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    • Oh sweet that's really helpful. Sounds like 27.5 would be a better choice for me, as I'm 5'5" at 140.

      Why is XT a must? It looks like XTR / XT / SLX all have 11 speed options.

      I do like the idea of a hard tail from a cost / maintenance standpoint too.

    • That is a difficult question to answer in one post. I'll try to break down specific questions:

      My budget is fairly limited, ideally something less than $1000

      For under a $1K you are better off going for a hardtail (no rear suspension). Even though full suspension is way more fun to ride down, it makes the bike much heavier and harder to climb. Having a rear shock dramatically increases the cost of the bike for manufacturers and that cost is passed down to the customers. So hardtail mountain bike would be my recommendation.

      What wheel size? It seems like the main tire sizes are 27.5, and 29er. It seems like fat bikes are becoming popular but I think that might be a little too specific for me.

      For the wheels size I would marginally recommend the 27.5. But if there is a better deal for the 29er, I would pick that for sure. The wheelsize difference isn't that important for the entry mountain bike. Don't bother with fat bikes unless you have very specific riding conditions such as snow or mud where those bikes really stand out.

      What style? It seems like the main differentiator is hard tail vs. full suspension in this space. It seems like this is further broken down into Cross-country, enduro, downhill, trail etc. etc. Is there a particular style that would be better for a roadie to transition with? I feel like a hardtail might lead me to riding trails that would be a little more endurance oriented than skill oriented, but I'm also a bit worried that I might be limiting myself, and giving myself a less forgiving ride.

      As I've stated above going with a hardtail due to budget constraints is your best option. Riding a hardtail will also improve you mountain bike skills so when you finally have enough cash to affort a full suspension bike, you'll be ripping it down the mountain with confidence.

      Hardtail also helps with building up endurance and unlocking trails that aren't worth riding up on a full suspension bike. My guess is that if you start enjoying mountain biking, you'll end up having 2 bikes anyway: a hardtail for climbing and a full suspension for descending.

      I'd recommend looking into Diamondback as they sell directly to consumer thus passing the savings to you.

      Sometimes you can find a good deal at a local bike shop or hunt for a used bike on Craigslist or Ebay. You'll be surprised to find just how much you can save on a bike that someone bought new and kept in a garage for a year only to realize that they don't need it and will sell it for 1/2 off. That is always the best deal!

      TLDR, hardtail under $1K budget with a steep discount (like 40% off or more).

    • Yea, I am not hip to all the latest interations of the rear derailer but this is where the OEM's cut corners for someone shopping on price. The rear derailer is everything.....The Diamondback I posted seems to use SRAM which I am not familiar with. Also, from a resale standpoint, anyone that knows anything about MTB, will address the rear derailer first and foremost.

    • What sounds like more fun to you - fast, open, twisty, relatively smooth trails or jumping log piles, ripping through streams, and dropping a few feet off rocks?

      If the former, go hard tail. The latter, go full-suspension (all-mountain).

      You can absolutely do either run on both bikes, but each have their pros and cons.

      Also - and I can’t understate this - do not buy new (yet). You can easily buy an incredible used bike for $600-1000 that was $2K+ new. But here’s the kicker: if you don’t like it you can easily sell it for what you paid, sometimes more. It’s almost zero-risk.

      I personally can’t stand the ride feel of a 29” wheel. Yes they roll over stuff more easily, but turning quickly or sharply sucks. Just feels cumbersome after riding the classic 26” for 20 years. (Another reason to buy used.)

      While that Specialized is surely better than a Walmart bike, it’s really all about the components.

      You should honestly be fine with anything at the SLX level or higher (XT is next, XTR is out of your price range). Whatever SRAM’s middle of the road is fine too.

      If you really want to support your LBS check and see if they have used and allow trial periods. Otherwise, Craigslist. Or for the best selection Ignore the misleading name as it’s an incredible MTB community with tons of bikes and parts for sale. I got my oddball Trek 69er in like-new condition for $900 (retail was $2400) from there.

      Whatever you end up doing, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of fun.