Roadie getting a mountain bike, lots of questions

Jun 18, 2009
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Been many, many years since I've owned mountain bike. I've decided to pick one up but the choices are confusing (29er, hard tail, full suspension).

I'm looking at doing mostly single track riding. From what I can tell, 29ers seem to be the hot item with many people suggesting going with a hard tail. Good choice? What I would I miss by not having a rear suspension? How much travel does a front fork need?

I'm also confused by mountain bike fit. I'm 6' tall with a 33" inseam. I ride, for the most part, 56cm road frames. When I look at the dimensions for a mountain bike, I'm especially confused by top tube length. In general, a 56cm road frame will have about a 56cm top tube (give or take and virtual of course for sloping top tubes). But the frame sizes I think would fit (around 20"), seem to have super long top tube measurements. Is this measurement not comparable to a road bike?

Thanks.
 
Feb 10, 2010
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Full suspension depends on your determination to suffer and local conditions. Full suspension makes descending everything more fun especially if your descending skills are not excellent, but the added weight is a penalty. A F/S-lighter bike is much more money too. So, if you don't have the budget don't worry about it and just go hardtail.

29ers are the current fashion trend with the 650b replacing that. For you, a 29er would work okay because you are tall enough that the design concept works.

Top tube lengths grow and shrink for no particular reason other than to make something different.

As far as fork travel goes, more is better, but the bike gets heavier as the fork travel gets longer. 100mm is good enough travel. Get a thru-axle fork

For me, the key to good mountain bike fit is the ability to move around on the bike. You need to be able to slide off the back of the seat, do wheelies and such. The bar height needs to be much higher than your road bike. Get the bars above the nose of the saddle for maximum handling. I know some will disagree, but it's a fun-maximizing setup, not racer setup.
 
Jul 17, 2009
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I'm both a roadie and a mountain bike guy.

my advice may not be like others here.

Try not to fit or size a mountain bike like you world a road bike. Long top tubes and stems lead to frames that are too big and long and handling that is twitchy on slow climbs and pushing the front end at speed cornering. shorten up the stem and widen the bars imho so the bike handles well and you can maneuver it under you. I run 50mm or 70mm stems and allow fit to more vertical reach than horizontal. 711 to 730mm bars on the smallest frame i can. but i am really a nut job. I love how 29 rolls and climbs but want the center as low as possible on the descents.

Full suspension is a trade off. where one might not like the weight or the bob effect climbing, the added squish in the rear can get you over some stuff on the climb up and down side. Sometimes when you are on that slow tech climb maxed out finally at anaerobic you might like and need that little give that might otherwise stall a HT.

Also if considering either Hard Tail opt for the larger seat post diameter. (not 27.2) the hydro adjustable posts change the riding experience IMHO

I am not one to suggest 29 is just hype. I think it is more a question of height. as a big guy I like the 29 because I can build the smallest possible frame around the wheels rather than having the biggest frame on small wheels. the wheels tend to roll better over obsticles too but that is debatable and just my feeling. Hardtail with 29 wheels will put more tire surface on the road and be less jaring than a 26 ht.

most roadies converting to MtnBiking like the hardtail option. but think long and hard about what you want to do on your bike and the time in the4 saddle. if you are just a typical roadie strava guy and all you care about are numbers and mashing fitness blah blah go with hardtail the rear suspension will frustrate you regardless of lock out options. However if you are going to spend more time in the saddle than a strava quest then fully is my recommendation because of the added comfort and handling on rough trails. and the further you get out on your bike the rougher it gets.
 
Jan 13, 2010
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Modern mountain bike top tubes are longer by definition than those of comparably sized road bikes. Given the style of bike (trail, cross-country, all-mountain, downhill, etc.) and size, cockpit geometry among various models will be surprisingly similar. The extra length is compensated for by using shorter stems and a handlebar that has no forward reach.

Regardless, your hands are going to be higher and closer in. You might be relieved to find that the rules for correct positioning on a mountain bike are meant to be broken, or at least bent. You'll see more differentiation in the way the bikes handle, the effects of fork rake and offset and rear suspension technology.

At 6', you will most likely be on a large (19-20").
 
Jul 18, 2010
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Unlike road bikes, MTB fit is determined by top tube length. Inseams and such are inconsequential.

