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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I tried a fuel 80 for a day... took it back (actually a good bike but I wanted more travel). I'm now down to either a Kona Coiler or a Trek liquid. I can afford (well, maybe not .. but I will anyway) to get a liquid 30 or a Coiler delux if it's worth it. I like xc .. I don't really enjoy steep and rocky DH (so I want something that will make the technical downs a bit more tolerable... I enjoy a down with obstacles .. but not 'double black diamond' steeps ), and I love climbs ... dirt, rocks, roots, ... and small/medium drops. I'm new to biking .. only been doing it a month. Went into a bike shop a month ago ... came out with a Trek Navigator (hybrid-comfort/recreational). Had no idea what kind of riding I was going to like. Well, within two weeks I was taking it on single tracks in some pretty technical terrain. I dropped the handle bars ... lots of adjustment there ... raise the seat .. and I can get up some decent climbs with the navigator.. but I realize it's not the type of bike I should be using for this stuff. I'm a 290 lb 6'1" CD and want to get down to at least 240 by spring. I can wait untill that time to buy the bike .. in fact I may do so .. but I also might want to jump in now. ;) Anyway, I've read your posts and it seems that most of you don't really think much of the Trek lines. The liquid has a new type of aluminum ... and is a pretty stout frame design. Where I live, I'm surrounded by trek dealers ... not many Kona dealers. I'd really appreciate some input on this.

Thanx in advance,

ff
 

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I suggest you go with the kona coiler , they have more travel and are more versatile and you get more bang for your buck . if you dont mind the extra weight , i had a trek fuel and i was 270 and i trashed it when i started doing drops . blew out the shock and bent the rims .
 

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Here's the deal for me. If you're relatively new, and you're not doing massive drops, if you're not doing burly stuff that absolutely requires a full suspension, look at a hardtail. More particularly, look at a steel hardtail. I know you're looking at really cool suspension bikes, and it's easy to get swept away with OOO, AHHH. Compared to a hybrid city cruiser, even just moving to a hardtail with a real shock on it will be a big switch. The frame geometry is a little different, and the shocks are (hopefully) made differently, that is to say stronger, with different dampening characteristics for the bumpier terrain.

I know, I know. Full suspension bikes are supposed to be the sh?t and all. And aluminum frames are supposed to be superior. They are stiffer and stronger by weight... but don't let that fool you. Machining costs are a lot lower, too, so don't get sucked into thinking that they're so widely made because of the riding characteristics. There's a reason Trek doesn't make steel hybrids anymore.

But here's the thing for me. I have aluminum, I have steel. Yes, some steel frames are a little bit heavier. I don't mind it, I'm a heavier rider, and if the frame is a pound or 3 more than an aluminum frame, my own weight fluctuates more than that on a weekly basis, I'm sure. That said, some steel frames that cost less than that suspension frame will be roughly about the weight of an aluminum bike. Steel is springier than aluminum. It'll flex a little bit more on those small drops, and it doesnt' develop fatigue over time like aluminum will. (Granted, aluminum frames have by and large been pretty good about that, but still) So it won't be as cushy as those FS bikes, but I've felt the confident flex of a steel frame as it soaks up smaller drops, and takes up the bumps. A good set of tires will help, too.

FInd someone who will let you try a "real" mountian bike on the trails. The more different bikes you try the better.

Try an aluminum hardtail. Yes, it'll be stiff, you still might like it. Get a feel for it. Then try a steel frame. To me, there's just a little bit more that the steel seems to offer when it comes to softness on the trail. Maybe not quite up to a full suspension frame, but still, it's my frame of choice. I'm currently trying to find a good reynolds frame... maybe a jamis dragon, we'll see. :)

Just give it a try.

It's entirely possible that you're already sold on the idea that a FS is for you, but if you can find someone who will let you try something with a suspension, try that, too. It's a whole lot different on the trail than it is on the street at the shop. I too got sucked into the pretty shiny syndrome, and was looking at FS bikes a few years ago. I went with a hardtail instead. For what I had to spend, I got a lot mroe bike for the money going with a hardtail. And for XC, with a good shock (Marzocchi) and a good suspension seatpost (Cane Creek) I honestly don't bother looking back.


Back to the topic at hand, I can't speak to the bikes you mentioned specifically, but recently Kona has struck me as being a little more thoughtful when it comes to design than Trek. It's true, Trek is a mainstay of the industry so far, but they sometimes seem (to me) to be relatively conservative, so that they don't lose that ground. And I've heard of Fuels breaking.

