this stuff out.

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    I'm pretty sure fit, adjustment and discussion is a requirement for the shop by most, if not all, name brand manufacturers. If Trek found out that's how a shop was selling their. Ike's, they would yank them from approved retailer.

    I also see a lot of confusion over price, cost and value. If you want the lowest price, online is fine. You might be able to get a lower total cost by negotiating lifetime store discounts on merchandise, and some people get a lot of value from the relationship with their LBS.

    So, what's the difference? It depends.

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    Pretty much everyone posting on mtbr is not looking for an ordinary bike. Everyone has ridden on sidewalks, roads, gravel and bike paths. They know what it takes to ride for fitness on the 6 mile paved path around the lake at the park. They know what will work with kids around the neighborhood. Or through town to get to work. It doesn't take anything special. Pretty easy to figure out.
    They say they might ride a few trails.
    They don't just ride a few beginner trails and then buy another new bike.
    They don't know what works running down a hill on a twisty singletrack over rooty spots to slow enough to get over the log pile at the bottom and jig around the tree right to the left on the other side over more roots and around a changing radius banked curve, And a hundred other things that make for a fun trail you can run everyday. By the way, you will tone up and get fitter and lose weight on the side. They can't know that yet. And you can't just figure that totally different riding out without experience or someone helping.
    So when someone mentions trails I offer the least expensive bike to work through that stretch in the last paragraph. Something with a RShox coil with rebound dampening adjustment. That section above is challenging and safety is a consideration. A helmet is important and so is a minimal level of fork. No Suntour. Even with a good setup I can take a spill-- mostly from lack of focus not equipment. Give yourself a fair chance.

    Bottom line. Trails are totally different than riding on any other surface. Trails are more challenging and fun than riding on any other surface. You need a good fork.

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    if its a choice between a poorly performing fork and a rigid, i go rigid. but most beginners don't understand how bad, a bad fork really is. and they won't know until they ride a better one. thats why i always recommend getting the best bike they can for their money, because sub 700 bucks +tax you're not getting anything decent up front. i don't know how people can justify it. if you have money to blow thats another story, but its hard enough convincing beginners that an fs isn't worth it at the lower prices, nevermind blowing their minds with 1k price tags.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eb1888 View Post
    The closest is a Canyon Grand Canyon 29 AL at $1100 for a bike equivalent. That is not yet available in the US.
    We confirmed with the Canyon guys at Eurobike this past week that they have no intentions of coming to the USA, at least not in the next 12 months. We like their stuff a lot and visit their booth there every year.
    Please Note: I no longer work for Airborne. If you have an Airborne question or problem please contact them directly.

  64. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by ou2mame View Post
    if you can put a book in your crotch and use common sense, save a few hundred bucks and get something a few tiers above what you can afford at an lbs.
    Except that this isn't a true statement.

    I don't know how to say it differently, but just because something has heavier wheels and handlebars but a higher end rear derailleur doesn't mean it's "a few tiers above" another bike. Not to mention that you have no warranty support (read the threads about BD.com) and no way of knowing if you'll like a bike.

    You can hype up online bikes as the deals of the century but the cold hard fact is that not everyone will be as happy as you have been. You have chosen a bike which fits well and performs well; seriously, that's great but it doesn't work like that for the people who are outside the normal body proportions. Most people, especially most people who are buying an entry level bike, do not have the knowledge required to know if they are going to fit on one manufacturer's bike or not.

    This is a tired argument; fact of the matter is that LBS and online should be considered but there is no actual price benefit from buying online. That money was saved somewhere, whether through parts, frame, warranty support, technological improvements, fit/finish, or through overhead costs. I think everyone keeps assuming that the online companies must be stupid and not notice how much their competition is charging for bikes, but the truth is they're just spending their money differently. Sometimes for the better but almost every time it's a parallel move:

    find the red queen, win a prize.
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    Informative thread, answered several of my personal questions.

  66. #66
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    Saving money and getting a better product online never gets tiring to me.
    From the point of view of the customer, warranty from Airborne and from Trek are the same. The LBS doesn't have a replacement frame in stock waiting for you. It has to be shipped in just as it will from Airborne, if necessary. Both have a lifetime warranty.

    Online sellers are like Amazon competing against Best Buy, the lack of overhead gives the price advantage the price doesn't come out of the product. In fact Best Buy will delete a lit keyboard on a Samsung laptop or free replacement from damage warranty from an Asus. Their offerings are almost always compromised. Doesn't seem to work for them.

    But on to the news from Eurobike. Canyon Bikes is a German online bike seller with a new aluminum hardtail 29 selling the last few months. They have a carbon version that placed first and second in this year's Trans Alp multi-day race.
    I asked them about shipping to the US in April. this was their reply.

