Mountain biking is one of the fastest growing trends in the world of athletics today, and for good reasons. Modern mountain bikes are more affordable and of a higher quality than ever before, and many hobbyists who are interested in the sport are perfectly willing to lend beginners a hand when they’re thinking about foraying into the world of mountain biking. Nonetheless, buying your first mountain bike can be an intimidating, expensive, and ultimately unrewarding experience unless you know what you’re doing.
Here’s how to buy your first mountain bike without making a rookie mistake, and some common errors to avoid if you don’t want to end up wasting your money.
Try not to get overwhelmed
The first thing that needs to be established is that the process of buying a mountain bike can be very overwhelming, even if you’re a seasoned expert who’s done it a few times before. This is because mountain bikes are very diverse, and a wide range of options exist to cater to your every need. While this means that you’ll have to do your homework and pour over many different options before arriving at one you’re satisfied with, it also ensures there’s a mountain bike somewhere out there perfect for your unique budget and biking ambitions.
If you're still trying to figure out how to find the right bicycle, start with your budget and consider how much money you’re willing to spend. While it’s not impossible to find a good mountain bike for under $500, you need to understand that anything less than that will likely get you a lackluster product that won’t necessarily last for very long once the fun begins. This is important, because mountain biking is a hobby that’s hard to break away from once you’ve become addicted to the thrilling adrenaline rush of racing down a new peak. Budget-minded mountain bikers can find a solid bike in the $500-1,000 range, with some cheaper options to consider if you’re willing to purchase a second-hand option.
This is an excellent time to go over some of the common mistakes that rookies to the hobby make when acquiring their first bike. Far too often, for instance, amateurs purchase a new bike without even taking it out for a test ride. Regardless of whatever the salesman or advertisements tell you, you simply don’t know what to expect from a bike until you’ve hopped on it yourself and given it a try. Before you finalize a purchasing decision, review a list of common mistakes that rookies make, and you’ll be in a much better position to avoid those errors yourself.
What’s a hardtail, anyway?
Next, you need to pick between a hardtail and a full suspension bike. Full suspension bikes are oftentimes bulkier, with forks at the front and shocks at the rear to ensure that your bike doesn’t go spiraling out of control when cruising over rough terrain at a breakneck pace. Hardtails have a rigid rear (duh!) and a set of forks that make them vastly more suitable for cross-country rides that aren’t as steep or rugged. Most beginners usually rely on hardtail options, though don’t rule full suspension options out entirely, especially if you intend to begin your mountain biking career with a bang by tackling a steep set of hills early on.
Most collections of mountain bike buying tips include the fact that you shouldn’t obsess about weight, and for good reason – it’s far too early in your career to fret about such a fact. Veteran bikers may want a lighter bike to help them achieve higher speeds, but rookies shouldn’t concern themselves with a bike that’s heavy, as you should be more concerned about the strength and structural stability of your first bike as you’re getting started. Above all else, it’s important to establish that you want to shell out the big bucks for a higher quality suspension system, as this is one of the most pivotal aspects of any good mountain bike.
Aluminum frames are oftentimes more affordable than their carbon counterparts, but it’s worth spending more for carbon in many cases because it’s lighter and sleeker. Larger wheel sizes will give you more traction, though smaller ones will handle much more quickly and easier. By and large, newcomers to the world of mountain biking shouldn’t obsess with the size of their wheels – you can save that fierce debate for later on in your career, when you’re a scruffy veteran with a trail tale or two to tell.
Finally, it’s important to review some setup mistakes that could end your mountain biking career before it ever really begins. Far too often, amateurs over-tighten their components or forget to carry a spare, usually paying the price for their ignorance. The experts over at Red Bull have compiled a list of beginner set-up mistakes that any new mountain biker should review – before long, you may be Red Bull’s newest sponsored biker, taking your new love of mountain biking to the next level.