“Ask MBA” is a monthly feature in Mountain Bike Action where the
wrecking crew fields questions
from riders about bikes,
upgrades, training, food, where
to ride and how much we have
to pay to have the privilege of
working at the magazine. For
this buyer’s guide, we’ve compiled questions about making
the right bike-buying decisions.
We love answering these questions and many more every
month. Got a question of your
own? All you need to do is visit
our website and click the “Ask
MBA” tab. Scroll to the bottom
of the page and hit the link to
ask your question.
THAT’S THE TROUBLE WITH KIDS
Q: My 12-year-old son is 5-foot- 3 and has outgrown his 24-inch
Rocky Mountain hardtail. I would like to get him a nice bike ($1500 to
$2000 budget) for his birthday, but at those prices I would like it to
last at least a few years. The adult small frames he has ridden fit just
about right, but at the rate he is growing, I am afraid we will be in the
market for another bike in no time. Suggestions? Go 29er?
—Casey, who wants a bike that’ll get his kid stoked
A: The 12-year-olds we know grow like weeds, so you are between a rock
and a hard place. If you buy a bike you hope he’ll grow into over the next 18
months, it will be too big for him today (and he’ll switch to skateboarding
because mountain biking won’t be a lot of fun).
Here is what we would do. Buy a bike that fits him correctly and realize he
will grow out of it in 18 months. Sell that bike to a friend (yes, you will take a
hit on it), and upgrade to the larger size that will fit him correctly at that time.
We’d stay away from 29ers for his size and in your price range. The wheel
weight will be a bear on the climbs—unless you drop some serious coin—and
the larger wheels will be awkward to handle at his height. The 26er is still the
way to go in smaller sizes at a lower suggested retail A CHAMELEON OF BIKES Q: Suppose I buy a 27.5-inch-
wheeled bike and hate it. I really
like the idea of the mid-sized
wheels, but you never know. The
new wheels might clash with the
color scheme of my shorts. If I
just slap on an old set of 26-inch
wheels and tires, am I good to go,
aside from the occasional pedal
—Tim, who has commitment
A: You could probably live with a
27. 5 bike converted to a 26er, but
chances are it would not be all that
fun. There are so many factors that
come into play. Does the bike have
slightly longer stays for wheel clear-
ance? If so, it will have a longer
wheelbase than you need with 26-
inch wheels. The bottom bracket
height is a bigger deal than you think.
We recently tested some Shimano
pedals side by side, and we could pick
up on clearance issues (hitting rocks)
on the pedal that was just slightly fat-
ter. It was a shocker. Finally, we don’t
think you are going to hate 27.5-inch
wheels. We tested a KHS 609 Carbon,
and the rider we used for photos
(who had not ridden a 27. 5) wanted
to buy the bike on the spot.
Q: Getting ready to
purchase another mountain bike, but there is
not much information
on the two bikes I’m
considering: the Norco
Sight Killer B 2 edition
or the Rocky Mountain
Element Altitude 750. I
ride singletrack exclusively, with lots of
short uphills that are
steep to not-so steep, followed by short to medium downhills. The ground
is hardpacked, and I rode a 29er two years ago and felt that it’s not quite
for me. This year I rode a Trek Fuel EX8 that I loved, but want ISCG 05
tabs. Both the Norco and the Rocky Mountain look amazing with very
minimal differences. Furthermore, I love the downhills and the flats, but
do need a bike that can pedal uphill decently. What do you suggest?
—Matt, who is ready for the 27-inch future
A: We got a chance to ride the Norco Sight at Whistler, and what can we say?
Love at first ride. We were not able to ride the Rocky, so we can’t compare. We
do think you will take to the new wheel size regardless of the bike you choose.
The Rocky uses a new shock mounting system, and we have zero time on it.
It looks good on paper, but it is a brand-new concept that is not proven on the
trail. It may end up being the best creation of the year, but we always shy away
from first-year versions of any new technology. We’d lean toward the Norco
because of this.