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Back in the game... need help choosing my weapon

4297 Views 35 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  jguere
I used to ride every day in my high school days, but haven't done much since joining the military almost 11 years ago. Now I'm 30, been out of the loop for a while and I'm looking to buy a new bike. Here is a short list of the bikes I'm looking at... thoughts? recommendations?

Gary Fisher G2 Piranha
Gary Fisher G2 Marlin Disc GS
Specialized Rockhopper Expert Disc
Specialized Rockhopper Comp Disc
GT Avalanche 1.0 Disc
Trek 6000
Giant XtC 2
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all good bikes just try them out and see which fits best
carlos91 said:
all good bikes just try them out and see which fits best
Thanks for stating the obvious, but I'm trying to get some input based on experience. I'm leaning toward the Gary Fisher Piranha. What are the advantages of hydraulic brakes over mechanical brakes? Does anyone have experience with or currently use SRAM X-5 shifters?
EDIT: n/m
Wow, dial it down there, dude... why so sensitive? I posted to get some input, not random responses that don't contribute to anything. Apparently I came to the wrong forum.

carlos91, I meant no offense by my reply. I'm a straight-forward guy, so if I offended you, I apologize.
Ok- since you pressed, if you plan to be a(what I called you) in most of your posts, you are definitely on the wrong site and should try they (the teens on that site) like to talk to each other like that.

Here's my advice to you- dial it down a notch yourself, test ride every bike you are considering (which should pare down that list a bit) then compare the components. Since a couple of those are spec'd similarly, it'll come down to fit and your preference, which is what carlos91 said in a more succinct manner than I just have.

Edit- I have x7 shifters (and rear der.) on my bike, and I have no complaints whatsoever. I've heard that the difference between x5 and x7 is relatively minimal, so I doubt that an x5 setup would be noticeably 'bad'.
BigSharks, I'm glad we could get past that. I honestly meant nothing by it and I wasn't trying to be a d-bag... I'll leave out the sarcasm from now on.

I guess this is what I'm trying to get at... All of my previous experience was with Shimano brakes, derailleurs, shifters, levers, cranksets, etc. (Deore to be specific)... so I'm curious about others' experience with SRAM products, specifically the X series derailleurs/shifters... Also, any recommendations on a quality XC fork for a decent price (preferrably less than $300)? Most of the bikes in my price range sport Rock Shox Dart 3 or Tora SL... any opinions on either of these? I remember a while back that Marzocchi and Manitou made pretty decent mid-range susp. forks...

I'm headed to a local shop to test out the Rockhopper Expert and Trek 6000 on Mon/Tues, so I'm sure I won't feel quite as lost after that.
Pick the one you think will ride the best based on the trails that you will ride the most...
I was going to give you crap for using "choosing my weapon" when referring to a bike, but since you been in the military for the last decade, go for it.
Anyway, outside of fit, the biggest thing that will impact the quality of your ride is the suspension. Unfortunately most entry-level to mid-level bikes come with not-so-great forks. It would be great if they would offer a fork upgrade for another $100 or so, but they usually don't. The good news is that even some of the lower end forks are probably better than whatever you were riding 10 years ago.The bad news is that they tend to be really heavy and the damping systems are not near as good as you would get on a mid-range or better fork. I didn't look at the specs on all those bikes, but I'd suggest you first rank them based on the suspension, then by the brakes, then by the drivetrain. Drivetrains are pretty decent these days and anything X5 or better or Deore or better is going to be fine.

My honest opinion to people buying a new entry-level to mid-range hardtail is 1st see if you can find one with a decent fork. If not, find one with decent other components at a little less than you planned on spending for the complete bike. Then take the fork off before you use the bike and sell it as a new take-off on ebay and put that money towards a better fork.
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trailville, now that you mention it, "choosing my weapon" sounds ridiculous... but, whatever... thanks for the advice. You're absolutely right about most entry-level hardtails coming equipped with low-end forks. I think I've already narrowed my list down to 2 bikes and pending a test ride, I'm leaning toward the Gary Fisher Piranha...
jguere said:
trailville, now that you mention it, "choosing my weapon" sounds ridiculous... but, whatever... thanks for the advice. You're absolutely right about most entry-level hardtails coming equipped with low-end forks. I think I've already narrowed my list down to 2 bikes and pending a test ride, I'm leaning toward the Gary Fisher Piranha...
Assuming you're buying from a bike shop that actually works on forks (not all do), see about having them upgrade the damper in your Tora to a motion control damper as part of your purchase (they will have to charge you,but you should get a better deal doing it as part of your purchase). Just in case they play dumb, there is a motion control damper for Toras, but rarely does it come on the models that come stock on the bike. They should be able to order one as a replacement part though. You can buy one online for around $50. It's not quite as good as the motion control damper that come on higher end forks, but its close and is much better than the Turnkey damper that will probably be on your Tora.
jguere- its all good, welcome to the forums.

I checked out the specs of all of the above on the forums, and really, they're more similar than I thought. I do agree that a good fork is key, and it looks like you've got a basic Dart 3 on all of them except the GT and the Giant (if I recall), which have a Tora. RS Tora is a step up (IMO), but not an astronomical one. I think both have a lockout feature (where you can keep the fork from rebounding, very nice to have on pavement), which I wish I had on my Manitou Black fork.

I personally would hesitate to get a GT because they're now in Dorel's stable (along with Mongoose, Cannondale, Schwinn, Dyno, etc.). My take on them is that they buy brands out and then paste the brand name on every POS they can sell at Walmart and Toys R Us. From what I understand, GT and Cdale are still making quality bikes, but all else being equal, I'd lean more towards Trek (who owns GF) and Giant.

