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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
What do think is the best entry level hardtail for under $500. I'd like to have disc brakes and looking for a frame that would be worth upgrading component on once things start to break.
 

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Pretty much most "brand name" bikes in this price range will have a reasonably good frame that is worthy of upgrading. The problem is that most also come with very low end forks, components, and disc brakes. There are several things you can do to improve on this.
-Look for 2008 models on closeout, you might get a $650 bike for $500...plus the 2008 bikes were better equipped for the same price as the 2009 bikes
-If you are comfortable with what size bike you need, you can get more for your money purchasing from an online company such as BikesDirect or Ibex. But remember, you save on the bike but you lose out on the service...its a tradeoff
-If you have a Performance Bike nearby, check them out. They often have Pacific Cycles brands (Mongoose, GT, Schwinn) on sale or for very good deals.
 

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I just got my 08 Trek 4300 Disc for about $540 at my local shop. If you can find an 08 model left, grab it over the Specialized. That's my opinion anyway.

The Hardrock is a very popular entry level bike. It's pretty much the benchmark but I went a different route mainly because of something the local bike shop told me. Name brands in that price point are all about the same when it comes to frames. Solid frames with lower end components that vary but the frames are usually quality stuff. He also said they prefer Trek because as a company because Trek does a lot for the sport with donations, publicity, etc. Again, this is his opinion but I work with someone who really knows this guy very well and he said I could trust him on his word and his opinion of Trek as a company. Plus they only carry Trek and Gary Fischer and I liked the Trek bike better than the Marlin.


So if you can find a Trek 4300 or 4300 disc in your size, grab it while it lasts. I just took my bike out today and I have "0" complaints about it. Compared to the Specialized Rockhopper, I think the Trek has better gear components over the SRAM the Spec. bike has. My Alivio gears switch smooth and solid. Only on occassion do they feel rough and that's my fault only. Still learning to shift properly.
 

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I might be wrong, being I have only been into serious biking for less than a year, but my experience was the bikes are all very much the same in a given price range. I rode a $200 Kona for 10 years, mainly street and light dirt trails. I needed to upgrade once I hit the real trails, with logs, rocks, etc. My budget was $500 and I had it down to a Haro Escape and a Jamis Durango, within $15 of each other. I liked the color of the Jamis better, but when I rode both, the Haro felt sturdier, shifted better, and I liked the handle bar feel better.

My experience was the parts usually tend to be of the same or similar quality in a given range, but the feel was what made me lean Haro. I liked the Treks too, but they didn't have my size in stock. I would have been happy with any of the bikes I rode, but like I said, the Haro "felt" the best.
 

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Hoosier
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Well I didn't make it here before the fan boys but the real answer is there isn't one. Go to the local shops in your area and ride every bike in your price range. Then buy the one that feels the best to you.
 

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Keatan said:
Well I didn't make it here before the fan boys but the real answer is there isn't one. Go to the local shops in your area and ride every bike in your price range. Then buy the one that feels the best to you.
That's exactly what I was told a few weeks ago before I made my purchase and I completely agree. I really liked the look of my Trek over the GF Marlin anyway so I bought it based on appearance and the ride was good enough for me. I know that's opposite of what I'm advising and what everyone else says to do but I just really had my heart set on that burnt orange Trek. Sometimes, love at first sight is a force to be reconed with! :p

I spoke with my co-worker who has been a very serious road biker for over 25 years and a serious mountain biker for over 10 years. He has been around the biking industry for a long time and he completely agreed with what my LBS said, "frames in that price point are all about the same, if you can determine the quality and trade off with the components themselves, you've got it made".

He explained it to me like a curve on a graph. If the curve starts at the bottom left corner and rises steep to the $600 range, the benefits gained overall are dramatic. Thus the steep inclined curve. Once you start getting over the $600-700 price point, the curve eventually starts to taper off and you get into the higher end components like carbon fiber frames, high end shock forks, etc. The benefits gained overall are less dramatic to the novice/beginner but the expert can see more differences over time. NO beginner should go out and buy a $3,000 Full Suspension bike if they are not positive this is THE sport for them. More than likely, they could not tell the difference between a $3,000 bike and a $1,000 bike give or take an item or two.

