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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know the usual bike buying advice is "try a lot of bikes and buy the one that you want to ride the most." Well, I did that (parking lot test rides--I can't demo either) and found 2 in my budget that I honestly can't decide between because they both seemed great in different ways. Either would be at a LBS that I like/trust and would go back to for service without hesitation. It really boils down to which is better suited to my situation and I'm having trouble deciding which that is.


I'm 47, 155#s and have been riding all of one year. This will be my only bike. A third of my rides will likely be on bike paths & rail trails with my daughters (who like biking off of roads but not so much on actual trails). I live in VT so the other 2/3 of my riding will be on our rocky, rooty trails where you are always climbing or descending (not a lot of flow, darnit). I don't race. I don't see myself doing "all day epic rides"--more like 2-3 hours at a whack, especially as I build up my legs/fitness level. I have no desire to "send it" or bomb down anything. I already tried fatbiking--it's cool but I wasn't motivated to get out often enough to justify hauling around that much rubber year-round. My goal is to get exercise, have some fun in the woods, and acquire enough skills to ride all the intermediate "old school" trails that I am lucky enough to be 5-20 minutes away from without needing to visit an ER after the ride. That's it.


My budget was sub-$1500, knowing that I also need to get more non-basic gear (knee protection, some Five Tens, etc.). Luckily my "leftovers" shopping turned up what I think are some really good options:


Option 1 - 2018 DeVinci Kobain (new leftover) for a little over $1100. Felt nimble enough and not sluggish in the parking lot--but it's a parking lot. I loved the stability of the plus tires and the low maintenance of a hardtail. But I'm concerned that--like the fatbike I tried--the extra rubber will make all the climbs here onerous without making the downhills all that much safer and in control.


Option 2 - 2018 Marin Hawk Hill 2 (demo bike) with upgraded tires and already set up tubeless for $1350. The test drive was my first time ever on full squish. Riding over roots in the grassy area next to the parking lot felt a little smoother than the Kobain but wasn't like "a revelation" or anything. Fun, comfortable, seemed as nimble as the very old 26" Cannondale I was riding last year (so more nimble than the Kobain). Again, it seemed as fun as the Kobain, just in a different way.


It sounds like you can't go wrong with FS up in this area so I'm leaning toward Option 2. But I'm concerned by the onerous amounts of maintenance I hear people have to do on FS bikes. Is the bike always going to be in the shop getting maintenance? I've never owned a FS before and if the bike path miles I do with my kids counts towards earlier maintenance of bushings and pivots and rear shocks etc. instead of just riding...I start leaning towards the plus bike again. Which makes me think about


Option 3 - 2017 Marin Hawk Hill 1 (new leftover) for $1100. Lacks the dropper, 1x11, and boost wheels of the HH2 above (and with a slightly weaker rear shock) but based on all the glowing reviews it is still a really good entry level FS bike. Then roll that $250 difference into a cheap used 29er (Trek Marlins and Xcalibers come up often on Craigslist for $300 or so). That way I save the FS for just trails. Less enthused about this option, honestly, since the I'd be maintaining two bikes and my "fun in the woods" bike is a compromise and I'll know it.
 

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Your Budget does not allow for a decent FS new, maybe used, but definitely not new, stick to a HT. I'll also say stick to steel if possible, will give a much nicer ride when you're actually out on the rough trails, add some PLUS rubber and it'll be even better. From Marin I would be looking at the Pine Mtn1, or Jenson has the Kona UnitX on sale for $999, you could then pick up a suspension fork for the remainder of your budget. While I love my Unit, I built it up from the frameset, for buying a complete, I would probably stick to the Mine Mtn1 for it's Shimano parts, but that's just my personal preference.

Also, you stated your age and weight, but not height, unless you're 6'>, don't be looking at any XLs.
 

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if heavy analysis gets you stuck, sometimes you gotta make the decision based on something else. the color you like best, for example.

Modern hardtails are pretty rad, and surprisingly capable. Even though not every manufacturer makes great hardtails, the ones that do really drive home the point that hardtails are not "worse" than full suspension bikes. They're just different.

Maybe when you get to some super bony sections of trail, you have to finesse your way through on a hardtail whereas a full suspension might let you carry more speed through with a little less concern for line selection. More aggressive bikes might let you charge straight through with next to zero braking. Riding style becomes a notable part of the decision-making process when buying a bike.

I've come to a point in my own riding where I care more about finessing through chunky stuff rather than charging through it at speed. And that's part of why I just built my first hardtail in 16 years.

I waffled between plus tires and regular 29er tires for this bike for awhile, too. Bigger tires do offer lots of traction, and they do offer improved flotation over loose stuff like sand or snow if you encounter those things on your local trails. But, the tires are also a bit less supportive if you corner hard. To counter the squirm or tendency to fold over, you need to run higher pressures which negatively impacts ride quality in other ways. If you're a very nonaggressive rider, you can take advantage of those lower pressures without as much of the negatives you'll experience when pushing hard.

