Mountain biking is one of the fastest growing sports. It’s noticeable at local club racing, 24 hour racing and even at work. In the last 3 years, mountain bike talk in my day job is starting to overtake actual work talk. With the mtb bug spreading out of control, I’m often asked the question “Do you think this $100 Big W mountain bike will be alright” and I often respond with “Don’t be so ri-god-dam-diculous”. Truth is, these bikes are not only a safety hazard, their performance and short life span will see you turning away from the sport in no time, without getting a chance to really get a taste of this liberating pastime / sport.
Alternatively, you can follow a few simple guidelines to buying a cheap mountain bike, spend a little bit extra yet WASTE less money. (All prices in AUD$)
1) Forget Department Store Bikes
This is rule number 1. Fact is, they just aren’t cut out for anything other than a smooth dirt road. Even then they will fall apart, break and bring your riding to a grinding halt. The price may seem tempting, and even though you grew up on one, mountain biking as an adult requires a sturdier steed
2) Save a Bit Extra
The more you skimp now, the more hassle you will have when 2 months down the track you realised you should have just paid that extra $300. I’m sure hundreds if not thousands will testify that they wish they had of just got ‘the better bike’ from the start.
3) Second Hand Bargains
If you originally only wanted to pay no more than $200 for a new bike, you’re going to have to change your mind-set. Start thinking $500 at least for a second-hand bike. This might sound silly to some, but all I can say is ‘Trust Me’. I’m basing this price point on the fact that a suitable ENTRY level mtb will cost around $1000. If you think this sounds waaaay too expensive, try to remember that a top of the line mtb is between $8000 and $10000. To start out you will need value for money, the best way to get that is buying second-hand.
4) Where to Look?
Apart from the generic online classifieds and auctions, try looking for mountain bike clubs in your region. Most clubs have their own webpage these days and most club webpages have a ‘for sale’ section. The best thing about these classifieds is they are generally full of mtb riders getting rid of their entry-level bikes to upgrade to a better bike. (a process you will inevitably go through in the future). You typically wont find any dept store bikes and most are trusted brand bikes. They will be looking to get rid of their bike quick smart to help pay for their newie. This gives you good bargaining power on already ‘priced to go’ bikes.
5) What to Look for?
A good rule of thumb is google the bikes brand name, if they sell other models for thousands of dollars then they probably have a decent entry-level bike. Good brands don’t do dept store bikes. Because this is a ‘Cheap mtb’ article, the hardtail style of mtb is the best value for money in most circumstance. This is a bike with suspension forks on the front and no suspension on the back. So you’ll be looking for a hardtail in a brand such as Giant, Avanti, Specialized, Scott, Jamis, Merida, Kona, Felt, BMC, Cannondale etc
6) Suspension Forks
Whilst suspension comes in all levels or performance and price, there’s only 3-4 brands in the mtb scene that you can count on for a decent entry-level design. Look out for brands such as Fox, RockShox, DT Swiss and Manitou. Though chances are your bike will have Fox or Rockshox. Anything unbranded or branded the same as the frame is probably best avoided.
A groupset is basically reffering to the bikes gear shifters, cranks, derailleurs and brakes. Because these are major components to a bike they are usually labelled in the classified, so people can get an idea of the quality / level of the bike. You should be looking for titles such as Shimano Deore or Shimano XT. Deore is probably the lowest quality Shimano I would recommend. Another alternative is SRAM X7, X9 and X0. I would recommend SRAM X7 to be the lowest level SRAM components to use. Once again any generic / unbranded parts usually indicate useless quality
Using these guidelines will help you get your first bike as cheap as possible whilst still maintaining a level of competence on the trails. But most of all, you will have a bike you will enjoy on the trails. I’m told buying a guitar is a similar story, you need to splash out a bit more for your first guitar because the cheap ones just suck and make you not enjoy playing.
If you still question my distaste for department store bikes, go to a proper bike shop near you and ask to arrange a demo on one of their entry-level bikes. Have a good chat with them. Whilst their new bikes may be out of reach get as much useful info out of them and find an equivalent second-hand for half the cost.
Whilst browsing the web for a photo of the god awful ‘huffy’ bikes, I just happen to come across this picture on a website stating these bikes were all recalled because their cranks fall off. I rest my case. Happy riding