SO the point is, the price point is pretty much at the $600-700 range. If $500 is your budget, look for the remaining 08 models and DO YOUR RESEARCH!:thumbsup: I read many reviews on my bike and many other bikes to see what average beginners said about them. Study the components, ask around at LBS, search the reviews, etc.

If you don't want to spend the time with the research, just go buy the best you can find and be happy with what you get. Doing the research will give you a peace of mind and confidence that you bought the best you could within a given price range.

Good luck! SHOPPING IS FUN!:D
 

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I would add to the list the Forge Sawback 5xx. I've had mine for a few years, with over 2K+ miles its still going strong. I did however recently change the front fork to a tora. All the other components are the original. Forge in my view makes an excellent bicycle, very well priced and their customer service cares.

Here's a link:
http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=292931&highlight=forge+sawback+5xx

Outside of Forge I think the suggestion above on For the Trek is good, or take a look at the Giant Rincon. Best of luck!
 

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Here's an example of research. I took a few minutes and researched what gear set comes on the Specialized Hardrock disc that lists around $460. The rear der. is a Shimano Altus.
Hre are the reviews for the Shimano Altus:
http://www.mtbr.com/cat/drivetrain/component-group/shimano/2000-alivio/PRD_350852_113crx.aspx

The Trek I bough comes with Shimano Alivio. Here are the reviews for the Alivio:
http://www.mtbr.com/cat/drivetrain/component-group/shimano/2000-alivio/PRD_350852_113crx.aspx

The Alivio is slightly (and I mean slightly) better than the Altus based on a very close price comparison per the reviews above. So when it comes to buying a bike around $500-$600, every little thing matters. Get the best you can for the money. Believe me, I've been there. I was just there a few weeks ago.

The Shimano Deore is slightly better than the Alivio because it's lighter but you pay for that weight difference. From what others have said here, it maynot be worth the price difference overall. The GF Marlin has Deore, Rock Shox Dart fork (not much better than RST or Suntour from what most say) but that bike is about $800. So for more money you get a slightly better set of components overall. Again, the price point curve of $600 is about the min. to see the best "bang for the buck". So go find yourself an 08 model $600 range bike (whatever brand) on sale for about $500-550 and you'll be happier and feel like you got a great deal.

I REALLY hope this helps you. Forums are a great resource. If you're like me and you only plan on riding on weekends, get the best you can in your price range and don't look back. Sure, the bike will be heavier, lesser quality gear, and not as durable as a $2,000 full suspension bike but if it's your first bike.......who cares! You paid 300% less than they did for a bike that is only 5-8% lighter than theirs and requires 3-4 months less maintenance with only a front suspension. When ridden side by side, the bang for the buck is obvious. Once you get bitten by the mountain bike bug, trade-in your bike or upgrad the components.
 

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Ozark-XCrdr said:
That's exactly what I was told a few weeks ago before I made my purchase and I completely agree. I really liked the look of my Trek over the GF Marlin anyway so I bought it based on appearance and the ride was good enough for me. I know that's opposite of what I'm advising and what everyone else says to do but I just really had my heart set on that burnt orange Trek. Sometimes, love at first sight is a force to be reconed with! :p

I spoke with my co-worker who has been a very serious road biker for over 25 years and a serious mountain biker for over 10 years. He has been around the biking industry for a long time and he completely agreed with what my LBS said, "frames in that price point are all about the same, if you can determine the quality and trade off with the components themselves, you've got it made".

He explained it to me like a curve on a graph. If the curve starts at the bottom left corner and rises steep to the $600 range, the benefits gained overall are dramatic. Thus the steep inclined curve. Once you start getting over the $600-700 price point, the curve eventually starts to taper off and you get into the higher end components like carbon fiber frames, high end shock forks, etc. The benefits gained overall are less dramatic to the novice/beginner but the expert can see more differences over time. NO beginner should go out and buy a $3,000 Full Suspension bike if they are not positive this is THE sport for them. More than likely, they could not tell the difference between a $3,000 bike and a $1,000 bike give or take an item or two.