I settled on 29x2.6 as an intermediate point between regular 29er tires and plus tires. I'm still working to figure out my ideal pressures (particularly for the back tire), but so far I'm liking the size. The frame I'm on can take 27.5+, too, if I decide I want a different wheelset to run different tires at some point. That's one nice thing about most "29er" or "plus" frames, they can take either wheel/tire size.
 

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If you are leaning toward option 2, except for the worry about FS maintenance, do it. The maintenance differential really isn't an issue. The dropper post is something I think you will grow to love.
 

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I am in the habit of taking a leap of faith and just buy something. It always ends up working out. Whatever bike is your first choice is your best choice. Otherwise you could play the "what if I bought that bike" game in your head for a long time. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was in the same boat. He couldnt decide between 2 bikes. I talked him into his first choice because he would regret passing it up. Now he is super happy over his decision and realized it was the right one after riding it on our local trails.
 

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If you are leaning toward option 2, except for the worry about FS maintenance, do it. The maintenance differential really isn't an issue. The dropper post is something I think you will grow to love.
I’m in MSU Alum’s camp.
=sParty
 

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I am in the habit of taking a leap of faith and just buy something. It always ends up working out. Whatever bike is your first choice is your best choice. Otherwise you could play the "what if I bought that bike" game in your head for a long time. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was in the same boat. He couldnt decide between 2 bikes. I talked him into his first choice because he would regret passing it up. Now he is super happy over his decision and realized it was the right one after riding it on our local trails.
yep. I agree to more or less just buy something. It's not like you're signing your soul away for eternity with no go-backs. It's just a bicycle. You'll probably buy another one eventually.

I can go out and demo ride a bunch of bikes and like every single one of them well enough. It's really hard to find a truly bad bike right now. Sometimes my decisions come down to piddly little things in the big picture. But in the end, they're little things that actually do affect my decision process.
 

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jcd's best friend
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yep. I agree to more or less just buy something. It's not like you're signing your soul away for eternity with no go-backs. It's just a bicycle. You'll probably buy another one eventually.
I don't know man. Bobo sold his soul for a bike...

 

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Full sus at that price range is probably a very doable bike for your ride description. Marin gets really good press on their lower tier price point f/s and since you probably won't be raging the thing to the point of Preferred parking at the local hospital, I wouldn't get to too concerned about differences in $1800 / 2200 bikes verses $3500.
**
I'll say consider the f/s if you truly want it after riding some uphill and climbs.
I'm almost lazy and just didn't care for the feel of anything but hardtails for the pedal-effective nature of design.

The rides you describe can very effectively navigated by a h/t and the plus versions offer some compliance that will benefit any 40+ age group.
I'm 57 / 165# feeling like I got the right bike for me … the plus tires provide benefits in equal parts cush and traction.

The DeVinci looks nice but I wonder if (at list price) it isn't a bit proud of the name. I have a bike of similar or less weight (Marin Pine One) as steel frame and really found the sweet spot for me -Steel h/t plus

Here is a link to that bike with 4 others for comparison, I list it b/c DeVinci comes in 5th, last in the comparo-
Best of luck and have fun shopping - :cool:
 

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We're the same size, and I don't ride super hard. I'm in socal, so to be fair this climate is really easy on components. I do not regret getting FS. I'd like a hardtail too, but only to change it up, a modern FS does essentially every a hardtail can do with not much penalty.

If the FS was also more nimble then it's an easy call, as that's one thing a hardtail should have done better.

I would verify that the FS can fit a 2.35 or more in the back, so long as it can I think it's the way to go.

FWIW, be careful about steel. It really depends on the frame when you're only 155#.

Sent from my Moto G (5) Plus using Tapatalk
 

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Both great advice from Harold and Battery. I keep thinking I want another bike as an improvement over my current rig to gain an air shock and 1X. For the whole winter I’ve been thinking about selling and buying a Honzo but after reading these two responses, now I’m leaning towards keeping my Pitch and maybe adding and air fork to it and save money. I appreciate the helpful responses the both of you give to so many.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Lynx, the DeVinci link was just to give a list of specs and geo--it. I'm somewhere between 5'8-9" depending on how often I'm stretching out my back and so the Medium Kobain the LBS has was a great fit.

