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-   -   Best Hardtail for Under 500 bucks? (https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=1182797)

chiefsilverback 09-18-19 08:42 AM


Originally Posted by Kapusta (Post 21125958)
And to be honest, even if you could find a new decent rigid MTB for $500, buying it with the plan of upgrading it with a suspension fork is a waste of money. You will end up spending $750 to get a bike you could have bought for $600.

I'm not sure I'd agree with that. Just looking at the Cannondale Trail range.... Trail 8 is $485 and comes with a $60 75mm Suntour coil fork at 2270g. Trail 5 is $780 with a $100 100mm Suntour coil fork at 2738g.

For $225 you could put a 100mm Manitou Markhor air fork at 1875g on the Trail 8. For $60 you could add the same Shimano MT200 hydraulic brakes that come on the Trail 5. Drive train is lower spec, but you could upgrade that with time and you've got yourself a nice bike.

Darth Lefty 09-18-19 09:39 AM

It's definitely cheaper to get better stuff if you don't buy something poorer first to replace. But that's the crux of the whole thread, isn't it?

Kapusta 09-18-19 09:49 AM


Originally Posted by chiefsilverback (Post 21127674)
I'm not sure I'd agree with that. Just looking at the Cannondale Trail range.... Trail 8 is $485 and comes with a $60 75mm Suntour coil fork at 2270g. Trail 5 is $780 with a $100 100mm Suntour coil fork at 2738g.

For $225 you could put a 100mm Manitou Markhor air fork at 1875g on the Trail 8. For $60 you could add the same Shimano MT200 hydraulic brakes that come on the Trail 5. Drive train is lower spec, but you could upgrade that with time and you've got yourself a nice bike.

Few thoughts....
  1. The Trail 5 comes with a Rock Shoc XC 30 TK. Still not a stellar fork, admittedly, but better than a $100 Suntour.
  2. The difference in the drive trains is not trivial. We are talking about a super low end 3x7 vs a Deore level 1x11. That upgrade (Deore shifter, cranks, RD, cassette, chain) is not going to be cheap, and since they give few details about the rear hub on the Trail 8, I would not be 100% sure it will take an 8-9-10 (and 11 mountain) speed cassette. They do not even specify if it uses a cassette or freewheel.
  3. The frames are different (the 5 has boost spacing and a tapered head tube).
  4. Relevant to the point #3....The Manitou Markhor won't work on the Trail 8 due to the non-tapered steer tube. You MIGHT be able to use an adapter lower race (I can't see what sort of steer tube the 8 has) but it lifts the front end up.
  5. The 5 comes with tubeless-ready rims. If you want to go tubeless on the 8, you will need new wheels.
  6. I'll take your word that the brakes on the 5 can be had for $60, but it looks to me like they go for around $85 for a complete set. But that is splitting hairs in the larger scheme.
I do think there are times when it CAN make sense to buy a bike and upgrade just one big thing like the fork: When you are very particular about the fork, and less so about other components. If you really want a really good fork (like a $500 one) but are totally fine with the rest of the spec on a bike and have NO plans to upgrade anything else... it could make sense. But I don't think it would in the case you mention.

However, the reality is that I don't think it will ever work out that way with entry level rigid mtbs.... if you can even find one.

7tevoffun 09-18-19 10:19 AM

Yeah, it is.

I'm looking on bicycle bluebook currently and there's a 2017 rockhopper for a reasonable price - I might pull the trigger if my wife gives me the green light.

I know the warranty doesn't come with it, but I feel like there's a larger probability the bike will hold up rather than give out...

Metieval 09-18-19 10:22 AM

if you are planning to upgrade shock, brakes etc... IMO it is better to buy a used bike.


Originally Posted by 7tevoffun (Post 21127446)
Cool, thanks! Btw, how do you like your Talon 29er?



I absolutely love my Talon 29er. I bought it used and could have left it the way it was but.. I upgraded

So it was a $900 bike. the guy upgraded the wheels and the fork. I gave him $500 and then I turned it into a 1x

what I don't like about it, Our trails are really rooty here. So if I was to stick with a hardtail I'd probably buy a 27+ hardtail.

7tevoffun 09-18-19 10:42 AM


Originally Posted by Metieval (Post 21127863)
if you are planning to upgrade shock, brakes etc... IMO it is better to buy a used bike.





