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I'm looking to get my wife a bike so she can ride with me on the weekends. Nothing serious, but a decent mountain bike for trail riding. I was thinking something under $250 could get me a decent bike and it won't be a total waste if she ends up not riding it as much... or at all...

Any recommendations? Are the bikes they sell at Sport Authority or the big box sporting goods store any good? They sell brands like Titan or Polaris.
 

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I would still buy a bike from a shop. I can guarantee that a cheapo Schwinn/GT/Diamondback/Haro from a bike shop will be assembled much better than a department store build, and a lot of bike shops will give you the same service guarantee as their higher priced bikes.

Some shops offer lifetime adjustments, so you get your money back if you bring to a shop twice for tune-ups.
 

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Might consider Craigslist...I got my wife a one year old Trek 4300 for $200 a couple of years ago that had a set of road slicks on it and looked like it had been ridden all of a few rides on the road only. But make sure she likes the color, that was the clincher on this deal.

I've since upgraded the saddle ($30), Tires ($30), and front fork (Free, I just had to service it) and its a great bike for her since she usually only rides a dozen times a year.
 

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big box...

sell "one size fits all" heavy, badly-assembled bikes. They require constant adjustment, and virtually guarantee your wife won't ride.

I like mtnbiker72's idea. See if you can find a bike someone else's bike their wife didn't ride much, but is good quality, and go from there.

Fit is your key: with her butt on the saddle and hands on the bars, it should feel comfortable for her. If it doesn't, she simply won't ride it.

If it's not a surprise, involve her as much as possible and let the decision to buy be hers. If it is a surprise, then make sure the purchase can be returned or exchanged if she doesn't like it or it doesn't fit.

Good luck, Jim
 

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I'd go used. Make sure she rides the bike and is sure it fits. You will do much better with a used bike if your skilled at bicycle mechanics and can fix up somebody else's junk. If you go used and don't have the skills to fix/tune a bike you will likely spend a bunch of money at a bike shop.

If you go new then plan to spend 400-500 minimum to get something trail worthy. Don't forget to let her ride the bike and make sure it fits.
 

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Trek 3700 - a friend of mine has one and she loves it.
or
Diamondback Lux Sport - it is the women's version of the Response sport, which is a decent entry bike, and you can probably pick it up for about $270ish. It is usually on sale at either Sports Authority or Dick's. Pick up a two year warranty at Dick's for a mere $35 extra for two years. If you hit the right store or sweet talk a manager, they will offer you unlimited tune-ups with that two year warranty.

I know everyone bad mouth the big box stores, but the Lux and Response are decent bikes and they won't break the bank.

Also, check the pawn shops. I've seen a lot of nice, used bikes in there for less than $200 in good working order.
 

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The Martian
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forereal said:
I'm looking to get my wife a bike so she can ride with me on the weekends. Nothing serious, but a decent mountain bike for trail riding. I was thinking something under $250 could get me a decent bike and it won't be a total waste if she ends up not riding it as much... or at all...

Any recommendations? Are the bikes they sell at Sport Authority or the big box sporting goods store any good? They sell brands like Titan or Polaris.
Ditch the big box idea. I definitely encourage you to keep up with the craigslist checking; it will take some time but you should be rewarded with a nearly new Rockhopper, Trek 4500, Giant Boulder, or similar for your patience (these are considered "entry level" true mountain bikes and retail for $450-$550). I personally wouldn't recommend anything less than this quality level for actual singletrack trail riding.

Also try to budget $50 for a quick LBS check and cable adjust if you aren't mechanically inclined or an afternoon if you are to get it running good and she should be set. And don't forget the helmet, hydration, and possible saddle swap.
 

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Great advice on this thread. The only way to get a decent bike for $250 is to go used.

Here's what I'd do:

1) Go with your wife to local bike shop, sit on a few bikes to see which fit her best. Keep in mind that one bikes size 15" can have similar dimensions to another bikes 16" or 17", or that one models medium may feel like another's large, etc.
2) Note down the virtual tob tube length and standover of the bikes she fits best.
3) Use that info to streamline potential bikes on Craigslist (or eBay).
4) Once you have the "new to you" bike, buy helmet, gloves, etc. from shop in step 1 (if you liked their CS).
 

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CrimsonFox said:
Also, check the pawn shops. I've seen a lot of nice, used bikes in there for less than $200 in good working order.
I am not sure where these pawn shops are. I know that around my neck of the woods, the pawn shops are incredibly expensive. I stopped going to pawn shops because they ask too much for bikes, usually as much or more than retail price for bikes are are usually beat to hell and in need of some repairs.

For example, I was looking for an inexpensive bike to ride on campus back in 2003. At a local bike and ski shop, I found a leftover 2001 Raleigh M20 which retailed for about $230 at the time on sale for $150. Later that day, I found the same bike at a pawn shop for $215. I ended going back to the bike store and got them to take another 10% off the bike, so walked out the door for just under $150 with tax.

In more recent years, I have been buying, repairing, and reselling bikes. My typical source includes thrift stores, garage sales, and other people selling on craigslist. I thought maybe I would try my luck again with the pawn shops, this time armed with the knowledge that they will negotiate on the price. They will lower the price usually, particularly when the bike has been in their inventory a long time. Still, they generally won't go low enough to make it worth buying in my opinion. Even though I was trying to make a profit, the average buyer probably isn't going to get a good deal either. Unless you can work on bicycles, you will end up spending more money to take it to a shop for tune-up or repair.
 
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