Kona's also a mainstay, but I don't think they have quite the same name recognition, so they can get away with making more interesting and thoughtful designs. Right now, I have a trek, 2 nashbar steel frames, and a recumbent. Nashbar steel frames were made by scott, I built them up as quasi-beater bikes, that eventually got a little more attention anyway. And despite their status as beater bikes, they just ride really, really well. They're an absolute Joy. My next new frame will definately be steel. I'm looking at Jamis Dragon frames (reynolds 853 steel is very, very tough stuff, adn supposedly rides very well), azonic steelheads (if I decide to go the big, burly route) or a Kona steel frame... I'll figure out which when I get there.

None of which has anything to do with one of the main things you should find out, which is what bike feels better to YOU.

It's true a lot of this is talking out of my ass. But then again, that's really all I can do, because it's up to you to figure out which bike works for you. Try the "real" mountain bikes. Even the front shock can make a big difference in how the bike handles, and you may not need a FS. It'll save you big bucks, too. But most importantly, don't get in too much of a hurry right away. Yes, biking is really fun, and really cool. But biking is one of those things where it's very possible to spend a very unreasonable amount of money on something that may or may not turn out to be what you even want in the end. Or in the case of some FS bikes, something that may even break on you.
 

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fanfare said:
I tried a fuel 80 for a day... took it back (actually a good bike but I wanted more travel). I'm now down to either a Kona Coiler or a Trek liquid. I can afford (well, maybe not .. but I will anyway) to get a liquid 30 or a Coiler delux if it's worth it. I like xc .. I don't really enjoy steep and rocky DH (so I want something that will make the technical downs a bit more tolerable... I enjoy a down with obstacles .. but not 'double black diamond' steeps ), and I love climbs ... dirt, rocks, roots, ... and small/medium drops. I'm new to biking .. only been doing it a month. Went into a bike shop a month ago ... came out with a Trek Navigator (hybrid-comfort/recreational). Had no idea what kind of riding I was going to like. Well, within two weeks I was taking it on single tracks in some pretty technical terrain. I dropped the handle bars ... lots of adjustment there ... raise the seat .. and I can get up some decent climbs with the navigator.. but I realize it's not the type of bike I should be using for this stuff. I'm a 290 lb 6'1" CD and want to get down to at least 240 by spring. I can wait untill that time to buy the bike .. in fact I may do so .. but I also might want to jump in now. ;) Anyway, I've read your posts and it seems that most of you don't really think much of the Trek lines. The liquid has a new type of aluminum ... and is a pretty stout frame design. Where I live, I'm surrounded by trek dealers ... not many Kona dealers. I'd really appreciate some input on this.

Thanx in advance,

ff
I own a Trek Fuel 90 and weigh a bit over 250 lb. With lots of water and gear, I can push to near 300 lb suited up. I do similar riding to what you describe - mostly fire road mildly technical single track, and an occassional drop up to 2'.

Well, my Fuel 90 frame suddenly broke after 9 months just above the crank while on a smooth level single track. I got a free frame replacement under Trek's original owner lifetime warrantee (along with a $120 part swap fee) On reading more in these forums, you'll find that big guys break Trek frames like twigs. One guy around 240 lb had broken four Fuel frames, got a stronger ZR9000 Aluminum frame (as I did on replacement) and broke it just as fast. He then got a Liquid frame, that's supposed to be a lot stronger, but also has a lot more travel and flex, and he broke it just as fast as the Fuels. Many other big guys also report the Liquid frames breaking under them. Search around the forums hear using the search feature.Check out the Liquid under the product reviews too.
Trek frames hold up great for those under 200 lb. But anyone going over 250 lb is guaranteed a broken frame in about a year. I test rode the Liquid and loved the handling, but am worried now about frame breakage. Even though the replacement cost isn't too bad with the Trek lifetime warrantee, I don't want to be way out somewhere or in a fast technical down hill and have my frame break again. I was also out of a bike for most of a month it took to swap the frame. I'm now looking at purchasing a replacement bike that is better suited to bigger riders. I got a lot of good recommendations from this forum, like the Santa Cruz Heckler and Bullit, and the Turner Burner among others. I'm now looking harder at the Heckler and will be visiting bike shops over the next month or so to make my decision on how to replace my Trek Fuel so I won't get stranded, sent to ER, or worse.

At your weight, I strongly suggest you avoid the Trek Liquid and Fuel frames.
 