I absolutely love my Talon 29er. I bought it used and could have left it the way it was but.. I upgraded

So it was a $900 bike. the guy upgraded the wheels and the fork. I gave him $500 and then I turned it into a 1x

what I don't like about it, Our trails are really rooty here. So if I was to stick with a hardtail I'd probably buy a 27+ hardtail.

Is it a Talon 1, 2, 3?

smullen 09-18-19 10:48 AM


Originally Posted by 7tevoffun (Post 21106415)
I have had terrible experience with Treks. Does anyone have first hand experience with that trek?

I've got an older Trek 4900 That I rode for years, never had any issue out of it. I wasn't doing any jumps or anything crazy with it, but It was a good bike.

7tevoffun 09-18-19 10:50 AM


Originally Posted by smullen (Post 21127904)
I've got an older Trek 4900 That I rode for years, never had any issue out of it. I wasn't doing any jumps or anything crazy with it, but It was a good bike.

I test rode a Marlin 7 last Friday and if it weren't for my lack of available funds (thanks higher education loans!) and the incredibly condescending Trek Store manager, I would have picked it up. I was super surprised with the quality and ride.

My past Trek experience was to their very entry level MTB's so I assume that is the reason behind my unfavorable perception.

chiefsilverback 09-18-19 10:56 AM


Originally Posted by Kapusta (Post 21127815)
Few thoughts....
  1. The Trail 5 comes with a Rock Shoc XC 30 TK. Still not a stellar fork, admittedly, but better than a $100 Suntour.
  2. The difference in the drive trains is not trivial. We are talking about a super low end 3x7 vs a Deore level 1x11. That upgrade (Deore shifter, cranks, RD, cassette, chain) is not going to be cheap, and since they give few details about the rear hub on the Trail 8, I would not be 100% sure it will take an 8-9-10 (and 11 mountain) speed cassette. They do not even specify if it uses a cassette or freewheel.
  3. The frames are different (the 5 has boost spacing and a tapered head tube).
  4. Relevant to the point #3....The Manitou Markhor won't work on the Trail 8 due to the non-tapered steer tube. You MIGHT be able to use an adapter lower race (I can't see what sort of steer tube the 8 has) but it lifts the front end up.
  5. The 5 comes with tubeless-ready rims. If you want to go tubeless on the 8, you will need new wheels.
  6. I'll take your word that the brakes on the 5 can be had for $60, but it looks to me like they go for around $85 for a complete set. But that is splitting hairs in the larger scheme.
I do think there are times when it CAN make sense to buy a bike and upgrade just one big thing like the fork: When you are very particular about the fork, and less so about other components. If you really want a really good fork (like a $500 one) but are totally fine with the rest of the spec on a bike and have NO plans to upgrade anything else... it could make sense. But I don't think it would in the case you mention.

However, the reality is that I don't think it will ever work out that way with entry level rigid mtbs.... if you can even find one.

Based on the models/specs on the REI website, the Trail 4 at $1000 has the Rock Show XC30 fork, tapered steerer and 1x10 Deore drivetrain. The Trail 5 has a 1 1/8 straight steerer, Suntour fork, and a 3 x 9 Altus drivetrain.

Kapusta 09-18-19 10:59 AM


Originally Posted by chiefsilverback (Post 21127918)
Based on the models/specs on the REI website, the Trail 4 at $1000 has the Rock Show XC30 fork, tapered steerer and 1x10 Deore drivetrain. The Trail 5 has a 1 1/8 straight steerer, Suntour fork, and a 3 x 9 Altus drivetrain.

OK, I am looking at the Cannondale site.

Looking at the ones on the REI site.... you still can't put the fork you are thinking of on the 8..... or the 5.
And my point regarding doing ANY upgrade to the drive train remains. Not specified if the 8 is using a cassette or freewheel.

You are going where many have gone before.... thinking there is some way to beat the system with upgrades. Ultimately, unless you know you have very specific needs out of the mainstream, or have a very good lead on the upgrades (or already own them), it almost never works out financially. Yes, you can cherry pick two models to compare where it works, but in those cases it is either an unusually good deal on the cheaper one, or bad deal on the more expensive one. Find the best deals at $500 and $750 and $1000 level, and it will seldom work out.

And, as the bikes you mention illustrate, upgrading low end bikes can sometime not be an option due to the different standards.

7tevoffun 09-18-19 11:21 AM


Originally Posted by Kapusta (Post 21127925)
OK, I am looking at the Cannondale site.

