Considering the rather steep entry cost associated with buying a mountain bike, many individuals find the experience to be nearly as stressful as car shopping. However, this doesnít have to be the case.
This guide is designed to assist in the process of selecting the correct bike and getting the most performance for the money.
Set a Price and Stick To It
When it comes to buying new, skies the limit when it comes to how much you can potentially spend. To make matters worse itís all too easy to get swept up in salesperson hype and payment plans once youíre actually on the sales floor. To keep your spending under control, figure out what price range you are willing to pay for your new bike ahead of time. I find it works best to establish your price limit while doing your research as doing so simultaneously gives realistic expectations as to the type of bike within your range.
Avoid The Chain Stores
A reoccurring theme in the mountain bike world is to avoid big store chains (Wal-Mart, Target, K-Mart, Costco, etc.) when selecting your bike. The reason for this is multifold. First, bikes sold at department stores may look like well-equipped full suspension off-road bicycles but look carefully and there is most certainly a label affixed somewhere on the frame stating the bike is not intended for off-road use. Secondly, in effort to keep prices low, materials are often much lower grade, more prone to fail, and are much heavier than those products sold at a bike shop. Finally, not only should a competent bike shop be able to better help you buy the right bike for you (meaning your body stats and riding style) but they will also be able to service the bike once it requires tuning.
Identify Your Style Ė What Kind of Riding Do You Want To Do
Mountain bikes these days are designed for many different riding styles and terrain and this trend increases with each year. It is absolutely essential that you figure out what type of riding you will be doing most of the time. Will you be riding paved bike trails with only occasional off-road conditions, bursting your lungs on mind-boggling climbs, cross-country racing, trail riding in a group, or riding the ski lift to the top of the mountain? As the market becomes more and more specialized, your pre-purchase research and questions to ask the salesperson become evermore important.
Do You Need Suspension?
Perhaps one of the most common questions troubling beginners is whether or not full suspension is required to get the most out of the riding experience. Hereís the Pros and Cons breakdown:
(+) Smoother Ride
(+) Greater Rider Comfort
(+) Able to Tackle a Wider Variety of Terrain
(-) More Complicated
(-) Slightly Heavier
(-) Could be Less Responsive
(-) Typically Costs More
Hardtail (Front Suspension Only):
(+) More Responsive to Pedaling Effort
(+) Less to Maintain
(+) Often Lighter
(+) Usually Cheaper
(-) Rough Ride
(-) Much Tougher on the Back
(-) Not Designed for a Wide Range of Terrain
Check the Calendar
Mountain bike prices can and do fluctuate in accordance to the model year. The main buying season is typically from spring through summer. Fall and winter buyers usually hold the cards when it comes to snagging a great deal. Many bike shops offer discounts on accessories or other products and services when you buy from them. Donít forget to haggle on sticker price and to ask if they would be willing to throw in any bonuses or discounts when purchasing multiple items.
Keep in mind that there is more to finding a good dealer than simply getting a good price. A good dealer should have a clean repair shop and should answer your questions honestly. There is no reason for a beginner to feel intimidated by the bike buying process. If a shop makes you feel inadequate because you donít know much, leave and find a shop worthy of your business.
Testing One, Two, Three
Ask to test ride as many bikes as you can in your price range and riding style category. You will find that some bikes will just feel correct while others (even of the same size/ style) do not. The only way to know for sure if youíre making the right move is to get a feel for what works with you specifically.
Remember...Thereís No Such Thing as Being Too Prepared