Harold, thanks for the extensive writeup--it helped. I am NOT an aggressive rider. You've got me leaning hardtail now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Just an FYI--my last post was just being typed as everyone was responding! (And thank you by the way!) Thanks to all letting me know that FS isn't quite the bear for maintenance that I was thinking it was. FYI to whomever asked--the HH2 I rode has 2.35 Vittoria Bombolonis on it currently. There was plenty of clearance for bigger tires and the LBS guys thought 2.5 front 2.4 rear would definitely be doable with a slight chance 2.6 front 2.5 rear might also fit. Internal rim widths of 29mm so the rims seem good to handle it too.

It is our first truly Spring day here. So analysis time is over--I'm going this afternoon to test ride both again one right after the other and pick one. Both are great options in different ways--neither one would be an outright mistake. Many thanks to all of you for taking the time to share your expertise with the thoughtful responses.
 

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jcd's best friend
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It is our first truly Spring day here. So analysis time is over--I'm going this afternoon to test ride both again one right after the other and pick one. Both are great options in different ways--neither one would be an outright mistake. Many thanks to all of you for taking the time to share your expertise with the thoughtful responses.
Great to hear! Once you choose and ride, you will gain experience on that bike and know what you want for your next one. The way you ride (and where you ride) may only need a hardtail at the most. Your progression will let you know if/when you want a full suspension bike. You are definitely on the right path by test riding and visiting bike shops.
 

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I would go with your gut and go with what you were leaning toward, unless theres a compelling reason otherwise.
FS maintenance on a good quality bike isnt as horrible as you might think, esp if your riding it under the conditions you describe. If you ride often in the wet, really rough or big conditions, then yes youll need to check your pivots and bearings often. My high end FS is around 5 years old now and had bearings replaced once. My midlevel headest bearings got trashed twice before i ditched it and went high end. Shocks and forks should ideally be serviced once a year, depending on usage and conditions.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Quick update--I just bought the Hawk Hill 2 and couldn't be happier. The back-to-back test rides (well, with a half hour in between as I drove to the other LBS) made the decision easy. The Kobain is a really nice bike (and I love the color scheme more than the Marin) but the HH2 was clearly the more playful feeling bike to me and the one that--while I was riding it--I was getting excited to hit the trails with. Once I recognized that, I took it inside and plopped down a deposit (there is a minor issue with the fork that the shop was already in the process of squaring away with RockShox before I can buy the bike and take it home).

I'm also really happy to buy from this shop because the head guy in the shop puts on free clinics (I attended a MTB 101 clinic with them last year) and organizes no-drop rides + they are more involved in the local bike community than the other shop I was considering. It's great when you can reward a shop like that with your $$$s. Thanks again everyone!
 

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jcd's best friend
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Quick update--I just bought the Hawk Hill 2 and couldn't be happier. The back-to-back test rides (well, with a half hour in between as I drove to the other LBS) made the decision easy. The Kobain is a really nice bike (and I love the color scheme more than the Marin) but the HH2 was clearly the more playful feeling bike to me and the one that--while I was riding it--I was getting excited to hit the trails with. Once I recognized that, I took it inside and plopped down a deposit (there is a minor issue with the fork that the shop was already in the process of squaring away with RockShox before I can buy the bike and take it home).

I'm also really happy to buy from this shop because the head guy in the shop puts on free clinics (I attended a MTB 101 clinic with them last year) and organizes no-drop rides + they are more involved in the local bike community than the other shop I was considering. It's great when you can reward a shop like that with your $$$s. Thanks again everyone!
Great to hear!! Make sure you share a photo with us! Don't forget to stop by the Riding Passion forum and share your adventures with us on this thread: https://forums.mtbr.com/riding-passion/did-you-ride-today-988566.html
 

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Quick update--I just bought the Hawk Hill 2 and couldn't be happier. The back-to-back test rides (well, with a half hour in between as I drove to the other LBS) made the decision easy. The Kobain is a really nice bike (and I love the color scheme more than the Marin) but the HH2 was clearly the more playful feeling bike to me and the one that--while I was riding it--I was getting excited to hit the trails with. Once I recognized that, I took it inside and plopped down a deposit (there is a minor issue with the fork that the shop was already in the process of squaring away with RockShox before I can buy the bike and take it home).

I'm also really happy to buy from this shop because the head guy in the shop puts on free clinics (I attended a MTB 101 clinic with them last year) and organizes no-drop rides + they are more involved in the local bike community than the other shop I was considering. It's great when you can reward a shop like that with your $$$s. Thanks again everyone!
Great ending to that story, and great beginning to the adventures that await.
That bike has had some marvelous reviews and write up's and feeling strong about the shop you deal with is nothing short of handy and a vote of confidence.
Congrats, sounds like you did everything right !!
 

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You'll enjoy the Hawk Hill. For your type of riding, it will be a blast. I have a Rift Zone, and, frankly, it's a bit less fatiguing to ride than my old hardtail, and adds a dimension of traction, not to mention smoothing out some bumps, that you will really enjoy.
 
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