Looking at the ones on the REI site.... you still can't put the fork you are thinking of on the 8..... or the 5.
And my point regarding doing ANY upgrade to the drive train remains. Not specified if the 8 is using a cassette or freewheel.

You are going where many have gone before.... thinking there is some way to beat the system with upgrades. Ultimately, unless you know you have very specific needs out of the mainstream, or have a very good lead on the upgrades (or already own them), it almost never works out financially. Yes, you can cherry pick two models to compare where it works, but in those cases it is either an unusually good deal on the cheaper one, or bad deal on the more expensive one. Find the best deals at $500 and $750 and $1000 level, and it will seldom work out.

And, as the bikes you mention illustrate, upgrading low end bikes can sometime not be an option due to the different standards.

I'd like to appeal to everyone's expertise here:

the 2017 rockhopper expert has some decent specs, however, I don't know how upgradeable it is given it's 3 years old, roughly. Can anyone comment on the upgradeability?

chiefsilverback 09-18-19 11:22 AM


Originally Posted by Kapusta (Post 21127925)
OK, I am looking at the Cannondale site.

Looking at the ones on the REI site.... you still can't put the fork you are thinking of on the 8..... or the 5.

The Markhor is available for 26, 27.5 and 29, 1 1/8 straight or tapered and QR or 110mm boost. Why couldn't you put one on the Trail 5 or 8? https://manitoumtb.com/product/markhor/?cat_id=23

Metieval 09-18-19 12:13 PM


Originally Posted by 7tevoffun (Post 21127893)
Is it a Talon 1, 2, 3?

it is a 21013 Talon 1

the original owner put a TK 30 silver on it, and i19 WTB wheels and had changed the crankset

https://www.giant-bicycles.com/us/talon-29er-1-2013
I then totally changed it up.

the Talons are good bikes, I'd put the Talon, Marlin, Raleigh Tokul, Rockhopper on a short list even a cannondale Trail. use Facebook marketplace

https://cimg3.ibsrv.net/gimg/bikefor...48e444b60b.jpg

Kapusta 09-18-19 12:17 PM


Originally Posted by chiefsilverback (Post 21127961)
The Markhor is available for 26, 27.5 and 29, 1 1/8 straight or tapered and QR or 110mm boost. Why couldn't you put one on the Trail 5 or 8? https://manitoumtb.com/product/markhor/?cat_id=23

The Manitou site has it listed as 1-1/8 1.5 tapered, which I interpreted as meaning basically tapered. I see that it is in fact available in 1-1/8 straight. My bad. But I should also point out that this is an upgrade, but still not a stellar fork.

But you are still stuck with the lower end drivetrain. So you have spent about the same money, and have a bike with a better fork fork and a worse drive-train that may not be upgradable. And even if it is, up-gradable, by the time you upgrade it, you would be in spitting distance of the Trail 4 (which is what I was referring to earlier as the Trail 5) with better everything.

It also worth noting that there are a number of components that they are not even listing the specifics of such as the BB, hubs, headset. And the tire descriptions are not giving model specifics, and it is unclear if there are different OEM versions of the Ranger. It is often these little things that go unnoticed when putting together a sub-$500 bike.

Personally, if you are going to compare the $485 REI bike to a more expensive one in the $750 range, I would look at the Giant Talon 2. Seems like a much better deal than the C-Dale Trail 5.

However, if all you care about is the fork... then sure, buy the cheapest bike you can and put a nice fork on it.

7tevoffun 09-18-19 12:29 PM

That's a good looking bike.

I just searched facebook marketplace around where I live and there's jack squat. :( le sigh.

I'm also leery of purchasing things on facebook marketplace...

prj71 09-18-19 12:30 PM

Bottom line here.

There isn't a "Best hardtail under $500"

Anything brand new under ~$1000 puts you in junk bike territory

7tevoffun 09-18-19 12:32 PM

I appreciate your candor, but I'm also receiving a lot of good advice from others on this site regarding what I should be looking for and what I should expect to get so regardless of whether or not there is a "best" hardtail under 500 bucks it's giving me perspective which is valuable.

prj71 09-18-19 12:35 PM


Originally Posted by 7tevoffun (Post 21128058)
I appreciate your candor, but I'm also receiving a lot of good advice from others on this site regarding what I should be looking for and what I should expect to get so regardless of whether or not there is a "best" hardtail under 500 bucks it's giving me perspective which is valuable.