    .many thanks for your e-mail, regarding the shipping to the USA.

    Thank you for your interest in Canyon Bicycles. As of 2010, Canyon has suspended sales to North America.
    With Canyon's direct sales model, we don't just deliver your bike; we develop it and build it as well so we can provide you a new Canyon with unbeatable performance at a very competitive price. We also strive to provide excellent customer service and after sales support in each market.
    At this time, Canyon Bicycles cannot offer the kind of great customer service and after sales support in North America as we do in Europe, so we are maintaining our current sales hiatus to North America until these issues are resolved. Canyon Bicycles hopes to make a definitive announcement by the first quarter of 2013 as to further availability of Canyon Bicycles in North America.

    Thanks in advance for your understanding!


    The Canyon Team

    So I'm still hopeful.

  67. #67
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    This whole forum has been very enlightening. One thing that really got drilled into me was to go to a LBS and see if I can tell a difference.

    Apparently, I can.

    I knew from previously owning a Walmart bike, what a poor fork is like. The LBS let me try out some higher end bikes. The difference in components is noticeable, even when just dropping off a curb and riding around a parking lot.

    I now have high hopes in regards to comfort. Turns out, I don't really need a mountain bike with front suspension. Not for just city curbs and normal sized tree roots and stuff. Rigid fork is fine provided the rest of the bike is good. Comfort bikes, with suspensions in either the seat and/or the seat post are unnecessary if the right seat is found.

    And I can tell the difference in frames. I tried various Trek and Cannondale bikes. Apparently, I like hybrid bikes (but not comfort bikes) and don't need a front suspension. I like the Cannondale frame (later online research found Cannondale's claim that the frame is the lightest in class), but all the other parts on the Trek better. This includes the seat, handle bars, pedals (now I know why there are so many options for even pedals), crank, etc. I could feel how all those individual parts on the Trek felt like they worked better than the ones on the Cannondale.

    When I have more time, I'm gonna try out other brands. Haven't completely ruled out a hardtail with front suspension mtb. Just depends on what bike feels the best to me.

    I'm dying to try out some bikes from bikesdirect.com or airborne to see how they compare to the big names.

    Thanks everyone for your input. Now I'm off to see if there's a thread telling when the big sales are at LBS and online, or if the Labor Day end of season sale is the biggest of the year.

  68. #68
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    Quote Originally Posted by codex57 View Post
    This whole forum has been very enlightening. One thing that really got drilled into me was to go to a LBS and see if I can tell a difference.

    Apparently, I can.

    I knew from previously owning a Walmart bike, what a poor fork is like. The LBS let me try out some higher end bikes. The difference in components is noticeable, even when just dropping off a curb and riding around a parking lot.

    I now have high hopes in regards to comfort. Turns out, I don't really need a mountain bike with front suspension. Not for just city curbs and normal sized tree roots and stuff. Rigid fork is fine provided the rest of the bike is good. Comfort bikes, with suspensions in either the seat and/or the seat post are unnecessary if the right seat is found.

    And I can tell the difference in frames. I tried various Trek and Cannondale bikes. Apparently, I like hybrid bikes (but not comfort bikes) and don't need a front suspension. I like the Cannondale frame (later online research found Cannondale's claim that the frame is the lightest in class), but all the other parts on the Trek better. This includes the seat, handle bars, pedals (now I know why there are so many options for even pedals), crank, etc. I could feel how all those individual parts on the Trek felt like they worked better than the ones on the Cannondale.

    When I have more time, I'm gonna try out other brands. Haven't completely ruled out a hardtail with front suspension mtb. Just depends on what bike feels the best to me.

    I'm dying to try out some bikes from bikesdirect.com or airborne to see how they compare to the big names.

    Thanks everyone for your input. Now I'm off to see if there's a thread telling when the big sales are at LBS and online, or if the Labor Day end of season sale is the biggest of the year.
    Hey guys! Some people do actually listen.

    Kudos for getting as much experience as you can get before making a decision.

  69. #69
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luclin999 View Post
    As a comparison the ranking for component levels generally goes like this (from lowest/cheapest to highest/more expensive):

    Shimano Parts:

    SIS/Tourney/No name at all (cheapest possible) - Terrible
    Altus - Poor
    Acera - Poor/fair
    Alivio - Fair
    Deore/Deore Shadow - Good
    LX/SLX - Very Good
    XT - Excellent
    XTR - Superior

    SRAM Parts:

    X3 (cheapest) - poor
    X4 - Fair
    X5 - Good
    X7 - Very Good
    X9 - Excellent
    X0 - Superior
    XX - Superior

    In general, Shimano Deore or SRAM X5 or higher parts are what are considered the threshold for "decent quality" components for off-road use and will generally hold up to single track and more advance riding far better than lower level ones.
    .
    +1 for Luclin, this is great info. I added it to my bookmarks, for when I inevitably need to upgrade or replace something I've broken.

