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Bike advice for new rider needed!

Mrs ToastMrs Toast Posts: 636
edited August 2007 in MTB beginners
I'm after my first 'proper' mountain bike, and I'm having trouble trying to decide what to go for - I was hoping you fine folks could point me in the right direction. First, a few facts about me:

1) I'm a woman. A very short woman (5ft 2). With short legs...

2) My knees are fairly battered - the left one's been operated on twice, the right one is due to be sorted next year. So that, combined with the fact I'm not very confident on a bike (yet!) and also need to get my fitness up first, means that I'll probably won't be doing anything too extreme.

3) I'm looking for a mid-range bike - I don't want anything too cheap, because if I really get into this biking lark I know I'll just end up having to buy something decent. On the other hand, I don't need anything too fancy at the moment.

Should I restrict my search to women-specific bikes, or should I keep an open mind? Should I go hardtail or full suspension? Are there any models I should avoid like the plague? Is there anywhere where I can try a range of different brands and models before I buy?



  • GT-DaveGT-Dave Posts: 1,441
    Start with a hardtail and build up your confidence and skills.
    No, don't stick to women specific bikes as there is generally a much narrower range available.
    Do you have a budget in mind? With regards to testing bikes out, where are you based?
  • Mrs ToastMrs Toast Posts: 636
    Thanks for the advice! I was veering towards a hardtail, because I think I could get a much better bike for the money (certainly a much lighter one), and as I've said, I'm not planning on embarking on anything too extreme.

    As for budget, I was thinking of around the £500 mark. I'm based in Leamington in Warwickshire, but my mother lives just by Cannock Chase, which is handy (no Follow the Dog for quite yet though!). I know there's a bike hire place there, but I'm not sure how wide their range of bikes is.
  • Andy BAndy B Posts: 8,115
    This topic should be of some use to you.

    Hardtail is the way to got for £500, the Carrera Fury is one of the best £500 bikes around at the mo, but no womens specific version, saying that it could well fit you spot on.

    Have a look at the topic I linked to, & go test some of the bikes, it's the only way to tell which is right for you.
  • Big n DaftBig n Daft Posts: 418
    The cycle shop at the start of FTD iirc stock mainly,

    Trek, Giant and Gary Fisher bikes.

    Decent enough stock range to be fair, good helpful staff and lots of other bits and bobs to browse too!
    Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia. ~H.G. Wells ... 3Small.jpg
  • passoutpassout Posts: 4,425
    You can't go wrong with Trek - a safe bet.
    'Happiness serves hardly any other purpose than to make unhappiness possible' Marcel Proust.
  • Big n DaftBig n Daft Posts: 418

    Looking at the OP, Fury is out of the equation as it only comes in 18 & 20" flavours.

    Think we need to be looking at 14" or maybe 16" frames.

    Any idea of an inside leg measurement Mrs. Toast? (If that's not a personal question)

    You need to be looking at 2" clearance minimum on the top tube when stood astride the bike.

    Take the frame size, add 12" for the BB to ground clearance and this will be your standover height.

    For example, 18" frame + 12" ground clearance + 2" clearance = 32" inside leg measurement.

    14" frame brings that down to 28"
    Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia. ~H.G. Wells ... 3Small.jpg
  • My missus is 5' 3" and I think her GT is a 12.5" frame (?), the seat stay and top tube are more or less in line, though the top tube bends up to meet the seat tube, providing lots of clearance.
    She certainly wouldn't want anything smaller and I did fit a higher rise stem to make it a bit more comfortable and upright for her, but then she is quite the novice.
    Wheelies ARE cool.

    Zaskar X
  • BetabobBetabob Posts: 11
    MBUK magazine did a great article on sub £500 bikes a few issues ago and there are more options than you'd think. I spent years on a halfords bought Carrera Kraken SE - learned how to ride and finished off punishing it really really hard, it never gave in. The current Carerra Kraken is a solid option, but I'd also suggest having a look at some of the past season bikes ('04-'06) from the likes of Giant, Specialised and Kona for some great deals on bikes that really haven't changed a lot.

    I picked up my £1500 Kona for under £800 because it was the '05 model (still brand new), so do shop around.

    only 1 big piece of advice, try before you buy! Some frame sizes feel totally different than the equivalent size in another model. Get on one and make sure it feels comfortable before you hand over cash.

    Best of luck,
  • StxsasStxsas Posts: 25
    Big n Daft wrote:

    Looking at the OP, Fury is out of the equation as it only comes in 18 & 20" flavours.

    Nope there is indeed a 16" Frame Lookie
    Perhaps as you said the Fury might not be the most suitable bike.
    I suggest going to a LBS and trying a few out. If you have any doubt on the make or model of the bike you are being sold, simply ask on here and wait for replies.
    Good Luck!
    山地车 - Fury 07
  • Big n DaftBig n Daft Posts: 418

    Well spotted that man!

    Never saw that.

    Still think a 16" will be too big though........ :cry:
    Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia. ~H.G. Wells ... 3Small.jpg
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    Usually a 16 incher is too much for smaller woman to handle, so would probably be better with a smaller one, or even 24inch wheels. As usual, trying is the only way!
  • toastytoasty Posts: 2,598
    supersonic wrote:
    Usually a 16 incher is too much for smaller woman to handle

    Controversial! :shock:

    Actually, on a slightly more sensible note, we're going up to Cannock Chase tomorrow and she's going to try the hire bikes and have a roll around. Gary Fisher Marlins I think. We popped into Halfords today and the only woman specific stuff they really had was a reduced Vulcan, sadly in floaty half arsed blue.
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    Keep trying, you'll get one!
  • Big n DaftBig n Daft Posts: 418
    I know for a fact Halfords do a WSD Kraken.

