Returning to riding, help picking a bike!-
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  1. #1
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    Jan 2009

    Returning to riding, help picking a bike!

    Alright guys, I used to race sport (cat 2) when I was 18. For financial reasons I had to sell my bike and leave the sport and I've since fallen out of shape big time. I've gained 50 pounds and feel like a slug on a bike right now. I'm going to have some money in the near future to get back into the sport, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm no longer in touch with the industry though, and not sure what bikes are good and bad anymore, or what brands have risen/fallen. I used to be very informed on pretty much anything and everything to do with bikes, so I understand terminology and technology, I'm just not up to date on what has happened in the last 3 years.

    So I need help picking a bike for my needs. Here's what I've got to work with:

    What I want to use the bike for: Trail Riding (all mountain-ish), Getting back in shape, maybe the occasional beginner class race for now. Definitely not looking for a race bike.

    Budget: $2-3000.

    New vs Used: Never owned a new bike, definitely don't mind used. I do all my own work, so if I buy a bike that needs some adjusting that's fine. I enjoy working on bikes and find it relaxing.

    Brand: You tell me, Not sure what's out there anymore.

    Full Suspension. Not looking for a hard tail.

    Travel: Not sure, leaning towards 4-6 inch range

    Wheel size: Partial to 29ers due to positive experience with them but willing to try 650b or 26 inch if the bike is right.

    All that in mind, when I was racing my go to bike was Salsa Dos Niner that I absolutely loved. But I'm not racing anymore and looking for something a little more durable. Before the Dos, I had a Moots Smoothie-AL that I loved until the frame cracked.

    Basically I'm just looking for advice on what bikes to look at and where to start. Any advice is welcomed, and I'll answer any other questions that could help you help me.

    Thanks in Advance.

  2. #2
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    Aug 2013

    ... and if we just ... The Best Bang For The Buck = Giant Trance or Anthem

    I recently went through a similar experience looking for an All Mountain bike capable of anything thrown at it. No racing, just out to have loads of grins in the woods, on single track trails.

    Same budget as you of $2K-$3K for a Full Suspension (FS) bike for both me and my wife. Given that the purchase price was x2 for us both, I spent a LOT of time researching bikes looking for TBBFTB (The Best Bang For The Buck).

    SPOILER: I ended up with a new 2014 Giant Trance X1 29er (Medium Men's at 31.2 lbs w heavy duty SPD pedals). For my wife, we scored a screaming deal on a demo Giant Anthem XW0 29er (Small Women's at 27.93 lbs with super heavy Click'R SPD pedals), otherwise, we would have gotten a Trance for her as well.


    If you're interested, Jenson has '13 Giant Trance X1 29ers for $2,200. See here.


    Goals: We had a preference for durability and quality components over low, low, low weight for a single-track devourer. YMMV depending on type of use. If you want to race, consider a Giant carbon frame as TBBFTB.

    Full Suspension: This was a must for us. Not only are we not getting any younger at 43 and 47, riding in our neck of the woods (Central PA) is done amid frequent Rock Gardens. My concern was that a FS bike would "bob" a lot on climbs, and have less traction than a Hard Tail (what I was riding previously).

    Thanks to numerous professional reviews and user feedback on forums, I narrowed down a VERY large FS list to either Dave Weagle's DW-Link suspension style bikes (licensed to Iron Horse, Ibis, Turner, or Pivot), or, alternatively, Giant's Maestro suspension. This was due to reviews that touted the suspension's supple nature, good performance, and the bike's climbing ability with little bob. Curiously, I later found out that the Maestro system from Giant is actually "inspired by" innovations by DW-Link, (or perhaps, "ripped off" from DW-Link?) with some subtle differences.

    For a while, I was also considering Scott's Genius bike due to the ability to lock out both front and rear suspension with a handlebar switch -- a brilliant idea, actually.

    In the end, nothing else could match Giant's prices, and a good friend at our LBS treated us very, very well. Best of all, it turns out that Giant's suspension system bobs so little, I can easily ride it uphill in any of the three modes Climb (full lockout), Trail (partial open), or Descent (full open) with negligible bob -- even in Descent mode.

    Wheel Size: 26" was out. We were riding 26ers and getting stuck in rocks continually. Whether to choose 27.5" (aka 650B) or 29"? The main advantage of 27.5" is reportedly crisper handling than the 29er, while keeping some of the advantages of a 29er.

    The advantage of the 29" is killer Rock Rollover, ridiculous momentum, and increased traction in corners due to larger contact patch. Depending on where you ride and how you ride this decision might be an easy one for you.

    Riding Impressions: For us, Giant's Trance and Anthem 29ers were a GREAT choice! The first ride on trails was like climbing on an BMW X5 SUV that was capable of ANYTHING. It climbed better than our 26ers, had limitless traction, rolled like a banshee, and didn't feel vague at all handling-wise. SICK!!! Yes, at this price point it weighs a little more than other aluminum 26" or 27.5" FS bikes, and much more than a Hard Tail. Plus, we figure we're getting a better workout with the extra weight.

    Giant Anthem vs Trance: The Anthem is lighter, with about an inch less travel, and is a bit more fragile than the Trance. I read of several tales of people catching air on an Anthem, but cracking their frames.

    Perhaps you're not the type to "catch air"? On these bikes, think again -- my wife (who is somewhere between beginner and intermediate and allergic to air on her 26" FS bike) was repeatedly airborne on her first ride out on the Anthem 29er -- and she was ALL grins, too!!! Prediction: Regardless of prior preferences, you WILL want to enjoy "free flight" on either of these bikes since they roll SO fast and with such control. Choose wisely!

    The other aspect to consider is that the standover on the same size frame for the Anthem Men's is a lot higher than the Trance. The specs don't really show it, but if you have to get off the seat to dab a foot, or want to stop in an area that isn't flat, the top rail is pretty close to the ol' you know whats. Not so with the Trance—plenty of clearance to the top rail, which dips down.

    Conclusion: There are a lot of great bikes out there now and it's probably pretty hard to go really wrong -- especially if you find a good deal in your size. However, for what one gets, Giant's bikes are an amazing deal -- especially if you score a 0 (used or demo) or 1 series for between $2K-$3K. What they lack in status they more than make up for in performance. ZERO regrets buying them. Best purchase in years. It's like being a kid all over again!

  3. #3
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    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Not a lot of change with suspension designs. There is more carbon on the market. Bike prices have gone up. Other than that, 27.5/650b is the hot topic. 26 inch trail bikes are being replaced to push the new kid on the block. 26 inch are being phased out until the industry needs another infusion to sell more bikes.

    The difference between 29 and 26 inch wheels is substantial. Maybe doing some rides on each wheel size would help you figure it out. Then it's just picking from the same brands as you were familiar with 3 years ago.

  4. #4
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    Aug 2013
    Quote Originally Posted by mnigro View Post
    Not a lot of change with suspension designs.
    Specialized "brain" system is new since then, I believe. Automated settings based on terrain. People seem to love or hate it.

  5. #5
    Kneel Before Your Master
    Reputation: mbogosia's Avatar
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    Aug 2004
    Seems like a 100mm travel 29er is going to be your answer. There are a bunch of really nice ones out there. I ride a 2013 specialized camber comp and it's been great. It's categorized as a trail bike.

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