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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm a cheapskate who has been getting by on 40 dollar used dept store bikes I pick up from thrift stores.

My two biggest beefs with dept store junkers is they break all the time(big surprise) and climbing is BRUTAL! I've been researching legit mountain bikes and it seems to go without saying that a proper one is significantly better constructed and more durable. But I'm left somewhat uncertain when it comes to the benefits(or at least the aspects of a good bike that are most beneficial) when it comes to climbing.

I'm no olympian, but i am still in very good shape. Yet when I'm out on steep/lengthy climbes I find myself gasping, legs burning, before too long it feels like I'm pedaling through sand, if not wet concrete, despite the trails being perfectly dry, no loose dirt, just great condition all around. Meanwhile I see old dudes, slob looking dudes, average joes, just cruising along seemingly effortlessly, fellas barely even breathing hard oftentimes. I don't mean to put anybody down or brag, but again I'm quite fit and know im in better physical shape then most these fellas. I figure it's GOTTA boil down in large part to the quality of the equipment.

But what exactly about the equipment makes it easier?

From what i gather, the number of teeth on your cassette is the most important part of the climb game, that and the weight of your bike. Am I right in that? Is there anything else of central/major importance beyond that?

Am i right to assume that my used, thrift store, walmart Mongoose monstrosity in its lowest gear is far different then some nice 700-1000+ quality brand legit mountain bike in its lowest gear(s)?

Seems most mountain bikes are 11-32T or 11-34T. Unless my count is off, my junker has high 20s or 30 teeth on its biggest sprocket. Does such a seemingly small difference in teeth number really make such a huge difference?

Or am i actually in pathetic shape, at least when it comes to biking haha?
 

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That difference in teeth is a huge difference. Up front, even more so. My newest bike has a single 30 tooth ring on the front and my cassette has 11 gears ranging from 11 to 42 teeth. I can climb most hills with it.
Check out gear inch charts online. That should help you clear it up a little.
 

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since 4/10/2009
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There's a mountain of little things that make a difference. Yes, the gearing is one of them. Gearing charts or calculators can give you a better idea of how different your bike is from others. Something like this:

https://www.sheldonbrown.com/gear-calc.html

And keep in mind that gearing can vary an incredible amount. For mountain bikes, the days of the cassette with a big cog tooth count of fewer than 36t are numbered. They exist, but 36 became the norm when 10spd mtb drivetrains first came out, and since then it's kept creeping up. 42t to 46t to 50t and 51t and so on. Chainring count is settling on single for most, with a few 2x options floating around. 3x has been relegated to cheap stuff.

Tire quality makes a difference. Rolling resistance on a mtb trail is a somewhat complicated mix of tire pressure, the terrain itself, the tread pattern, the rubber compound, the size of the tire, the size of the rim, wheel diameter, and so on.

Weight of the bike is a factor, but not as much of one as you might think. With the right gearing, you can climb with a real porker of a bike.

Bearing quality/adjustment is a real sleeper. Tight, rough, shitty bearings with lots of drag will be notably slow. It'll be hard to tell if you only look at ONE rotating part at a time, when you take into account ALL OF THEM AT ONCE from the hubs, bottom bracket, derailleur pulleys, and even the tiny little losses from a tight chain, etc it adds up.

Suspension settings make a difference, too. With dept store bikes, there's no such thing as suspension settings, but once you have settings you can see the difference they make, and they can make a huge one.

Fit of a bike can make a difference with your efficiency on it. Almost nobody has an ideal fit on a dept store cheapo bike, so that will actually matter.
 

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A good builder never blames his tools ;-)

I'm pretty fit... love technical climbing i.e. Clyde that has good power on tap to clean sections that have my buddies walking.

Yet, put a smooth fire road climb in front of me & I'm soon lagging down the back.

My mass & power are no longer useful.

I have contemplated trying to drop weight (I weigh 107kg's) and get down to say 95kg's.

If I could shed 10 kilo's I know I'd be a lot quicker on the climbs.

Sent from my Nokia X6
 

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Is your bike full suspension? If it is, you may be using a lot of energy bobbing the bike up and down rather than forward. If you're buying cheap dept store bikes, you'd be better off with a hardtail, probably even a rigid bike as the front suspension can suck up some energy as well. Plus, the less suspension, the less weight for the most part.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I didnt even think of the front tooth count.

I just counted mine and there is 28 teeth on the largest cog in back. I suppose just 2 or 4 extra teeth SOUNDS like a small number, but it makes sense it would make a big difference.

ANd yeah, 30 in front blows away what im workin with haha.

What kind of bike do you have btw?
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
What bikes have a tooth count that high? Those the real high end ones?

ALl the ones in the 700-1500 dollar range ive come across seem to max out at 32 or maybe 34 tooth.

Tires make sense. I kinda figured those prob factored in, not just for climbing but prob damn near everything.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Is your bike full suspension? If it is, you may be using a lot of energy bobbing the bike up and down rather than forward. If you're buying cheap dept store bikes, you'd be better off with a hardtail, probably even a rigid bike as the front suspension can suck up some energy as well. Plus, the less suspension, the less weight for the most part.
It WAS full suspension. I was having some issues with the rear suspension where i couldnt get my rear brake adjusted right, the suspension in the back with my weight on the bike would cause the pads not to make contact. I dont know if i just needed to spend some time playing around with the rear adjustment, which would have been a pain in the rear as i cant adjust the brake while putting my weight on the back to gauge how much i needed to move em, not to mention eyeballin it i really didnt see much room i had to work with anyways. So my fix was to tighten that **** down to the point where it essentially was turned into a hard-tail, there is zero give in the rear now.

