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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Old crufty mountain biker asked me for new bike advice and question echoed for a while... it is easy to tell them to buy used, or something on deep discount but he's got no vocabulary. And big problem is even with all the local stores in the seattle area, there's really not a wide range of styles to try. Folks end up buying what is on the rack at the LBS, or even worse, what is on sale on the internet, without really understanding what they are getting.

Was thinking, could we agreed on some bike catagories, select some representative extremes so buyers would have an idea of what bikes to seek out and try? Rather than visit the closest stores and try a bunch of bikes that all feel the same, what are the different bikes they should seek out to ride in order to understand the field?

I recommend hard tails for the 'mtb curious' because they're relatively cheap and maintainable, and usually durable.

My bike features plot is:

Necessary on modern bike:
- low top tube is always good (protect nards and clearance for lower handlebars)
- disk brakes (get the shimano xt, otherwise just wait a few years until you have trouble, then replace with xt)
- wider rims (>=25mm internal?)
- tubeless with appropriate tires
- cheap modern components are all good enough, wait for them to break.

Options:
- very light weight isn't make or break, probably something you'll want with your next bike after you have a clue.
- front suspension - I think 120-140mm is the sweet spot but this depends on local terrain. Smooth trails can totally use less.
- chainstays - long chainstays are great for comfortably covering ground, short are twitchy but needed for more aggressive riding. If you're an experienced rider coming from 26er you'll probably want the short stays.
- 27.5 or 29er or 27.5+ or 29+ eh... up to you I guess. Focus on fit, then on feel.

So: I figure there's 3 main catagories of hardtail mtb: xc race, trail, and cruiser. Tried to list bikes that live firmly in those categories.

xc race:
rocky vertex, pivot les, kona king kahuna, specialized epic, ghost lector
- steep head angle, light and stiff, 29er
- low bars relative to saddle
- short stays, short wheelbase
- exciting and fast, not comfortable or relaxing
- 80-100mm fork
- usually rare and expensive

'modern' forward frame:
kona honzo
- >= 120mm fork
- short chainstays as possible (certainly < 17")
- slack head angle (<67).
- relatively long top tube, short stem, higher bars
- wants a dropper post
- wants difficult terrain

'cruiser':
breezer cloud 9, specialized hardrock, most bikes are here
- longer stays (17.5)
- relatively shorter top tube
- 100-120mm fork
- comfortable, corner carving, for covering lots of smooth ground

Idea is that there's some small set of bikes that a new buyer could try so efficiently grow their bike vocabulary (learn what the different sorts are) and be able to focus on what is important for them and their local terrain. Then can search amongst the infinite choices to find what really suits their wants and budget.

What do you think: suggest more/better categories? suggest better set of bikes to try?
 

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since 4/10/2009
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You're welcome to try, but the industry has introduced PLENTY of language to describe sub-groups of mountain bikes and it really only serves to add confusion to beginners who don't have the language. Or shoot, not even beginners. Also the dude who's been riding for decades (and not paying attention to marketing) and has finally worn out or broken that old top end hardtail with cantis and is now looking at the market and wonder wtf happened and suffering language overload.

As a guy that has worked in bike shops and general outdoor retail for a lot of years, I have to continually dilute and reduce detailed, complicated marketing language for customers who get paralyzed by the sheer amount of it that gets thrown at them. The answer isn't more words.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
As a guy that has worked in bike shops and general outdoor retail for a lot of years, I have to continually dilute and reduce detailed, complicated marketing language for customers who get paralyzed by the sheer amount of it that gets thrown at them. The answer isn't more words.
I didn't mean 'vocabulary' as in words, I meant as in 'components of understanding', in this case learning how different bikes respond to the trails you ride - I think it would help if canonical hardtails could be identified so someone can just go through and experience a short list of bikes to get up to speed.

It is neat that we aren't discussing 'good' and 'bad' but there are so many choices it might help if we could factor them down to the basic differences or types.

Like many things we can learn from experiencing the extremes, even if its not what we want in the end.
 

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Would it be useful to develop an x/y graph and place each bike on a point along two axis? The results would be somewhat arbitrary but such a thing could be generally helpful.

In the end, I think the best answer for every rider to check local bike shops and ask local riders what works well for them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Would it be useful to develop an x/y graph and place each bike on a point along two axis? The results would be somewhat arbitrary but such a thing could be generally helpful.

In the end, I think the best answer for every rider to check local bike shops and ask local riders what works well for them.
I don't know about a graph. Maybe. Maybe we'd learn something from graphing bike geometry, then categorizing the bikes into groups, there'd surely be patterns. But I'm thinking there's probably like 3 or 4 basic bike types, you'd learn by riding the extremes.

I think key is for us random internet folks to converge on a short list of geometries a rider should try before buying. Just to get people the basic gist of how the bikes differ. A perfect shop would have a flow chart. Let people experience the types, then follow their nose. Lot of effort I guess. Lot of money to use the bikes I know.

Thing to avoid is to stress about the little details until the bike type is figured out.

