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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hey all,

I've been away from biking for about 15 years. My last bike was an entry level Trek purchased new in 1992. I've been shopping the local bike shops and am stuck between 2 bikes with a 3rd as a possibility if I can get some feedback on it. I am having a horrible time sorting through the specs and components on the bikes in the $500-$700 range so I really need some help.

Bike #1 is a Specialized Rockhopper Sport. 2018 left over model so it is marked down to $600.

Bike #2 is a Trek Marlin 6. 2019 model priced at about $30 more than the Specialized.

Bike #3 is a GT Aggressor Expert. Left over 2017 model priced at $500.

Based on the 2018 prices for the Specialized and Trek, I'm thinking that the Specialized is actually a better bike than the Trek because it was closer to $700 in 2018 and the Marlin 6 was right around $600. Am I right in thinking that the Specialized is closer to a Marlin 7 than the Marlin 6?

Finally, the GT is a pretty good deal as well but I don't know much about them since I stopped messing around with BMX bikes in the 80s. Is GT a boutique quality bike or more of an expensive big box store bike?

Thanks for any and all input!
 

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jcd's best friend
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All of those bike models will be in the same starter bike category so I would go with whatever is the better deal. As a "new again" rider, you probably wont notice the performance difference between any of those bikes. How do you plan to ride it? Some trail and street? Strictly trails? XC? Just some ideas to think about.

Also, how did each bike shop make you feel when you visited? To help with the decision, think about any extra perks that they offer if you buy a bike. For instance, my Trek shop gave me lifetime brake adjustments and gear indexing along with an awesome crew to chat with every time I'm there. My local Specialized shop has some really awesome guys who work there but I would have to pay a one-time fee for lifetime adjustments. Sometimes the experience in the shop is a big thing to consider!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the reply. Riding will be mostly Trail and street. Hardcore off road stuff is not really in the cards. I'm hoping to get back in shape and enjoy a little more time outside. I'm familiar with Trek but most everyone has changed since I was in there frequently so many years ago. All 3 shops that I've been to have been helpful, knowledgeable and patient so I'm not worried about that. But I will definitely inquire about the service after the sale before I make a final decision. Thanks for that suggestion.

I'm leaning towards the Specialized. Components are all on par or a little better than the Marlin 6 and actually better than the current Rockhopper Sport. Savings on that bike as a leftover are around $200 based on this year's model and probably more due to the better components in 2018.
 

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g=9.764m/s2
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I was sooo in your spot 3 yrs ago, still occasionally trail riding my ‘92 Trek Antelope 730, which was not fun, and decided it was time to step it up. Going in I started with two requirements, hydraulic brakes and Deore or better derailleur for reliability which immediately landed me in the $900+ range. I bought a leftover $1200 2015 GT Zaskar 9r Sport with solid specs for $900... RS XC30 air fork w/tapered steerer, Shimano m396 brakes(best budget brakes), 2x10 drivetrain, Deore derailleur. I became totally hooked, riding every at every chance, then came the upgrade bug... tubeless tires and rims, dropping to 1x10 drivetrain with lower gearing, performance fork, finding any way to drop weight, etc. Fast forward, the Zaskar died so I got a 140mm FS trail bike, rebuilt a ‘14 Stache with the parts I bought for the Zaskar, and still have the ‘92 Trek. So, my advice is if you truly intend to trail ride regularly at this point of your life, set your sight closer to 1k if you can to start with components that you’ll be content with for the short term with the ability to upgrade as you go. The Suntour budget fork you may end up with will be the first to go so make sure the frame has a tapered headset cause that is the standard in the better forks.
Now to your questions... all 3 companies make great bikes, as you’ve found you must weigh the specs. GT is an oddity because Zaskar is still their top XC bike but they stopped selling it in the US.

Anyway, I think Battery’s advice is likely more helpful...d;o)
 

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The main disappointment with bikes like those you've found is the fork. It's meant to look like a mtbike fork. But it's designed by the fork manufacturer for bike paths and smooth trails. Inside is a single spring with no adjustable rebound damping. When you go over multiple rocks/roots the fork will pogo making it hard to hang on. Specialized has non adjustable rebound damping to lessen that. And inside the fork has plastic bushings instead of metal. Lots of fast hard hits will quickly wear those bushings. Plus it's heavy at 6.5 lbs instead of 4 lbs.

The Marlin 7 is slightly better with a RockShox 5.5 lb fork with set rebound damping. Metal bushings but coil spring inside. You can change the spring to handle up to 225 lbs of rider weight. An air fork uses air pressure to adjust for rider weight to a higher limit.

The RHopper Sport has a Suntour coil spring fork with plastic bushings.

None of these bikes have a tapered head tube, the current standard.
None have an air fork.
None use the current hub spacing standard of Boost 12x148 rear and 15x110 front. That standard allows for wider rims and tires. 29 x 2.6 on 30mm inner rim width. These bikes may have 21mm or so inner rim width between the rim beads. That dimension allows a tire sidewall to fold over more easily during hard cornering and you crash. To avoid that you run higher air pressure but don't get as good traction.

