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Looking for good quality mountain bike for a beginner

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Looking for good quality mountain bike for a beginner

Old 07-26-22, 10:53 AM
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Looking for good quality mountain bike for a beginner


I live on a ranch and am looking for a mountain bike to take on trails and ranch roads, and to take with me on my adventures to various other places where I camp, hike, and kayak/paddle board. This will be my first mountain bike to own, but I致e been looking into the subject and researching for a little while.

I知 looking for an entry level hardtail mountain bike that will be quality from the start, offering the most value for my money in getting into the sport - something that won稚 break the bank (I prefer to stay under the $900 mark, pre-upgrades); but also not a cheap option - I want something that can grow with me as I advance my riding knowledge and ability, or can be upgraded from a good bike to a great bike.

Here are a few things I知 looking for in a bike (I know that I may not find it all on one bike; but I知 looking for one that can cost effectively get most of what痴 on this list):

Frame: a quality build with flat, modern geometry, good for a beginners confidence and handling of the bike

1x drivetrain

Tapered head tube

Air sprung fork (or upgrade to one)

Hydraulic disk breaks

Thru axles would be nice

Internal cable routing nice, but not necessary

Dropper post (probably something to be upgraded later down the road)

Tubeless compatible tires would also be nice

I realize that not all of these items will be found on the same bike, but hopefully I can get one with a lot of these features and upgrade a couple others (the main ones, I知 guessing, would be upgrading to air forks, maybe tires, and putting on a dropper post later on)

I知 only 52 and 125 lbs, so I知 guessing I値l need a small frame bike and 27.5 wheels, although I知 open to suggestions on a 29覇r.

Color and look isn稚 the most important thing.. but it helps, haha. I like earthy colors / darker or richer colors. Examples: sage green or various other greens, black, dark red, dark blue, or possibly grey.

Here痴 the bikes I致e been looking at. I realize some may be more available than others, and you may have good suggestions for me, but I had to find a starting point, and so this is where I am currently doing my looking:
-Marin Bobcat
-Vitus Nucleus
-Rocky Mountain Soul 10
-Kona Fire Mountain

The problem I run into is that spending more like $1100-1250 seems to get you all the things I outlined, without having to do upgrades, except for the dropper post. So, the question really seems to boil down to: spend more on the bike initially and don稚 upgrade anything unless I decide to add a dropper post in years to come? Or, get a little lesser expensive bike and make a couple of upgrades?

In some cases I think upgrading a bike you really like is more cost effective. For example - adding an airfork to a Marin Bobcat 4. In other cases, I think you pretty well get closer to what you want from the start by buying a little more upgraded model to begin with.

That痴 the current balancing question for me, I壇 say. Any suggestions on bike brands, models, upgrades, or any other advice to help me buy something quality that I can grow with, but enter into the sport cost effectively, would be appreciated!

Thank you for your time!

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Old 07-26-22, 11:23 PM
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Welcome Laura,
It's great that you have done some extensive searching and getting info to make your decisions. And your 'problem' is just a matter of the way things are. Higher cost, more cooler stuff.
So I think you can make your decision, if you prioritize what all you think you want and then set the limit - of money or stuff.
Maybe I can help with the prioritization. By going thru your list with you. I did look at one Bike you listed - Marin Bobcat, and it comes in a number of different flavors with different features - 2 which seemed to fit in your parameters were Bobcat Trail 4 & 5, so lets use those for comparison. I'll assume you're athletic and with mulit-talents as comes to sport/outdoor activities, but also lighter smaller at 125 lbs. 5'2"
1. Tapered headset (tube) - Unless you're a real experienced, hard driving and/or very big guy, I doubt you would be able to tell any difference between tapered and non. It takes some real hard riding, over some serious tough terrain and much abuse for any difference to be noted. So, in your case, I wouldn;t even be thinking about this. Only caveat is upgrading to some very highend Sus fork which comes only tapered. But then this level of bike is not what I'd put a $1000 fork on...
2. Dropper seatpost - a very nice OPTION, which I don;t think you could get on anything less than $1500, so most likely a worthwhile upgrade to most any mtb. down the line...
3. Color - maybe not as important as some of the other stuff, later in the list.
4. Internal Cable routing - like you said, nice but not necessary - but very nice if you can get it.
Now we get to the important stuff
5. Tubeless Compatible Wheels (don;t expect tubeless tires until you buy bike as 'tubeless'), nice, but most bikes in this category may not have 'tubeless compatible wheels'. BUT most all the wheels on Branded Bikes are capable to be converted to tubeless, with a quite inexpensive kit, then you'll need tubeless tires.
6.Thru Axle would be nice, certainly, and could be one place to decide between bikes. Thru axle allows for certain upgrades not available to Quick Release - BUT, is a bike at this level worth a bunch of 'upgrades' or is it better to sell and buy something with more stuff - later? some of these level bikes have nice frames and generally good stuff, worth upgrading IF one wants to do it over time, a little bit at a time.
7.Hydraulic Brakes - always a nice thing. I have both hydraulic and Mechanical. I like both, but Hydraulic does have better stopping power. Athough I've never gotten to the point of max-ing out either, or needing to... And some hydraulics are better than others. I would ask questions for comparison and then decide if that step up is important for you.
8. 1x Drivetrain - a very nice thing for mtb and I think a very worthwhile feature to have. COmparo of the Bobcat Trail 4 with Advent 1x9 drivetrain to Bobcat Trail 5 with Shimano 1x11 - The Adevnt is a nice system, works well, durable, allround good. But the Shimano is 1x11, and often those extra gears in a range make riding just a bit more predictable and easier. and 1x11 will likely be more enjoyable as you improve and use your gearing better. $200 differnce between models - and there are more upgrades between the 2 - like the fork.
9. Fork - certainly a good fork makes a huge difference not only in comfort but very much in how well you're able to ride through more difficult terrain. So a really better fork is a great reason to step to a higher model. The Bobcat 4 has a SR Suntour XCM HLO-DS, 120mm Travel, Hydraulic Lockout, - all good things. The Bobcat 5 has a SR Suntour XCR LOR-DS, Thru-Axle, 120mm Travel, Hydraulic Lockout, Damping Adjustment - so more adjustments possible, and is front ThruAxle
But both frames seem to be 135mm rear, which could also be Quick Release rear - an older rear width, which might not allow further upgrades. But again, are you thinking of a Bike to hold for a long time and wanting all upgrades ? Then Full Thru Axle and Boost 110 Front and at least 142mm rear is what you'll want - But that's gonna be a lot more money up front, quite a bit more...
Frame - most bikes like these Marin have frames which easily could be used for more expensive models, they have modern geometry, light and well design and built bikes.
Bike sizing is important and because of that geometry becomes important. There are reviews on most of the bikes you mentioned, and reading them might give you comparisons.
Good fork, a good 1x Drivetrain, Hydraulic Brakes - in a bike which fits you size-wise.
then consider the other stuff. including things like saddle, bars, color...
ANd, of course, is the bike, in the size you need, available? That's been an issue these past 2 years...
Good luck, Keep us updated on your progress. We always love to hear how things turnout.
Ride On Yuri
EDIT: I didn;t touch on wheel size... Best is to ride both sizes and see what you think. I recently bought a 29r, rode a bit, but never got real comfortable with it.
Felt too big and more difficult to maneuver through many tight sections of the terrain I get to ride in my area. I tried 27.5 and felt it was way better for me. Bought the 27.5, sold the 29r.
I'm 5' 9.5" , now only 142 lbs, definitely not hard charger (to my mind), but not timid or easy going rider either - I do like the tech riding... although breezing down a 'trail' is fun, I'm not gonna launch any big air - too old and break easily theses days... LOL!

