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Mountain bike buying guide

With big knobby tires and air-filled shock absorbers, mountain bikes make easy work of even the toughest terrain. They help you head deeper and faster into the wilderness, sometimes accessing places easier than on foot. Here are a few things you should know before buying a mountain bike.

THE LOWDOWN

There are two main types of mountain bikes: full suspension and hardtail. Bikes with full suspension have shock absorbers on both the front and rear for a softer, easier ride on really rough trails. They’re also the most expensive. Hardtails have suspension only on the front fork. This type is generally more durable, requires less maintenance and is a great choice for most riders.

Mountain bikes also come with either rim or disc brakes. Unless you’re an advanced rider, choose a bike with rim-style brakes, the most common and easiest to service.

No matter what sort of bike you’re looking for, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

WHERE TO SHOP

“Look beyond department store bikes and go to your local bike shop,” says pro rider Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, the reigning mountain bike national champion. “The salespeople there will be so much more knowledgeable and there’s a huge step up in quality of bikes.”

When talking to salespeople, be honest about your biking skills and where you plan to ride. That way, they can point you toward the best bike for your skill level.

PRICE

Sure, you may see a really cool-looking, full-suspension bicycle for $150 at a department store, but odds are it’ll be really heavy and not very durable. Expect to spend at least $300 to get a good quality, entry-level mountain bike, Kobelski says. For more experienced riders, check out bikes in the $500 to $700 range. Those models will likely be lighter, more durable and outfitted with higher quality gears and components.

QUALITY

As you push the pedals, it’s the bike’s components (gears and other moving parts) that move you down the trail. But if you buy a bike with poor-quality components, you probably won’t get very far. Look for quality component brand names like Shimano, Sun Tour, SRAM and Bontrager.

FIT

Someone at the shop should help you find the correct bike for your size.

“The most important measurement is the stand-over height,” Kobelski says. “Stand over the top tube and pick the bike up. See how much clearance you have — how high you can pick it up.”

You should have at least a couple of inches of room, so you can hop on and off easily. It’ll also make the bike more maneuverable. Make sure the salesman gets you fitted perfectly. And look for a bike with an adjustable-height seat so the bike can grow with you.

TEST DRIVE

Before you buy a bike, ride as many different models as you can. Kobelski recommends doing tight turns and sprinting on the bike. Try to ride up a couple of curbs, too. Pay special attention to how the bike turns and shifts.

THE BIKER’S ESSENTIALS

Don’t leave home for a ride without these important pieces of biking gear:

  • Helmet
  • Water Bottle
  • Tire pump
  • Extra inner tube and/or patch kit
  • Tire and chain tools
  • Bike shorts (optional)
  • Gloves
  • Glasses/goggles (optional)

76 Comments on Mountain bike buying guide

  1. I got a great schwiin mountain bike at target for $130

  2. trek is without a doubt the probly the best moutain bike and road bike around. i have a trek and its a great bike to ride on trails and theings like that and it is a pretty good on the road to…..

  3. No bob, a $104 wal-mart bike is not good. if you do anything more that ride around very easy trails or the streets it will break. Do yourself a favor and buy a nice bike from a shop. I have a Trek 4200…i think. Its very nice

  4. Day before yesterday was my 11 bday so i got a trek 820 [16″] for $300 this guide is okay, but they should suggest some models.

  5. kedggoeriousdj // December 7, 2008 at 5:11 pm // Reply

    Last year I bought my first mountain bike for $350.00 at Trails End. I now race with WVMBASS (west virginia mountain bike assoc) I also ride on the W AND O(WASHINGTNTON and Ohio rail road) i ride on my rode bike 21 mi in 1 hour to Purcellville to Washingston

  6. i have a specialized rochhopper. it cost 770.00. its a great bike, and comes in many sizes (im 6′ 4″)

  7. mountain biker // November 3, 2008 at 11:59 am // Reply

    I almost bought a schwinn but then went to a bike shop and for 150 more and got the more exspensive and is cooler looking lighter

    and better

  8. i found a dual suspension at wal-mart for 104.00 and its really good.

  9. nice info, keep it up BL

  10. Grahamcracker // August 29, 2008 at 7:39 am // Reply

    that is some pretty good edvise.

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