Need help choosing mountain bike

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Lisel, Apr 10, 2002.

  1. Lisel

    Lisel Stunt Coordinator

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    I haven't had a bike in about 15 years and am interested in getting a mountain bike, to ride in the dry forest and in other such areas on weekends. So I've started doing some research. I've decided on a hardtail and would like to spend no more than $600. (I also have to buy a bike carrier.) I'm particularly interested in these (with the Fisher leading the pack so far in my estimation):

    Fisher Tassajara GS

    Kona Blast

    Trek 4900 WSD

    Problem is that the bike shops in the area don't have any of them in stock. They can be ordered, but I don't know whether they'll need a purchase commitment or a deposit. So basically I'm hoping to get some opinions on these or other bikes in my price range.

    Thanks a lot!

    Lisel
     
  2. Alex Prosak

    Alex Prosak Supporting Actor

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    They're all good bikes but I'd recommend the Kona. Fisher bikes to me, even their entry level Al bikes seem heavier than they ought to. The geometry on Kona bikes are similar to Kleins and they tend to be very good for climbing. I have a Kona A'A which I've owned for about 8 years now and that think has taken all sorts of beatings.

    Not to make weight an issue but you may also want to consider a steel frame. Aluminum bikes are very stiff and if you are fairly light, can give you a real good shaking on rougher terrain. The steel will be more forgiving. FWIW, most women I know prefer steel frames.

    Good luck and have fun.
     
  3. CameronJ

    CameronJ Stunt Coordinator

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    Lisel,
    Moutain bikes are just like home theater, if you buy without trying you're setting yourself up for disappointment.
    That being said, if you are looking to spend $600 on a hardtail, you should be able to get a very nice bike with good components. I'm not familiar with the bikes you mention, but be aware that Fisher is owned by Trek, and I'm not sure how different their hardtail lines are.
    Do your local bike shops have other bikes in stock from the same manufacturers? Sometimes the only difference between models may be components, if that's the case you should be able to get a good feel for the frame before ordering.
    I'm assuming when you say you want to ride in "dry forest" and your in NJ that you are going to be riding on some fairly well defined trails (I'm thinking specifically of some of the rails-to-trails trails). Here's my thoughts.
    First, get a good idea of the type of frame material you want. While there are a number of options, I'd look at steel or aluminum. Personally I'm a much bigger fan of steel, as it gives a more comfortable, compliant ride. Make sure however that any frame is cro-moly, and not just designated as "steel." Aluminum is much stiffer, which results in more power going instantly to the pedals and a harsher ride.
    Secondly, frame size and geometry. It's critical to find a bike that fits you well. Things like top tube length and standover height are key. While you can lengthen (or shorten) your riding position by swapping out stems, this changes the handling of the bike. Most people tend to pick-out mountain bikes that are too big for them. Make sure you have at least 3 inches of clearance between top tube and crotch when standing over the bike.
    Third, components. In your price range, you should be able to get a name brand fork (manitou, rock shock) from the lower end of their lines. I wouldn't be too concerned with the shock you get as long as its from one of these two brands. I think you should be able to get Shimano Deore level components at this price point (you may see an LX or two, which is fine). Deore is really Shimano's lowest real group, anything else is heavy and not worth your time.
    Wow, did I babble on long enough for you? I'd check http://www.mtbreview.com for specific thoughts on the bikes your looking at, although I always take these reviews with a grain of salt. Also, I hope my price thoughts are on track, as I haven't been paying attention to prices for a couple of years.
    Hope this helps.
     
  4. Lisel

    Lisel Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for your responses; they do help. I've not yet changed my profile but I moved from Jersey and am now living in Puerto Rico, which does have a dry forest ("bosque seco") in Guánica, in the south. Visit this site to see it and other places to ride. The text is in Spanish though.
    I was hoping to try the bikes out but as I said, they don't have them. The only Blast one shop has is 19" -- I think I'd need a 13- or 14-incher. Still, I will go to the shops to see and try what they do have.
    The Trek and Fisher bikes I mentioned are specifically for women, while the Kona isn't. Does this truly make a difference or is it a marketing gimmick? I didn't realize Trek owned Fisher. In comparing the two bikes it seems to me that the latter has better (Deore) components. In case it'll help, here are the manufacturers' pages: Tassajara GS, Blast, 4900 WSD
    Lisel
     
  5. Alex Prosak

    Alex Prosak Supporting Actor

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    When they say a bike is made for a woman it's typically a gimmick. The only reason they say that is they make the frames a bit smaller and use colors a woman is more likely to buy. Whether or not the actual frame sizes are different from the "mens" bikes I can't say for sure but I doubt they are. Maybe they'll call it Medium instead of 14".
     
  6. CameronJ

    CameronJ Stunt Coordinator

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    Those specs help.
    If I was buying a bike for my wife, I'd go for drivetrain components over fork. Price being equal, that puts the Fisher in the lead (all Deore, with I think the lowest level Manitou fork). The other two have slightly better forks, with a compromise in the drivetrain (mix of Deore and Alivio components).
    My spanish definitely needs some work, but from what I could interpret and the pictures (thank goodness for pictures), this type of bike should work just fine for you.
    Most manufacturers make a couple of changes in their women's frames. First, the frames are smaller. Secondly, as most women are longer in the leg and shorter in the torso (proportionally) than men, the top tube lengths are also shorter. What this change in the ratio of lengths does is change the geometry of the bike, which then changes the way it handles. This means that if you like a particular bike in a men's 16, you might not like the women's version (or vice versa). Obviously I'm not talking about women's frames with the severly sloping or curved top-tube [​IMG] (which really are gimmicks), but true mountain bikes sized and fit for women.
    All that being said, it's still a matter of preference. If you prefer the ride of the non-women's specific bike, than that's the one for you.
    Contrary to my own advice, I've actually purchased two bikes sight-unseen (great deals). One I couldn't be happier with, and the other I can't seem to get dialed-in right.
     
  7. Jody C Robins

    Jody C Robins Stunt Coordinator

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    You can also purchase used bikes from mtbreview.com. That is where I got my bike, and also two of my friends got their's. It's definitely worth a shot, as bike seem to be like cars in that they depreciate the moment you take them out of the store...so you can get a lot more bike for your money used.
     
  8. Andrej Dolenc

    Andrej Dolenc Stunt Coordinator

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    A lot of good advice already stated, especially mtbr.com. There's tons of info there, active forum with lots of users.

    What I would recommend is at least trying a similar bike if you can't get the same bike to try. Even if it's a higher end model with better components (and higher price) it might give you a feel for what each of the bikes is like. Specifically, how you feel pedaling the bike. When I was trying mountain bikes some bikes felt great riding (Fishers) some less so (Trek & Cannondale - I felt very cramped and hunched over on those).

    Then I rode a Klein and the bike basically sold itself on the test ride.

    Andrej
     
  9. Tim Kilbride

    Tim Kilbride Stunt Coordinator

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    I've got a Cannondale M500 and love it. Liteweight, easy to ride, good durable build and fit...got it at a pawn shop for $150...the guy didn't know anything about bikes...
    My .02
    Tim K.
    [​IMG]
     
  10. Dan Keefe

    Dan Keefe Second Unit

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    Lisel,

    I wouldn't rule out Specialized. I have had a Stumpjumper for 5 years now and it rocks. After getting my cheap plug in, I will also tell you not to buy a bike sight inseen. Most "good" bike shops will let you take the bike out for the weekend for a small deposit that you can put toward your bike. All three choices you have are great bikes, If possible, try them out. You will be able to figure out much better which bike fits you

    dan
     

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