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Choosing a mountain bike
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Cycling is my weakness. My coach suggested I get on a mountain bike this winter to have some fun while building fitness and improving my bike handling. I'm a road bike nerd, but am completely perplexed by the variety of MTB offerings... XC, all trail, freestyle, fat tire, etc. The internet is awash in debates about geometry, let alone tire size, tire thickness, ideal amount of suspension travel, trigger vs grip shifter, etc. It's really not clear to me what the heck I need. I was looking at Canyon Lux (XC) and Canyon Spectral (All Trail) and was thinking of spending in the $2-3K range for something decent.

In terms of what I'd likely do on the MTB -- I live in San Francisco. I don't intend to take bike up chairlifts in Tahoe anytime soon -- more just bombing up/down fireroads, having fun in the woods, etc. Nothing too technical. I'm leaning toward full suspension, simply because it would seem to open more options. I don't expect to MTB race, but you never know.... perhaps I'll enjoy and do Leadville 100 in a few years time...
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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I recently got into the mountain biking scene. Here are a few things I have figured out that might help you:

- If you want worthwhile full suspension, be prepared to pay for it.
- geometry & fit really doesn't matter as much as a TT bike or a road bike
- if your shorter go with a 27.5+ if your taller (over 5'7) go with a 29er
- The hierarchy of components is confusing
- Go tubeless ASAP
- Go 1x if possible

Mtn bikers are much more relaxed and not as snobby as road bikers, so don't feel like you need to fit in with the latest and greatest carbon fiber bike with racing level components.

I just got my wife a Roscoe 8 and now I have bike envy. If I were you I'd consider that a top contender. If your just planning on messing around and have fun, I don't think you need to spend 2-3k. I myself just have an $800 Motobecane fat bike and I ride around just as good as most of the guys on 29ers.
Last edited by: AndysStrongAle: Aug 3, 18 11:03
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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probably won't be a popular opinion but I'd recommend buying something cheap and used. Why? Well, you're very likely to buy a bike that you isn't quite what you're after the first go round and why spend a ton of $ on it. There's a pretty big variation in what a "mtb" is (not just from a sizing perspective - but geometry, wheel base, 1x, 2x....). After a few months of screwing around you'll have a much better idea on what you'll want and maybe then open up the checkbook.

if I were buying a bike for someone new, I'd look at a mid-fat/27.5+ initially as cornering/confidence is almost always the biggest hurdle to overcome. You probably have a decent motor but it's the skills you're likely missing (lots of assumptions there but..). plus bikes aren't really racers, with grippy rubber (say nobby nic 3.0") you'll be spending about 10% more watties for the same time you would with a more race oriented setup but that's not the point with this bike.

that said, most (all?) boost bikes are compatible w/ both 27.5+ and 29" wheels. I have a few friends riding Canyons and they're great for the price but a little steep ht angle (for me) on the Lux @ 70.

ymmv
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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Hardtail: XC focus usually, lightest, cheapest: Scott Scale, Specialized Hardtail Comp


Short travel dualie: Still XC focus but more playful than a hard tail. Heavier and more expensive (by +$1000 to hardtail alternative): Scott Spark, Specalized Epic Comp

Mid travel Dualie (aka Trail): A "if I could have one bike" category. Does everything well, but not outstanding. Heavier. Climbs slower than XC, Descends slower than Enduro. 130-150mm travel bikes. YT Jeffsy, Scott Genius.

Wheel size - 26er: More maneuverable, easier to get up to speed. 29er: easier to roll over stuff, rolls for longer, less maneuverable. 27.5 bang in the middle of both.

Looking at the Leadville 100 - scanning through the video, its mostly road or hard packed fire trail. 29er hardtail for sure for that race. You could do it on a cyclocross bike...

Happy to chat about MTB in general if it would assist.
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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I'm relatively new to mountain biking, and it's hard to get your arms around all of the bike brands, models, components, etc. Unless you know you're going to stick with it, I'd get a used bike, and it doesn't have to be full suspension if you aren't going to do bumpy trails. You should be able to get something good for under $1K.

If you do want a new full suspension bike, I went around and around looking at various models and ended up with a 2019 Specialized Stumpjumper, aluminum frame, for $3K. It's a brand new model with a lot of flexibility if you want to change the bike later. For example, it'll handle both 29 and 27.5 inch wheels, tires up to 3 inches wide, you can replace the shocks with off the shelf replacements (the prior model had proprietary rear connections), etc.