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Coiler?

You should go with the Coiler. It is perfect for what you are describing. As far as i know people who ride hard and do some drops and jumps eventually end up breaking Treks. Not that trek is not a nice bike but they are not meant for serious hard core riding. The coiler is beefy and a good pedaling bike as long as you are not in a hurry to get up hill. Even though I ride with guys who are on Coilers and they climb fairly fast on that bike. Good luck in your decision.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanx a bunch

Hey guys,

Thanx for taking the time to help me out. I've decided to look for a hardtail in order to get me through until Spring. If I can get myself down to around 240 lb's I'm going to treat myself to a Kona Coiler (perhaps deelux). Uber, I'm taking your advice and looking for a steel frame ... I really appreciate you posting some examples. If you can think of any other names I should look for please post them. I'm also thinking of looking on ebay for a used ... possibly on mtbreview classified also. Any advice on how to purchase online would also be a help (can I trust buying from this site?).

Thanx again..

ff

uber-stupid said:
Here's the deal for me. If you're relatively new, and you're not doing massive drops, if you're not doing burly stuff that absolutely requires a full suspension, look at a hardtail. More particularly, look at a steel hardtail. I know you're looking at really cool suspension bikes, and it's easy to get swept away with OOO, AHHH. Compared to a hybrid city cruiser, even just moving to a hardtail with a real shock on it will be a big switch. The frame geometry is a little different, and the shocks are (hopefully) made differently, that is to say stronger, with different dampening characteristics for the bumpier terrain.

I know, I know. Full suspension bikes are supposed to be the sh?t and all. And aluminum frames are supposed to be superior. They are stiffer and stronger by weight... but don't let that fool you. Machining costs are a lot lower, too, so don't get sucked into thinking that they're so widely made because of the riding characteristics. There's a reason Trek doesn't make steel hybrids anymore.

But here's the thing for me. I have aluminum, I have steel. Yes, some steel frames are a little bit heavier. I don't mind it, I'm a heavier rider, and if the frame is a pound or 3 more than an aluminum frame, my own weight fluctuates more than that on a weekly basis, I'm sure. That said, some steel frames that cost less than that suspension frame will be roughly about the weight of an aluminum bike. Steel is springier than aluminum. It'll flex a little bit more on those small drops, and it doesnt' develop fatigue over time like aluminum will. (Granted, aluminum frames have by and large been pretty good about that, but still) So it won't be as cushy as those FS bikes, but I've felt the confident flex of a steel frame as it soaks up smaller drops, and takes up the bumps. A good set of tires will help, too.

FInd someone who will let you try a "real" mountian bike on the trails. The more different bikes you try the better.

Try an aluminum hardtail. Yes, it'll be stiff, you still might like it. Get a feel for it. Then try a steel frame. To me, there's just a little bit more that the steel seems to offer when it comes to softness on the trail. Maybe not quite up to a full suspension frame, but still, it's my frame of choice. I'm currently trying to find a good reynolds frame... maybe a jamis dragon, we'll see. :)

Just give it a try.

It's entirely possible that you're already sold on the idea that a FS is for you, but if you can find someone who will let you try something with a suspension, try that, too. It's a whole lot different on the trail than it is on the street at the shop. I too got sucked into the pretty shiny syndrome, and was looking at FS bikes a few years ago. I went with a hardtail instead. For what I had to spend, I got a lot mroe bike for the money going with a hardtail. And for XC, with a good shock (Marzocchi) and a good suspension seatpost (Cane Creek) I honestly don't bother looking back.

Back to the topic at hand, I can't speak to the bikes you mentioned specifically, but recently Kona has struck me as being a little more thoughtful when it comes to design than Trek. It's true, Trek is a mainstay of the industry so far, but they sometimes seem (to me) to be relatively conservative, so that they don't lose that ground. And I've heard of Fuels breaking.

Kona's also a mainstay, but I don't think they have quite the same name recognition, so they can get away with making more interesting and thoughtful designs. Right now, I have a trek, 2 nashbar steel frames, and a recumbent. Nashbar steel frames were made by scott, I built them up as quasi-beater bikes, that eventually got a little more attention anyway. And despite their status as beater bikes, they just ride really, really well. They're an absolute Joy. My next new frame will definately be steel. I'm looking at Jamis Dragon frames (reynolds 853 steel is very, very tough stuff, adn supposedly rides very well), azonic steelheads (if I decide to go the big, burly route) or a Kona steel frame... I'll figure out which when I get there.