EDIT- started typing and got caught up in an eBay auction so I didn't see the previous couple of posts...
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jguere said:
Here is a short list of the bikes I'm looking at... thoughts? recommendations?
Trek and Specialized both carefully control discounting by their dealers making it especially unlikely that you'll find any really good deals except for one scenario: Trek just cut out all the non-Trek Gary Fisher dealers back in June and many of those dealers are now offering aggressive discounts to clear out their existing GF inventory. Now may not be the best time to pay a going-forward Trek/Gary Fisher dealer anything near MSRP on a 2010 Gary Fisher bike.

Giant, GT and some other brands are where you can find deals if that's important to you (I assume you didn't get rich in the military). As a 29er HT owner myself, I 'm agreement with the opinion that the seriously large tires on many 29er's offer some of the comfort and smoothness of a full-suspension bike with a much low cost and drastically reduced maintenance. Performance's Access XCL 9r bikes and JensonUSA's Bianchi SOK 29er are well worth looking at.

The big issue with Shimano vs. SRAM is that SRAM uses 1:1 shifting and Shimano uses a 2:1 system. You can't use SRAM 1:1 shifters with Shimano 2:1 derailleurs, and you cannot use SRAM 1:1 derailleurs with Shimano 2:1 shifters. Both get high praises but many feel that SRAM 1:1 takes knocks and abuse better while also being less fiddly to set up. Still it's close enough to be down to personal preference though.

On RockShox, note that none of the TurnKey forks come with serviceable bushings. The Tora 318 gets into a whole different level with both Motion-Control and serviceable bushings -- the only thing making it a "Tora" is the chromed steel stanchions (not a bad thing). I've read lots of fork reviews and Marzocchi, Manitou, Fusion, RST, etc all come in a distant second behind Fox and RockShox. Not that a high-end Marzocchi or Manitou might not better better overall than a low-end RockShox but comparing apples to apples I'm doubtful that so many reviewers could be far off in their unanimous opinions.

Recent issues of the UK magazines What Mountain Bike? and Mountain Bike Rider each have some pretty good shoot-out articles. Might be worth $10 a copy to get a sense of what reviewers especially like and dislike in the bikes they've tested.
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Thanks for that Clones123, that's definitely helpful. I had been looking at some 29ers too, but didn't want to go that direction until I have a chance to test one out. The whole 29" wheel thing is new to me. I think I may just buy a decent cheaper bike with a low-end fork and spend a few hundred on a good fork.

I'm headed to a LBS (AAFES Base Exchange) tomorrow to check out some Trek's and Cannondale's. Being stationed overseas, our exchange carries dept. store bikes and mid to high end bikes. There's a shop downtown that carries a bunch of German, Swiss and Austrian brands along with Scott and Specialized. I may swing by there and see what they have to offer.
I didn't realize that you were in Europe. In that case, I would definitely buy a 29er if available and hope to flip it onto the local economy where 29er's are still a rarity. There's bound to be some German Clydes out there looking for big wheels.

The thing with 29er's is that, for an equivalent wheelset, you're going to get more flex and noticeably slower acceleration. On the plus side though is a smoother, faster ride, better traction and greater rotational inertia to take you up short hills. Everything is a compromise but for me and a lot of other people the pros of big wheels outweigh the cons.

I worked for the Army in Berlin back in 1985 and I needed a set of wheels to get around. AAFES didn't have jack locally and I was in too big of a hurry to train to the West to have a look there. The situation in the British Sector wasn't much better but up in Berlin's French Sector the Frog PX had a decent selection and I picked up a nice Peugeot road bike that took me a lot of miles over my subsequent few years in Europe. I'm hoping for your sake (and all service members) that AAFES has improved over the retail experience they provided back then.

Thanks for your service and good luck finding a bike you'll like and enjoy.
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AAFES has definitely improved in their product selection, but I doubt they offer any type of service when it comes to bikes. I'm pretty sure it's just sales and nothing else. The last time I was in there, they had 2 or 3 Trek FS Fuel EX bikes, which will probably sit on the rack for years... the cool thing is, if I end up going with the Trek 6000, I can get it tax free!
OK, so Cannondale F4/F5 is out of the question after visiting AAFES... but I did go to another LBS today and check out some European brands... I think DHM is a definite possibility... here's the one I'm looking at... it's a 2009 model on sale for 849 Euros which will equal out to about $815 after tax exemption...
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Anyone ever heard of DHM? They're a Swiss company and they have been in the business for 20+ years, but there's not much information out there about them. I'm seriously considering buying the DHM ML V, but I'm a little nervous because I don't know much about the company. Any inputs?
jguere said:
Anyone ever heard of DHM?
Dude, the July 2010 issue of What Mountain Bike has specs and prices on 1,104 different bikes currently available in the UK. Lots of European brand names I've never heard of anywhere else. No DHM or HM listed. Component group looks pretty good though the Tora 302 seems a little out of place. You might want to pick up a spare derailleur hanger or two with the bike, you know?
Swiss secret?

Yeah, it's really weird that no one seems to know anything about this company. The LBS I went to (BikeMax) is a fairly large bike shop chain in Germany and they carry a s**tload of DHM bikes. I noticed the company markets their products directly on Amazon, which is interesting. Maybe I found best kept secret in Swiss engineering? Who knows...

Anyway, my Deutsch is marginal at best and none of the sales people on Tuesday spoke much English, so maybe next time I can find someone I can communicate with to find out more info about this mysterious Swiss bike company, or better yet bring one of my German neighbors along to translate! We shall see.
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