Specialized Epic FSR Comp: This is Specialized’s base-model Epic FSR, which sports
4 inches of rear-wheel travel. It’s a dialed bike with a Fox Brain shock that will help you
tame the trails better than the hardtail version. However, you must give up some of the
amenities that the similarly priced hardtail Epic has to offer. First off, the frame is built
from aluminum instead of carbon, which will make the bike heavier. Second, the linkage
and shock add complexity that not only add weight,but also will require more maintenance than the hardtail. Moreover, the suspension bike comes with a lower-end parts
spec that includes a 2x10 drivetrain, heavier wheels and lower-end brakes by comparison. This bike also sells for $2800, which is $200 more than the hardtail model. The Epic
FSR will undoubtedly be a more capable bike on rougher trails, thanks to the 4 inches of
rear-wheel travel. However, you must be willing to give up some of the upgrades afforded
by the hardtail version to have it.
Two schools of thought: When buying a new bike on a budget, there are
two distinctly different ways of thinking: The first is to buy the bike with the
highest-end components, like wheels,
drivetrain, handlebars, stem, etc. The
other is to buy a higher-end frame with
lower-end components with the notion
that they will be upgraded later. Either
of these are logical and will work.
However, riders should know what
they’re getting into before going down
either of these paths.
We spend a significant portion of this magazine talking about the newest and most
exotic technologies in the cycling
world, and those bikes and products
regularly carry a hefty price tag—one
that most riders aren’t willing to pay.
Mountain biking is a gear-intensive
sport, but that doesn’t mean it has
to be prohibitively expensive. We
know there are plenty of riders out
there who love reading about the
“Ferrari” bikes we regularly test but
would never consider buying one.
That includes the entire Mountain
Bike Action staff—a group of riders
who wouldn’t be able to afford much
more than a beater rust bucket from
a sketchy Craigslist ad if it weren’t
for our jobs testing bikes. Fortunately,
the technologies that are cutting
edge one year regularly trickle down
to the bikes that many more riders
can afford the following year, resulting in better bikes for everyone. We
set out to sift through the multitude
of awesome bikes that are actually
affordable to see which ones we
would actually spend our hard-earned
Specialized Epic Comp Carbon: This is a bike by Specialized designed to cater to riders
looking for a solid cross-country trailbike. It doesn’t sport any rear suspension, but what it
lacks in complexity, it makes up for with quality components and a very lightweight build.
Riders looking for the best bang for the buck in the sub-$3000 price range will typically
find the best value by looking to hardtails first. This bike comes with a full-carbon frame
construction, a single-ring drivetrain with a huge 11-speed cassette and even high-end
Roval wheels. It sells for $2600.
KHS Zaca 29er: When looking for a new mountain
bike, there is a limit to how little you can spend and
still find yourself with a “real” bike that’s ready to
hit trails. That price is somewhere around $450 to
$500 (new). Any bike that sells for less than that,
even if it still looks like a mountain bike, is not
ready to hit the trails. In fact, bikes that are less
expensive than that, like the ones you can buy from
a big-box retailer like Walmart or Target, have no
business on the trails. Brands like KHS pride themselves on being able to deliver value to the rider on
bikes even at the lowest end of the price spectrum.
This Zaca 29er features all of the amenities you
really need at a price that’s easier to swallow for a
beginner. The bike comes with an aluminum frame,
cable-actuated disc brakes, a Shimano drivetrain
and 29er wheels. It also comes with a very easy-to-swallow $450 price tag. It’s a perfect starter bike
for anyone looking to get into the sport.