None of which has anything to do with one of the main things you should find out, which is what bike feels better to YOU.

It's true a lot of this is talking out of my ass. But then again, that's really all I can do, because it's up to you to figure out which bike works for you. Try the "real" mountain bikes. Even the front shock can make a big difference in how the bike handles, and you may not need a FS. It'll save you big bucks, too. But most importantly, don't get in too much of a hurry right away. Yes, biking is really fun, and really cool. But biking is one of those things where it's very possible to spend a very unreasonable amount of money on something that may or may not turn out to be what you even want in the end. Or in the case of some FS bikes, something that may even break on you.
 

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On used bikes online...

-Depending on where you are, you may or may not be able to find something on craigslist. (Craigslist: a free online classified service which has turned into something of a cultural... "thing," and probably now is a subculture of its own.)

-Shopping on here... I haven't had much experience. I'd like to say you can trust people here, but it's online, and really, who knows. Ebay can be problematic, too, because there was a rash of people ripping off pictures from other auctions and from this site, and setting up fraudulent auctions. I'm not saying it's always problematic... that's where I got my recumbent. But use common sense, and beware of deals that sound too good to be true.

Look for pictures. Then ask them to send other pictures of specific parts, of the bottom bracket shell for example, so you can verify that they actually have the bike in their possession. They can't take additional pictures without actual possession of the bike. Don't buy into "It's my friend's camera, and... ." It's your money. Noone can fault you for being safe about an online transaction. Make sure the details in both pictures match, too. IE, if it's a black bike, and they send you a picture of a green bottom bracket shell, be wary. Likewise if the parts experience change. (different cranks or something) It's a simple strategy, use or modify it to suit your need.

If you know what size bike you're looking for, buying online is ok, but personally I think it's better for things like parts. When buying a new bike, it's important to test ride it, to make sure it's what you want, and you're going to be happy with it.

-Talk to local bike shops. They may not sell used bikes, but some of the people working there may know someone, or belong to riding groups that have people who are looking to sell. Being able to physically see and touch and test ride the bike you will be buying is much better than any online transaction. It's always better to know the bike fits, at least more or less.

FYI, making friends with bike shop people is easy. About 10-15 minutes before closing time, bring a 6 pack of beer. I know, it sounds a little weird to just up and do such a thing. But bike people like to talk about bikes, and at the end of the day, they have time to talk. The beer is a blatant bribe, but as long as you're not a jerk, and you don't treat them like people who have now been properly purchased, they'll usually be willing to answer whatever questions you have. Including about how to know if a bike actually fits.

(Girls shouldn't bring beer... girls should bring cookies. I know you're not a girl, but if you meet one who wants friends at a bicycle shop, tell her to bring them cookies. I'm sure that's a sexist thing to say, but it's true.)

-look around for riding clubs in the area, if there are any. They may be able to help you out, either through direct knowledge of someone who's selling something, or knowledge of other good places to look. Lastly... they'll be good friends to have if you're really serious about getting out and riding.

-look in the want ads in local papers. Again, being able to try somethign is preferable to buying something you haven't tried out.

-DO NOT buy anything sold by walmart, Toys R Us, etc. I know you're just looking for something to get you by until spring, but these won't give you the ride you're looking for. They're heavy, cantankerous, and often dangerous when used offroad.

Once you've made the purchase, I'll tell you what I tell every other new person. Buy a repair manual. Bicycling magazine puts out a good one. Zinn and the art of bicycle maintenance is another good one. Buy a few basic tools. It's an investment that can offer substantial returns if you have any mechanical aptitude at all. Some mechanical aptitude is a learned thing anyway. In any event, doing basic adjustments will do you a world of good towards learning how your bike works, which will help you make some repairs yourself. It's a very simple machine, and it's not hard at all to understand, but too many people are still intimidated by the prospect of working on one. But it'll save you a ton of money when it comes to repairs and general maintenance.

For instance, I've seen bike shops that charge around $5 just to "adjust" brakes as part of the cost of a general tune up. Part of the reason they charge so much is because it gets divided up... some for shop profit, some to pay the mechanic for the few minutes's time, some to pay the person who's handling payroll, some for...? I don't know. But brakes are a 5 minute procedure if you're going really slowly. And it's easy. That's just an example.

