How to Buy a Mountain Bike
How to Buy a Mountain Bike
Biking is a fun activity and a great form of exercise. Buying a mountain bike will allow you to ride through trails and travel cross-country. The range of mountain bikes available now is enormous, so it can be hard to choose the right one for you, especially if you are new to mountain biking. By learning about the different kinds of bikes and factoring in what you will use it for, you will be able to make an informed decision. Then it is simply a matter of deciding on the specific bike you’d like and finding a place that carries it for the right price.
Evaluating Mountain Bike Options
Decide which type of bike you would like.There are many different kinds of mountain bikes. Each type specializes in a particular riding style. Based on what you will use your mountain bike for, decide whether you would like a cross country bike, trail bike, freeride bike, downhill bike, or trial/dirt jumping bike. If you are new to mountain biking and just want a general, standard mountain bike, choose a trail bike.
- Cross-Country Mountain Bikes- Cross-country bikes work well on cross-country trails, whether recreational or competitive. They are available as a full-suspension bike or a hardtail, which has front suspension only. They climb hills well, but aren’t as comfortable on the way back down.
- Trail Mountain Bikes- Trail bikes are also known as "all-mountain bikes" because they work well for many applications. If you're looking for a multi-purpose mountain bike, this is the right type. It won’t be perfect for everything, but it can likely get the job done. This is a good mountain bike to start out on.
- Freeride Mountain Bikes- Freeride bikes are full-suspension bikes that work well on aggressive trails with lots of jumps. They are tough bikes that will allow you to do stunts, but they aren’t the best for climbing hills.
- Downhill Mountain Bikes- Downhill bikes are made to fly down hills. These bikes are always full-suspension and will handle very rough terrain. Their full-suspension will absorb big impacts when landing or cruising through rock gardens. But they aren’t great for going up large hills.
- Dirt Jumping or Trial Bikes- Dirt jumping or trial bikes are of course made for dirt jumping! They also work very well at the skatepark. They are a specialized bike that is designed for going over obstacles. Hardtails are the most common, but full-suspension options also exist.
Decide which suspension you want.Suspension absorbs shock so that you don't feel all the bumps of the terrain. Bikes are available as full-suspension (dual suspension) or hardtail. Both are good for different reasons. Full-suspension will make your ride smoother, but it will also be more expensive.
- Full-suspension bikes have suspension in the front and the rear. This makes them a good all-around bike for a comfortable ride.
- Hardtails only have suspension in the front. This makes the bike lighter so it is easier to climb hills, do jumps, and make quick maneuvers.
Pick your wheel size.Bike wheels come in 26”, 27.5” and 29”. 26” wheels used to be standard for adults because these tires are lightweight and maneuverable. But then bikes started offering 29” wheels because they allow you to cover more ground when traveling cross-country. They also go over bumps smoothly, but they are slower to accelerate and more difficult to maneuver. 27.5” wheels offer “the best of both worlds” because they roll over terrain more easily than 26” tires and are more maneuverable than 29” tires.
- 27.5” tires are good for someone just starting out because they are a happy medium that will work well in most circumstances.
- One inch equals 2.54 cm.
Choose an aluminum alloy frame.There are many different types of frames, including aluminum, titanium, carbon, and steel. Aluminum is the most common standard frame type. It is durable and reasonably priced.
- Steel is strong and inexpensive, but it is heavier than aluminum.
- Titanium is lightweight and very strong, but too expensive for most buyers, unless you are buying a very high-end bike.
- Carbon is strong and lightweight, but it is more expensive to manufacture.
Choose how many gears you need.Mountain bikes can have a single gear or up to 30 gears. To know how many you need, consider your fitness level and what type of terrain you will ride with your bike. If you will be climbing many hills and find hills challenging, you will need more gears. If you’re in very good shape or will only be riding flat terrain, you will need fewer gears.
- If you aren’t sure how many gears you need, try a 10-speed bike.
Choose a bike with disc brakes.These are the most common brakes on mountain bikes. Some entry level bikes will have rim brakes, but these don’t stop as well. Disc brakes can be hydraulic, which offer stronger braking without having to press the brake as hard, or cable-activated/mechanical, which will need manual adjusting.
Choose which size bike you need.Mountain bikes are sized as small, medium, or large. Some are available in extra small or extra large. The sizes are pretty standard across brands. To get the best fit, go to a store and try out some bikes.