SO the point is, the price point is pretty much at the $600-700 range. If $500 is your budget, look for the remaining 08 models and DO YOUR RESEARCH!:thumbsup: I read many reviews on my bike and many other bikes to see what average beginners said about them. Study the components, ask around at LBS, search the reviews, etc.

If you don't want to spend the time with the research, just go buy the best you can find and be happy with what you get. Doing the research will give you a peace of mind and confidence that you bought the best you could within a given price range.

Good luck! SHOPPING IS FUN!:D
Not a bad summary of entry level bike shopping.

I would add that there is sound reasoning behind the idea of starting out with an entry level hardtail. And that starts out with it being a good idea not to overspend on your first MTB and not to go crazy with upgrades even though the frames are OK.

The reason it's a good idea to start out with an entry level bike is that as an entry level rider, you may have an idea of what type of riding you'll end up liking the most, you really don't know for sure and you don't even know for certain that it is something that you'll stick with for the long term.

So, start out with a $500 - $600 hardtail and ride the tar out of it for a year or two. Fix what breaks and do your best to resist upgrading parts, especially expensive ones like the fork and wheels even though these will make a difference. Instead of upgrading your entry level hardtail, you should be putting money away and saving for your second bike.

By the time you have put a season or two on your entry level hardtail, you will have learned a lot about bikes and what type of riding you prefer and how to pick good smooth lines and how to use your body to smooth out the trail.

Now, when you have saved up enough for your second bike, you have a much better chance of choosing your dream bike correctly and you get a better deal buying a complete bike. If you were going the upgraditis route on your entry level hardtail, you'd be that further away from saving up for the bike you ultimately want to end up with and upgrading just costs more.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks for the great summary Ozark and jeffj. I've been doing some looking around and I'm leaning towards an 08 GT Avalanche 2.0. This will actually be my second bike, I ride an 08 stumpy fsr comp.
 

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Take a look at iron horse warrior 3.0, 3.5, & 5.5 (perfomance bikes has them), or the 5.0 from rscycle.com. Performance and RS Cycle have been having 15-20% off sales lately, I would wait for one of those. I have not been able to find a better speced bike for the $$$$, easily tops the GT.
 

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Ride the dream
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These threads have a somewhat limited use...
Its mostly about knowing how best to interpret and use the posts you get in response.

You want to use informations in these threads to make your own shortlist of bikes to find in the flesh - when you see them in person, and feel the cockpit positions, the decision will often make itself.


You can do worse than to (mostly) ignore peoples opinions on bikes in threads like this one. Not because the opinions are wrong, or not worth listening too - but you should have a vague idea already of what is most important to you.
Alot of people get overly hung up on other peoples opinions, some things that are said are helpful, some are not - however, your own opinion is the most important because its YOUR hard earned thats being spent.

Youll ofcourse get a few "fanboy" posts, and ofcourse everyone's recommendations are based on what matters most to them: Some will think that "value" is the most important, some care more for components, some for different components, some who care more for geometry, and then those who care most for the name.
The priorities of people posting are not neccessarily the same as yours.

The thing to remember, is that very few bad bikes become popular - if you get alot of people recommending the same bike - its unlikely to be a bad one.
What that means is, that its worth finding more information - and if the specifics fit what you want, then its definately worth adding to a shortlist of bikes to find in the flesh.

If you simply write up a list of suggested bikes from the thread, and do some quick research on them (parts lists, basic geometry, specific pricing etc), you'll find its not overly difficult to knock up a basic shortlist of bikes that are worth going to look at.


Good luck.
 

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English verbosity....

EnglishT said:
These threads have a somewhat limited use...
Its mostly about knowing how best to interpret and use the posts you get in response.

You want to use informations in these threads to make your own shortlist of bikes to find in the flesh - when you see them in person, and feel the cockpit positions, the decision will often make itself.