Everybody initially thought 29ers were going to rewrite the history books but the 650Bs have short-circuited that. As a rule, all other factors being equal, larger diameter wheels will roll smoother over the same spot of ground, lessening the benefits of (and need for) suspension. But a larger diameter wheel also (generally) means a longer contact patch. A longer contact patch lends to (directional) stability, but stability and nimbleness tend to work at crossed purposes. 650Bs are large enough in diameter to give the majority of the ride-softening of a 29er but have a shorter contact patch and so are nearer to the nimbleness of handling of the old 650Cs.

I'm a couple of cm taller than you and I wouldn't consider going with a 29er except in a hardtail or softtail (in fact I'm thinking very seriously about a 29er softtail as my next MTB). Based on admittedly limited test rides, I just think a non-full suspension frame (hardtail/softtail) is a better application of the benefits of the 29" wheels. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't also consider a 650B hardtail. The older I get, the more I find I'm willing to accept the weight and expense penalties of FS, but every time I get back on a HT, I'm reminded of the fact that no rear suspension is entirely without cost and compromise. The dividing line between the 650B and the 29er, IMHO, comes down to how much of your riding will be in the tight twisties, real singletrack.
 
Jun 18, 2009
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Thanks everyone, great info.

I did stop at an LBS near my work and get a chance to ride a few bikes. I first started off on a few hard tails. They felt good but you still have to get off the saddle when the back wheel comes of an obstacle.

I was about to leave when the guy helping me, suggested I try a FS bike. I said sure why not, and I'm super glad I did. I can't see doing a hard tail after trying one out.

Are there any components that you'd stay away from? All of the bikes are either SRAM or shimano (2x10 for the ones I tried) and various shocks that I don't know anything about.
 
I'd personally go with a hardtail. The riding is very different to road riding and you will be more likely to develop better skills riding a hardtail.

You mentioned having to get out of the saddle over obstacles on a HT as the back wheel comes down, realistically you should be doing that on an FS too. Your knees are the best suspension you have available to you and they should be doing a lot of the work, not relying on the rear shock.

In terms of wheel size I'm undecided apart from the fact I wouldn't recommend 29ers. Giant are dropping them and I think you'll see a lot of other people doing the same. 650b does look like it'll take off, and the cost is similar to that of 26", but 26" has been around for a long time and the parts to fit are available and cheap. Not knowing your budget it's hard to recommend though.

If you're riding bikes with 2X10 I'm guessing they are all running at least a low level rockshox fork (cheaper bikes tend to still be triples over here, which I actually prefer). There's a large number of forks and most bikes you see will be rockshox or fox, it's worth reading about them on the internet. Some have failings but as long as they are serviced regularly anything from those guys should be fine. I'd stay away from Suntour, some are good but they are very variable.

If you go FS I'd say 120mm at the back and 140mm up front would be fine for pretty much anything you could throw at it, even most downhill routes.

Size-wise you sound pretty much the same as me. I'm on a 19" hardtail. I wouldn't go below 18" and I'd want a good bumpy ride on a 20" to make sure it was OK for me.

Shimano Vs Sram, from the guys I ride with, is down to personal choice. Both seem to perform perfectly well. Shimano parts are still easier to get hold of though if you are away from home and need something (although casettes, chains and chainrings are interchangeable between the two brands). If I had to plump for one particular drivetrain it'd be Shimano SLX, I think it's the best bang for your buck.
 
Jul 10, 2010
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Well, looks like you've already done the deed - bought the new horse for the stable - cool. So I may be a little late, but I have one thing to add to all the very good advice here: for when you have a question like this - it can be a very good strategy to find a cheaper used bike on Craigslist or your local 4 sale, whatever it may be. That way you can get back into the characteristics of what you will be doing more gradually, instead of committing to components you may end up being less satisfied with.

I can pick something up used for half the price of new (or less if I shop smart), then take it out and bend it without guilt. I can also buy a cheaper version that will work amongst the used offerings - but is less than I would buy new. Save even more bucks to get on the road. I figure out what works - and what I have fun doing. Like DH and FS - I won't be doing serious DH - so I don't "need" FS - etc.
 
hiero2 said:
Well, looks like you've already done the deed - bought the new horse for the stable - cool. So I may be a little late, but I have one thing to add to all the very good advice here: for when you have a question like this - it can be a very good strategy to find a cheaper used bike on Craigslist or your local 4 sale, whatever it may be. That way you can get back into the characteristics of what you will be doing more gradually, instead of committing to components you may end up being less satisfied with.