You need to up your budget to around $1000 plus if you want a decent hardtail.

Darth Lefty 09-18-19 01:08 PM

If someone posted here with a budget of $1000 where would you send them? Because those bikes cost $1500 now, unless they come with compromised builds. But a $500 bike is the same it always was, good enough for people who just want a bike, not a hobby.

7tevoffun 09-18-19 01:21 PM


Originally Posted by Darth Lefty (Post 21128120)
If someone posted here with a budget of $1000 where would you send them? Because those bikes cost $1500 now, unless they come with compromised builds. But a $500 bike is the same it always was, good enough for people who just want a bike, not a hobby.

I definitely won't be hitting the trails super hard; i'm looking for something that I can use to cut my teeth on trail riding - if I fall in love with the sport, then I will happily save up and spend money on a really nice hardtail.

smullen 09-18-19 01:43 PM


Originally Posted by 7tevoffun (Post 21128137)
I definitely won't be hitting the trails super hard; i'm looking for something that I can use to cut my teeth on trail riding - if I fall in love with the sport, then I will happily save up and spend money on a really nice hardtail.

You just have to do a lot of looking to see what you can find that fits in your budget.

I would not be afraid to look at Face Book Market place.... I've found deals on several good bikes local to me (within an hour or under drive) and I actually bought one from a lady a few weeks ago. The Bike was priced fair, looked exactly like the pics and as she described. She was on time to meet me at one of the bigger, busier gas stations. Transaction went well.

Also, if you have any local shops, couldn't hurt to go to one of those, tell them what you're looking for.
I live outside a small rural town and we don't have anything local or less then an hour. So I have checked out the shops, North and South East of me and found a shop I like a lot.

Then if you can't find anything on FB or local shops, try a Walmart Super Center, Academy Sports, Sports Authority, Dicks Sporting goods or other sporting good shops and see what they have.... Maybe you'll find something that fits your needs in your range.

Also, maybe save up just a bit more to move into the next better level of Bike.

One thing bad about any forum on any topics, Guns, Cars, Bikes, Boats, SxSs, Cameras, GPSrs, etc.. etc.. You can get great advice on most any issue or topic, but if you aren't spending top dollar, you're wasting you money...

If all you are doing is casual riding, you can get by with about anything on two wheels that fits your size.

Its just human nature to one something better or cooler, even if you realistically don't need it.
For the riding I do, I'm sure a $500.00 Bike would do me just fine... I just wanted something a bit nicer...

jrhoneOC 09-18-19 09:11 PM

https://www.nashbar.com/marin-rock-s...99522?v=958870

600 marin with 1x10 drivetrain hydraulic brakes and a coil shock. Not too bad for an entry level bike. You should be looking at a $500 as a bike to ride now and sell in a year or 2 when u are ready fpr a better bike. It wont be worthwhile to dump $1000 into upgrading. Thats where you will be when you upgrade the wheels, brakes, fork, drivetrain. And you will still have a average and heavy frame. Buy the $500 bike. Ride it. Get in shape and proficient on it tuen put that upgrade money into a new bike and sell the old one for $300. You are Renting a bike for a year or so for $200.

Metieval 09-18-19 09:21 PM


Originally Posted by 7tevoffun (Post 21128050)
That's a good looking bike.

I just searched facebook marketplace around where I live and there's jack squat. :( le sigh.

I'm also leery of purchasing things on facebook marketplace...

well it's had some money dumped into it.
$300 for the Manitou marvel Pro
the XT saint, XT cassette, and RD was $225
Powder coating was $130

so it's like a $1,200 bike now

prj71 09-19-19 08:18 AM


Originally Posted by Darth Lefty (Post 21128120)
If someone posted here with a budget of $1000 where would you send them?

Right here. Plenty of bikes in that Range which are much better than anything under $500

https://www.jensonusa.com/Mountain-B...=750&maxP=1500

Kapusta 09-19-19 10:44 AM


Originally Posted by prj71 (Post 21129057)
Right here. Plenty of bikes in that Range which are much better than anything under $500

https://www.jensonusa.com/Mountain-B...=750&maxP=1500

Wow, $750-$1500 bikes that are better than $500 bikes. Incredible. Who’d have thought?

Shall I now link to a bunch of $2500-$3000 bikes to point out that $1000 bikes are junk?


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