In your price range you can order a Mongoose Tyax Expert from Walmart. It has a Suntour XCR air fork with adjustable rebound damping. One metal and one plastic bushing inside. No tapered head tube or 15x110 Boost thru axle front hub or 12x148 Boost rear.
Mongoose | Tyax Expert 29
https://www.walmart.com/ip/Mongoose...rdtail-Mountain-Bike-Charcoal-Small/168887354

You get 90 days to return it no questions asked. You can buy a warranty upgrade extending the no questions return to one year.

Another at $700-
https://www.chainreactioncycles.com/us/en/vitus-nucleus-29-vrs-mountain-bike-2019/rp-prod173152
Same air fork but in 15x110 Boost and 29mm inner rim wheels. Better geo. Old 135 quick release rear hub.

What is recommended for $1k?
Nukeproof Scout 290 Sport.
Scout 290 Sport 2019 | Nukeproof
Boost front and rear hubs. Frame has space for 29 x 2.6 tires.
RockShox Recon tapered steerer Boost fork with 130mm of travel
29mm inner rim width wheels. This width has sidewall support for wide tires.
This bike has current slacker geometry for better performance.
https://www.chainreactioncycles.com/us/en/nukeproof-scout-290-sport-mountain-bike-2019/rp-prod170308
Currently out of stock because of popularity. Get on the email notification list.
Bicycle tire Bicycle frame Bicycle wheel Wheel Tire


Vitus Sentier 29 Deore 1x10
https://www.chainreactioncycles.com...9-mountain-bike-deore-1x10-2019/rp-prod173161
Same specs as the Nukeproof. In stock.

Don't put much value on lifetime adjustments. They adjust the rear derailleur cable one time after it beds in. They charge for all repairs. You probably know this part.
 

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Good post EB1888. IMHO anything much less than an airfork, current hubs etc and Deore, will only end up in retail remorse and regret just down the road.
Upgrading invariably ends up more expensive compared to holding out and buying slightly better at the start.
Sure you can still have fun on cheaper bikes, but they will be compromised and false economy in the long run if you see yourself stick with MTBing.
 

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jcd's best friend
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Don't put much value on lifetime adjustments. They adjust the rear derailleur cable one time after it beds in. They charge for all repairs. You probably know this part.
I have yet to be billed for repairs for any of my lifetime adjustment claims at either of my shops. I just had it done last week for my road bike and my Trek shop didn't even charge me for truing my wheels either.
 

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Every shop probably males their own policy regarding "free maintenance." I worked at a shop that had a pretty generous policy. Buy a bike and you can bring it in any time you want and the shop charges nothing for adjustments including:
Brakes
Shifting
Lubing chain and cables
Wheel truing
Bearing adjustments
Bolt check

Replacing any parts that are worn out like pads, cables, drivetrain, bar tape, etc. Cost extra.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Thanks for all of the great insights. I ended up buying the Rockhopper Sport. Components on that bike were much closer to the Marlin 7 than the Marlin 6 and I was able to get the Rockhopper for less than the Marlin 6. I know the fork is the weak link in the chain but this point in my return to biking, i think it will work for the time being. The other consideration is the cost of accessories. I paid for the bike and by the time I got done with lights, helmet, pants and gloves plus a mount system for my truck I was into hundreds of dollars more. Had I purchased the next bike up in price, I wouldn't have been able to afford the proper gear to make my experience comfortable and safe. The bike is the main cost but certainly just a portion of what you need to get started. Because of that, I had to balance the price of the bike with everything else.

The shop offers 2 years of adjustments and gave me a 10% discount card for anything I purchase in store for the next 2 years. I've only dealt with the local Trek shop in the past so we'll see how these guys compare.
 

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jcd's best friend
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3,329 Posts
Thanks for all of the great insights. I ended up buying the Rockhopper Sport. Components on that bike were much closer to the Marlin 7 than the Marlin 6 and I was able to get the Rockhopper for less than the Marlin 6. I know the fork is the weak link in the chain but this point in my return to biking, i think it will work for the time being. The other consideration is the cost of accessories. I paid for the bike and by the time I got done with lights, helmet, pants and gloves plus a mount system for my truck I was into hundreds of dollars more. Had I purchased the next bike up in price, I wouldn't have been able to afford the proper gear to make my experience comfortable and safe. The bike is the main cost but certainly just a portion of what you need to get started. Because of that, I had to balance the price of the bike with everything else.

The shop offers 2 years of adjustments and gave me a 10% discount card for anything I purchase in store for the next 2 years. I've only dealt with the local Trek shop in the past so we'll see how these guys compare.
Congrats! Share a photo when you have time! Also join us over here and share photos of your mountain biking adventures: https://forums.mtbr.com/riding-passion/did-you-ride-today-988566.html

Also don't sweat the fork. You probably won't be riding hard enough to worry about it. I'm presuming that you have a Suntour fork? Later on when you are ready, you can trade up that fork through Suntour for an air fork. You can ask them details about the program but I'm sure that if you show them proof of purchase for the bike (along with the fork serial number), you should be able to trade up to something better.

Here are some details about the program: https://www.srsuntour.us/pages/upgrade
 
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