I can pick something up used for half the price of new (or less if I shop smart), then take it out and bend it without guilt. I can also buy a cheaper version that will work amongst the used offerings - but is less than I would buy new. Save even more bucks to get on the road. I figure out what works - and what I have fun doing. Like DH and FS - I won't be doing serious DH - so I don't "need" FS - etc.
Good advice, but some of the savings on last years bikes are nearly as much as you'll get second hand. I got 50% off my bike. That would mean someone selling it second-hand would probably have to take a £600 drop in the price they paid.

For the extra I get a brand new bike with all the relevant guarantees. Worth it in my opinion.
 
Jun 18, 2009
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hiero2 said:
Well, looks like you've already done the deed - bought the new horse for the stable - cool. So I may be a little late, but I have one thing to add to all the very good advice here: for when you have a question like this - it can be a very good strategy to find a cheaper used bike on Craigslist or your local 4 sale, whatever it may be. That way you can get back into the characteristics of what you will be doing more gradually, instead of committing to components you may end up being less satisfied with.

I can pick something up used for half the price of new (or less if I shop smart), then take it out and bend it without guilt. I can also buy a cheaper version that will work amongst the used offerings - but is less than I would buy new. Save even more bucks to get on the road. I figure out what works - and what I have fun doing. Like DH and FS - I won't be doing serious DH - so I don't "need" FS - etc.
I haven't purchased anything yet. And yes, looking at used bikes right now. New doesn't mean anything to me.
 
May 7, 2009
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King Boonen said:
......In terms of wheel size I'm undecided apart from the fact I wouldn't recommend 29ers. Giant are dropping them and I think you'll see a lot of other people doing the same. ....
I'm curious to hear more about this. I don't have a 29er but the subject interests me
 
Nov 8, 2012
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I'm relatively new to the MTB scene. I've been a roadie since my first knee surgery in 1982.

A little over a year ago, for some unknown reason, I discovered mountain biking. I've always had one.... I just didn't ride it. I was invited by some euro friends to do a MTB Grand Fondo last year so I thought I better get acclimated. And what do you know.... It's so much freaking fun, I'm only upset I have just now figured this out.

So... I ended up on a HT 29er based on the recommendations of others as I had no idea what would work for me. I'm a little taller than you. The 29er is the ticket for sure. I feel now that I made a mistake buying a HT. Having ridden other FS 29ers varying from 120mm to 140mm travel I will gladly give up the weight for the suspension.

I should add, the only competitive MTB I will likely ever do is he odd enduro. No plans to compete really, certainly not XC.

Depends on what you are planning to do of course, but if its mostly fun and less about competing I would recommend a FS 29er in the 120 to 140 range. Probably 140 getting the nod. You will simply have more fun.

Oh, I should also add, the SRAM XX1 group set is pretty friggn cool.
 
Nov 8, 2012
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King Boonen said:
I'd personally go with a hardtail. The riding is very different to road riding and you will be more likely to develop better skills riding a hardtail.

You mentioned having to get out of the saddle over obstacles on a HT as the back wheel comes down, realistically you should be doing that on an FS too. Your knees are the best suspension you have available to you and they should be doing a lot of the work, not relying on the rear shock.

In terms of wheel size I'm undecided apart from the fact I wouldn't recommend 29ers. Giant are dropping them and I think you'll see a lot of other people doing the same. 650b does look like it'll take off, and the cost is similar to that of 26", but 26" has been around for a long time and the parts to fit are available and cheap. Not knowing your budget it's hard to recommend though.

If you're riding bikes with 2X10 I'm guessing they are all running at least a low level rockshox fork (cheaper bikes tend to still be triples over here, which I actually prefer). There's a large number of forks and most bikes you see will be rockshox or fox, it's worth reading about them on the internet. Some have failings but as long as they are serviced regularly anything from those guys should be fine. I'd stay away from Suntour, some are good but they are very variable.

If you go FS I'd say 120mm at the back and 140mm up front would be fine for pretty much anything you could throw at it, even most downhill routes.

