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I used to mountain bikes about 12-15 years ago (I'm 27 now) and got out of the sport. Now I'm older and fatter, but think it's time to get back in shape and start riding again. It seems like there's a lot more manufactures out there now than there were then, so I really don't know who is making quality products anymore. My price range is between $300-$500. I'll be riding mostly local trails, with some occasional pavement riding. My only real criteria is that the bike is a hard tail and I'd like to give disc brakes a try. Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks for the help.
 

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Genius
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Welcome 4zilch,

Start with your local bike shop. In your price range I'd be more focused on finding a good shop as opposed to a specific manufacturer. If your not sure of what shops are good/bad in your area take a walk/hike in the area where you want to ride. Introduce yourself to the other riders and see what shops/mechanics they recommend for your area and for the trails you want to ride most often. Also, ask them which shops to stay away from.

Stay away from big box stores for the bike.
 

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I agree with not sticking to a particular manufacturer. Most hardtails are 6061 or 7005 aluminum and they will have comparable parts for around the same price point. The GT avalanche series is a good start. But there is a considerable difference between the 2.0 and the 1.0. The 1.0 disc is nice but it is closer to $700.
 

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Official ***** Idiot
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Right.....$500 is going to get you something fine for moderate, light trail riding. Like the others said, brand should be a secondary thought, until you get to a point where you've ridden a few different brands for a couple of months or more, and know that, say, Gary Fisher's geometry suits you the best. No way to really tell until you ride.

Watch the fork. Cheap bikes have cheap forks, and not only do they not perform well (think pogo stick on steroids) but they break easily. Seen too many cheapie RST's and Suntours snap dropouts, shear stanchions out of the crown......ugly stuff. No need to go super expensive, just try to stick with a known quality brand. A low end RockShox is going to be a better fork for you than a "better' RST.

If you have to go budget, no room to maneuver on price, look more at bikes without disk brakes, just regular good-quality rim brakes. IMO, still, getting a bike that has a full set of disks compared to a bike that has good midline V's.........hmm. Either those disks are awful, or they cut costs somewhere more important. But ask. Any good shop owner will tell you if those are recreational only brakes, or if they actually have some good power for light/medium trail riding. I just look at it that disk hubs are more expensive, the brakes themselves typical retail for a front and rear set of entry level XC brakes is about $200 a set......on a $500 bike, it should make you think.

And fit. Fit fit fit fit fit. The absolute worst thing you can do to yourself is get a bike that's not right for you. Besides the obvious "wow this sucks" factor, you can also do some pretty serious damage to knees and back if the bike is not fitted properly to you. When I first moved here to VT, and wanted to get back into trail riding, I took a coworker's advice and drove way up north to a little shop in the sticks. Told the owner what I had to spend, and the area I would be riding in, he picked a bike that I thought would be too small for me, swapped the flat bars out with a good set of riser bars, did a few other small swaps to get it where it needed to be, and when I asked about the frame size, he just said "trust me". He was right, 100%. All I ever did with that $500 bike was swap the cheapie RockShox Indy for a Manitou SX-R, and I rode the heck out of it. But if I hadn't gone to that shop, talked with a guy who knew his stuff, knew the trails and what I would need to get started, and more importantly, cared that I got something that would make me want to ride.........who knows. Try to find a shop that can do that for you. They exist, they just don't have huge storefronts with hundreds of bikes of all types. Plus, the small, good shops are usually the hang-outs for local riding groups, so you can kill two birds there..........buy a good starter bike, and line up your first ride at the same time.
 

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On wuss patrol
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If I were looking for a bike in your budget range, here are the bikes I would be looking at and trying a demo spin on.

GT Avalanche 3.0 Disc: decent components for a starter bike, 30mm stanchions on the Suntour fork with 100mm travel, Kenda Nevegal tires that perform well. http://www.gtbicycles.com/usa/eng/Bikes/Mountain/Details/5890-G10AVA3D-Avalanche-3.0-Disc

Specialized Hardrock Disc: decent components, slightly better cable disc brakes than others in this price range, fork is the weakest of this price point with only 80mm travel and 28mm stanchions. http://www.specialized.com/us/en/bc/SBCBkModel.jsp?spid=45759&eid=4340&menuItemId=9253

Gary Fisher Advance Disc: comparable decent components to others here, fork and Promax cable disc brakes may be a little sketchy for longer term use but fork has 100mm travel. http://www.fisherbikes.com/bike/model/advance-disc

Giant Rincon: components fit in this catagory nicely, great tires, fork may be the weak sister but at least has 100mm travel. http://www.giant-bicycles.com/en-US/bikes/model/rincon.black/3873/36247/

Motobecane Fantom Trail from Bikes Direct: Best set of components, best fork (Dart 3) and brakes (Avid mechanical discs), great Panaracer Fire XC Pro tires--BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK if you can wrench and/or have a bike shop assist in the setup. http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/motobecane/fantom_trail08.htm

Click around the BD site for the 700HT and the Cliff 4900 bikes as well--Dart 2 and slight downgrades in drivetrain for $499 each.