Something like this:

New rider! Welcome, here is a rocky vertex. Don't worry about the price, just go take a spin on your average 20 minute loop. How'd it feel? Fast yeah? Your ass hurts? Yep! Your hands hurt? So it goes. You crashed? Bummer!

Ok, now go ride this Honzo ST on the same loop? Woo. Rolls over everything? Feels dead under you? Heavy? And you have no fear while riding it? Didn't know you liked muddy roots? Crash proof?

Ok, now go ride this Santa Cruz Highball. The ibis tranny. A DB Mason, the Specialized Rock Hopper, etc, etc.

Honing in on the bike you like? Or do you keep staring lustfully at that Pivot Les?​

Do you think my catagories are reasonable? Or should it be split finer? I think the catagories need to be course because tires/wheels/fork can make such a huge difference.

Current model of relying on paid verbage is really unfortunate. Ought to be a better and easier way.

And pardon me wasting bits: I'm stuck waiting at work so good time to ramble.
 

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I think one could put bikes along a spectrum from downhill to xc race along one axis and entry level to bling on the other. I don't understand why everyone wants to categorize everything in this way, but if someone put a gun to my head and told me to do it, that would be my best method.

That means nothing to the rider who is just starting out and does not know what type of bike is most useful to them. Sure, a downhill bike looks cool but when you live in the midwest with no intension of driving to Colorado to ride, it's wall art. A crabon rigid race bike is light, but the average newb taking that to chunksville is going to have a miserable time.
 

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The problem you run into here is that not all brands have representatives of every bicycle permutation you are going to encounter. So you can't put the customer on all of these so they can compare. They have to visit multiple shops in the area to get the best sampling that they can. And not all geographic areas have enough of a market to carry some of the different types of bikes even if they are available. There's not a single shop I've visited that has carried the FULL LINE of bikes from a single manufacturer, let alone more than one. Every year, there are invariably certain bikes that don't sell. Sometimes it's because the bike is fugly (and the pre-order catalog inadequately represented the fugliness, so the shop ordered something they wouldn't otherwise bother with). Sometimes it's because the shop is trying a new genre of bikes, and they don't catch on. Sometimes it's because of a price point (shop decides to stock too many $12,000 bikes in a market where a $5,000 bike is a hard sell). All sorts of reasons why shops don't carry absolutely everything.

And you can't just tell someone "don't worry about the price, just try it out" because then, you're the sales guy that's trying to upsell them by thousands of dollars. the customer won't trust the advice/suggestions you do provide, no matter how valid it might be. some people might try an expensive bike just to ride an expensive bike. but a lot of people are self-conscious about the budget they have, especially when they see price tags of bikes that cost 10x what they expected to spend.

every shop organizes their bikes into ways that make sense for them. typical schemes (more than one of which is probably employed in the same shop) include grouping by riding style/intended use, grouping by brand, sorting by price or size or by mens/womens/kids, and many others. Look at every bike brand's product catalog. They're using the currently-used terms (xc, trail, all-mountain, enduro, downhill, fatbike, endurance road, aero road, road race, gravel, all-road, etc, etc) to group bikes. They try to indicate differences by providing a descriptive language that STILL confuses a lot of people.

What you are doing doesn't simplify things any more than they already are. If anything, you're adding details and further complicating matters.

You can't quantify this sort of thing. Are you an engineer or something? Most people don't think this way.

Even with the current language, you have to use visuals to reach a point of understanding simply to explain the language. Pictures of people doing the types of riding the bikes are intended for, or maybe even videos. Shops that merchandise well incorporate this sort of thing into their displays.
 

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^+1, etc...

There are too many attributes that are qualitative and subjective. This is what makes room for so many brands and models.
 

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Also, most companies already do this. Look at the catalogs and websites. It takes ten minutes for a aspiring rider to read one of dozens of "intro mountain bikes" articles on the internet to familiarize themselves with the vocabulary and 30 minutes with a knowledgible bike shop person to be pointed in the right direction.

Yeah, sounds like something an engineer would want to do.
 

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What you are doing doesn't simplify things any more than they already are. If anything, you're adding details and further complicating matters.... Are you an engineer or something? Most people don't think this way.

:lol:

As a designer, I find this spot on and funny as ****.

:thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
:lol:

As a designer, I find this spot on and funny as ****.

:thumbsup:
If you can't do, teach, if you can't teach, design! F'ing architects!

I'm speechless if you think the process of mtb bike selection is good today. Cant think of a sport where it's easier to mess up ones purchase.

Perhaps best advice for beginner is to keep it under $200 until you have a clue.

Course there's no issue if you have good riders working at a bike shop, but they're few and far between, and mostly useless if you want to buy used.
 

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I don't know how much easier picking out a bike can be.
1. Where and how do you plan to ride?
2. What's your budget?

Get a a knowledgible person to address these two questions and the rest depends on what your LBS has for you and what color you like. If the average newb is too timid to find a local guru and ask, that's on them.
 

