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hi all, as a surfer and snowboarder, i am looking to add to my repertoire of sports i can do when the waves are flat or the snow is gone.

mountain biking seems like the perfect fit as i love hiking and being in the woods.

that said, i only have a very general idea as to where to start and due to my relatively limited budget of ~$500 i have been recommended everything from a (relatively) vintage steel rigid to a brand new Trek Marlin, Giant Talon or bike from REI/Chain Reaction to a short travel full suspension bike.

i suspect you will need to know more about me and what i plan to do on the bike.

as mentioned, i am 32 years old, 5'11 and 195lbs. relatively athletic and can ride a surfboard, snowboard and skateboard and a bike, casually, quite well.

i live in NY (Westchester) and NJ (Monmouth) for anyone familiar with the region. i suspect i'd be riding mostly within state parks and such but, to be frank, i don't know much about the terrain here.

in a perfect world i'd find something new or gently used (via CL, FB, Pinkbike) that would be decent on, what i suspect, mild to moderate trails with the ability (read: won't be dreadful) to ride in even milder terrain (rolling open hills, gravel, maybe even to the beach?).

your thoughts, insight and advice MUCH appreciated.
 

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As someone who recently got into biking again (I’m 41) after riding BMX bikes as a kid, I’d thought I’d throw you a few things I learned.

Start with a used hard tail. Full suspension is pricey and the for budget you’re going to be limited something very well used.
When you’re looking, consider the components used and what you plan on riding.
Meaning, for example forget the traditional mechanical brakes, I got hydraulics and the difference is night and day on hills and technical stuff. Another example, Drivetrain - read up on what this means and determine what drivetrain will work for you and your “terrain”. I thought didn’t need to think about this and would be fine with what came on the bike but it turns out my favorite rides are very hilly so having a good drivetrain with proper gearing was clutch - a factor I didn’t think about when buying and it cost me $300+ extra later on when i could have spent the time understanding drivetrains/gearing and shopped for a bike that had the setup that I needed.
 

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Welcome!

As it happens, I'm your same age, and also bought a Haro at about 13yrs old...

I got into mountain biking last fall, and rode for 4 months on a 2012 XC hardtail with 100mm of fork travel, 3x10 gearing, entry level hydraulic brakes, and 26in tires (it was my bike I'd used for commuting to work for 4 years).

Was it the best bike? No. Was it fun? Yes. Was the bike limiting me? Maybe kind of, but mostly it was the rider... My favorite trails on the old bike are still my favorite trails now that I have a full suspension bike.

I wouldn't get caught up in an exact bike honestly. I'd look for a used hardtail. As long as it has hydraulic disk brakes, I feel like the rest of the advancements are less noticeable. Thats not to say other things aren't valuable (dropper posts, 1x11/1x12 drivetrains, thru axles, air suspension, etc).

I have a buddy who got a XC hardtail on the east coast this last summer. I think it was a 2014 Cannondale, with hydraulic discs, 3x9 drivetrain, and 27.5 tires. I think he paid maybe $350 for it? I'd imagine you'd be able to find something like that for a similar price, and since your budget is higher, potentially something newer.

Alternatively, this is about the best deal I've seen for a new bike. Its $100 over your budget. Its got an air fork, is compatible with dropper posts if you decide to upgrade, and has modern geometry (as a VERY rough/approximate blanket statement, bikes older than ~2013 or so have a different shape. Their wheelbases were generally shorter, and their head angles were more accute, which means they are not as stable/confidence inspiring on trails).

https://www.chainreactioncycles.com/us/en/vitus-nucleus-275-vr-mountain-bike-2019/rp-prod173149

Not trying to make you go over budget, just letting you know whats available. That way you can tell if a used bike is a "good" deal or not. As if its this same price, and worse... why bother.

Good luck on your search :).
 

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For $500, I also recommend the used market. Anything new at that price range is going to hold you back quickly. as an athletic person, you're likely to rocket past the initial learning curve that causes many to struggle. At you height, look for what might be labeled a "large" frame or 19-20". The newer the better, but an aged bike with good components will be better than a newer bike with crap components. For ride quality, I think the fork and brakes will make the biggest difference right away.
 

