Back when I was a young punk rock dude, I had a GT Tequesta on which I performed many stupid stunts. But gradually life began to erode away my biking hours: I met a girl in another city, went back to school, got jobs that were too far to bike, got married, got addicted to this place, got out of shape. My bike, lovingly plastered with such phrases as Primus, Mr. Bungle, Sick Of It All, and People Suck (right on the headtube for all to see), got out of shape too: chains and gears rusted, cables lost tension, rubber cracked. One day not so long ago, I decided if I was ever going to ride a bike again it would be cheaper to buy a new one, but I couldn’t just throw away Ol’ Fireball (a name I just now affectionately gave it, because it was black with red and yellow flames). So I gave it to a friend of mine who has a knack for scavenging old parts and rigging them together.
But now I miss the hum of the pavement under my wheels or the mud spattering my - well, everything really. I miss doing wheelies over small logs and rocks. I miss the way my eyes water when speeding along in cold, dry air. I miss racing to BART at midnight to go see available light (OK, well now I just have to go to the next room, but you know what I mean), then waiting for the train while steam made a halo around me like some Hindu god who lost a few arms. I miss passing cars while attempting to reach relativistic speeds down Bancroft Ave in Berkeley, or even better, down Carlos Bee Blvd from Cal State Hayward. Like I said, stupid stunts.
While I would perhaps think twice before indulging in some of those insanities from days of yore, I would at least like to go tooling around some local trails. But at the moment all my wheels run on decayed dinosaurs, which brings me around finally to my point. What form shall this new steed take? I ask you Dopers because I trust to get more detailed answers here than from a bunch of crummy logheads elsewhere.
I’m probably more inclined to a mountain or hybrid than a road bike. Rear suspension is a luxury for now, but front suspension might be nice. Grip shifts were new and somewhat unreliable when I bought the Tequesta, but how do they compare to index shifters these days? I’ve looked online at GT, Giant, and Trek, but what other brands are good? How do they stack up against each other? Do they make clipless shoes in 11 EEEE? Just how much difference do clipless pedals make, anyway? Should I get cantilever or disk brakes? How good of a bike can I expect to get for, say, $700? Anything else I should look for?
Also, the bike must be sturdy and large. I am 6" and 220 lbs, and I’ve been known to break or bend frames on cheapo bikes.