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If you can't do, teach, if you can't teach, design! F'ing architects!
Not a 'designer' as in fanciful ideas and vague concepts and pretty sketches; a mechanical/industrial designer. As in, take what the engineers and architects think maybe could/should/would work and figure out how to make it happen in the real world (typically after engineers have eaten up 90% of the budget on 'conceptualization').
 

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Any of you ***** refer to my scale as a 'ruler' and I'm gonna start busting f'ing heads!

:)
 

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Old crufty mountain biker asked me for new bike advice and question echoed for a while... it is easy to tell them to buy used, or something on deep discount but he's got no vocabulary. And big problem is even with all the local stores in the seattle area, there's really not a wide range of styles to try. Folks end up buying what is on the rack at the LBS, or even worse, what is on sale on the internet, without really understanding what they are getting.

Was thinking, could we agreed on some bike catagories, select some representative extremes so buyers would have an idea of what bikes to seek out and try? Rather than visit the closest stores and try a bunch of bikes that all feel the same, what are the different bikes they should seek out to ride in order to understand the field?

I recommend hard tails for the 'mtb curious' because they're relatively cheap and maintainable, and usually durable.

My bike features plot is:

Necessary on modern bike:
- low top tube is always good (protect nards and clearance for lower handlebars)
- disk brakes (get the shimano xt, otherwise just wait a few years until you have trouble, then replace with xt)
- wider rims (>=25mm internal?)
- tubeless with appropriate tires
- cheap modern components are all good enough, wait for them to break.

Options:
- very light weight isn't make or break, probably something you'll want with your next bike after you have a clue.
- front suspension - I think 120-140mm is the sweet spot but this depends on local terrain. Smooth trails can totally use less.
- chainstays - long chainstays are great for comfortably covering ground, short are twitchy but needed for more aggressive riding. If you're an experienced rider coming from 26er you'll probably want the short stays.
- 27.5 or 29er or 27.5+ or 29+ eh... up to you I guess. Focus on fit, then on feel.

So: I figure there's 3 main catagories of hardtail mtb: xc race, trail, and cruiser. Tried to list bikes that live firmly in those categories.

xc race:
rocky vertex, pivot les, kona king kahuna, specialized epic, ghost lector
- steep head angle, light and stiff, 29er
- low bars relative to saddle
- short stays, short wheelbase
- exciting and fast, not comfortable or relaxing
- 80-100mm fork
- usually rare and expensive

'modern' forward frame:
kona honzo
- >= 120mm fork
- short chainstays as possible (certainly < 17")
- slack head angle (<67).
- relatively long top tube, short stem, higher bars
- wants a dropper post
- wants difficult terrain

'cruiser':
breezer cloud 9, specialized hardrock, most bikes are here
- longer stays (17.5)
- relatively shorter top tube
- 100-120mm fork
- comfortable, corner carving, for covering lots of smooth ground

Idea is that there's some small set of bikes that a new buyer could try so efficiently grow their bike vocabulary (learn what the different sorts are) and be able to focus on what is important for them and their local terrain. Then can search amongst the infinite choices to find what really suits their wants and budget.

What do you think: suggest more/better categories? suggest better set of bikes to try?
Ever hear of the kiss principle, keep it simple stupid. That wall of text is not simple and it is confusing already.:confused::madman:
 

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I'm speechless if you think the process of mtb bike selection is good today.
I never said it was good. I said it's there and it's already an attempt to do exactly what you're trying to do. You're making it worse by making it even more complicated, which is the wrong direction to take it.

What WOULD be useful is a simpler framework to allow beginner customers to ease their way into the language of bikes. Get the numbers out of it completely. Put that $hit in tables in the "back of the book" for the people who want it. Up front and center, make the explanations very visual.

You see the category types plastered over every manufacturer's marketing literature. They DO mean something useful. The efforts to explain them fall pretty short. Usually there are more words used in those explanations. When people have never actually been on a trail and they just think "I want to ride mountain bikes", they don't need more words to explain what a bike does best. They need to see what the trails are like and be helped to understand what each bike brings to those trails.

A beginner's bike is almost never going to be the bike they stick with for a long time. Usually because they don't know what they don't know. And most of those things can't be learned until they spend a lot of time on the trails learning about whatever bike they've got between their legs.
 

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This is why we have lbs and their eager employees. All a beginner needs to do is show up with their desires and a budget and all will be handled. Good or bad, that's the system and it works.
 

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i just went through this.....and I happen to be an architect....DOH! Anyways, I saw this post and got about 1/4 way down the original post and my head hurt. I get the jist though, but what the poster is promoting is wrong. It is up to the consumer to educate themselves. Being 20 years out of the sport a lot of the lingo and terminology was new to me. I spent a few days researching and had enough questions that I had somewhat of an idea of what I wanted. I went to the LBS and still screwed it up the first go around buying something that wasn't quite right by the time I got home. They eventually let me swap it out and I think I got the right bike for me now.

Basically, it is as Sy Syms used to say, "An Educated Consumer is our Best Customer"
 
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