The real deal: If you are coming to mountain biking with a
background in motocross, skiing, skating or BMX, you will
need to spend a bit more. Why? Your bike-handling skills are
going to be better than “beginner,” and your equipment will
have to match those skills.
3. 9 inches of travel) suspension fork. Also, stick to 26- or
27.5-inch wheels. The 29ers at this price point are going to
$800 to $1500: There are dual-suspension trailbikes in
this price range that offer 3 to 4 inches of travel, limited
adjustability and weigh more than 30 pounds. If you stick to
a hardtail, you’ll enjoy a lighter overall weight and slightly
better components. The closer you can go to the high end of
this range, the more we recommend a 29er hardtail, but
otherwise, stick to 27.5- or 26-inch wheels.
$2000 to $3000: This is the sweet spot for trailbikes.
Every major brand offers a great performer with solid components within this price range. Because this price range is
so competitive between bike brands, riders get the best value
from this group. You can buy an awesome hardtail in this
price range, and dual-suspension bikes will come in at, or
slightly below, 30 pounds with 4 or 5 inches of suspension
travel. You’ll get more external suspension adjustments too.
Limit yourself to 27.5- or 29-inch wheels at this price point.
$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
pounds. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a 26-inch-wheeled
bike at this price point.
$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 its $2500 model than another company, unless the
manufacturer has cut out the bike shop by selling direct.
BUY WHAT YOU WANT NOW
Buying a less expensive model with ideas of upgrading
parts as you can afford them is a costly mistake. You can’t
beat the buying power of a bicycle company that purchases its
shocks and forks by the container load.
Not convinced? Consider that some bike shops will buy
overstocked bicycles from their suppliers, not to sell them to
you at a deep discount, but to strip the parts off them and sell
the components separately for a tidy profit.
When you shop for a new mountain bike and the maker
offers the same frame at three price points, compare the up-charge of your most desired components with the retail cost
of the same items under the glass countertops. You’ll quickly
realize that paying a little more up front will save you money
in the end.
Okay, so you have a price in mind and you are ready to buy.
Here is some advice that will seal the best deal you are going
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 just have to 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
is introduced. Buying a year after an intro could save you a
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 afford one.
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 ten-grand superbike as
you might think. Is a $10,000 trailbike five times better than a
$2000 trailbike? No way. It might be 3 percent more efficient,
and even that is no guarantee that you’ll have five times more
fun on it. ❏
Smart deals: We said of the 26-inched-wheeled Pivot Mach 4
(tested in our October 2013 issue), “Pivot has refined their initial
offering, allowing riders to experience what a truly pedigreed
mountain bike feels like.” Okay, so you don’t get the larger
wheels, but you get a great trailbike.