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Beginners bikes

supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
edited January 2014 in MTB beginners
One of the most common questions from beginners on a budget is 'how much shall I spend' or 'what is the minimum I should be looking at'? The componentry levels on bikes are often confusing to many, where certain parts can look very similar from one to another but yet can have a big impact on performance and longevity. The most important factor is fit and comfort which is where testing comes in, but this does not always give a full picture of the bike and how it may last.

I think for general mountain biking, the following features should be considered: (aimed at buyers spending less than 400 quid)

- Alloy hardtail frame. Full suspension at the lower end of the market (sub 300 and even upto 500 quid) is heavily compromised. Its very heavy, undamped, poor bearings and pulls down the spec elsewhere. Steel frames at this level are often mild steel and are 2 or 3 pounds heavier than an alloy frame.

- Suspension fork with alloy crown and one piece lowers. Cheap pressed steel lowers and crowns flex badly. Preload adjusters are a good feature to help set sag and ride height for differing weights, but most important is a hydraulic damping circuit. This controls the energy input into the fork, and adds grip and control.

- Compact crankset (42/32/22). Many entry level bikes have larger chainrings (48/38/28) from cheaper groupsets. This doesn't allow a very low gear and is often over geared for the terrain a MTB will be used on. Replacable chainrings are a bonus.

- 8 speed freehub. 8 gears from a cassette and freehub gives a better spread than some 7spd screw on freewheels, often 11-32 teeth rather than 14-28. Also this allows the bearings to be spaced further in the hub, allowing a stronger rear wheel/axle. Shimano make the best budget 8 speed set ups.

- Cartridge bottom bracket. Old adjustable cup and cone bottom brackets are poorly sealed and are prone to coming loose.

- 32 or 36 spoked wheels. Lots of beginners MTBs are coming with fancy 'paired' spokes, or 24 bladed ones, purely for looks. They use heavy rims, are poorly constructed and are not worth it compared to standard wheels. Look for stainless spokes if possible, and sealed alloy hubs with quick release axles.

- Alloy components. If possible, ask about the seatpost and bars. Alloy units save some weight, and are more comfortable.

- Brakes and levers. Make sure the levers aren't plastic as they flex badly. Cable disc brakes stop better in the wet but usually add cost. Don't go for discs over other essential features.

- Aheadset or threadless headset. Much better bearings and more reliable than the older quill stem and threaded headset.

Many bikes for 300 pounds now have all these features! Don't be afraid to ask for a saddle swap if they are uncomfortable, and enquire about the quality of the tyres..
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