Local Bike Shops: Responses to common newbie queries
We often cop flack around here for not doing enough for the local bike shop, so I wanted to try something out and see what kind of response it would get...
The idea was to write to local bricks-and-mortar stores and let them know we wanted to produce a kind of editorial piece on advice from local stores, aimed mainly at relatively new riders, and invite the stores to have input into this. This forum has a large readership and it was explained that taking part would be an ideal opportunity for local stores to provide an insight into their expertise.
As a by-product I hoped that any such article would be useful for riders new to the sport, or those considering getting into MTB riding. So basically free publicity to local stores wanting to entice such a person through their doors and free info for newbies: win-win, right?
Idea hatched, off to Google to find a list of bike shops from Sydney CBD up through the Northern Beaches. In all, I wrote to 15 stores, either by direct email to the contact details on their website, or (in just 3 cases) by completing the online contact form.
Full disclosure: you might note that we have a couple of local sponsors, in Bike Addiction and Bicycles Online. Of course they were included in this, but the exact same message was sent to all stores on the list and each store got a follow up to prod them to reply a week later. It's also worth noting, none of the stores mentioned in this thread have paid to appear here. This is not an advertising feature, it is an independent look at what advice a regular customer would get in one of these stores.
I was hoping that at least half of those contacted would respond, but sadly only half of that number did (4 in total). Let's not get into why that is here (I'd only be guessing anyhow) but looking on the bright side: There is still some good advice here and it keeps the thread more manageable.
Here's hoping some readers will find this useful. Perhaps if someone visits one of these stores they could mention this thread, and maybe word would get round, and maybe next time I ask people would be more willing to participate?
Anyhow... preamble done, below are the questions put, and answers from each store in turn.
1. I'd like to take up MTB riding and have a limited budget, what's the best 'cheap' bike for me to buy to start?
Manly Cycles: At Manly Cycles one of our popular entry level mountain bike would be the Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc 29er at $699. Its a great Aluminium 29er hardtail with Hydraulic Disc brakes and adjustable suspension forks. We recommend this bike as a gateway into mountain biking. Its strong enough for entry level mountain biking with solid brakes and suspension for off-road duties.
Bike Addiction: If you're looking to take a bike on proper offroad tracks, disc brakes are definitely required. You'll have more braking power and better modulation from disc brakes (rather than rim brakes), especially in the wet. The Giant 2014 Talon 5 27.5 is a great bike to get into mountain biking. For only $629, you'll get a strong aluminium frame (with lifetime warranty) and reliable hydraulic disc brakes.
Bicycles Online: Would recommend Polygon Recon 2.0 at $898
Cyclery Northside: To start with, our philosophy is that getting the right bike for the rider comes first every time. So, the first thing we’d ask is what kind of experience you have and what kind of mountain biking you’re aiming to do. We’d then provide you with the right bike for you, rather than just sell you a 'cheap' bike.
With that in mind, we'd probably recommend the following for a beginner. For basic 'easy' trail riding, we'd suggest something from the upper end of the Rockhopper range for a guy or the women's-specific Myka range for a woman. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you could try a Crave (gents) or a Jett (women). All of these feature 29-inch wheels so will easily roll over the rough stuff, as well as hydraulic disc brakes for reliable stopping power.
2. I've been riding some local firetrails on my Huffy hardtail and feel ready to take my riding to the next level, take on some rougher terrain & maybe small drops. Say I have $2,500 to spend, what should I be looking at? Talk me into spending more if you can!
Manly Cycles: Its always good to hear about someone getting into mountain biking! From what you have described with rougher terrain and a few small drops, I would highly recommend going a dual suspension mountain bike. Something like the Specialized Camber Comp or Stumpjumper Comp.
The Camber is considered as an extremely pedal efficient 110mm travel trail bike. And the Stumpjumper is designed to take those bigger hits and drops with a little more confidence and 130mm of travel.
My pick would be the Stumpjumper as the extra travel and slightly slacker head angle will give you more stability and control on the rougher terrain and drops you have described. When riding the rougher stuff, geometry plays a really big part in how the bike will handle and behave. Obviously you want to consider your suspension and brakes too, but they don't mean much if the geo isn't dialled.
The Stumpjumper uses a slightly slacker head angle (forks racked forward) and a lower bottom bracket - which gives you a lower, more controlled centre of gravity. Which essentially means you can bomb down the rough stuff faster and with much more control. It makes for a very fun bike to ride! And thanks for the FSR suspension linkage it pedals extremely efficiently too.