  70. #70
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    This is certainly fantastic information, I suggest it needs to be put in context. For example, I have an original Acera drivetrain on a 1998 Univega Zig Zag. It easily has thousands of miles on it ranging from road commute to beginner to advanced trails. To say it is poor/fair not durable, is only to say it is poor/fair not durable compared to the higher level components - not poor/fair for a specific use case.

    As a comparison the ranking for component levels generally goes like this (from least expensive to more expensive):

    Shimano Parts:

    SIS/Tourney/No name at all (least expensive possible) - Recreational use to ride around the neighborhood with your kids.
    Altus - Ride on the road or on paved trails fairly often
    Acera - Recreational trail riding commuter/hybrid on a regular basis
    Alivio - Recreational trail riding and beginner/intermediate trails on a regular basis
    Deore/Deore Shadow - Beginner-advanced trail riding on a regular basis
    LX/SLX - Race ready
    XT - Lighter than SLX - race ready and great durability
    XTR - Lighter than XT - there are two versions for durability's sake - trail and race. Race version is ultra light weight and shows wear after a season or two of a racing. Very expensive to replace parts.

    The further up the ladder you go, you are paying for the reduced weight through higher quality and lighter weight materials and higher precision manufacturing.

    SRAM follows the same basic principles with a number system.

    In general, Shimano Deore or SRAM X5 are considered the lower threshold for "decent quality" components for frequent intermediate to advanced trail use and will shift faster and smoother in continuously changing terrain better than lower level ones.

    As to the forks on these bikes, the RST Omega and Saturn and Suntour XCR, XCM and XCT forks which come on the majority of bikes under $700 are designed for recreational trail use (smooth dirt trails, well groomed single track, gravel roads, paved trails) and are fine for use on beginner level single track. They will make it through just fine.

    The next level up from the entry level Suntour forks is their line of XC designed forks, The Axion, Epicon, and Raidon. RST also has a very capable line of forks for XC use. Rock Shox is a brand owned by SRAM and they also have RTR coil shocks along with a line of high end XC and beyond as well. Rock Shox is considered a premium brand along with FOX, Marzzochi and a few others because they typically do not have supply agreements with the under $700 new bike price point and thus do not have a negative reputation Suntour and RST have picked up as a result of supplying coil shocks to the popular manufacturers.

    Keep in mind, you can ride any trail with any of the drivetrains or forks mentioned above - you will likely not be able to ride as fast with the recreational trail use equipment as you would with professional race circuit designed equipment, but you can make it. Just ask the guys who are likely riding your same trails on rigid single speed bikes

    If you plan to buy a bike for recreational trail use, buy equipment designed for recreational trail use or higher. If you are planning on riding intermediate or advanced trails for more than 500 miles a year, you'll be well suited to go with Shimano Deore or SRAM X5 and an air shock with rebound adjustability or better components if you can afford to do so. If your budget doesn't allow you to buy a more expensive bike, you will be best off sticking to training on the beginner trails and on the road/paved trails until you can afford to upgrade the components or the entire bicycle designed for the types of trails and riding you'd like to do.

  71. #71
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    Quote Originally Posted by codex57 View Post
    This whole forum has been very enlightening. One thing that really got drilled into me was to go to a LBS and see if I can tell a difference.

    Apparently, I can.

    I knew from previously owning a Walmart bike, what a poor fork is like. The LBS let me try out some higher end bikes. The difference in components is noticeable, even when just dropping off a curb and riding around a parking lot.

    I now have high hopes in regards to comfort. Turns out, I don't really need a mountain bike with front suspension. Not for just city curbs and normal sized tree roots and stuff. Rigid fork is fine provided the rest of the bike is good. Comfort bikes, with suspensions in either the seat and/or the seat post are unnecessary if the right seat is found.

    And I can tell the difference in frames. I tried various Trek and Cannondale bikes. Apparently, I like hybrid bikes (but not comfort bikes) and don't need a front suspension. I like the Cannondale frame (later online research found Cannondale's claim that the frame is the lightest in class), but all the other parts on the Trek better. This includes the seat, handle bars, pedals (now I know why there are so many options for even pedals), crank, etc. I could feel how all those individual parts on the Trek felt like they worked better than the ones on the Cannondale.