Once you're able to do the adjustments, that's the hard part. (and like I said, it's easy.) After that, you'll be able to replace parts that are either broken or getting an upgrade. Each half of a brake is held on by one bolt. The "hard" part of any part replacement is making the adjustment once it's on... which you will know how to do. The back derailleur is held on by one bolt. The front derailleur... one clamp. Taking these things off and replacing them is too easy. The adjustments are the bulk of the re-installation. And remember, those aren't too hard.

If you have questions, come back here. There are so many knowledgable people that one of them is bound to be able to phrase it in a way that makes sense. Don't be afraid to ask questions... it's what message boards are good for. They're interactive. Books aren't. And if you're confused, you'll learn a lot faster in here about where you're going wrong.

Take the time to learn *a little* about truing wheels, if you can. Sometimes tightening 2 spokes can make a world of difference to your wheel. You don't have to have a truing stand... just flip the bike over, and adjust in relation to your brake pads. Start with your new bike by tightening any spokes that are obviously loose, and make small adjustments if necessary. Truing wheels is probably the most intimidating part of what remains a simple machine. And it's not too hard to do adequately.

You may get to the point where you're like some of the weirdest of us... and you'll be building bikes from the frame up... and lacing your own wheels. Or maybe you'll just use what you know once in a while to keep the bike running good enough.

Either way, as long as you learn how to do the bare minimum to keep your bike shifting well, and your brakes working well, you'll have a leg up on a lot of other people. The barrel adjusters on your brakes and shifters will become things you actually use. If you decide to go farther, knowing maintenance will help you later on. If you end up buying parts on ebay, for instance. I've bought wheels that were a bargain, even after I was done replacing all the spokes, and truing it up

Repairs will take a little bit of time out of your day, and you'll probably get a little grubby doing it. But detergent for dishwashing machines will take off the nastiest stuff like it's nothing, and that little bit of time will save you days or weeks of waiting for your bike to be done, and it'll save you money that you can then put towards post-ride beers, or a new bike later on.

At the very least, for your own sake, I beg you. Make sure you know how to fix a flat tire. Practice once in a while. Yes, it means getting your hands dirty. But it will also mean you won't get stuck on the side of a trail, patch kit in hand, frustrated as hell because you know you could patch the tire, but you're not really familiar enough with it to get it done.

If you learn nothing else about your bike, learn to fix a flat. If you don't know how, ask a mechanic to show you. If they're a good mechanic, they'll be glad to. (Assuming they're not crazy busy. The middle of a saturday afternoon, for instance, may not be the best time, because the whole world will be in the bike shop, and all of them will need help with something)

So... there you are. Welcome to bicycling.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Uber,

Hey, thanx again. You have really gone out of your way to help a new guy. I appreciate it.

Happy Trails :)

ff

uber-stupid said:
On used bikes online...

-Depending on where you are, you may or may not be able to find something on craigslist. (Craigslist: a free online classified service which has turned into something of a cultural... "thing," and probably now is a subculture of its own.)

-Shopping on here... I haven't had much experience. I'd like to say you can trust people here, but it's online, and really, who knows. Ebay can be problematic, too, because there was a rash of people ripping off pictures from other auctions and from this site, and setting up fraudulent auctions. I'm not saying it's always problematic... that's where I got my recumbent. But use common sense, and beware of deals that sound too good to be true.

Look for pictures. Then ask them to send other pictures of specific parts, of the bottom bracket shell for example, so you can verify that they actually have the bike in their possession. They can't take additional pictures without actual possession of the bike. Don't buy into "It's my friend's camera, and... ." It's your money. Noone can fault you for being safe about an online transaction. Make sure the details in both pictures match, too. IE, if it's a black bike, and they send you a picture of a green bottom bracket shell, be wary. Likewise if the parts experience change. (different cranks or something) It's a simple strategy, use or modify it to suit your need.

If you know what size bike you're looking for, buying online is ok, but personally I think it's better for things like parts. When buying a new bike, it's important to test ride it, to make sure it's what you want, and you're going to be happy with it.

-Talk to local bike shops. They may not sell used bikes, but some of the people working there may know someone, or belong to riding groups that have people who are looking to sell. Being able to physically see and touch and test ride the bike you will be buying is much better than any online transaction. It's always better to know the bike fits, at least more or less.

FYI, making friends with bike shop people is easy. About 10-15 minutes before closing time, bring a 6 pack of beer. I know, it sounds a little weird to just up and do such a thing. But bike people like to talk about bikes, and at the end of the day, they have time to talk. The beer is a blatant bribe, but as long as you're not a jerk, and you don't treat them like people who have now been properly purchased, they'll usually be willing to answer whatever questions you have. Including about how to know if a bike actually fits.

