“What kind of bike should I get“.
That can be a complicated question.
There are a lot of factors that are going to influence your final purchase. Maybe you just want something to commute back and forth to work on, or maybe your biggest deciding factor is that it has to have pink unicorns and fluffy streamers hanging off the handlebars (you may be in the wrong place if that’s true). No matter what it is there are definitely a lot of questions that need to be answered
I’m going to help you answer those questions, and hopefully help you buy the perfect bike.
First off, I just want to make one thing clear. This website supports mountain biking, having an adventure and conquering new trails. This website is not about bicycle elitism or being a bike snob. If you choose to buy your bike at Wal-Mart, go for it. Just know that it probably won’t last very long and you are likely to have some problems with it. As long as your bike has two round wheels and a set of working brakes you should be good to ride. It’s about having fun, not about spending $8,000 on the latest carbon fiber model.
So, lets check out the main considerations when looking at buying your first bike.
- Where do you plan to ride?
- What kind of riding do you plan to do?
- What is your budget for buying this bike?
Got those three questions answered yet? If not, spend a second to really think about it.
Got it now? Ok, let’s get started.
Where do You Plan to Ride?
Since you are at the Texas Mountain Bike Trails website, I am going to assume that you are at least moderately interested in mountain biking. So I am ruling out any Road Bicycles as they usually can’t be ridden off-road.
Off road riding is going to be where most of you plan to ride (Texas Mountain Bike Trails remember ). You will be riding on dirt paths, covered in rock, roots, obstacles, and the occasional see-saw. This kind of riding, especially when done aggressively, will need a dedicated mountain bike. A mountain bike is going to have a flat handlebar, rugged tires to grip the dirt and rock, and typically a suspension at least in the front fork. Also highly sought after is a bike with disc brakes, these greatly improve your stopping ability especially in wet or muddy environments.
If you plan on doing only a little bit of off-road riding and much more riding on a sidewalk or paved trail, then a commuter bike may be the best bike for you. These bikes are a cross between a cross-country mountain bikes and road bikes. Typically these have flat handlebars and smooth tires with a low gearing setup.
There are also a lot of riders who take their bikes to jump or trick parks. Often outdoor on dirt, but also occasionally indoors up north, these parks have large ramps that riders launch themselves and their bikes off of. This is very similar to BMX riding, it’s very unique and very entertaining.
What Kind of Riding do You Plan to Do?
Cross country riding is the most popular style of mountain biking done in Texas. You will want a good all around bike, preferably with a front shock and disc brakes at a minimum. There are plenty of different kinds of cross-country options. Hardtails, rigid’s, full suspension’s, 29er’s and singlespeed’s. Here’s a brief explanation of each.
- Hardtail – A bike that does not have rear suspension on the back end.
- Rigid – A bike that does not have a front or rear suspension. Zero suspension = rigid bike.
- Full Suspension – Also known as dual suspension, these bikes have both front and rear suspension.
- 29er – Bikes that have 29 inch wheels instead of the traditional 26 inch. These are becoming very very popular and can also be any of the other classifications.
- Singlespeed – A bike that does not have multiple gearing, has no front or rear derailleur.
Which of these bikes you purchase for cross country riding is a personal preference. As an example, my personal choice is for a full suspension 29er. However, I do currently ride a 26″ hardtail, full suspension bikes are quite a bit more expensive.
(Btw, I will soon be doing a much more in depth analysis on all of the different types of mountain bikes, so hit subscribe in the top right corner of the page to stay tuned.)
Cyclocross is another form of trail riding, very similar to cross country and often on the same trails. However, instead of jumping over obstacles, cyclocross riders will often dismount their bikes and carry them over. This style of riding is much faster than mountain biking and can be a lot of fun and an incredible workout. These bikes are more like a road bicycle than a mountain bike, they are long and slender with thin tires and curved rams horn handlebars.
If you plan to commute on your bike, then a hybrid or commuter bike will likely be preferred. You can use a mountain bike for this purpose, but the suspension and knobby tires may end up slowing you down.
If you are wanting to do a lot of jumping, you will want to find a bike that is specifically made for that purpose. Dirt jumping bikes are usually rigid or have a front suspension with a very small amount of travel (the amount of compression possible).
What is Your Budget for Buying This Bike?
This is probably the biggest decision influence when buying your bike. Let’s face it, bikes are expensive. Amazingly so sometimes with top of the line bikes going for well above $9,000. That said, you can find a solid mountain bike for as little as a couple hundred dollars. Here is a basic guide for what you can expect to get at each pricing level and a recommended bike.
These links are to bikes listed on Amazon.com or JensonUSA.com, but I recommend visiting your local bike shop to buy a bike. Our local shops help to promote our local races as well as maintain our trails. However, if you are going to purchase a bike online, please consider buying through one of the links from Jenson or Amazon on this site. It does give me a small commission for the sale. Like really small, but I would still be very thankful.
- $0 – $750, Giant Revel 29er (2013): The best bet will be a good used bike, check out craigslist and look for major brands you see at your local bike shop. Bike shops will have a few models available that probably fall into the hybrid or commuter category. Other good places to look are on your local MTB community forum. DORBA.org here in Dallas, GHORBA in Houston, Austin Ridge Riders in Austin.
- $750 – $1,250, Kona Blast (2013) or Giant Talon 29er 2 (2013): There are some very good beginner bikes available at local bike stores in this range. You will probably be limited to hardtails, but they will be well made with good beginner components like disc brakes, forward fork suspension and derailleurs. My first mountain bike was purchased for $580 and was perfect for riding the trails here in Texas. Eventually if you get into racing or want a full suspension bike, but if you are just beginning these are wonderful bikes to start on.
- $1,250 – $2,500, Giant XtC Composite 29er (2013) or ORBEA Alma 29 (2013): At this price range you will be able to find some excellent bikes in both full suspension and hardtails with some very good, high quality components. Most full suspension bikes will begin at this range as well. For components you will be looking at Rockshox and Fox suspension products. Brakes and drivetrain will usually be Shimano SLX or XT level, or SRAM X7 or X9. These bikes are going to be great for riding as well as racing and will serve you well no matter where you choose to ride.
- $2500 and up, ORBEA Occam 29 (2013): At this point you have moved out of the beginner bikes and into the more elite bikes made from advanced materials like carbon fiber and the components on the bikes will be excellent. At this price range you should have any option you desire, it will be a matter of materials and weight more than bike design.
So now I hope that you have a good direction to go in when buying your bike. This guide is in no way comprehensive, I completely ignored road, bmx, and cruiser bikes among others. I always recommend talking with a bicycle specialist at your local bike shop before you buy your bike. They will help to guide your decision and help you stay within your budget.
Thanks for reading and I hope this has been helpful. Leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts on finding your perfect bike and have fun riding!
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