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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am an avid road biker and I'm trying to get into mountain biking. I was looking for some advice when it comes to buying a used mountain bike. I've seen some pretty nice full suspension bikes, although they are 10+ years old. Would an older bike like that still give me a great performance as a newer bike would? or would I be having to make several repairs/upgrades to get it to the level of a newer model. one of the bikes I was looking at was a garyfisher sugar +4 2003. Would it even be a good idea to just get a newer hardtail rather than an older full suspension? my budget is around 500 so I'm really just looking to get the most of what I can get with that.

Thanks for any feedback!!
 

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Cleavage Of The Tetons
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well, its not going to increase in value anytime soon, so i don't think 'investment' would be the right choice of words.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
yes thats a good point rideit, I was more so wondering if I would end up having to replace many of the components due to their age. Im really unsure of what the life expectancy of a mountain bike is.
 

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yes thats a good point rideit, I was more so wondering if I would end up having to replace many of the components due to their age. Im really unsure of what the life expectancy of a mountain bike is.
It all depends on how it was used and maintained. You spoke about a 2003 Gary Fischer Sugar 4+. That bike retailed for around 1200-1300 I believe, which makes 500 pretty steep for a 11 year old bike. Once again, depending on how it was maintained and which parts have been replaced over the years.

I think that for 500 I'd be either looking for a new entry level hardtail or a slightly used one.
 

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I ride a hardtail, because I'm cheap, and in my opinion any hardtail is better than a poorly designed full suspension. From what I've seen with the major manufacturers, FS bikes really came into their current level of performance around 2007 or so. I'm basing this around frame designs that are still manufactured without major changes since then, implying that they haven't found a way to be much better. Either way I would get a hardtail unless your trails are nothing but chunky rock, if you buy a FS in the future, it's still nice to have a hardtail for many things.
 

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You ought to be able to find a nice hard tail that's not as old for that price. But it depends on where you live, too. If you were in Socal you'd have a huge quality used selection. other markets the pickings can be slim, but I'd still focus on a used hard tIl. as said above, nothing as you has described would be an investment. You just want something of good quality that doesn't need any major work or replacements.
 

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since 4/10/2009
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a bike from 03 could require a mountain of work, or not. at 11 years old for a mtb, if it hasn't been replaced/worn out, then it will probably need it soon.

I ride a 2003 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR. I've replaced pivot bearings SEVERAL times over the life of the bike, almost the whole drivetrain has been replaced. Only remaining parts are the front derailleur and the shifters...which are getting onto their last legs. I've replaced the wheels, too, because the stock ones are heavy.

With any bike, you should probably count on replacing cables, tires, grips, brake pads, and saddle within a relatively short timeframe. You might get lucky and not need to replace those things if the bike was cared for. I bought a used bike for my wife last year (WAY nicer than my own) and it was taken care of pretty well. We were able to make it through the end of the riding season on the tires it had, and replaced them to start this season fresh. Upon doing some preseason servicing, I did find some issues with the wheels that needed some TLC and they're in the shop getting worked on. Just the nature of used bikes, really. I negotiated a price with the seller that made me comfortable regarding service and repairs that I MIGHT need to do, and the bike has needed a little less service than I had potentially anticipated.

The bike was several states away and shipped to me. I had rather lengthy communication with the seller in part to get information about the bike itself, but also to gauge HER and figure out how well she took care of the bike during the time she owned it, and to learn how she rode it. She rode it hard, but took care of things pretty well.

There are a few reasons to look at used bikes more than a couple years old, and a couple reasons to avoid them.

1. Consider them if the bike has been maintained, and worn/broken parts have been replaced with common sense stuff.
2. Consider them if you are a vintage bike afficionado and want an example of that particular bike and want to restore it to near-original condition.
3. Consider them if you like taking an older frame and repurposing it within its design and have enough attention to detail to find modern parts (or older parts that are either new or in good shape) that will work with that frame.

1. Avoid them if they're all original, covered in layers of barn/garage dust, and you want a bike you can ride right now.
2. Avoid old an bike if the bike looks like it's been beat to hell and back.
3. Avoid them if stock parts have been replaced with something stupid. Like a 160mm fork and 210mm rotors on a 10 year old xc bike, or inexplicable bargain bin parts on what was at one point a $1,000+ bike.
4. Avoid them if the seller is obviously clueless about what they're selling. This requires you to do a little bit of research. You have to know the bike you're looking at, and the parts bolted onto it. BikePedia can be helpful here because they have lists of the OEM specs of most bikes and even pictures for a lot of them.
5. Avoid them if you want to bolt on a bunch of modern top of the line components onto the frame. Standards change over the years and you might find a lot of incompatibilities. Old frames will have straight steerer tubes. You will never be able to install a tapered fork. If it's old enough, it may not have disc brake tabs. The frame will probably be a lot flexier than modern ones. Tire clearance will probably not be the same as what you'd find on modern frames. Geometry will be more racy. Steeper head tubes, especially. It won't be as good going down as modern frames will.

The best used bikes will be those that are only a couple years old. Less than 5, absolutely. Get older than that, and people will probably start wanting more than they're worth, and you're going to have a tougher time getting a full history on the bike. Even if it's only had one owner, that owner could forget a lot, or more easily deceive you intentionally.
 