But every brand has good bikes at pretty comparable prices. You could also check out Canyon and Diamondback if you want to save some money, but the issue there is the best bikes are constantly out of stock. I've been waiting for Canyon to get a particular mountain bike back in stock and it hasn't happened yet, so I went with the StumpJumper.
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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I know you're thinking full suspension, but I'd recommend a hardtail 29er for what you describe. IMO, a hardtail 29er is undoubtedly the more useful of the two. $2K-$3K is going to get you either a base model FS bike or a pretty nice hardtail. You can use a hardtail as a gravel bike, it will climb better and it will be easier to maintain. Hardtails are just fine on the vast majority of trails, they'll certainly be up to what you describe. They're also the best way to learn to ride off road properly.
Last edited by: hiro11: Aug 3, 18 11:33
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [Tim_Canterbury] [ In reply to ]
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Tim makes a fair point - however a lot of MTBers will fob off old bikes when the components are wrecked and in need of replacement, worn cassettes or chain rings, forks - MTBing is harder on equipment.

If you do go second hand, make sure you take someone who rides and knows mechanics stuff so they can help you. Or if you have a good relationship with your LBS, they may allow you to swing past so they can run a quick check on it.

In relation to gears - nobody has 3x any more. 1x is the most popular and default choice out of factory. 2x is if you are doing a lot of distance and dont know what the terrain is.

If you want a MTB thats closer to a roadie - short travel dualie 29er.
If you want a MTB thats going to give you a more "real" MTB experience - mid travel dualie, 29er or 27.5 (Scott Genius can do both).

I personally ride a YT JEffsy CF Pro 29er. You can get a similar bike in allow with slightly worse spec brand new for $2299 CAD.
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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You don’t need a “trail bike” but I certainly think you’ll want a full suspension XC bike. The new Canyon Lux in the base trim is a good choice IMO. You could also look at this new full-suspension XC bike from Fezzari:

https://www.fezzari.com/signalpeak

You can select 27.5+ wheels/tires when you add that bike to your cart. IMO, 27.5+ is a good choice for a beginner.

Best mods I’ve made to my F-Si: tubeless, ESI foam grips, and converting to 1x.
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [AndysStrongAle] [ In reply to ]
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+1. No need to spend 2-3k on your first MTB.

You can get way more bike for the money if you go hardtail as well.
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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I have this saved as a note in my phone as general “triathlete/roadie looking to buy a MTB but probably not race on it” advice because I’ve gotten the question often enough.

$2k is right around the point where it is worth considering hardtail/full suspension. Much cheaper than that and you absolutely should go hardtail because $1500 full suspensions are absolute garbage.
There’s a school of thought that you should learn to ride on a hardtail because it teaches better line choice, carrying speed, etc, but if it’s mostly “for fun” then a FS isn’t going to beat you up as much, plus it will give more confidence on gnarly stuff, so that’s a plus for skill development. (Translation: it’s probably even, maybe leaning toward FS because it doesn’t result in buying another bike in a year). There’s an argument that FS are a bit more maintenance, but that’s negligible IMO if you consider it’s not too different from the fork you have regardless.

27.5 versus 29 tends mostly to be a fit thing unless you’re doing hella technical stuff where you’re gonna lean towards the smaller wheel (but they even make 29 DH bikes now). I’ve personally never ridden anything other than 29 because I’m 6’5” and didn’t start riding MTB until the major manufacturers had flushed out their geometry issues when the shift from 26 to 29 happened (note 26 is all but extinct outside of downhill/trials/freeride)

It’s worth looking at XC race geometries, but most manufacturers nowadays have something somewhere a bit more relaxed (akin to a Specialized Roubaix versus Tarmac/Venge, or a Trek Domane vs Madone, etc). Those tweener-type bikes are probably great if there’s not much intention to race super seriously, but you’re used to your 17 lb road bikes. (Example of this sort of bike is a Specialized Camber)

Lastly, for components. XT is probably between 105 and Ultegra, because above it you have XTR and XTR Di2, and I forget/am not totally sure what’s below XT. GX would be your equal for SRAM. I think they make GX Eagle stuff now, too? So that’s cool you can get mid level 12 speed.
Even if you don’t plan to race, if you’re used to nice stuff on the road, cheap components are gonna really piss you off on a mountain bike where you’re usually shifting under a lot more load and demanding a lot more from your brakes.

XTERRA South American Adventure | @idking90 | Strava | IG: idking90
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [iank] [ In reply to ]
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for your budget 2-3K you can get a 1-2 yr old used nice FS bike w/ dropper seat post and 1 by. Then you'll have a great time, be able to expand your riding (you can do a lot of service roads on a cross or road bike) and not be left behind by any buddies who invite you along. 29er unless you are 5'10'' or shorter, then 27.5 plus.
Agree, don't worry about components so much.
find who gets pro deals and buy their used stuff. SF should be a good site for that strategy. I got a 1 yr old Ibis Ripley for 3k with all the bells and whistles.
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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I would see if you can borrow a or maybe rent a bike first. As mentioned by others...it's really hard to know what you want because the trails in your area, and your preferred riding style can be very different from another person.