(Girls shouldn't bring beer... girls should bring cookies. I know you're not a girl, but if you meet one who wants friends at a bicycle shop, tell her to bring them cookies. I'm sure that's a sexist thing to say, but it's true.)

-look around for riding clubs in the area, if there are any. They may be able to help you out, either through direct knowledge of someone who's selling something, or knowledge of other good places to look. Lastly... they'll be good friends to have if you're really serious about getting out and riding.

-look in the want ads in local papers. Again, being able to try somethign is preferable to buying something you haven't tried out.

-DO NOT buy anything sold by walmart, Toys R Us, etc. I know you're just looking for something to get you by until spring, but these won't give you the ride you're looking for. They're heavy, cantankerous, and often dangerous when used offroad.

Once you've made the purchase, I'll tell you what I tell every other new person. Buy a repair manual. Bicycling magazine puts out a good one. Zinn and the art of bicycle maintenance is another good one. Buy a few basic tools. It's an investment that can offer substantial returns if you have any mechanical aptitude at all. Some mechanical aptitude is a learned thing anyway. In any event, doing basic adjustments will do you a world of good towards learning how your bike works, which will help you make some repairs yourself. It's a very simple machine, and it's not hard at all to understand, but too many people are still intimidated by the prospect of working on one. But it'll save you a ton of money when it comes to repairs and general maintenance.

For instance, I've seen bike shops that charge around $5 just to "adjust" brakes as part of the cost of a general tune up. Part of the reason they charge so much is because it gets divided up... some for shop profit, some to pay the mechanic for the few minutes's time, some to pay the person who's handling payroll, some for...? I don't know. But brakes are a 5 minute procedure if you're going really slowly. And it's easy. That's just an example.

Once you're able to do the adjustments, that's the hard part. (and like I said, it's easy.) After that, you'll be able to replace parts that are either broken or getting an upgrade. Each half of a brake is held on by one bolt. The "hard" part of any part replacement is making the adjustment once it's on... which you will know how to do. The back derailleur is held on by one bolt. The front derailleur... one clamp. Taking these things off and replacing them is too easy. The adjustments are the bulk of the re-installation. And remember, those aren't too hard.

If you have questions, come back here. There are so many knowledgable people that one of them is bound to be able to phrase it in a way that makes sense. Don't be afraid to ask questions... it's what message boards are good for. They're interactive. Books aren't. And if you're confused, you'll learn a lot faster in here about where you're going wrong.

Take the time to learn *a little* about truing wheels, if you can. Sometimes tightening 2 spokes can make a world of difference to your wheel. You don't have to have a truing stand... just flip the bike over, and adjust in relation to your brake pads. Start with your new bike by tightening any spokes that are obviously loose, and make small adjustments if necessary. Truing wheels is probably the most intimidating part of what remains a simple machine. And it's not too hard to do adequately.

You may get to the point where you're like some of the weirdest of us... and you'll be building bikes from the frame up... and lacing your own wheels. Or maybe you'll just use what you know once in a while to keep the bike running good enough.

Either way, as long as you learn how to do the bare minimum to keep your bike shifting well, and your brakes working well, you'll have a leg up on a lot of other people. The barrel adjusters on your brakes and shifters will become things you actually use. If you decide to go farther, knowing maintenance will help you later on. If you end up buying parts on ebay, for instance. I've bought wheels that were a bargain, even after I was done replacing all the spokes, and truing it up

Repairs will take a little bit of time out of your day, and you'll probably get a little grubby doing it. But detergent for dishwashing machines will take off the nastiest stuff like it's nothing, and that little bit of time will save you days or weeks of waiting for your bike to be done, and it'll save you money that you can then put towards post-ride beers, or a new bike later on.

At the very least, for your own sake, I beg you. Make sure you know how to fix a flat tire. Practice once in a while. Yes, it means getting your hands dirty. But it will also mean you won't get stuck on the side of a trail, patch kit in hand, frustrated as hell because you know you could patch the tire, but you're not really familiar enough with it to get it done.

If you learn nothing else about your bike, learn to fix a flat. If you don't know how, ask a mechanic to show you. If they're a good mechanic, they'll be glad to. (Assuming they're not crazy busy. The middle of a saturday afternoon, for instance, may not be the best time, because the whole world will be in the bike shop, and all of them will need help with something)

So... there you are. Welcome to bicycling.
 
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