Buying Your First Mountain Bike

It can be a bit intimidating as well as time consuming when you buy your first mountain bike. Following, you’ll find some tips and things to be aware of before you start your search for your first mountain bike.

Determining your price is really a personal thing. There is hardly a limit as to how much money you can spend on a new mountain bike. More is not necessarily better, you should decide on your price range and how much you can afford to pay for a new bike. When you do buy, you shouldn’t buy from a department store such as Wal-Mart. The bikes sold at department stores are not really bikes designed for the rigors of mountain biking. Also they are not put together by trained bike mechanics. You should instead support your local bike shop and get a much better bike and much better service.

There are different styles of mountain bikes. There are mountain bikes designed with many different riding styles and terrain types in mind. You’ll want to figure out what type of riding you will be doing the most. Recreational cross country, cross country racing, all mountain riding, or lift accessed downhill riding or racing. Make sure that the bike you select fits the style of riding you plan on doing.

Deciding on a full suspension or hard tail is also an important decision.

If you can afford it, a full suspension mountain bike is always worth the extra money. A hard tail, bike without rear suspension, is lighter weight and pedals more efficiently than full suspension bikes. Full suspension bikes offer more comfort and overall better control on rough terrain. You’ll want to make that decision based on your price range, riding style, and the type of terrain you’ll be riding on the most.

Comparing mountain bikes component by component would be an impossible task, there are just far too many combinations. The best way to go about doing this is deciding on the components that are the most important to you and making sure the rest fall within your price range. You should start with the fork, which is the most important component after the frame. Then look at the wheelsets and brakes.

The best time to buy a mountain bike may vary a little depending on where you live. During the year, the prices of mountain bikes can change quite a bit. Spring through summer is the primary buying season. If you can wait until the end of the season, fall and winter, you can save a couple hundred dollars. Many bike shops will also offer discounts on other accessories if you buy a new mountain bike from them.

Finding a good bike shop to buy from is more important than finding the best price. You should always find a shop that cares more about selling you the best bike for you than selling you a high priced one. A great bike shop will have a clean repair area and a knowledgeable staff.

Never buy a mountain bike without taking a test ride, preferably on some trails and not just around the parking lot. You should test ride as many bikes as possible. Which bike fits you and feels ‘right’ will be different for everybody. The more bikes you can test ride, the better you’ll understand what works and what doesn’t work for you.

Mountain bike reviews are available on many biking websites on the internet or in mountain bike magazines. And are some of the best ways to find out about a mountain bikes reliability and overall performance. You also should talk to other mountain bikers and get their opinions about a bike before you
make your final purchase.

Mountain Bike Clipless Tips

Why ride clipless Mountain pedals? Clipless pedals I believe are one of the greatest additions to Mountain Biking. Many experts claim about a 5% increase in power transmitted to the bike. I would agree with that. The main advantage for me is I feel way more in control of the bike. I am connected to the bicycle at the hands and the feet until I decide to separate. Unexpected bumps, intentional jumps, washboard trail, and many other situations, my feet do not come off the pedals until I make the decision to Bail. Then my feet are instantly disconnected. Starting up a steep hill it is much easier to get into one pedal and then the other while you are pedaling than it is to get into the second toe clip if you are riding with toe clips.

How do I get into the Clipless Mountain Pedals? Most pedals you use a slightly toe down forward push on the pedal and then you put your weight on that foot and you will get a Click. You are in. Most people start by putting the same foot either right or left in the pedal first all the time. Then they start riding and slip the second one in.

How Do I get Out of Clipless Pedals? To release from clipless pedals you pivot your heels away from the bike. To learn this motion you can lean against a wall and click in, click out, click in, click out ,click in, click out. This can take a little bit of time to get used to. I recommend if you have a bike trainer to use trainer and work out with them for a while. Then before you go out in traffic practice in a park or somewhere with a soft landing place so if you fall you do not end up with road rash. If you do not have a trainer you can just put your bike in the living room and practice clicking in and out while watching TV. Most people get it down in a couple of days. Warning: If you have ridden toe clips for a long time and get used to clipless but try to go back to toe clips you will have to learn how to get out of toe clips all over again. And then relearn clipless.

What happens if I cannot get out? When you stop your bike You will fall. This can be very dangerous on steep trails and city streets.