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You just need to keep looking. Most people think their bikes are worth way more than they actually are. I looked for months for a used bike. Mostly what I saw was 10+year old bikes for 1/2+ of what they cost new. Yea ok, you paid $1200 for your bike in 2006, but that doesn't mean it's worth $800 in 2019. I'll give you $200 if it's in great shape.... For some reason the ones that replied back were all offended.....

The best deal I found was a 2001 stumpjumper for $250, and considering the tech of the day (elastomer shocks? Who thought THAT was a good idea?) It was not worth that to me....
Anything decent made in this decade seemed to made of gold based on what they were asking.

I finally decided I needed to stop wasting time looking for a great deal on a used bike, I was sitting at home when I could have been riding and getting in shape, I needed to just get out and ride, so I stopped by my LBS and picked up a specialized pitch sport for $625. Now o can start saving for a nice used FS bike, and can take my time finding a sweet deal, because I can be out riding while I'm waiting for said deal.....
 

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I agree a used hardtail is probably your best bet. Couple things I'd recommend:

Look for a 9 speed....that's referring to the number of gears on the rear wheel. As a rule of thumb more gears will mean a better quality drivetrain. Sometimes sellers will multiply by the number of chain rings up front but that isn't indicative of quality. 10sp would be better but likely out of your price range...8sp can be okay, especially if it's an older bike that was higher end for it's day. Avoid 7 speed.

Inspect the wheels before buying. Spin the wheels and watch for any wobbles (lateral motion) or hops (vertical). It helps to hold a finger near the rim, braced against the fork or frame, so you can see small imperfections better. A slight lateral wobble isn't cause for concern, but a big wobble (more than a few mm), multiple wobbles or a vertical hop would give me pause. Even cheap wheels are expensive if your budget is around $500. Getting compromised wheels repaired will cost money and even a job well done is likely to only delay their continued deterioration.
 

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not having much luck here guys. maybe mtb isn't super popular in NY/NJ, but i seem to come across a lot of crap.

did find this, but it appears he has a buyer already:

https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/item/466429560809418/?ref=messenger_banner

I hope this helps explain why you might not see much on the used market:

I was doing the same thing last summer: ~$500 used hardtail to mess around with.

After searching and researching (learning about bikes, not searching again), and realising that an used bike that I'd want is either: being loved by the current owner and therefore not for sale or is snatched up within hours of posting (a ~$700 2017 trek roscoe 7). I saw it, thought about it, made an offer and got the news that it was sold.

So after that, I raised my budget. Since a 2018 roscoe 7 was around $1000, I figured might as well get a new bike in that category. Then I raised my budget again, because it's worth it to get the next tier (roscoe 8 for example) as it'd cost way more to get a roscoe 7 and upgrade it later.

After some shopping and resarching, I ended up with a 2018 salsa timberjack gx1.

I had a 1996 or 1997 diamondback outlook at 15. from dickssportinggoods. Finally got rid of it last spring.
 

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slow
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Might be a bit big for you and the gearing may not be low enough for steep hills, but if you don't have a bike to ride now it could be a good option while you continue to search for something you like better or something more suitable. Shoot them an offer of $130 and see if you can walk away with it for $150. Something is better than nothing while you wait for the best thing to come along.
 

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I rode a Nashbar frame, just sold it recently. Will do to get you going. Without spending too much, a wider bar/shorter stem will make it a bit better. I think $150 is about right.
 

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Be patient, do your homework, and you will find your bike. In 2012 I bought my first real bike, a 26" full suspension 2011 Specialized Camber Pro for like $1300. It's still one of my main bikes and I love riding it! I've upgraded almost everything including building wheels for it, I'll probably have it for another 5 years at least.

I bet you could find something similar for half that now! My main point is to be patient, I can't remember how long it took to find that bike, I was looking at craigslist constantly. You could also widen your search area for more results.
 
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