Need Help: I want to buy a mountain bike.

I was wondering if anyone might have some suggestions for a type / model / style of mountain bike to buy.

A couple things you should know:

  1. My primary goal will be to ride 2 or 3 times a week for fitness purposes.

  2. I want to make sure I buy something that will last a while if taken care of. So, I’m willing to spend some money… but keep in mind this is not replacing my car or anything :slight_smile:

finn1911 – my sons are mountain bikers, they go to a good bike store & get a Trek built to their specs. $1200 range.

$1200 might be a tad high for me. I have read a few reviews and they are saying that spending under 600.00 CAD (408.188 USD) and you might end up with crap. I’m hoping i can get something for a bit cheaper if i go second-hand.

Since you’re looking for advice, I’ll move this thread to IMHO.

moderator GQ

First off, most bike people (and I’m more of a bike poser myself) will tell you to stay away from department stores and toy stores. Buy a bike at a bike shop.

If you’re riding on moderate paths/trails for fitness, you probably won’t need dual suspension, which seems to start at around $800.00US for a quality bike and rises sharply from there. If you’re riding on a paved bike path, dirt roads or streets, you won’t even really need front suspension (although lots of folks seem to like it).

If you go with front suspension (built into the fork) and plan on keeping the bike more than a season or two, make sure to ask the bike shop about serviceability. The trusted fork names at your likely price point are Manitou, RockShox, possibly Marzocchi. You won’t see many positive mentions of RST forks.

For bike brands, you could probably find a GT, Trek, Gary Fisher, in a price range to suit you. Apparently Jamis are a good value as well.

The bikes will vary a great deal in components: derailleurs, shifters, brakes, cranksets. I think the two lower levels are still Alivio and Altus. They should hold up for a while, but the chainrings (on the crankset, where the pedals are located) are not replaceable at these two price levels. I think the cogset (gears on the rear wheel) are replaceable even at these two price levels. There is a component group called Deore which gets good reviews, and seems to be the lowest level component groups to get good reviews in bike magazines. I honestly don’t know prices, especially trying to convert to Canadian.

I hope this helps until a real bike person comes along.

11811, the poser.


Consumer Reports did an issue on mountain bikes and found that department store bikes (huffy, roadmaster, etc.) are actually dangerous due to their unreliable parts and braking abilities. It would be better to pony up extra cash when you buy the bike than risk hurting yourself in the future. Mountain biking is addictive and I think you will find a slightly better bike will be far more rewarding. There are a number of good brands out there that you can buy for a reaosnable price. Check out for details. I would recomend something with front suspension.

You can get a very good Trek, Gary Fisher, Specialized or Cannondale for around $800.00. These bikes are SAFE for offroad use and pretty dependable. You can find these brands at various bike shops. As 11811 said, Jamis are good as well, but a little harder to find.

When looking for a bike there are a couple of critical things to keep an eye out for. First, make sure the bike is the right size. You should have at least 2" between your naughty bits and the top tube. Any of the Bikes above will have brand name components, but the different levels can get confusing. Ask the person at the shop for help in that area. You also want to make sure the bike has vertical pull brakes instead of cantilevers (vertical pulls are pretty standard nowadays.)

The most important thing you can do is test drive the bike. They all ride differently due to frame geometry. Find a bike that is comfortable for you. For example, Gary Fisher uses a geometry that will cause you to stretch out a little more. If you have a long torso, these are great.

Don’t be afraid to ask the person working at the store for help.

Finally, always were a helmet!!! Your melon is a terrible thing to waste.

Have fun!!

11811 and Obidiah gave a lot of good information, so be sure to thoroughly read their replies.

The Deore componentry group from Shimano ( is a good choice if you don’t intend to be doing much rough riding, and it’s reasonably cheap to replace. Though it costs slightly more than the Alivio or Asus groups, it will also last longer and be more reliable.

One thing above all: Do -NOT- buy from department stores. Not only are their bikes made from poor quality material and components, you will be hardpressed to get any aftersale service. Chances are, you’ll eventually need something done to the bike (under warranty or otherwise), and even if you can convince the store to help, it’ll take ridiculously long periods of time for the repairs to be made. I have a riding buddy who waited three months to get his bike back from Canadian Tire when he needed work done on it. Spend the extra cash to get a bike from a local bike shop (LBS), and it’ll be far more worthwhile for you.

I think one of the biggest factors in bike selection is where you plan to be riding. If your preferred trails are paved or dirt without many bumps, then no suspension might be needed. However, it will make your rides -much- more comfortable on any surface to at least have suspension on the front of the bike. Chances are that for the riding you describe, a “hardtail,” meaning suspension only in the front of the bike, will be sufficient. Because you’re not paying for rear suspension, the componentry you get on a $1000 hardtail will be better than on an $1000 full suspension bike. A full suspension bike, on the other hand, will do more to keep your rear wheel glued to the trail and your ride even more comfortable. But unless you purchase a well-designed FS bike, you might end up with a sub par rear suspension system that will sap the energy out of each pedal stroke. My personal bike of choice is a full suspension, but I rode a rigid (no suspension) bike for many, many years.

I recommend borrowing a bike from a friend to see if you like the sport before sinking lots of money into it. Far too often I see people spending thousands of dollars on a bike that sits in their garage 95% of the time. From there, ask about a reputable LBS (qualities to look for are good customer service, a knowledgeable sales staff, a well-trained mechanic [hey, you’ll be riding something s/he puts together, so it’s best to have it assembled properly], and a history of fair pricing), and go in to talk to them. I know that Calgary has a massive mountain biking scene (and one I would love to visit!), and that there’s many great shops that can help you. Bow Cycle comes to mind ( as one of the stores I’ve heard much about.

Talk to them and tell them what you’re looking to do. Be sure to check multiple stores, because not everybody stocks all brands, and you might find a better deal elsewhere. It’s best not to order off the internet (especially for your first bike), because you want to have a chance to try it out in the parking lot first. Oh yes, if they DON’T let you try it out first, be weary. Nobody should spend that much money on something they can’t test drive first.

If, after borrowing a bike and finding you really enjoy the sport, consider that getting a bike designed solely to suit your needs at the moment might not be the wisest investment. Getting a bike that will be solid enough to allow you to explore tougher terrain later on might be more expensive, but it’ll save you the large cost of having to buy one later. This is not to say you have to spend $5000+ on a downhill bike (essentially a dirtbike without the engine), just enough to get a machine that won’t break apart if and when you decide to tackle a steep, rocky trail or whatever suits your fancy.

Some bike companies that will likely serve your needs would be Giant (, Specialized (, Rocky Mountain (, Trek (, Gary Fisher (, or Cannondale (

Be sure to check out, especially their XC Racing forum. They’re a large mountain biking site based out of Calgary, and you can likely find an awful lot of information there.

Hope this’ll be of some help.