How To Pick
The Right Bike
Let’s just jump right in and get you started on finding the perfect mountain bike. YOUR BIKE’S HEART hink of bicycle companies as frame companies. They offer their frames in three ways: 1) They sell complete bikes. The companies make the frames and choose the parts (called
“spec’ing”) to turn the frame into a ready-to-ride bike. This
is usually the best way to go, value-wise. 2) They offer the
frame with build kits. These kits include most of the parts
you need to build up the bike (and in some cases, the
company will build it up for you). 3) They sell you the
frame and let you do the rest.
Many bike companies used to use the exact same frame for
their affordable mountain bikes as their more expensive
models (the price difference was the bike’s components), but
this practice is almost obsolete. More expensive frames may
use different construction techniques that lower their weight
and increase rigidity. This is why it is more important than
ever to buy the bike you want rather than buy a less
expensive model with the dream—and it is a dream—of
upgrading it over the coming years.
Beginner’s tip: Buy your bike completely assembled. You can
consider building a bike from the frame up once you have more
knowledge and experience.
There are two major materials used for frame construction: aluminum and carbon fiber. The growing acceptance
of carbon fiber has forced designers of aluminum frames to
up their game. Today’s aluminum frames are a far cry from
the oversized round tubing of old. Aluminum is shaped and
manipulated into designs that look, well, like carbon fiber.
Two carbon fiber frames that look identical can be very
different because of the quality of the carbon fiber used and
the method of manufacturing. If you buy the cheapest carbon
fiber version of a model, planning to upgrade components
later, you may never achieve the ride quality of the more
expensive versions. Carbon fiber frames on lower-priced
models deliver a brutal ride quality. Go for carbon fiber only
if you are willing to invest over $4000 in your new bike.
Beginner’s tip: Under $4000, go aluminum. Over $5000,
go carbon fiber.
Most mountain bikes are either dual suspension or hardtail
(a suspension fork up front with no suspension in the rear).
If your budget is under $2000, limit your selection to hardtail
mountain bikes (with aluminum frames). There are similarly
priced dual-suspension bikes, but they will be heavier, and
the suspension components will lack fine-tune adjustability.
Simplifying a serious decision
Long, fun days: Trailbikes are the best choice for the majority of riders—new and old alike. These bikes are versatile and
open your world to the excitement and rewards that mountain