BTW, i realize dept store full suspensions prob the biggest of jokes. I dont shop by choice, usually the thrift stores or facebook groups only have a couple mountain bikes goin for 40-60 bucks at any given time. Whenever i break one, i pick up whatever cheap one is available at the time so i can hit the trails again.
 

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What bikes have a tooth count that high? Those the real high end ones?

ALl the ones in the 700-1500 dollar range ive come across seem to max out at 32 or maybe 34 tooth.

Tires make sense. I kinda figured those prob factored in, not just for climbing but prob damn near everything.
Keeping in mind you havent told us much about yourself, other than FS Walmart bikes, here's my suggestion......
It sounds to me that you could do well with a 29" Hardtail, and l reckon for $1500 you'll do great with a good 2nd hand one, or ok for a new one.

Either way it'll be chalk and cheese to the bikes you have been riding.

My Commencal Meta AMHT was CHF800 (end of model throw out), and came with 1x11 (cassette is 11-42) Sram NX and 27+ tyres, its changed a lot over the last 10 months with a better fork, dropper and 29x2.4 wheels/tyres, and now sits around the CHF1800 mark, weight lm not sure but its not that important to me as if lm honest l could stand to lose 5kgs myself.

The biggest prob you'll have is finding the geo you want....
 

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All the bike technology and design aside for a moment...

I am by no means an expert, but in my opinion and experience... There are different muscle related things going on when comparing short steep power climbs versus long steady gradual climbs. I can ride comfortably for miles on technical trails. But I can't keep up worth a flip with a friend of mine riding on the road. At the same time, while he can ride without even panting for 30+ miles, he can barely finish a 5 mile MTB trail without cramps and running out of breath. What body build, and muscles work well for steady, grinding climbs, don't work as well for the short power surges you're good at. Like a body builders legs work for dead lifting, but suck for running. And vice versa. But in both cases, they're the same muscles.

Anyway, just another angle to consider.

But, yes, when comparing apples to apples (you to you), bike tech and design will make a difference. But it doesn't necessarily mean you'll blow past the other guy on the way up those long steady climbs..
 

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Keeping in mind you havent told us much about yourself, other than FS Walmart bikes, here's my suggestion......
It sounds to me that you could do well with a 29" Hardtail, and l reckon for $1500 you'll do great with a good 2nd hand one, or ok for a new one.
So Im home sick and bored so I decided to have a quick search:

Jenson, $1000-1500, Hardtail, 29" filter
https://www.jensonusa.com/Orbea-Alma-H30-Eagle-29-Bike-2019 comes in grey and in the sexy mint green that I like, this I think is the pick of the bikes using the said filters
that thing will poo all over what you've been riding, having said that its not a bike I'd buy (fork, wheels, tyres and geo).

You really need to test ride some bikes :thumbsup:
 

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It WAS full suspension. I was having some issues with the rear suspension where i couldnt get my rear brake adjusted right, the suspension in the back with my weight on the bike would cause the pads not to make contact. I dont know if i just needed to spend some time playing around with the rear adjustment, which would have been a pain in the rear as i cant adjust the brake while putting my weight on the back to gauge how much i needed to move em, not to mention eyeballin it i really didnt see much room i had to work with anyways. So my fix was to tighten that **** down to the point where it essentially was turned into a hard-tail, there is zero give in the rear now.

BTW, i realize dept store full suspensions prob the biggest of jokes. I dont shop by choice, usually the thrift stores or facebook groups only have a couple mountain bikes goin for 40-60 bucks at any given time. Whenever i break one, i pick up whatever cheap one is available at the time so i can hit the trails again.
I'd say if you want to get better and mountain biking to stop buying the junkers and get a more competent bike. I usually don't shill for BikesDirect or any brands really but you could get this bike here: Save up to 60% off new Mountain Bikes - MTB - NEW Gravity HD COMP LongTravel Forks + Double Wall Rims Shimano Hydraulic Disk Brake Mountain Bikes in 27.5 or 29er

and it would literally be better than anything you have ridden. That is $400 or so of bike. It comes with reasonably competent components, an adjustable fork, and hydraulic discs. If this suits your needs it is easy to upgrade parts as you wear them out as it uses industry standard equipment (though it is 8spd, but you can still get 8 spd chains and cassettes and they are usually much cheaper than the higher gear count components).

It comes in either 27.5 or 29" wheel size so you can buy tires for it and it is new.

Another option would be to look at MTBR classifieds, craigslist, and pinkbike for a similar bike, something newer in 27.5" or 29" wheel size, something with good components and something you can learn on.

Initially I was going to come in here and say the #1 item to have to climb well is a bike that fits. The second is appropriate gearing and knowing what gear to be in, the third is good tires and tires at the correct pressure, and the fourth is technique but it seems a lot of the issues you are having is based on your bike in general. I would seriously consider getting a newer bike intended for mountain biking (Department store bikes are generally even labelled that they are not for off road use, more commonly know as bike shaped objects or mountain bike shaped objects), then get out there and give it a try. Once you get back from riding, check out some of the youtube video tutorials on skills, practice those, learn about appropriate tire pressures and gearing selection, and make sure you have a bike that fits you.

For fit, if you have doubts, post your measurements here and the bike you are considering and let the MTBR users weigh in and remember the sweetness of a good deal with fade way before the disappointment and discomfort of a poor fit will, get the right sized bike the first time and enjoy the ride.

And just remember some of those old dudes killing it on bikes may have been mountain biking since the 80's, I know I have. With that many years in the tank climbing is something you do well, especially due to technique and muscle memory, even if you look like a bagged out old geezer.
 

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Buying cheap junk bikes is going to cost you more money and probably a lot most hassle in the long run. Seems like a giant waste. Buy a decent used hardtail. You can probably find something that is five years old that sold for $2000 originally for $500 used. Get a frame size that fits you, and make sure nothing is totally worn out or broken before you buy.
 
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