So you're thinking about taking up Mountain Biking -
Part 1 - Considering Buying a Bike
YOUR STARTER FOR TEN
In this article we’ll look at getting ready to select your first appropriate bike. The second part will help you both select your bike, and also understand some of the jargon and ‘stuff’ that will surround bike choice for you up to getting your leg over a bike for the first time. Part three, we'll look at what to do once you are ready to go and making a start on riding.
So: a few things about mountainbiking to get you started:
- It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but it can do if you want it to
- Beware bike shop sales people, and especially those in retailers that don’t specialise in bikes
- Seek advice – well done, good start, you’re already looking about by finding this article
- Be curious, investigative, resourceful, and above all, question.
In this article we’ll deal with whether you need a bike and advice on buying if you decide to.
Don’t rush out and buy a bike straight away. You need to decide why you want to ride, where you want to ride and how often, alongside what your budget is too.
WHY DO YOU WANT TO RIDE?
This will influence many of your decisions right from the start.
- If it’s social, then you don't necessarily need a fancy bike, more a bike that will enable you to join in with other people, perhaps in a club. Talk to your local club, and get their advice on a first bike, or they may have bikes to borrow.
- Have you been reading magazines and watching films and decided that you want some of the adventure to be had from this amazing and varied activity? Then do some more research (reading parts 2 and 3?) to help you match your enthusiasm, pocket and to find yourself the perfect bike for what you want to ride.
- Are you joining your mates in biking? Then tap into both their knowledge of bikes and you, and work with them to help find the perfect match.
- Do you see biking as an opportunity to get fitter? Then you have come to the right sport, and you just need to try it.
what's your motivation?
AN HONEST APPRAISAL
So with some thought about why you want to ride, be honest with yourself about what you want to ride and if possible, how realistic that might be. You may aspire to ride the world cup downhill route at Fort William, but really? After a month’s riding? If you’re determined to develop your riding, and aspire to big stuff, then by all means invest in a new fancy bike that will initially be more capable than you, but I would suggest a little caution to anyone about to invest in a new bike.
What do you want to achieve?
ROUTES TO GETTING SAT ON A BIKE ON A TRAIL SOMEWHERE
There are numerous, and many are obviously related to the answers to the questions above. Going with your mates? – borrow a bike, setting out to become a trail god as fast as possible? – employ a coach and use one of their bikes etc. but here are a few things to consider:
Do you need a new bike? – if your budget is reasonable, and you’d like to get out a couple of times a month if possible (or more) and you aspire to ride something rougher than canal towpaths, then you could do a lot worse than a second hand ex-hire bike from a trail centre. This will have been used, and so will be reduced in cost, but it should have been well maintained. Often there is also the advantage of being able to hire the bike beforehand to try it out to see if it suits you, and you can also try to get the hire price taken off the sale price if you decide you do like it.
Go on a quiet day and you should be able to expect a little time with the mechanic choosing the best size and design appropriate to your aspirations. My first proper mountainbike was an ex-hire from Glen Tress and it was awesome; it’s still going; I saw it for sale again a few months back. Another advantage of the trail centre hire shop is also the availability of group rides organised by local coaches, who can help you make an informed decision on your purchase too.
Buying second hand elsewhere comes with the same opportunities and pitfalls as it does with any other mechanical purchase. Person to person is definitely the way forward. E-bay for instance, buying without seeing has too many pitfalls to be recommended for the first bike.
So finally, if you’re flush with cash and want the best bike you can get and aren’t afraid to splash a wad on a new steed, then you should still be aware of a couple of things:
- Your own enthusiasm
YOUR OWN ENTHUSIASM
You've done your research and you have a positive picture of yourself at the end of a trail having ridden something amazing, and you pick your steed from the pages of a magazine to suit your image. If it's based on a magazine article then it's likely you're looking at a purchase from a large dealer.
The advantage of buying from a dealer is that many of them will have the same bike for hire as for sale, and so you can try it out, and get the hire cost taken from the cost of the purchase if you decide to buy – a good move if you have the option.
Other good options for a bargain new bike (but without some of the advantages of the shop) are the on-line only sales companies such as Vitus, Canyon, and Rose all of whom produce amazing bikes at incredible prices.
There are also demo days, where suppliers and manufacturers will bring their latest bikes to a trail centre for anyone to try. A manufacturer will often give very good advice on which level of bike you should try, and what size.
To your advantage is the fact that you can buy a brand new bike from a dealer at sometimes up to 2/3 the price of the latest version just by purchasing last year’s model. It can sometimes be as simple as accepting a red bike over a blue bike and saving £hundreds. Take a look at the specifications and although there may be differences, unless the design changes significantly from one year to the next, then you rarely lose out buying last year's model.
A bit more adventurous?
ASPIRATION AND REALITY
Let's face it; a bike that has wheels and can be both powered up and along as well as stopped appropriately can be ridden on most trails. The skill is in selecting one that will last a reasonable period of time, will consistently stop and go at your will, and one that will be comfortable and controllable in the environment you wish to go, and maybe fairly efficient.
A final word about practicality. The best bike for a type of terrain isn't necessarily the only one that can be ridden on it. Simpler, heavier, less 'flash' and cheaper bikes will get you out and about in the hills, so don't get trapped into buying a super-steed unnecessarily.
DESTINED FOR A ‘PROPER’ MOUNTAINBIKE -
So how much are we talking about here?
If you're looking for a ‘proper’ mountainbike, then beware that you won’t find much for less than £500 (we’re talking new here), and then until you get around the £1000 mark you need to be quite careful. But remember that this is more related to the use of one of these bikes, and your aspiration.
So we’ll finish this first article by asking the questions again that are most pertinent to your choice; Why do you want to ride? On what terrain do you intend to ride? What’s your budget? – spend a little time on this, and it will be well worth it, and when you have your answers, then move on to part 2 – selecting the right bike for you.