$3500 to $4500: Expect to get a trailbike that needs
nothing. You’ll have great components, good tires, strong
wheels, clipless pedals (maybe), externally adjustable suspension components, and a weight between 27 and 30
$5000 and above: The trailbikes in this price range
have all the travel of the less-expensive price points, more
adjustability, no pedals (hey, that doesn’t make sense to us
either) and a weight range of 23 (more expensive) to 27
pounds. Carbon fiber frames live in this high-elevation terrain.
LEVEL PLAYING FIELD
Riders benefit greatly from competition. Not competition
on the World Cup circuit—although an argument can be
made for that too—but competition on the showroom floor.
Once you decide how much you want to spend, the bikes
in that price range are going to have very similar components, frame materials and countries of origin.
Let’s say that you’ve set $2500 as your budget. It is
unlikely that you will find one company that packs a lot
more value into their $2500 model than another company—unless they have cut out the bike shop by selling
BUY WHAT YOU WANT NOW
Buying a less expensive model with the idea of upgrading parts as you can afford them is a costly mistake. You
can’t beat the buying power of a bicycle company that buys
their shocks and forks by the container load.
Still doubtful? Consider that bike shops buy overstocked
bicycles from their suppliers—not to sell to you at deep discounts, but to strip the parts off them and sell the components separately for a tidy profit.
If the manufacturer you are thinking about buying from
offers the same frame at three price points, compare the
upcharge of your most desired components with their retail
prices. You’ll quickly realize that paying a little more up
front will save you money in the long run.
Okay, so you have a price in mind and you are ready to
buy. Here are our last little pearls of wisdom.
Pick the right shop: Finding a shop that will assemble
your new bike correctly and set you up properly is as
important as the model you’ve decided to buy. A properly
set up $1500 dual-suspension bike will blow the doors off a
$3500 bike that is poorly dialed in.
Be wary of weird brands: If you are unfamiliar with
the manufacturer of the bike you are looking at, do more
research—even if the price is awesome. A bike is only as
durable and dependable as the company it came from.
You pay for innovation: If you simply must have the
latest, greatest bike, you are going to pay for it. Mountain
bike companies have historically trickled down technology to
the less expensive models a year or two after the new technology was introduced. Buying a year after an intro could
save you a bundle.
Riding a $10,000 trailbike is a sweet experience. Today,
$10,000 buys you a company’s third- or fourth-generation
carbon fiber frame that is a pound lighter and far stiffer than
the original. Those are differences you can feel everywhere
on the trail. If you can afford it, go for it—and don’t let anybody talk you out of it. They are just jealous that they can’t
Still, there is no reason to be green with envy just because
you can’t spring for a super-expensive bike. Choosing your
mountain bike wisely from the categories described above
will get you a bike that is not as far off the 10-grand superbike as you might think. Is a $10,000 trailbike five times better than a $2000 trailbike? No way. It might be 5 percent
more efficient, and even that is no guarantee that you’d have
five times more fun on it. ;
Looks can be deceiving: A bicycle priced below $500, like
this $279 Mongoose, might look like a mountain bike, but it
is best suited for bike paths and rails-to-trails routes. It
wouldn’t take a real world beating for long.
Take your pick: If you stick to a hardtail in the $800 to $1500
range, you’ll enjoy a lighter overall weight and slightly better
components than a dual-suspension bike in this price range.
Try to beat this: Riders benefit greatly from competition, but we
are not talking about the obvious.