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Bike Options?

WindingRoad2011-11-12 23:24:18 +0000 #1
So as some of you know, I'm a complete beginner when it comes to MB'ing. In fact I know absolutely nothing at this point except when I tried it in the past I crashed and scared myself to death. I did a LOT of things wrong back when I first attempted MB'ing. I went out alone, had WAY to much pressure in my tires, my bike was a crappy fit and my bars were so long that was actually what took me down . I know now I had my saddle too high and I will NOT be clipping in for a LONG time if ever on a mountain bike. Fast forward to now, about 4 years later, wow can't believe its been that long! So I'm ready to give it another go, I feel like I know what NOT to do now. One big thing with me is the bike and how it fits. I'm one of those people that if I have a really crap fitting bike, like before, it just isn't any fun at all and I'm over it. I do a lot of road riding/commuting so now I really appreciate the benefits of a good fitting bike. I'm sure its the same in the mountain biking world. Next issue i have is I would like to minimize the amount of bumps/jars/bobbles as much as possible. I'd like to not punish my body doing this. This leads me to ask should I consider a 29'er bike or a full suspension bike??? Most of my riding will probably be in Pennsylvania however, which is VERY hilly. I get the impression the trails there are a bit more technical than what we have here in Indiana? I'm wondering if there is a drawback to having a full suspension bike or 29 inch wheels. My goal is to get as plush of a ride as possible and be able to use it wherever I am, whether its mid west or east coast. It's a bit hard to justify the cost but like I mentioned before I have 'nice' bikes on average and I really don't want a bike with crappy components because that really frustrates me when they screw up. I guess if I decide I totally hate it I can sell the bike pretty easily, especially in PA. I had a hardtail the last time I attempted MB'ing and needless to say that was NOT a good experience so I'm kinda thinking something different would be a positive. I would love to hear any suggestions, criticism, opinions etc anyone has on the subject. If it were you, how would you handle this?


Irulan2011-11-12 23:31:55 +0000 #2
What is your budget?
jessmarimba2011-11-12 23:37:30 +0000 #3
Oh boy. As far as what bike to get - I would try everything for now, because it seems to be a lot of personal opinion. But I'll tell you what I ride and why.

I have a 29er. For me, the bigger wheels really aid in getting up stuff. Going up hills in general, and going over stuff when you're going uphill. That's also aided by the fact that my bike is really light. I might've compromised and bought a bike with 26 inch tires if I could've found a really, really nice full-suspension bike at a price I could afford (Yeti 575, Santa Cruz, etc)...but that didn't happen. But the first time I rode a 29er I came home and told my BF something along the lines of "Now I understand why women buy giant SUVs for what seems like no reason" - the feeling of power was enough to really boost my confidence.

I ride a hardtail. Few reasons here - I couldn't afford full-suspension AND have everything else as nice as I wanted. The bike is lighter without rear suspension. And I had a pretty limited list of full-suspension bikes that I knew would work, and none of them came up in my price range while I was looking. But there's also the fact that, with how I ride and where I ride, I will be out of the saddle on the bumpiest sections of trail anyway, so rear suspension wouldn't do as much good. It'd be nice to have the option sometimes, but I get along fine without it. Especially with the larger tires, which give you more squish than on a 26 hardtail.

One other suggestion I have, is that if you want to avoid bumps/jars/bobbles - do everything you can to get the nicest front fork you can afford. I know when I was looking through the Giant catalog, there were two bikes at about the same price - one had good components and an ehhhh front fork, one had crappier components and a really nice fork. You can always save and upgrade the components in pieces, but a nicer front fork will be a big chunk of money all at once time if you upgrade later.
WindingRoad2011-11-12 23:49:13 +0000 #4
My budget is under $2000.

Thanks Jess, that's good to know about the front fork. I will try to get the best one I can afford. I test rode a 29'er yesterday and it wasn't anything special but I definitely noticed the SUV and squish factor you mentioned. It felt really easy going over the bumps. I need to go ride some 26 inch full suspension bikes. I was looking at the Cannondale Lexi 2, Giant Cypher 2 and a Trek Fuel EX5 WSD as possibles. I plan to try them out here in the next couple of days.
limewave2011-11-12 23:36:12 +0000 #5
My personal opinion is that if you don't plan on racing, get a full-suspension bike if you can. It's a plushy ride and a lot of fun. It may be a bit slower, but if you aren't racing, so it's not a big deal. I loved my full-suspension bike and it was the perfect bike to introduce me to the sport. I had a Trek Fuel.

The nice thing with 26" bikes is that they can be snappier in tighter, twisty sections of trail.

That being said, I do love my 29er I just got which is a hard-tail. I'm still getting used to riding a hard-tail and having the saddle bounce-up every time I go over some roots or rocky sections. I rode the full-suspension for 6 years, so adjusting to the hard-tail is taking some getting used to. I used to bomb on the downhills, but now its a bumpier ride and I'm learning how to descend all over again.
Nick2011-11-13 01:51:45 +0000 #6
I'm new to mountain biking, so I have limited experience so far. However, I went from a hardtail to a full suspension this summer. I did a lot of research before buying and also considered a 29er as an alternative. I decided against that because of my size. I'm just barely 5'4, petite in build, and need to feel in control of the bike. A 26 inch full suspension gives me plenty of height, and a 29er was more than a tad too high for my comfort level.

There is a huge difference in feel with the fs vs hardtail. I have the Juliana RXC (Santa Cruz). This bike is much lighter than my hardtail, and very fast. She floats on trails and glides over glass and rocks. The Juliana actually feels "harder" on regular paths than on mb terrain. As soon as I hit terrain she seems to light up and start to fly.
Catrin2011-11-13 01:56:39 +0000 #7
My FS Jamis Dakar XC Comp would fit in your budget! I HATE how she feels on pavement, but she feels just fine on dirt. I think there are a good number of other FS bikes that would as well, and you are taller than I so you would likely have more choices.

As far as PA being more technical than Indiana, I've been told that it depends on where you ride in Indiana, there are people who come from PA to Brown County to ride our single-track there. I've also heard the trails are much rockier further east because of the terrain.

That's about all I can contribute, but am glad to hear you are considering this again. Let me know if you want to ride the beginners loop at Fort Harrison, it is totally flat, no edges at all, just twisty-bendy through trees and across a couple of VERY low bridges.
Becky2011-11-13 00:30:36 +0000 #8
It really depends where in PA you're riding. There's a lot of trail diversity. Generally, it's rocky and rooty. You'll see a wide variety of bikes....rigid singlespeeds to full-suspension trail bikes. For me, I think that the ideal "only bike" would be a short-travel (3"-4") 29er...something like a Niner Jet 9 or a Salsa Spearfish.

Do you have a shop in PA that you like? If so, I would ask the staff where they're riding and what type(s) of bikes they're riding for those specific trail systems.

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