I would caution some posters about generalizing about the failure of Suntour forks. Most entry bikes are obviously equipped with some form of this brand and they will work for certain riders, styles and conditions but would be a valid upgrade. Stay toward the larger 30mm-32mm stanchions if you can and these forks should be adequate for a time. I have a lower end SR Suntour Epicon that came with my GT new and it has performed perfectly for me at 235lbs over the 2.5 months with 1-2 foot drops, rocky step roll ins and a few abrupt stop endos. Still plush, straight, crack free and holds air.

Have fun with the selection. :thumbsup:

Dave

***EDIT***

Can't believe I forgot the Trek 3900 Disc: Very similar to the GF (Trek now owns GF) but gives up a little in the area of the fork and drivetrain--costs a little less, too. http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/mountain_hardtail/3_series/3900disc/
 

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I Have Cookies
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At that range I'd go motobicane price can't be beat but you can't get it sized so that's a minus the only bike I'm fimiliar with at that range and list is the specalized..... But like hef said fit fit fit! To me more important than components! Any day!!! If the bike and you don't work togeather then it's moot!
 

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$500 will not buy you much bike, even at an online shop. At your price range I would recommend you look into a used bike. Be patient, read the forums here, do your homework, and within a week or so you will be scouring ebay and craigslist with a good idea of the latest bike technology and the corresponding street price. The idea is to get more bike for the money so you can enjoy the sport more instead of upgrading parts the minute you get home.

If you never get the "bike bug" and just ride recreationally or for fitness, it probably won't matter much what bike you get. But, if you're looking to ride increasingly more challenging terrain, going faster, jumping higher, etc, consider looking for something above entry level that is designed for that type of riding.
 

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+1 for the used route. Can be a good way to get some upgrades from free, or have some coin left over to do them yourself. Also a better investment if you decide you dont ride as much as you thought you would. It does take time though as there are some nut cases out there with crazy prices. I am really new to all this, was off bikes for 25 yrs, just now starting back up. This place has taught me a ton already and saved me more than I have spent. For me I was able to get a 2007 Giant Yukon with disc brakes for $220, already have done a few upgrades, and looking to change forks. As it was said, the stock ones are really bad.
 

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Official ***** Idiot
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ataylor said:
+1 for the used route. Can be a good way to get some upgrades from free, or have some coin left over to do them yourself. Also a better investment if you decide you dont ride as much as you thought you would. It does take time though as there are some nut cases out there with crazy prices. I am really new to all this, was off bikes for 25 yrs, just now starting back up. This place has taught me a ton already and saved me more than I have spent. For me I was able to get a 2007 Giant Yukon with disc brakes for $220, already have done a few upgrades, and looking to change forks. As it was said, the stock ones are really bad.
The only issue I have with used bikes (well, two, really) is you don't know what you're getting, and lack of warranty. I know, the guy with the great deal says his kid rode it on bike paths for two years, and it has a few dings, but in great shape!! Dad didn't know that kid had been bombing downhills hard for those two years, and the frame is about ready to break from the stress risers you can't see under the paint. The majority of us here won't buy a used frame, simply because we know the riding here, and quite possibly what that poor bike has been put through. Too strong a chance you buy it, spend the money to upgrade parts that look worn, and wind up snapping it in half on your first week of serious riding. Some shops will sell used bikes, the place I go to in CT does, but it's from known riders, so John has a very good idea how usable the frame is. He probably rode the trails with the guy on that bike for most of its life.
 

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heff® said:
The only issue I have with used bikes (well, two, really) is you don't know what you're getting, and lack of warranty. I know, the guy with the great deal says his kid rode it on bike paths for two years, and it has a few dings, but in great shape!! Dad didn't know that kid had been bombing downhills hard for those two years, and the frame is about ready to break from the stress risers you can't see under the paint. The majority of us here won't buy a used frame, simply because we know the riding here, and quite possibly what that poor bike has been put through. Too strong a chance you buy it, spend the money to upgrade parts that look worn, and wind up snapping it in half on your first week of serious riding. Some shops will sell used bikes, the place I go to in CT does, but it's from known riders, so John has a very good idea how usable the frame is. He probably rode the trails with the guy on that bike for most of its life.
Very good points.
 

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Hey Welcome 4zilch, this forum is amazing you'll find all that you need to know (about bicycles) or almost all.

I'm actually just joined yesterday...

Rgrds from Chile
 
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