Size-wise you sound pretty much the same as me. I'm on a 19" hardtail. I wouldn't go below 18" and I'd want a good bumpy ride on a 20" to make sure it was OK for me.

Shimano Vs Sram, from the guys I ride with, is down to personal choice. Both seem to perform perfectly well. Shimano parts are still easier to get hold of though if you are away from home and need something (although casettes, chains and chainrings are interchangeable between the two brands). If I had to plump for one particular drivetrain it'd be Shimano SLX, I think it's the best bang for your buck.
Is it not the 26" that's dropped? I don't think 29ers are going away.
 
Deagol said:
I'm curious to hear more about this. I don't have a 29er but the subject interests me
I've ridden a couple and can honestly say I felt no benefit over 26" wheels. Now it may be I'm not good enough to feel it but I personally think you're better off getting the bike that suits you rather than limiting yourself to a particular wheel size. That said, I recommend against 29ers because Giant are dropping them and I can see them becoming a niche product again with replacement parts and upgrades making them costly to run with little to no benefit for the average rider. This won't happen with 26" wheels, there are too many people already riding them and it's a brave manufacturer who drops their 26" fork production for example.

The main problem I've heard about with 29ers is wheel flex, not something I have experience of but I've been told by a couple of guys they had real problems when the trails started getting more vertical.


The other thing for me, and the overriding factor at the end of the day, is the stated benefits are of no interest to me. I don't want better roll over, I like having to work to find a good line and I'm not trying to beat my best times so I'm never looking to go faster on the flat and uphill.

At the end of the day people having been riding much bigger trails than me on much worse equipment for years and doing it much better than I probably ever will. They would have killed to have the basic suspension offered by the rockshox XC forks and low-end Shimano Deore drive-chain that currently adorns my bike.

When I can afford it I'll be after a more all-mountain/enduro-style FS, like the La Pierre Zesty or Genesis Grapil, but until then I'm pretty sure If I can't ride something I'm the problem not my bike.



To the OP, I find that with mountain bikes it is much more important to ride it than with road bikes before you buy it. You can be fitted to a road-bike and if you know your measurements you'll be pretty certain of a comfortable ride.

With a mountain bike you'll be out of the saddle, hanging over the back wheel, leaning over the handle bars and back in the saddle all in the space of 30 seconds or less at times. Have a bike you feel comfortable moving around on is very important. Think of it as a cone of movement with the tip at the bottom of the seat tube, when you test it get out of the saddle and move around, track stand and lean the bike and put the saddle down so you can get out over the back wheel to check it feels OK.

Oh, and buy some decent flats and 5:10's :D
 
Scott SoCal said:
Is it not the 26" that's dropped? I don't think 29ers are going away.
26 are getting dropped for 650b yes, although a couple of bikes remain at 26". They are planning to phase out 29ers though over the next couple of years.

http://m.bikemag.com/gear/news-giant-goes-big-with-27-5/

26" can't and won't disappear, purely because of the number of bikes that are currently riding on them. If you buy a 26 now you'll always be able to upgrade parts and the likelihood is that if they do ever disappear it'll be long after you have replaced your bike. Can't see it happening though.

29ers, however were forced upon riders by magazines and the industry and they are now blowing the 650b trumpet. I know they work for some people, I'm not saying they don't, but the majority of people who bought them seem to be people who are new to mountain biking and were buying at the lower end. If a company wants to kill off it's 29er line it'll not suffer much if at all.

I'm sure fox and RS will still make forks and things, they'll just be priced as you would expect for a niche product.

My own views of course but the sentiment is the same as many people I have spoken to while out riding.
 
Mar 10, 2009
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Just purchased a 29 Trek Superfly 100. I went FS for my old back. This bike is so much better at everything any of my previous 26ers ever did but climbing is beyond outstanding in comparison. I bought my first MTB in the 80's. Never tried a 650 but the 29er is the Schitt. I gave my XTR Fuji to my wife and she loves it. Just hope she doesn't ride bigger wheels anytime soon :)
I ride in BC so lots of wet roots, steep climbs, tight twisty single track (does require a little more finess to negotiate u turns. The bike rolls over so many things that stop my 26 cold.
 
May 7, 2009
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I am glad I am not in the market for a new MTB right now, too many choices..
I hope the industry comes to a consensus on wheel size before I do want a new MTB.
 