You can do worse than to (mostly) ignore peoples opinions on bikes in threads like this one. Not because the opinions are wrong, or not worth listening too - but you should have a vague idea already of what is most important to you.
Alot of people get overly hung up on other peoples opinions, some things that are said are helpful, some are not - however, your own opinion is the most important because its YOUR hard earned thats being spent.

Youll ofcourse get a few "fanboy" posts, and ofcourse everyone's recommendations are based on what matters most to them: Some will think that "value" is the most important, some care more for components, some for different components, some who care more for geometry, and then those who care most for the name.
The priorities of people posting are not neccessarily the same as yours.

The thing to remember, is that very few bad bikes become popular - if you get alot of people recommending the same bike - its unlikely to be a bad one.
What that means is, that its worth finding more information - and if the specifics fit what you want, then its definately worth adding to a shortlist of bikes to find in the flesh.

If you simply write up a list of suggested bikes from the thread, and do some quick research on them (parts lists, basic geometry, specific pricing etc), you'll find its not overly difficult to knock up a basic shortlist of bikes that are worth going to look at.

Good luck.
Let me parse this out:

1. Read what English T wrote.
2. Read what Keatan wrote.

The most important aspect, without question more important than all other considerations is the fit of the bike. Everything and I mean everything fall in line behind that.

A $5,000 bike that doesn't fit is worth less on the trail than a $300 bike that fits perfectly.

Ride a bunch of bikes within your price range and determine which one fits you best or "feels" right to you. That's the "best" bike for you.
 

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Keatan said:
Well I didn't make it here before the fan boys but the real answer is there isn't one. Go to the local shops in your area and ride every bike in your price range. Then buy the one that feels the best to you.
I wholeheartedly agree.

Also, IMO don't let disc brakes be part of the deciding factor in this price range. They will be bottom of the barrel disc brakes and they may or may not work well for you. I almost think you're better off opting for v-brakes in this price range because you can upgrade to nice pads for cheap.

My bike has low end disc brakes. They work fine, but once I got them muddy (possibly with some ice mixed in) and they barely worked at all. There is very limited adjustability, and with my new fork one of the pads may always rub due to the mounting hole position.
 

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10sballs said:
Thanks for the great summary Ozark and jeffj. I've been doing some looking around and I'm leaning towards an 08 GT Avalanche 2.0. This will actually be my second bike, I ride an 08 stumpy fsr comp.
This may sound really dumb, but here goes...if you have an 08 SJ FSR Comp why are you looking for an entry level hard tail? One for the little women, maybe? Just curious.
 

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mtbikernc69 said:
This may sound really dumb, but here goes...if you have an 08 SJ FSR Comp why are you looking for an entry level hard tail? One for the little women, maybe? Just curious.
Logical responses that come to mind:
1) For building skills - hardtails are better for working on skills than FS are, and not all FS riders (ok, very few) will spend large amounts of cash on a bike purely for skill building
2) For girlfriend/Brother/Father etc - for someone to ride with, and for use when FS needs work doing (it sounds stupid, but not that many people around here ride - the only reason i kept my second hardtail is because then its available to lend to friends/family to get more riding time in)
3) For riding less difficult trails & mild road riding - I'll admit, I love my FS to bits, but if theres a less technical trail that im gonna ride, ill sometimes get the hardtail out, its alot of fun for a change and it helps to highlight lazy areas in technique so I know to be concious of them. Plus, if I need to get somewhere by bike, or i feel like putting in some road miles, the hardtail is the obvious choice.

Or any combinations of the above.

I can understand the wish to have something worthy of upgrading later - there wouldnt be much point in buying something so crap that you wouldnt want to ride it, and that there would be no point in upgrading when you did break things.
Or if you discovered that you wanted to ride the hardtail as often as the FS, it would make sense to have something you can upgrade (sensibly) without wasting money on a lost cause.

On the specific topic - read my other post, and keatans post... There is no definate "best" because everything will feel a bit different.
The best way to decide is to try them for fit and feel and the decision will make itself - threads like this are mostly useful for learning what is out there thats worth checking out.
 
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