The Camber Comp is $2,599 and the Stumpjumper comp is $2,999 a its a little more than the Camber, but well worth it if you want to pin a little faster on the rougher terrain.
Bike Addiction: You'll want to get yourself a dual suspension bike. Hardtails are great on smooth trails, but on rougher terrain, duallies are far easier and more enjoyable to ride, especially at higher speeds. Giant have a few duallies around the $2,500 mark. The pick of the bunch, especially for the Manly Dam track, is the Giant 2014 Trance 2 27.5. Not only do you get Fox shocks, but a Shimano drivetrain and hydraulic disc brakes too. If you're into less technical tracks, then maybe consider shorter travel dual suspension bikes, like the Giant Anthem X 29ers, which have 4" travel.
Bicycles Online: Would recommend stepping up to the Polygon Recon 4.0 - $1,398
Cyclery Northside: The $2,000-$3,000 price bracket really is a 'sweet spot' for Specialized mountain bikes, and you get a whole load of bike for your buck. Especially impressive this year is the full-suspension Stumpjumpers and Cambers for the gents, and the brand-new Rumor for the women.
The Stumpy is the do-it-all mountain bike that will roll through anything, whereas the redesigned Camber is a fantastically responsive bike, especially if you're a little more confident technically. The Rumor, meanwhile, is the ultimate women's full-suspension trail bike, designed and engineered to give riders the best-fitting and most-capable bike in the sport.
If you're willing to spend a little more, we've also been blown away by the Camber Evo. It's got slacker geometry and more travel than the standard Camber, making it a much more playful bike.
Of course, if you'd really like us to convince you to spend more, let me steer you to our S-Works wall...
3. My 'significant other' has recently taken up MTB riding. They don't have much gear. In fact they ride in old tees, board shorts and trainers. What's the best gift under $100 you can recommend giving to a relatively new rider?
Manly Cycles: I'm going to assume they are riding with a helmet! But for $100 the best thing you could get them is a pair of quality riding shorts. Something with a padded chamois will make life so much more comfortable and enjoyable for them on the bike. It can be a real life changer.
Bike Addiction: There's a number of options here. Clothing wise, padded riding shorts or gloves would have to top the list. Both of these items make MTB riding more enojayble, especially on longer rides. Accessories wise, a floor pump and / or hand pump would be most useful. Checking tyre pressures often is vital in order to get the most out of the bike, and also to avoid pinch flats. The floor pump will have a pressure gauge and inflate the tyres quickly, and the hand pump will get you out of trouble if you puncture in the middle of a ride. Alternatively, a hydration pack would be a great gift; to carry water, spare tubes, pumps, tyres levers etc.
Bicycles Online: Would recommend a pair of Polygon Cargo Mountain Bike Shorts - $59.95
Cyclery Northside: First up, we'd recommend a wicking jersey like the loose-fitting Specialized Atlas Sport ($49) or the tighter Atlas Comp ($89) which will be much more comfortable than a heavy cotton t-shirt, especially when you start to perspire. If you can stretch your budget a little, a pair of Atlas Sport mountain bike shorts ($99) will also be much easier on some of those more ‘sensitive’ contact points down below.
4. Store's choice (optional): aside from the above, what's the most common type of query you get and what does the customer usually end up buying?
Manly Cycles: Tyres and tubeless set up would have to be one of the most common enquiries we get. Its a really valid one too. Tyres are the contact between you and the terrain you ride - they can make a huge difference at a relatively low cost.
We recommend anyone riding off-road to use a tubeless set-up. We can pretty much convert any rim to be tubeless ready for $35 per end. Running a tubeless set-up allows you to run lower tyre pressures which increases grip, ditching the tube saves weight and the self sealing liquid within the tyres ensures you are far less likely to get flats.
As for tyre choice it really depends on where you are riding and your riding style. But if you come into the store we will recommend you the most suitable tyre for your application and we guarantee your satisfaction - if you don't like our suggestion we will swap to any other Specialized tyre within 90days free of charge.
Cyclery Northside: As one of Sydney's largest bike shops and NSW's biggest Specialized concept store, there's no such thing as a 'common query'!
We do receive a number of queries about fork and shock problems: these are usually down to them not being serviced as often as they should be - which is every 50 hours of riding. That's why we've recently added a dedicated Suspension Spa to our workshop to help our riders save money in the long run.