- For a men’s bike, small is for men under 5’8”, medium is for men from 5’7”-6’, large is for men from 6’1”-6’4”, and extra large is for men over 6’3”.
- For a women’s bike, extra small is for women under 5’3”, small is for women 5’2”-5’7”, medium is for women 5’6”-5’11”, and large is for women 5’10”-6’2”.
- For reference, 5 ft = 1.5 m; 5’6” = 1.7 m; 6 ft = 1.8 m.
Searching for Bikes and Sellers
Decide on a budget.Have a clear idea in your mind of how much money you have to spend. Mountain bikes can cost anywhere from 0 to ,000+. If you are new to mountain biking, keep your budget smaller until you develop the expertise to know exactly what you want. You can get a decent mountain bike for under ,000.
- Don't forget that on top of a bike, you may want other items such as helmets, gloves and spares.
- Factor in a maintenance charge of about 0 per year so that you can get a tuneup.
Find a bike that meets your criteria.Research on the internet or in catalogs to find a bike that meets your requirements. Online bike forums contain a lot of valuable information as well (try pinkbike.com/forum or forums.mtbr.com). Narrow down the selection to 4-5 bikes and Google them to read reviews.
- To search online, you can look on Amazon, REI, or your city’s Craigslist for used bikes.
- Bikeradar.com has a useful list of quality mountain bikes for under ,000.
- You could also go to your local bike store to see what they have.
Find a dealer that sells the bike you want.When you have chosen a bike, look at dealers that stock it. Try to find a bike store or sporting goods store in your area that sells your bike. You want to find the best price, while also looking to see if that dealer will provide services and spare parts for you.
- The internet is a good place to find online dealers, but you may have to pay for shipping and handling, plus you have the problem of finding a repair shop.
Avoid second hand bikes unless you are very knowledgeable.Buying a bike second hand is a good way to get a great deal, but it is also easy to get ripped off. If you don’t know much about bikes, the seller can easily overcharge you and likely will not allow you to return it.
- If you do buy second hand, make sure to inspect the bike before buying it and to bring along an experienced biker to look at it. Then proceed with extreme caution.
- You can find second hand bikes on bike forums or Craigslist.
Making a Smart Purchase
Buy the bike in late summer or autumn.This is when you are most likely to get a good deal. People generally buy bikes in spring and summer, so by waiting until the end of bike season, you can get a better deal.
Do a test run before buying.When it comes time to buy the bike, give it a small road test first to make sure it is of a comfortable size and weight. Do not be afraid to ask the dealer to make minor changes to anything such as the brakes, suspension or gears.
- You can demo the bike and take it on a longer ride by paying a small fee to the store. This is a good idea if you are seriously considering buying that model.
- This is why it is preferable to buy a bike at a local store rather than online. If you buy it online, you won’t know how it rides until you’ve already purchased it. If you buy it online, look for a good return policy in case you aren’t satisfied once you try it out.
- If you buy it online, ask around to see if someone you know has that model and try riding theirs before buying your own. You can also read reviews of the bike online to hear about other people’s experience with it, but none of this is the same as actually riding it yourself.
Find out about warranties and repairs.Bikes sold from a bike store should guarantee the bike and be able to help you with future repairs. They might even offer free tuneups. Find out everything that is included with the bike before buying it.
- Look for stores that offer a full warranty that will cover any manufacturing defects.
- For example, REI allows you to return your bike for a refund within one year of buying it if you are not satisfied. If it has a manufacturing defect, you can return it anytime.
Buy accessories.Make sure you have a helmet and a bike lock. If you plan on traveling long distances with your bike, you will need a water bottle and possibly a backpack. You might also want gloves and wicking cycling apparel. Your local bike store should have everything you will need. Factor these items into the price of the bike.
Pay for the bike.When you have found the right bike for you and tried it out, all that’s left to do is pay for it! This shouldn’t be a problem since you hopefully stayed within your budget. You can simply charge it or pay by check or cash, depending on the store’s policies. If purchasing online, you can probably use PayPal as well. Be sure to keep the receipt in case there are any problems.
Keep your dealer’s contact information.When you have purchased the bike, make sure you take down the phone number of your dealer in case you need them in the future. They may be able to help you with repairs, tuneups, and replacement parts.
- Try to look for big brands such as Trek, Specialized, Norco, Kona, Giant or GT.
- Use a well-known dealer.
- Get the best in your price range.
- Try the bike before buying.
- Look for guarantees or you will have to spend money unnecessarily.
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