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Buying my first MTB for mountain biking in the alps - please could I ask for some advice?

hypernovahypernova Posts: 9
edited July 2018 in MTB buying advice
Hi, I am going to the French alps soon for work, and I'd like to get into mountain biking while I'm there.

I come from a road background so although my fitness is good I don't have that much technical skill on a bike. I recently did some mountain biking in Scotland on an old hardtail that I own, and I found that I was just way out of my depth.

I read a couple of reviews of bikes online and one suggested that you buy a mountain bike based on compensating for what your weaknesses are rather than your strengths. I think this is a good idea, so I think I should be looking to buy a bike more towards the enduro end of the spectrum rather than the XC end. (Obviously I will need something with full suspension, I'm sure the alps area is going to be more extreme than where I was in Scotland.)

Since my fitness is good I don't need more speed. I am intending to do a lot of climbing with the bike as well as descending. I probably wouldn't buy a lift pass, because I want to keep my fitness up with climbing. But since I have no skill on the bike, I probably need something with a lot of travel, and a lot of control.

The issue I'm having is that I know very little about mountain bikes. So far I have checked out a couple of options, so here are my thoughts so far. I'm hoping that you guys could give me some advice and recommendations.

Firstly I considered getting a Boardman bike from Halfords. Some of these are pretty cheap - a bit over £1000, but below the £1500 mark. The advantage is that it's not a huge investment so it doesn't matter too much if I break the bike completely and can't sell it on afterwards after I return. However I've owned a couple of Halfords bikes before and I know the quality is quite significantly lacking so I don't think this is a good idea.

Next up in terms of price is something like an On One / Planet X bike, however I've heard bad things about their customer service (being unable to get replacement parts etc) and again issues with build quality as they're built to a price.

Alternatively I have also considered something like the Vitus Sommet, which appears to have quite good reviews. Some of these bikes are 1x10 deore groupsets, which for me probably isn't a significant disadvantage because I'm used to racing things like cross where you need lots of torque anyway, so I probably don't really need a 1x12 eagle groupset with a 30 T front ring and a massive 50T dinner plate on the back.

Getting more expensive still I found a good discount on a 2017 Scott Genius 720. However I've read reviews suggesting flawed suspension design where rather than being progressive it is easier to compress the longer down the travel the suspension is compressed, resulting in it being easy to bottom out.

Slightly more expensive still is the Canyon Strive. However apparently the geometry is a bit dated. I also noticed that the 2018 spectral received excellent reviews whereas the strive does not seem to have attracted such attention, which I think is telling.

I also read extremely good reviews of the 2018 Scott Genius models. However these bikes are around the £4000 price point which is probably not something I can justify, or afford.

These bikes were just a few that I picked out for their price or read good reviews of. Other than that there isn't any particular reason for me choosing them. I investigated Canyon because I thought going direct would be a good way to get good value for money, and Scott because of the good reviews and I actually own a Scott road bike which is excellent.

So what do you guys think? I'm no expert at this and I don't really know what's available. Sorry this ended up turning into quite a long post, I wanted to give an overview of what research I have done already.

To summarise the most important point, I suspect that what I should be looking to get is an enduro bike given the terrain I will be riding. I'm intending to do a few rides for example travelling from one town in the alps to another by going over the mountain paths rather than through the tunnels in the mountains which is where you would go if you were travelling by car. These might be 30/40km rides, with about 2000/3000 m climbing. I don't really know if the lower price range bikes will really be capable of this kind of riding, or whether they will actually be enjoyable to ride under such conditions. I would probably rather pay more and enjoy my time there, I guess.


  • cooldadcooldad Posts: 32,599
    I'd either get a bike locally, and practice/ride before you go, or hire one there.

    The Alps is not the easiest place to learn to ride. It's pretty steep and rocky. Leave a decent budget for protection.

    I would wait, see what you actually want to ride, and then buy something suitable.

    There's mountain biking and mountain biking.
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  • steve_sordysteve_sordy Posts: 2,432
    In the Alps you will learn a new definition of what steep means.
    I am aware that thousands of Frenchman, Swiss and Italians that live in the Alps area learn to ride bikes, but they do not start on the mtb trails (the skiing trials in the winter). Be very very careful! :shock:
  • hypernovahypernova Posts: 9
    Cheers guys, that's good advice. I'm quite a good skier so I know about some of the risks that are present. I'm guessing I'll find mountain biking harder than skiing however, which is why I thought going for the more enduro end of the spectrum was a sensible option.
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    Buy over there. They'll have suitable bikes.

    Depending on the altitude you're not going to be biking year round?
  • hypernovahypernova Posts: 9
    What would the reason be for buying over there? Is it likely to be significantly cheaper?
  • larkimlarkim Posts: 2,473
    It depends what sort of MTBing you're planning on doing in the Alps surely? Going mental on Les Gets / Morzine downhill tracks will require a different bike to XC'ing across the single track routes etc.

    If you really have no idea, but will be there for a while, hiring would make some sense (though not cheap).

    We went on a 2 week holiday in Les Gets a couple of years ago and all I had was my Decathlon HT 29er for the three or four days that I did riding on the trails (and on some of the blue downhill routes) which was fine but hard work. My son took his XC-orientated Canyon Nerve on some of the much harder routes and rode probably 12 days out 14 and had no issues, but in reality could have done with a DH or Enduro bike to ride. When he was cruising across the single track stuff though his bike was fine.
    2015 Canyon Nerve AL 6.0 (son #1's)
    2011 Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc (son #4s)
    2013 Decathlon Triban 3 (red) (mine)
    2019 Hoy Bonaly 26" Disc (son #2s)
    2018 Voodoo Bizango (mine)
    2018 Voodoo Maji (wife's)
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