    When I have more time, I'm gonna try out other brands. Haven't completely ruled out a hardtail with front suspension mtb. Just depends on what bike feels the best to me.

    I'm dying to try out some bikes from bikesdirect.com or airborne to see how they compare to the big names.

    Thanks everyone for your input. Now I'm off to see if there's a thread telling when the big sales are at LBS and online, or if the Labor Day end of season sale is the biggest of the year.
    What are you planning to do with a new bike?
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  72. #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by codex57 View Post
    Thanks everyone for your input. Now I'm off to see if there's a thread telling when the big sales are at LBS and online, or if the Labor Day end of season sale is the biggest of the year.
    For most regions in the country, Labor day is the big sale. From this point on the only thing that will get much lower is what's in stock. Unless you're an XL or an XS, then you might find better deals but I wouldn't count on it.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  73. #73
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    Quote Originally Posted by codex57 View Post

    I'm dying to try out some bikes from bikesdirect.com or airborne to see how they compare to the big names.
    If you are in the Ohio/Indiana/Kentucky area, we (Airborne) will be manning a large booth at the Midwest Outdoor Experience ( Midwest Outdoor Experience (formerly known as GearFest) ) the first weekend in October. We'll have some new Goblins to demo there along with a few other bikes. There will be a small cross-country loop and a skills course set up so you can actually get a better feel for the bikes compared to just riding around a parking lot for a few minutes.
    Please Note: I no longer work for Airborne. If you have an Airborne question or problem please contact them directly.

  74. #74
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    Quote Originally Posted by zebrahum View Post
    For most regions in the country, Labor day is the big sale. From this point on the only thing that will get much lower is what's in stock. Unless you're an XL or an XS, then you might find better deals but I wouldn't count on it.
    Damn, that sucks. Good thing I'm not in a huge rush or anything.

    For now, all I intend to do is chase after the kiddos, with some shorter distance pavement riding for fitness. Chasing the kiddos may occur off pavement, but it should just be pretty groomed dirt trails, gravel roads, and the sort of stuff you see camping. Otherwise, it'll be pavement (like to the parks, bike trails in the neighborhood, etc).

    I see roughly 10 years of that before possibly needing something hardier.

    And I'm in CA, roughly an hour from Lake Tahoe.

  75. #75
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    Quote Originally Posted by codex57 View Post
    Damn, that sucks. Good thing I'm not in a huge rush or anything.

    For now, all I intend to do is chase after the kiddos, with some shorter distance pavement riding for fitness. Chasing the kiddos may occur off pavement, but it should just be pretty groomed dirt trails, gravel roads, and the sort of stuff you see camping. Otherwise, it'll be pavement (like to the parks, bike trails in the neighborhood, etc).

    I see roughly 10 years of that before possibly needing something hardier.

    And I'm in CA, roughly an hour from Lake Tahoe.
    Well, you have plenty of shops around I'm sure so if you can find the time to go visit a few then you might find some good deals.
    Don't you hate it when a sentence doesn't end the way you think it octopus?

  76. #76
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    Quote Originally Posted by codex57 View Post
    For now, all I intend to do is chase after the kiddos, with some shorter distance pavement riding for fitness. Chasing the kiddos may occur off pavement, but it should just be pretty groomed dirt trails, gravel roads, and the sort of stuff you see camping. Otherwise, it'll be pavement (like to the parks, bike trails in the neighborhood, etc).

    I see roughly 10 years of that before possibly needing something hardier.
    Your kids may enjoy hitting some more challenging singletrack before you know it. My 7 year old son loves to hit some beginner to intermediate singletrack, and it's some great father-son time. There's a whole section in the forums on riding with kids, with a lot of pics of kids doing some fun riding: Families and Riding with Kids - Mtbr Forums

  77. #77
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    Quote Originally Posted by codex57 View Post
    Damn, that sucks. Good thing I'm not in a huge rush or anything.

    For now, all I intend to do is chase after the kiddos, with some shorter distance pavement riding for fitness. Chasing the kiddos may occur off pavement, but it should just be pretty groomed dirt trails, gravel roads, and the sort of stuff you see camping. Otherwise, it'll be pavement (like to the parks, bike trails in the neighborhood, etc).

    I see roughly 10 years of that before possibly needing something hardier.

    And I'm in CA, roughly an hour from Lake Tahoe.
    Are you pretty handy? Can you do your own maintenance?

    This one seems like it suits your needs. Use it as a comparison when shopping at the LBS.
    Save up to 60% off new Hybrid Bicycles | Adventure Hybrid 29er Bikes Elite Adventure Sport Trail

    You should be able to find what you are looking for under $350

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