    Not a bad looking piece of kit, silver grey with muted pink graphics. Cost's around the £330 mark.

    Same spec as the gents one too, which isn't that bad.

    Might be worth a look if all else fails. Your local one should be able to order one in.
    Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia. ~H.G. Wells ... 3Small.jpg
  • Mrs ToastMrs Toast Posts: 636
    Toasty wrote:
    supersonic wrote:
    Usually a 16 incher is too much for smaller woman to handle

    Controversial! :shock:

    Quiet you! :P

    I got a Specialized catalogue from the store in Birmingham, and most of the recommended sizes for a woman of my height were 13" to 15", depending on the model. Mr Toast swears blind by Specialized...apart from the ones in the low end price bracket.

    As Mr Toast mentioned, we're off to Cannock Chase tomorrow, so I'll hopefully get some advice and be able to try out a Trek when we're there. Anything's got to be better than my current bike, which was an £80 Raleigh from Halfords I had to set up myself (and it was the wrong size!). :| Truth be told, as long as my new bike doesn't have gripshift gears, I'll be a happy woman!
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    Mr Toast is very correct about low end Specialized, they are demon spawn lol. Rockhoppers are great though.
  • toastytoasty Posts: 2,598
    The new Specialized Myka things look interesting, in a similar way to this years Rockhopper they've blown 80% of the budget on the frame again:

    Myka M4 manipulated alloy frame, double-butted ORE, Designs for Women geometry, low standover TT(13/15" only)
    RockShox Dart 3 La Femme SL fork, 28.6mm Cr-Mo stanchions with alloy steerer, coil spring, lockout
    Specialized 3D forged alloy stem, four bolt, 7 degree rise
    Specialized alloy butted 31.8mm XC rise bar, 620mm wide, 8 degree back, 8 degree up sweep
    Avid BB-5 mechanical disc brakes, 6" G2 Clean Sweep rotor


    M4 frames are shooting right down the range. Lightish sounding fork, the thinner stanchions wouldn't be quite such an issue on a lady bike, lockout too. Mech brakes but decentish mech brakes I guess.

    These are selling for £449.

    Cannondale F6 look similar, decent frame, similar low end spec bits:

    I've always been one for upgrading rather than buying brand new in full which is probably why I'm edging towards these :) Loads of room for potential upgrades and weight shaving.
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    As a bike to upgrade it makes sense, but those looking for a package from the off would be better served elsewhere. At least they have realised a damped fork is useful... But others are offering 9spd, hydro discs and damped forks for this money. The 370 quid sport one looks woeful.
  • Mrs ToastMrs Toast Posts: 636
    Well, I went on my first mountain bike ride today through Cannock Chase - I hired out a Trek 4300 (with mechanical disc brakes). It was a bloke's bike, complete with bloke's saddle (ouch!), but I really, really enjoyed it. I asked what size it was, and the bike hire chap wasn't too sure - he said it was a 'small', and measured it, and said it was 16".

    Brakes didn't feel as responsive as the v-brakes on my crappy Raleigh, which was disappointing, but the gears were a world apart, and it was a lot lighter. It was a bit of a bone shaker going over the rocky paths, but Mr Toast says that's to be expected on a hardtail, until I learn to distribute my weight properly.

    I certainly became more confident, and even learnt how to keep my balance with only one hand on the handlebars (don't laugh - I never took my cycling proficency test, I was still on stablizers! :lol: ) I even ended up on Follow the Dog twice, although the first time was by accident, and the second because I was lost...

    Going to try out a few more makes and models, but I feel that I'm definitely a step closer! :D
  • lost-timelost-time Posts: 549
    My other-half-to-be is around the 5'1.5'' mark and she has a 13'' Rockhopper. She got it upgraded to basic shimano hydraulic discs as the model she got came with disc ready hubs. I think it was around £600 all in back in '05. The forks are a little 'pants' but are fine for her.

    The sizing is the best we could get at that time. She is quite short in the leg so she tends to have the saddle quite low but it seems to do her OK. She rode it well in southern Spain last year anyway.
  • Depending on how much you want to spend... if you werent looking to go too expensive I had a go on a trek 4300 disc and I really liked it (im no expert tho!) and think they do a 13" one. Can't say how the size compares coz Im 5"7 - a 16" felt too small so tried the 18" one and it was perfect. My LBS has them on special offer for £269 (rrp £370) They look really smart too. I tried this and the womens version of the same bike (which is £299 but doesn't have disc brakes) and I actually prefered the guys one.
  • Duhhh.... just to add, only read the first page there....... so, yeah, erm, trek 4300, maybe im psycic!!!
  • Mrs ToastMrs Toast Posts: 636
    Well, after much researching and trawling around bike shops, I went to (fairly) local bike shop that sells Trek, Specialized and Giant. The staff were really good, and pretty much demanded that I took the bikes for a mile long test ride! I tried standing on a bloke's 16" Trek 4300, and it was waaaay too big. :s

    I test rode the 14" and 16" 4500 WSD, and although I didn't feel a huge amount of difference, I did start to feel a slight ache across the back of my neck and shoulders on the 16". So I got the 14". Yay!

    Cheers for the advice, everyone!
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