Buying your first mountain bike is one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do, opening your world to thousands of adventures, but it can also be quite intimidating. There are hundreds of models available, all with different features and at very different price points.
You can find several extensive guides to mountain bikes online, so today we’re just going to go over the basics.
Tips for choosing a mountain bike
1. Know what you want to use it for
Different mountain bikes are designed for different activities. There are specialized bikes for cross country rides, trails, and endurance races. There are also all-mountain bikes, which are designed for intense uphill riding, and fat mountain bikes, which are designed to withstand all kinds of temperature conditions.
If you need to replace your regular bike and you can only afford one new bike, a fat mountain bike is likely the most cost effective choice.
2. Have a firm budget established before you start looking
Mountain bikes range in price from under $500 to over $12,000, and that’s without adding the gear you’ll need (helmet, gloves, water bottle attachment). It’s easy to get sucked in by the most expensive bikes right away, but the average rider will do just fine with a mid-range or even low-end mountain bike.
Set an ideal price and a maximum price and write it down, and keep it firmly in your mind while you’re shopping. For your first mountain bike it’s usually best to go with a mid-range bike, so if you only end up using it to ride to and from work it won’t be a wasted investment.
3. Check out product reviews
There are millions of sites dedicated entirely to bicycle review, so there’s really no excuse to skip this step. Any worthwhile bike will have several reviews, and many of the best bikes have hundreds or thousands of reviews.
Take the overall star rating into account, but pay attention to the actual content of the reviews. You want to know exactly why people love the bike you’re considering. Focus on reviews on reputable third-party sites rather than the testimonials on the company’s website, and try to find reviews by riders who use the bike in the same ways you will.
4. Test ride
You can spend years researching a mountain bike, but there’s no substitute for riding it yourself. Most reputable sellers will let you take bikes on a limited test ride, and you can always ask your friends to try their bikes too.
If you want to purchase your bike online—which is often the best way to save money—look for a local bike store that carries your model and go there to test it out. You may also be able to get a better deal on the accompanying gear at a local store.
Mountain bikes have a peak selling season, starting in spring and carrying on into late summer. During these months demand is high and there are few sales, so if you can, consider buying your bike in the winter months. You won’t be able to take it on as many fun adventures right away (unless you buy a fat bike) but you will likely find a great deal. You might even be able to afford that dream bike that was out of your price range in the summer!
If you can’t wait until summer, it’s still worth shopping around rather than buying your bike at the first store that carries it. There’s always a deal somewhere, if you’re willing to look for it.