Learn to use Mountain Bike Clipless Pedals Carefully I have been with several riders when they were learning to ride clipless. Most people learn quickly. I do not recommend going on an epic ride right after installing your new pedals. I have seen some painfully slow falls from riders not knowing how to get out.

Practice, Practice. My recommendation is to put your bike in front of the TV and practice getting in and out, over and over for an evening. If you have a trainer put your bike on it and get a workout while you are learning. Then stick to the easy trail—NO STEEP SIDE HILLS OR DOWN HILLS.

How Tight do I want my Clipless Pedals? Many pedals are adjustable as to the spring tension holding the cleat in the pedal. I believe for learning you should loosen the spring to the easiest setting. Only when you start to come out of the pedal accidentally should you tighten the springs. All of my pedals are set on the softest setting and I have been riding clipless since about 1991.

Who makes Clipless Pedals? There are Several manufacturers of Clipless Mountain pedals. Shimano was the first to build and promote them heavily. Many of the Mountain bike cleats are Shimano pedal compatible. The cleats will work in Shimano pedals. I always try to uses the cleats that came with the pedal I am using. Crank Brothers is another major manufacturer of pedals. The Crank Brothers cleats will only work on Crank Brothers Pedals.

Will I come out of my pedals when I crash? Usually if you have spent a bit of time getting used to Clipless you will react naturally and click out in a crash without even thinking about it.

Types of Mountain Bike Clipless Pedals. There are basically 3 types of clipless Mountain pedals.

Double sided pedals which will grip the cleat on either side.

Half and Half pedals with clipless on one side and what looks like a regular pedal on the other side.

Platform clipless pedals which grip the cleat in the middle of a large pedal.

I believe if you are going to ride clipless you need to at least learn to ride with double sided pedals. The half and half are OK for around town but if you do not get used to getting out of your clipless under stress you are headed for more falls.

Are Mountain Bike Clipless the same as Road Clipless Pedals? No Road pedals are normally one sided, the other side is minimized to increase the lean angle of the bike. This allows you to pedal as far as possible into the corner before your pedal hit’s the road.

Most Road cleats have a different screw mounting system. They do not mount to the same screws as the mountain cleats.

Mountain Bike Shoes have the cleat recessed into the sole so you can walk without walking on the cleat. Road shoes are much less comfortable to walk in and you walk on the cleat.

Unless you are a very serious Road Racer, Mountain bike shoes and pedals will work better than Road bike pedals and shoes. Many riders use one pair of shoes and get matching pedals for their road bike and mountain bike.

Types of Mountain Bike Clipless Shoes. There are two general types of mountain bike Clipless shoes. I classify them as Comfort shoes and Race Shoes.

Comfort shoes are usually designed to look like lightweight hiking shoes or cross training shoes and will have laces to hold your feet.

Race shoes will usually use 2, 3, or4 Velcro closures to hold your feet. All Clipless shoes will have stiff soles which make it uncomfortable to walk or stand all day but are good at converting your leg energy into pedal revolutions.

The Comfort shoes usually have a little bit more flexible sole than the race shoes. Many people want to use their shoes as both biking and hiking shoes. This does not work well. If the shoe performs even reasonably well on the bike, the sole will be way too stiff to work well hiking.

I normally recommend that Most Cyclists should buy Mountain Bike Race shoes. The recreational walking type of bike shoes still aren’t good for walking in. The race shoes tend to be more durable and they give you more support while riding.

Road Shoes VS Mountain Bike Shoes Many companies make the same shoe for both Mountain and Road but they use a built up sole on their Mountain shoe.

Where do I mount the Cleats? Most Mountain shoes have 4 holes in the plate on the bottom of the shoe but most cleats only have 2 screws. This allows you to mount your cleats further forward or further back on the shoe. The plate will usually slide front to back and pivot to allow you to adjust your heel so it feels natural during the pedal stroke. Look at the position of your feet as you pedal on your old pedals and try to replicate that.

Do the cleats come with the Pedals or the Shoes? The Cleats come with the pedals and are pedal specific. Many cleats will work with the Shimano SPD pedals but I like to use the cleats that match the pedals that came with the pedals from the same manufacturer.

A Mountain Biking Primer

The first requirement for a would be mountain biker is to obtain a bicycle. Some mountain bicycles are traditional in that they feature thick rugged tires. These bikes are ideal for off road rough terrain biking. There are also mountain bikes that feature thinner less rugged tires. These bikes are really hybrids between mountain bikes and touring bikes. The advantage these bikes offer is they weigh less than traditional mountain bikes. If you are planning on biking on paved roads or paved bike trails or even on trails with light obstacles such as roots or rocks these bikes (hybrids) may be ideal for you.

