Buying a Bike: Where do I Even Start?!
Are you new to Mountain Biking? Or perhaps looking for some guidance on your next upgrade? This blog will help cover the basics as well as some important questions you might find yourself asking.
We’ll kick this off with a hot topic—suspension. When we look at suspension there are two major options that differ quite a bit, Hardtail and Full Suspension. Hardtail suspensions only have suspension in the front, meaning impact is only absorbed by suspension on the front of the bike and the back end gives you no extra bounce. This is where the name comes from: Hard [no suspension] Tail [rear] an easy way to remember). Full Suspension on the other hand allows for travel on both the front and rear of the bike as shocks will be installed on both. To decide between the two styles it is best to decide on what type of riding you will be doing.
Hardtail bikes benefit riders who tend to do more trail-riding or climbing. They tend to be mechanically simpler (think more time riding, less time repairing if something goes wrong!), less expensive, and lighter. However, they do also tend to be less comfortable with the lack of rear suspension, but this can sometimes help make you a more thoughtful of your lines as you can feel the ground and what you’re riding a lot more. For beginner, we would only suggest to buy an hard tail if it a budget constraints. Overall, they are simple, easy, and effective.
Full Suspension, by contrast, is much more for conquering yet maintaining a balance. It tends to be better for riding harder, faster, and bigger features. Full Suspension allows for better handling and more comfort and would definitely be the suspension style suggested for riders looking to conquer descents and grow their skills and confidence on your bike. The comfort factor can also be helpful for those with lower back pain. For beginners, new riders it will be easier for you to learn the sport and will be more confidence inspiring. By contrast though, full suspension tends to cost more and requires more maintenance. If you are new to biking, this suspension set up helps you to enjoy the sport more and gain confidence faster.
Overall, here’s a helpful little breakdown to help you quickly reference standard bike styles and where your riding style might fit:
- Trail bikes: tend to be hardtail, good for trails, not so great for downhill.
- XC/Cross Country: your bike will be going up and down, so helpful to have full suspension.
- All Mountain Bike: just like XC, your bike will be going up and down but you require more power on the down. This is Audrey’s choice, as it is super versatile.
- Enduro: can be ridden up and down, more power going down but can be really slow on the up.
- Downhill Bike: cannot be ridden uphill, major power on the downhill and helpful to build confidence for downhill.
After looking at suspension we can shift our focus to wheel size. Here is a hot debated topic where the focus will be where your priorities lie for riding. 26” is the classic, but a lot of the focus has now shifted to 27.5” and 29”. The 29” offers what many like to call the sensation of being inside your bike rather than on top of it. In saying this, a 27.5” will be slightly less stable but more responsive for the rider. Height matters a bit here, if you’re smaller like our coach Audrey Duval, 29” might be too big for your frame. 29ers are good for rolling over the odd root or rock on the trail, however technical riding becomes a bit harder because with a bigger wheel, it can be harder to turn. If you want the in-between the classic 26” and 29”, 27.5” is a good way to go, it rolls well into corners and new rim design and materials have made it just as solid as the 26”. A good benefit for 26” is if you plan on traveling with your bike, as 26” is the most accessible worldwide in less-developed areas (think South America, Africa, and Asia to start). Overall, this is an extensive debate that has been front-and-center of the bike community so there are plenty of articles available if you want to research further.
Another thing to consider when purchasing a bike is do you want to buy new or used? The benefit to buying used would be pretty clear; it is cost effective and a great way to get started out. The benefit to buying new is what buying used lacks—warranty, help from a bike shop and perfect working condition. A great way to decide between these two options can be budget.
No matter what the opinions are, at the end of the day you have the best idea of your riding style and what feels right when you sit down on it. Hopefully some of our breakdowns on details and differences have helped you analyze where to start and what style of bike might be a good fit for you!