Buying a Mountain Bike for Dummies

So you’re looking to buy your first mountain bike. It doesn’t matter how you got to this point, whether it was a friend, a doctor telling you need to get fit, or you just think that they look like a lot of fun, what matters, is what you do from here. Buying anything that you don’t know much about is always going to be difficult, and you can be sure that every sales person you see will have a different idea about what you need. However, you can take the guess work out of buying a bike with a few simple steps.

You only need to ask yourself two questions;

  • What type of riding will I be doing?
  • How much money do I have?

What type of riding will I be doing?

A bike is a bike, right? Couple of wheels, pedals and handlebars? If the last time you rode a bike was when you were building jumps in the street as a kid, you may be surprised as to just how complicated buying a bike can be.

The first thing you need to decide is whether you want a hardtail or a full suspension bike. Whilst cost is a factor in this decision, as a full suspension bike will cost about 1000 dollars more than a comparable hardtail bike, the type of riding you want to do is the more important consideration.

…you can basically spend as much as you want, however you stop getting noticeable improvements at around 6000 dollars…

Hardtail’s, or bikes with only one compression point, are designed for maximum pedalling efficiency, whereas full suspension bikes, in which the rear wheel can move independently of the front wheel, are designed for maximal traction across rocky trails, and for softening harsh landings from jumps and drops.  To help work out the type of riding that will be best for you, check out our article on choosing the right amount of travel, but essentially, the bigger the adrenaline junkie you are, the more travel you need. Meaning if you like relaxing pedals through the forest, a downhill bike is not for you. If you intend to do anything more extreme than cross country riding, than a full suspension bike is the way to go.

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Dual suspension bikes soften big hits that are found on more technical trails.

How much money do I have?

There’s no sugar coating this one, bikes are expensive. Both my bikes are more expensive than my car, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get yourself a great deal on a budget.  If you’re serious about getting into riding, it’s best to put up your money straight away, rather than buying a cheap bike to start with, and then realising its holding you back four weeks later. For a brand new, trail ready, entry level hardtail, you’re looking at about 800 dollars, and just under 2 grand for a brand new dually. If you have more money than sense, you can basically spend as much as you want, however you stop getting noticeable improvements at around 6000 dollars.

If money is an issue, than there are a couple ways to get a great price on a great bike. The most obvious is buying second hand. Second hand bikes are often in near new condition at half their retail price. If you’re really lucky you can find an unwanted gift that’s been ridden once, and then sold at a fraction of its original value. However, as with any aftermarket deal, you need to be careful. Here are a few ground rules with buying second hand;

  • Ask loads of questions, including the service history, where and how long its been ridden, and why the owner is selling it.
  • Ask if they are the original owner, and if so, ask for proof of purchase. This is to avoid getting caught up in a stolen bike scam. Whilst it isn’t cause for alarm if they can’t, it means you should look out for a other things. Signs of a stolen bike include being sold at a ridiculously low price, the owner not being able to answer basic questions about the bike, or not having any apparent knowledge of the sport.
  • If you don’t know much about bikes, take a friend who does to when you go and check it out. They will be able to tell you how much you’ll need to spend on it in the near future, and whether or not it will fit you.

To buy second hand, checkout the plethora of Facebook buy swap and sell groups, or head to gumtree.com.

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When buying a secondhand make sure you check it out for any creaks or cracks on the frame.

If you aren’t a fan of buying second hand, there is always deals to be found online or in stores. Direct to consumer brands such as Canyon, YT or Boardman all cut out the middleman in sales, meaning that you can save significant amounts of money by buying online. Or, if you want to actually see the bike before you buy it, ask your local shop if they have any of the previous years’ bikes somewhere in storage that they never sold. You’ll get a new bike at a great price. On top of this, brands release their new bikes around September, so if you go shopping just after this time, shops are always trying to clear their floor stock to make room for the next years models.

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Female specific frames are available, but if you see a good deal, you can get by without them!

Remember, your budget has to include all the gear that goes with a mountain bike, helmet, shoes, gloves and a pump just to name a few. Never skimp on safety gear, your body will thank you later.

Safety Tip – Never buy second helmets, once they’ve been in a crash you need to replace them immediately, even if there is no superficial damage. Don’t take the risk, you don’t know what that helmet has been through.

When buying a bike on a budget to spend your money in areas that you can’t, or are expensive to upgrade. For example, it’s better to get a good frame and a terrible drive train than the other way round. You don’t want to have great finishing kit, but terrible suspension that will cost the price you paid for the bike to upgrade.  The frame, suspension and rims are things you ensure are of good quality on your bike. Upgrading your drive train costs 300 dollars, whereas overhauling your suspension will set you back 2 grand.

If you answer these questions before you start looking, buying a bike really isn’t that hard, and you’ll end up with a bike that you don’t regret.

Photo Credit

  • Calli Paddick

About Tim_Davis@Pushys

I'm a Science Graduate and Medical student at the University of Queensland, specialising in anatomy and physiology. More importantly, I'm all for any type of riding; road, mountain, dirt jumping, I love it all! Let me know if there is anything you want to know about nutrition and health, and I'll do my best to help you out!

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