Once you have an idea of what type of riding you really want to do and enjoy...then I think you can start thinking about a used bike. Ride the crap out of that thing, and then you'll slowly start to figure out the details of what is important to you. A mountain bike is very personal. Not everyone prefers the same type of suspension for a given trail and often a trail has multiple options or lines that you can take. If you're never going to go through the jumps or the line that has the drop offs, then you likely don't need as much bike as your riding buddy that will take those jumps.
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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Think about it this way:

Hardtail: Lighter, harsher, less complex. Old school people will say these bikes will teach you to ride the right way. This is akin to saying your first road bike needs to be steal to appreciate modern carbon frames.

XC Race ~ 100mm of Travel. This is your Specialized Epic, Your Scott Spark RC, etc. Certainly more forgiving than the Hardtail, but think of this suspension as something that helps you go faster... like why F1 cars have suspension. It's not for comfort, it's for traction

XC Race / Trail - ~ 120mm of travel. This is a newer category where manufacturers are taking what is essentially the efficient mountain bike and adding a bit of "Fun" to it. This is the Scott Spark (Non-RC), The Epic Evo. I think this what you are after. These make great learning bikes from riders who are used to going fast on the road, but are looking for some forgiveness on the trail. These can still be raced, but they're about 1.5 lbs heavier than their true race counterparts.

Trail ~ 120-150mm of travel. These bikes are more about fun. Slacker angles make them more confidence inspiring on steeper descents and jumps. The tires tend to be meaty and slower, but with greatly improved traction. Suspension is less about pedaling efficiency and more about isolating you from the trail. Components are heavier and more durable.

In my opinion: Scott Spark 930 is what you're looking for.
- XC race like frame with increased travel
- Middle of the road geometry
-Front and rear lock-out

The Canyon Lux is very close.
The head tube angle is under 70 degrees, which will be confidence inspiring, the travel is 110 front and 100mm rear.
The two bottles cages are nice for longer rides.
The suspension design will need some help from compression damping on the rear shock, but that's not a huge deal.

Ultimately you need to ride them. Most shops will let you demo bikes for a fee. Even if it's $100 it's money well spent to better understand what you want.

One poster above said that fit matters less. While I can see the argument that sitting in one position for 5 hours on a TT bike is very fit intensive, when you're talking about mountain bikes the geometry is much more defining to the ride than on any road bike.

The above poster is a physiologist employed by PEARL iZUMi. However, statements are not made on behalf of nor reflective of PEARL iZUMI in any manner... unless they're good, then they count.
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [xtrpickels] [ In reply to ]
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xtrpickels wrote:


XC Race / Trail - ~ 120mm of travel. This is a newer category where manufacturers are taking what is essentially the efficient mountain bike and adding a bit of "Fun" to it. This is the Scott Spark (Non-RC), The Epic Evo. I think this what you are after. These make great learning bikes from riders who are used to going fast on the road, but are looking for some forgiveness on the trail. These can still be raced, but they're about 1.5 lbs heavier than their true race counterparts.


I just switched from an Epic World Cup to a Pivot Mach 429sl (120/100). The slight difference in geometry and travel between those two bikes (XC Race vs. XC "trail") is pretty astounding in terms of how different they feel.
Last edited by: jkhayc: Aug 3, 18 13:45
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [xtrpickels] [ In reply to ]
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Wow!. Thanks all for the input. This has helped to clarify SO MUCH.

Based on what I'm reading here, it sounds like either XC Race or XC Race/Trail is probably going to be the sweet spot for me. I'll need to find a way to try them out. If I were to race some XTERRA triathlons, would one be better than another. Seems like the Race/Trail would be ideal for tooling around on the off season, but the Race better if I had some actual race ambitions at some point?

Hardtail -- Understand you get more bike for you money, but money is not the primary constraint here. It more space (for only one add'l mtn bike) and time. I'm fine spending an extra $500-1000 if it opens up additional avenues for fun. The formula 1 suspension analogy is a good one.

New vs used: I'd rather buy new, just to avoid a bike that's in need of repairs. Plus I don't have a lot of time to be running around town checking out bikes on Craigslist.
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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Check out Why Cycles S7
My wife and I both have one and they are incredible bikes. Read up on the brand and you will be impressed. It's fun!
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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Truth be told, more suspension and bigger tires will likely make a beginner net faster, weight penalties accounted for
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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I would not recommend Canyon, YT, Fezarri (or however you spell their rip-off of Ferrari's name), or any other buy direct bike. Fit on a MTB may not be as precise as a road bike but different mountain bikes feel very very different. Once you narrow down what you want, like a mid travel full suspension trail bike, you should demo several bikes in that category.