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Chris Bling
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All great points. Bottom line, if you can find a well cared for bike (especially hardtail) that is several years old and well maintained, you could end up spending minimal money. Especially with the market swinging toward 27.5. I buy nearly all my bikes used and usually look for a bike that is a few years old that has not been ridden very much or was some dude's bike that only his girlfriend used.

No joke, the 'girlfriends' bikes are usually super babied and not very much coin. Especially if the guy is trying to ditch it because of a bad breakup :) His loss is your gain!
 

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a bike from 03 could require a mountain of work, or not. at 11 years old for a mtb, if it hasn't been replaced/worn out, then it will probably need it soon.

I ride a 2003 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR. I've replaced pivot bearings SEVERAL times over the life of the bike, almost the whole drivetrain has been replaced. Only remaining parts are the front derailleur and the shifters...which are getting onto their last legs. I've replaced the wheels, too, because the stock ones are heavy.

With any bike, you should probably count on replacing cables, tires, grips, brake pads, and saddle within a relatively short timeframe. You might get lucky and not need to replace those things if the bike was cared for. I bought a used bike for my wife last year (WAY nicer than my own) and it was taken care of pretty well. We were able to make it through the end of the riding season on the tires it had, and replaced them to start this season fresh. Upon doing some preseason servicing, I did find some issues with the wheels that needed some TLC and they're in the shop getting worked on. Just the nature of used bikes, really. I negotiated a price with the seller that made me comfortable regarding service and repairs that I MIGHT need to do, and the bike has needed a little less service than I had potentially anticipated.

The bike was several states away and shipped to me. I had rather lengthy communication with the seller in part to get information about the bike itself, but also to gauge HER and figure out how well she took care of the bike during the time she owned it, and to learn how she rode it. She rode it hard, but took care of things pretty well.

There are a few reasons to look at used bikes more than a couple years old, and a couple reasons to avoid them.

1. Consider them if the bike has been maintained, and worn/broken parts have been replaced with common sense stuff.
2. Consider them if you are a vintage bike afficionado and want an example of that particular bike and want to restore it to near-original condition.
3. Consider them if you like taking an older frame and repurposing it within its design and have enough attention to detail to find modern parts (or older parts that are either new or in good shape) that will work with that frame.

1. Avoid them if they're all original, covered in layers of barn/garage dust, and you want a bike you can ride right now.
2. Avoid old an bike if the bike looks like it's been beat to hell and back.
3. Avoid them if stock parts have been replaced with something stupid. Like a 160mm fork and 210mm rotors on a 10 year old xc bike, or inexplicable bargain bin parts on what was at one point a $1,000+ bike.
4. Avoid them if the seller is obviously clueless about what they're selling. This requires you to do a little bit of research. You have to know the bike you're looking at, and the parts bolted onto it. BikePedia can be helpful here because they have lists of the OEM specs of most bikes and even pictures for a lot of them.
5. Avoid them if you want to bolt on a bunch of modern top of the line components onto the frame. Standards change over the years and you might find a lot of incompatibilities. Old frames will have straight steerer tubes. You will never be able to install a tapered fork. If it's old enough, it may not have disc brake tabs. The frame will probably be a lot flexier than modern ones. Tire clearance will probably not be the same as what you'd find on modern frames. Geometry will be more racy. Steeper head tubes, especially. It won't be as good going down as modern frames will.

The best used bikes will be those that are only a couple years old. Less than 5, absolutely. Get older than that, and people will probably start wanting more than they're worth, and you're going to have a tougher time getting a full history on the bike. Even if it's only had one owner, that owner could forget a lot, or more easily deceive you intentionally.
^^This^^ leans towards the conservative side and if you don't know what you don't know this is the way you should lean. If your budget wasn't so tight I would even limit it to a 3 year old max (here in SoCal we are a washed in used bikes).
 

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Avoid a double suspension for les than $500! You will get much more from a $500 hardtail, and thay are super fun! 26er hardtails can be found super cheap now that everybody wants 29ers and 650b.

If you go for a 29er hardtail, it will give you better ride quality, closer to a double suspension bike. It will be hard to find a good one for cheap.
 

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The Sugar was a simple design that is still being used/copied today.
They were a great cross country bike, lots of folks used them for racing.
My wife is still riding her 2000 Sugar. All that's left of the original is the frame and seatpost do to everything getting worn and replaced from mileage.
If the bike is tight and not worn out I would rather that over a $500 hardtail.
Good luck in your decision.
 

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Sugar? Run away, very bad record for busted rear triangle. Better off getting new, to 1-3 years old. Too many tech changes recently, tubeless, drivetrain, and axle width. Plus disc too.
 

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Sugar? Run away, very bad record for busted rear triangle. Better off getting new, to 1-3 years old. Too many tech changes recently, tubeless, drivetrain, and axle width. Plus disc too.
I agree with that comment...stay away from sugar and gary fisher of these years

A lot of frame in those years have bad record of braking, GF sugar were one of them, another one that come to mind is the iron horse mkIII. Also rule out rocky mountain etsx

Older bikes that have a good track record
Kona, not the best pedaling bikes but strong built.
Balfa, if you find a belair or a 2 step, youre in business.
Giant, older trance were bombproof.

That said, if you dont do your own mechanic, look for younger bikes, 5 years old or lest would be best.
If your budget is limited get a hardtail.
 

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As mentioned, one problem with older bikes is that the technology and specifications have changed enough over the last 10 years that replacing parts becomes a challenge. Used isn't a bad idea, just maybe not THAT used.
 
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