For the technical mountain biker who enjoys riding over rocks, tree roots, and other natural hazards the thicker tired mountain bike will offer a safer more satisfying riding experience. As a fledgling mountain biker you should not as a general rule choose the most expensive mountain bike available. As a general rule what you are paying for is either an enhanced ride through the use of front and rear shock absorbers mounted over the front wheel and under the seat of the bicycle or a bike frame constructed of the very latest space age medals and so lighter than traditional mountain bikes. The only times I can see spending extra for an more expensive mountain bike is if you suffer from arthritis, have had a carpal tunnel or other operation such that an enhanced shock absorbing system will benefit you. Also if you enter mountain biking races than a more lightweight mountain biking frame will benefit you.

Right after selecting a mountain bicycle, I suggest you select a bicycle helmet. No one should engage in the sport of mountain biking without a helmet. Many states have passed laws requiring that both children and adults wear helmets when they ride bicycles. The natural hazards inherent in the sport of mountain biking make proper headgear a necessity. Most bike helmets today are made at least in part of hardened Styrofoam with plastic outsides and are very light in weight. Inside the biking helmet there is usually stamped the safety results that independent testing organizations have obtained in testing the helmet. These should be examined carefully.

In addition to needing a mountain bike and a helmet you will need to transport your bike to where you wish to ride. To do this, you will need a bike rack. There are 3 major types of bike racks available. These are roof racks, trunk racks, and bicycle hitches. A roof rack fits tightly on your car’s roof. The bikes are clamped tightly to the rack. A roof rack has the advantage of allowing the trunk of your vehicle to be readily accessible. This can be an important advantage on vacation trips. The two most prevalent manufacturers of roof racks seem to be Thule and Yakima. I have also seen racks with Sears Roebuck and Volvo trademarks attached to cars also. One major disadvantages of a roof rack is that carrying your bikes on top of your vehicle adds height to the vehicle. You need to be very conscious of this when you are using your vehicle with bikes attached on top and about to pass through a tunnel, park your car in a parking facility with a low roof, or even park your car in your own garage. I am ashamed to admit that I have forgotten that my bikes were attached to my roof rack as I entered my own garage on more than one occasion with expensive consequences of my absent mindedness!

Some other possible disadvantages of using roof racks are that lifting your bikes up to fasten them to the roof rack puts extra strain on your back and may cause back injuries. Another disadvantage of roof racks, is especially with today’s sport utility vehicles, you may need to carry a step stool in your vehicle when you are cycling in order to lift the bikes high enough to fasten them to your vehicle. A trunk rack as the name implies, has clamps which fasten tightly to the trunk of your car. Trunk racks are clamped to the trunk of your car before you begin your biking trip and are removed after its completion.

Trunk racks may be ideal when you are carrying bicycles for young children that are not heavy or large. As the size and weight of the bikes increases. the added size and weight may bend or dent your trunk and impede accessibility to it with a trunk rack. A hitch rack is attached to the rear of your vehicle on a more or less permanent basis. The bikes are fastened using heavy rubber clamps. A hitch rack offers the advantage of not increasing the height of your vehicle or denting your trunk. Hitch racks do increase the length of your vehicle and restrict visibility in back of your vehicle. Furthermore, a hitch rack with bikes attached makes the motion detector on my Ford Explorer useless. With all of that said, I myself use a hitch rack.

Another piece of equipment that is a necessity for mountain biking are water bottle racks. Regardless of the season, it is important to have an ample supply of water with you when you are mountain biking. Water bottle racks come in a few styles and can be easily attached to your bicycle. If you will be cycling for more than a few hours, you should take food with you as well. Food for lunch or snacks can be carried safely in many types of bike bags which can be fastened by means of velcro straps or bungies (single or double width elastic straps). If taking food in a bike bag is likely to be a part of your mountain biking experience, you should ask your bike store to attach a sturdy rack to your bike to which you can attach a thermal bag to carry your food in.

I also suggest carrying a few other things with you when you ride. A universal bike tool to allow you to raise or lower your seat, an extra inner tube for your tires, and a small bike air pump can all come in handy, help you meet your little biking emergencies, and increase your enjoyment of the sport of mountain biking.