Some manufacturers have demo days where they will bring their bikes to a location and allow you to test ride them. That is a great way to check out something you are interested in, especially since they will set the suspension up for you in the way they feel works best for the bike.
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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If I was buying a bike for fun on the trails I'd be looking at a 27+ hardtail, 29+ if you are tall
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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wintershade wrote:
Cycling is my weakness. My coach suggested I get on a mountain bike this winter to have some fun while building fitness and improving my bike handling. I'm a road bike nerd, but am completely perplexed by the variety of MTB offerings... XC, all trail, freestyle, fat tire, etc. The internet is awash in debates about geometry, let alone tire size, tire thickness, ideal amount of suspension travel, trigger vs grip shifter, etc. It's really not clear to me what the heck I need. I was looking at Canyon Lux (XC) and Canyon Spectral (All Trail) and was thinking of spending in the $2-3K range for something decent.

In terms of what I'd likely do on the MTB -- I live in San Francisco. I don't intend to take bike up chairlifts in Tahoe anytime soon -- more just bombing up/down fireroads, having fun in the woods, etc. Nothing too technical. I'm leaning toward full suspension, simply because it would seem to open more options. I don't expect to MTB race, but you never know.... perhaps I'll enjoy and do Leadville 100 in a few years time...
not to throw cold water on this, but think it through a bit.

I bought a new MTB ($3700 all said and done), because I no longer felt safe riding on the roads, but could ride on the local trails. To say that it's eye-opening is a bit of an understatement. There was a thread here asking about relative safety. For that, be prepared to fall or crash. Already happened 3 times since I bought the bike in May.

Be ready to spend tons of time (and perhaps some money) learning how to ride properly. I'm still scared stiff (arms literally stiff from grabbing onto the bars for dear life) doing switchback descents, but it's getting better. Also don't expect your MTB workout to have much value in calorie-burning, at least not in the beginning.
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [ret123] [ In reply to ]
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ret123 wrote:
for your budget 2-3K you can get a 1-2 yr old used nice FS bike w/ dropper seat post and 1 by. Then you'll have a great time, be able to expand your riding (you can do a lot of service roads on a cross or road bike) and not be left behind by any buddies who invite you along. 29er unless you are 5'10'' or shorter, then 27.5 plus.
Agree, don't worry about components so much.
find who gets pro deals and buy their used stuff. SF should be a good site for that strategy. I got a 1 yr old Ibis Ripley for 3k with all the bells and whistles.

I agree, and I suggest looking on Pinkbike.com classifieds. But, I'd say go just rent different bikes from a local shop and try them out.

MTB's seem to be more susceptible to trends in geometry, so you can get good prices. My take is that most geometry trends in mountain biking are based on nothing scientific (in one study, 29'ers were fastest, 27.5" slowest, and 26" somewhere in the middle -junk data and conclusions). Anecdotal comparisons are often done with different tires (huge difference between racing tubeless XC tires and knobby downhill tires with heavy butyl tubes), and not accounting for installed gear ratios.
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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wintershade wrote:
If I were to race some XTERRA triathlons, would one be better than another. Seems like the Race/Trail would be ideal for tooling around on the off season, but the Race better if I had some actual race ambitions at some point?

i wouldn't worry about that. buy the bike for 98% of the time you'll be using it, not the 2%. IF it's slower than a full-on XC "race" bike, it won't be by much at all and to be honest I doubt it will be.
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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I picked up the new Santa Cruz Blur (CC w/ Reserve wheels). Hard to argue with a full suspension 29er at under 23 pounds. The bike is amazing though I can’t say the same for the rear brake (SRAM).

https://www.santacruzbicycles.com/en-US/blur
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Re: Choosing a mountain bike [wintershade] [ In reply to ]
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Components:

Road- shimano 105, ultegra, dura ace
Mt bike- shimano LX, XT, XTR

Road- SRAM rival, force, red
Mt bike- SRAM x7, x9, XX or XX1 (single ring on crank)

Above this the pedigree of components.

I generally go for durability on my bike over cool factor. Rocks chip up and scratch your bike and a crash can destroy carbon fiber parts. Something to consider. I have many bikes, but a favorite is the Specialized Epic. It’s an aluminum frame, full suspension, 29er XC bike.

I also prefer the Fox terralogic fork. It basically locks out on its own and you just ride.
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