Last edited by cyclezen; 07-26-22 at 11:36 PM.
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Old 07-27-22, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by LauraLou

The problem I run into is that spending more like $1100-1250 seems to get you all the things I outlined, without having to do upgrades, except for the dropper post. So, the question really seems to boil down to: spend more on the bike initially and don’t upgrade anything unless I decide to add a dropper post in years to come? Or, get a little lesser expensive bike and make a couple of upgrades?
In the long run...buying the bike complete with your list of wants will be cheaper than than buying one for less and then having to spend money on upgrades later. Especially if you have to buy the parts and pay the bike shop to put them on. Expect to pay more than $1250 though.

This one here pretty much checks all the boxes on your list...


Last edited by prj71; 07-27-22 at 09:05 AM.
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Old 07-27-22, 10:47 AM
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I've suggested the Trek Marlin 7 (about $1K) to several friends and they love their bikes which have most of what you ask for and probably won't need to be upgraded for a long time (maybe lighter wheels some day).
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Old 07-27-22, 12:27 PM
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Marlin 7 is QR Axle and coil spring fork.
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Old 08-04-22, 09:14 PM
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My normal use MTB is a Specialized Stumpjumper Comp Alloy, but often times I feel like I'm way "overbiked" depending on the trails I'm riding and especially if I'm riding with some friends who are totally newbs to mountain biking. I wanted to get a halfway decent hardtail for those time when the Stumpy was just more than I needed and I opted for a Polygon Xtrada 7 from bikesonline.com I recently got my girlfriend one of their full suspension bikes and it's been great. But this Xtrada 7 hardtail is really hard to beat for the price - $1100 and it comes with everything you want, other than the dropper post (which I added as soon as I got it). Aluminum frame, SR Suntour XCM 32 air fork, Shimano Deore 1x12 drivetrain, Shimano M200 hydraulic discs and tubeless ready wheels (but the tires are not tubeless ready, go figure). It does take a little bit of mechanical knowledge to assemble these bikes, but it's very straightforward as all the "hard work" was done at the factory. So far I'm super happy with both of these bikes, and I've got some 30 years of experience doing this (raced CAT 3 back in the 90s on the road, Sport Class in NORBA MTB racing back then as well). I'm extremely happy with this bike and highly recommend it to anyone on a budget looking for something decent.
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Old 08-06-22, 09:39 PM
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I知 going to encourage you to look at Surly bikes, and maybe their cheaper imitators. Something like a Bridge Club, which is a less expensive version of the Ogre. I think for your stated uses, a standard trail hardtail like you lay out is not the best.

Many of the features you list are for making a short ride more fun, and not for covering longer distance while hauling stuff. Some of them (forks) won稚 be great, because most bike store brands just don稚 spec very nice ones on hard tails. Some of them (thru axles) don稚 come on cheaper bikes and won稚 be compatible later unless you buy them up front. The rims may be tubeless ready but the tires won稚 be the tubeless versions.

Your height also limits your choices. Not every bike comes in XS. But Surly is better than most. Bigger brands like Trek will too, in the most popular or in women痴 models. They might be 27.5 tires. It痴 hard to draw an XS frame around 29er tires with a suspension fork. Even if the model exists in the size you still have to find it in stock.

Either way, at your price you can shop used. Try Pinkbike. Pandemic problems and then inflation means bikes got way more expensive the last three years. I think your list will put you closer to $2000 than $900 retail. Specialized Fuse that has everything you want is $1800.

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Old 08-07-22, 11:58 AM
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I have the Marlin 7, I like it and it is reliable.
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