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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, my name is Tim and I live on the Eastside in the Seattle area. I just came across these forums today and signed up.

My DW and I have two boys and most of our riding is on hardpack dirt and paved trails.

Before getting married twenty years ago I rode pavement almost every day during the drier months on the Centurion LeMans road bike I bought when I was in high school in the mid-70's. After marriage, my DW and I wanted to ride more trails and got Diamondback mountain bikes - a Topanga for her and an Ascent for me - that we're still riding today. In recent years most of our riding has been during RV camping trips on nearby forest service roads and trails. We'd like to return to riding more regularly.

Believe it or not, we've been quite satisfied with our trusty old bikes but occasionally find ourselves on terrain that begs for some kind of suspension. My DW has just this past year gone through chemotherapy for NHL (cancer) - and is currently in full remission - so funds have been a little too tight to just go out and buy new bikes. This makes me wonder if replacing the original stock forks with shock forks would be an acceptable upgrade without breaking the bank.

Any recommendations for a mechanically-inclined newbie? Is it worth it to put shock money into these old bikes or would we be further ahead buying new bikes? If new - what's a good bang-for-the-buck way to go?

Our 11 and 14-year old boys are a tad small for their age and are in the final stages of outgrowing their cheap (<$100 each) Toys-R-Us 20" multi-speed suspended bikes. I've been convinced for some time that they would enjoy riding much more with better fitting, better quality bikes, but we don't have money to throw away so I'd want to make sure what is spent is spent very wisely and efficiently. Can someone point me in a direction to look first and perhaps some pointers on what's worth putting the highest priority on?

Thank you!
 

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Your post made me smile; it sounds like you've got a good thing going.

I'm no expert, but I've been around the sport long enough to make a few observations; hopefully some well informed people will chime in and give you lots of good advice.

I don't know the specifics of your old diamondbacks, but I'm guessing they're bikes from the early 90's. My road bike is from the mid eighties, so I know firsthand that well maintained older bikes are great, and can be ridden forever, happily. But I suspect upgrading your bikes may not be worth your while. I'm going to guess that those bikes have forks with one inch threaded steerer tubes. If that's the case, your choices of suspension forks will be extremely limited. You can probably find forks for $150-$200 each that will fit those bikes. But if you look around a bike shop and check out entry level bikes, you'll be pretty amazed at what $300-$400 will buy you. For $400, you can get a bike with what is probably a better fork than you'll be able to find to fit your old bike. And you'll get an 8 speed drivetrain (24 gears) with shifters and brakes that will amaze you, compared to your older equipment. And the whole package will probably come in several pounds lighter than what you're riding now, which will translate into a much more nimble, fun ride.
So I guess I'd suggest hitting a bike shop and test riding some bikes, because if you have the money to spend, I'm pretty sure you'll be sold after a few minutes' saddle time. If you don't have that cash right now, i guess my advice would be to enjoy the bikes you have and wait until you do have the money to buy new bikes, because personally I doubt it's worth throwing that much money at the old bikes.

As for your kids, I'm at a loss. I haven't had to shop for bikes for pre-teens. But it seems to me to be a sin to drop $300-$400 on entry level bikes for them that they'll probably outgrow before they wear out the tires. But then again, kids are expensive, right?

I look forward to reading what others have to say about this.
 

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A couple things I've come across that may be of help...

Don't worry necessarily about having a Trek or Spec. bike. There are plenty out there that are good bang for your buck without breaking the bank. I've known a couple of folks on KHS and the like that are very pleased with their choices.

Another thing I saw was a 12-13 year old kid, they picked up a 26in bike with disc brakes and then got a set of 24in wheels to use until he was a bit older. Gave the kid a little extra clearance but they still had the original wheels to go back to when he got a bit older.

Hope that gives some help - Good Luck
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I have a friend at work who just upgraded his front fork with a newer one and he gave me the old one to see if I could use it. Another friend of ours - who's worked a few years as a bike shop mechanic - stopped by our house tonight to take a look at it and let me know what the prospects were of swapping them with the original stock fork on my Diamondback.

He noted that the steering tube on my bike was threaded at the top and the shock fork from my friend was not. He said if it were him he would just leave the bike as is and if we really want a suspended bike we could shop the sales that are going on right now. Apparently, a lot of shops have year or two old inventory that they're trying to unload.

As for the boys, they told me tonight that they actually really like their bikes and feel that they just need to be able to raise the seat more, so I think new longer seatposts might be a temporary move.

Thanks for the sage advice so far.
 

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Another piece of advice is use your local resources where you can. Keep an eye on Craigslist for some good deals and if you have bike rental areas they will usually clear out a percentage of their fleet each year which you can get for a great price. I know around here (Tahoe area) that there are some major companies that have bike rental shops up in the mountains. Every year around thanksgiving, when things are getting to the point where you cant ride, they clear out part of their fleet to purchase new bikes the next year. So you end up getting a year or so old bike for a fraction of the cost that has been maintained by pros on a daily basis. This is always an option. Good luck in your hunt and congrats on the remission!
 

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JCullen said:
Another thing I saw was a 12-13 year old kid, they picked up a 26in bike with disc brakes and then got a set of 24in wheels to use until he was a bit older. Gave the kid a little extra clearance but they still had the original wheels to go back to when he got a bit older.
Please don't think I'm being an a-hole when I say this, but I've never seen a 24" wheel with disc brakes!

I like the idea, but also suspect that if you actually did witness this, then it had to be custom laced wheels.
 
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