We all know too well that mountain biking is an expensive hobby, even with years of experience under your belt but if you’re new to the sport, the initial price of entry can be monumental. However, it needn’t be as even in a market where bikes can cost upwards of £10,000 stepping into the world of mountain biking can be done very easily on a small budget.
Do your homework
Buying the wrong bike is exactly the right way to spend more money than you should. Before dropping the dollar, get yourself onto YouTube and the internet and spend some time consuming all of the mountain bike content to help you decide what kind of riding you actually want to do.
There are many kinds of bikes out there, with a range of different geometries and travel figures, so picking the right one for the riding you want to do with it will mean that you’ll have a bike you’ll be happy with for years rather than just a couple of months before buying another. While many bikes straddle genres, you don’t want to be caught out pushing a downhill bike up a hill, when you would rather be pedalling towards your next descent.
Buy a hardtail
The humble hardtail is a fantastic stepping stone into mountain biking for a plethora of reasons but most of all, they’re far less expensive than their double bouncy siblings. Hardtails just don’t have as many things as a full suspension bike; they lack a rear shock and all of the components that go into constructing the suspension linkage. There’s also less research and development that goes into a hardtail’s design which makes them cheaper still.
If you were willing to spend a little more, you can even buy a hardtail with some pretty fancy kit for the price of a cheap full susser with less sophisticated components, so you’ll be buying a better-specced bike for less cash.
Not only are they a cheaper alternative but they can also help build skills and promote good mountain bike practices such as line choice. Their simplicity also saves costs in the long run as they require far less maintenance.
Stay away from the big brands
An unfortunate aspect of the mountain biking community in general is that it’s not without its snobbery. Many turn their noses up at manufacturers and house brands from companies like Halfords and Go Outdoors but in reality, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with these bikes. In fact, the Voodoo Bizango and Boardman MTR, both available through Halfords are bikes that have scored very well in our reviews.
While it’s easy to go for the obvious big names, such as Trek and Giant (even though they also offer good bikes for little cash), go back to your research and delve into the abundance of mountain bike brands, where some smaller names offer better bang for your buck. And to be honest, most bikes out there are pretty good to start with, so don’t be afraid to go for a brand that’s not quite as highly thought of as the obvious.
Brands such as Yeti, Santa Cruz, Scott, and even Specialized have a number of bikes that demand astronomical prices. Even though these bikes are very good, and come built with technologies you simply won’t find elsewhere, it’s more than possible to buy a bike that’s much cheaper and have just as much fun. There will be differences in weight, stiffness, and in how its suspension kinematic performs but the right bike from a cheaper brand will perform nearly as well.
Expensive doesn't always mean better
Brands offer their mountain bikes in model ranges, so they can offer the same bike frame but at different price points. Model ranges start with bikes that will be equipped with budget friendly kit that start off at a more palatable price, and they go up in price with bikes getting fancier componentry. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the most expensive bike in a range is better, however, as it’ll come with sophisticated componentry with more adjustment but that can get confusing and become more of a problem than a benefit.
Just because a suspension fork, for example, isn’t covered in gold-coloured shenanigans and all of the dials ever it doesn’t mean that it’s good for you at this point. Yes, it’s fantastic for professionals, serious racers, and even tech-headed weekend warriors but there are bigger things to think about throughout your early years of mountain biking as it is before having to worry whether that extra click of compression damping is the reason why your hands hurt. The same goes for almost all components on a bike with more budget-friendly options actually being reasonably good. Plus, components like wheels, brakes, drivetrains and suspension can be upgraded as you get more comfortable out on the trails.
Without a doubt, it’ll take more research and education to learn how to set up your mountain bike’s suspension properly, so without knowing exactly what each of those knobs on your fork does and how they benefit your ride, you’re only adding more problems to an already steep learning curve. Learn how to corner properly first.
Go second hand
It’s a buyer’s market at the moment as, like shops, many people out there are struggling to sell their bikes, so the time is ripe for some serious bargains. You will need to be switched on when buying from the second-hand marketplace as of course, all of these bikes have been used, so you’ll need to check for wear and damage.
We’ve got 10 tips on how to buy a secondhand bike because the task can be quite the minefield if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
Hit up those Black Friday sales or wait til the end of a season
Mountain biking is a seasonal sport where even though it’s more than possible to make the most of the winter months, prices fluctuate throughout the year. Although it’s becoming more uncommon, brands tend to update their bikes on an annual basis, making sure that the newest bikes come with the most modern of specifications.
At this point, shops often lower their bike prices in order to clear stock to get those new builds out on the shop floor, so this makes for an ideal time to pick up your first brand-new mountain bike with a considerable percentage off the RRP. The downsides of doing this are very few as you’ll be buying a brand new bike cheaper, but the only considerable negative is that you won’t be getting the most up-to-date bike but in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t matter.
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