Jul 10, 2010
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King Boonen said:
Good advice, but some of the savings on last years bikes are nearly as much as you'll get second hand. I got 50% off my bike. That would mean someone selling it second-hand would probably have to take a £600 drop in the price they paid.

For the extra I get a brand new bike with all the relevant guarantees. Worth it in my opinion.
2nd hand or new - it is always wise to look around when you shop. So if you saw a 3 yr old Abfabulous multi-function low-rise adjustable-wheel-size unit for sale - you should check out what's available new, yes? But, yeah, when I buy used, I don't look in super great detail at all the possibilities, and I do consider if maybe I can get last year's model at the LBS. And the used price should still be the best - or I don't buy it. There are people selling used who think "well I paid xx" means something more than it does. So, if you are saying - it pays to be aware - you are right, and I agree.
 
Jun 10, 2009
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richwagmn said:
Any feedback on one of these? http://salsacycles.com/bikes/spearfish_2

Finding a few on clearance right now. Frame warranty seems pretty lame.

Also, using the rear stays to flex instead of having a rear pivot might be risky?
Don't buy something without having ridden it first. Different suspension designs ride quite differently, and changes in geometry make huge differences in handling. Demo as many differen things as you can, and go on some group rides to find out what others in your neck of the woods like and don't like. Work out what you like before shopping on price alone.
There are quite a few designs out there with flex stays, and the salsa unlike some others don't have a particular reputation for breaking.
 
Jun 18, 2009
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dsut4392 said:
Don't buy something without having ridden it first. Different suspension designs ride quite differently, and changes in geometry make huge differences in handling. Demo as many differen things as you can, and go on some group rides to find out what others in your neck of the woods like and don't like. Work out what you like before shopping on price alone.
There are quite a few designs out there with flex stays, and the salsa unlike some others don't have a particular reputation for breaking.
I've been looking at and riding so many different bikes... far, far more choices than when picking up a road bike.

What role does standover play in frame sizing (I realize it's primarily top tube length)? I've had people say when between sizes go with the smaller frame for the shorter standover.

Also bikes with say 120mm of front travel obviously sit higher than those with 100mm of travel.

Should I have some minimum amount of clearance?
 
Jun 10, 2009
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richwagmn said:
I've been looking at and riding so many different bikes... far, far more choices than when picking up a road bike.

What role does standover play in frame sizing (I realize it's primarily top tube length)? I've had people say when between sizes go with the smaller frame for the shorter standover.

Also bikes with say 120mm of front travel obviously sit higher than those with 100mm of travel.

Should I have some minimum amount of clearance?
As long as you have 'enough' standover on both frames, the right one for you depends on your preferred handling characteristics. Like a road bike, you should always size first based on top tube length/reach. Remember, the standover height only comes into play when you're standing still, i.e. not riding it!.

As you've probably noticed, a smaller frame (i.e. shorter reach) will generally feel more playful, and it will be easier to move your weight backwards/forwards as you move over different terrain. You might find it easier to get air, pump the dips and bumps, and switchbacks and tight singletrack can be easier to negotiate. On the down side, you sacrifice some high-speed stability and long distance comfort. You may find it hard to get your weight back far enough for steep descents without scraping your backside on the rear wheel, or forward far enough for steep climbs without feeling cramped up in a ball. I usually prefer the larger frame myself, but it's a choice you have to make for yourself.

As long as you can dismount comfortably in a controlled stop on mostly flat terrain, the standover clearance is 'enough' in my book. In any emergency dismount, it's safer to lay the bike down and bail out off the side, unless you like introducing Mr Ball to Mr Stem:eek:

While it is obviously true that on the same bike a 120mm fork will raise the BB/standover compared to a 100mm fork, when comparing different frame designs you really need to check the geometry chart. Radically sloped and bent top tubes are the norm in longer travel bikes to mitigate standover issues. For example, a modern '650B FS 160mm Enduro(TM)' bike will generally have more clearance than a XC hardtail with 80mm fork from 10 years ago.

On the positive side of the choice dilemma, there are so many great bikes around that you're bound to find something that 'feels right' to you. Much more so than with road bikes, 'the sizing numbers' are only a starting point, and you really can size up or down depending on what you like.
 

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