Buying the mountain bike that suits you is an important process. Get it wrong and you may end up riding a bike that feels uncomfortable and no matter what you do with it, you just won’t find the ride that fits.
I saw a post recently from a happy guy who bought a second-hand bike for £200 less than the person who bought it originally and, the bike had hardly been used. It was sold because it just didn’t work out for the original buyer; simply put, it didn’t feel right. The bars were too wide for him, and the frame was a size larger than his height needed. There was nothing wrong with the bike per se but after riding it a few times, there was no way the supplier was going to accept a return. A tough lesson, but he should have checked it out properly before purchase and been sure about the frame size he needed.
If you’re unsure about the frame size you need, there’s a simple handy guide here.
No comfort leads to lower confidence while out on the trail and that often translates to a poor-quality ride.
I get it, buying a new mountain bike is exciting and you can’t wait to get out on the trails. But pause for a minute and think about a few things that matter.
- If the saddle is uncomfortable; what will it cost to upgrade?
- Is the handlebar width too wide or narrow? What will you have to pay for new bars?
- The tires on the Cube Analogue I reviewed recently were by no means the best. How much for something better?
According to current Amazon prices, you can pick up a new saddle for an average of £15 GBP, Carbon Fiber Handlebars for £25 and one Continental Mountain King 27.5 tire for £20. Do you want to add at least £60 to the cost of your bike before it’s a month old?
It’s not that companies are trying to extract more money out of you, the problem is that it’s difficult for them to precisely know the sort of tires you need for your typical ride for example. Only you can answer that so it’s worth knowing something about what your area demands. Once you know that, you can try negotiating for different tires at point of sale.
How about a “Dropper Seatpost”?
You might find a higher end MTB with one of these pre-fitted but if yours doesn’t come with one, the cheapest out there is around £70 although I would be careful at the lower end of the market. A RockShox Reverb Stealth B1 starts at £240 on Amazon but ask around first. This buyer who left a review said it stopped working after one month.
There’s no doubt that Droppers help on descents and corners leading to greater ride confidence. Something for your next birthday or letter to Santa?
Wheels can fold like taco shells.
True, that’s probably not going to happen to most riders but it can, as seen on this video. Stick with it until the end, it’s only 30 seconds.
Stiffer and lighter wheels can do a lot to improve how your bike handles. X Country wheelsets are great for reducing weight and adding agility but if you plan on plenty of drop-offs you will need something that can take the pressure such as an enduro wheelset.
If you want more value for money, aluminium has the edge over carbon rims.
Do I need decent Brakes?
Yes, that’s obvious. One of my favorite local trails has long sections where I don’t need to think about braking unless there’s been a storm and there’s debris around. I can get around some of the technical corners brake free but others need me to at least feather the brakes to get the line and exit right. Too much can throw me off, too little and I end up as an ingredient in a bramble pie at the apex of the corner.
Brakes with the right modulation are essential. I.e. the range between wheel lock and no brakes. I ride Shimano disk brakes and a slight touch engages gently through to a full lock when the levers are close (not touching) to the handlebars. I prefer and recommend one finger braking with index fingers only and all it takes to set this up is adjusting the position of the brake and shifters along the handlebars.
Suspension for You
If your bike came with suspension, don’t say it’s not good enough until you’ve checked it out and adjusted it to suit you. Suspension upgrades can be expensive.
Setting up suspension correctly can be confusing and that’s where your local cycle specialist can help if you’re not sure. It’s no big deal for them to maintain and tune your suspension to suit your riding style and weight.
Of course, you can DIY, it just takes a little trial and error in small steps.
Drivetrain & Gear Shifters
“There are two main types of MTB derailleur shifter: trigger shifters and the less common twist shifters. Trigger shifters: Also known as ‘rapidfire’ shifters, these are located below the handlebar. Riders use a thumb button to shift to larger sprockets and a small index-finger operated ‘trigger’ to downshift” (Chain Reaction Cycles).
My wife rides an MTB with twist shifters, and I have to say that I don’t get on with these compared to the ease and efficiency of my own set of Rapidfire shifters. I hardly need to think about changing gear, it’s automatic and involves almost no effort.
Like the rest of your bike components, these do wear out so be sure to replace shift cables and housing. Your local mechanic or favorite YouTube Vlog will always advise you as to when they need replacing.
Plenty to Think About
Lots to learn too but it’s entirely worth it once you get everything right because your bike will be better, you will get an awesome ride and your confidence and fitness improves massively.
Comments and Questions
Please leave them below, your input is valued, and you will always get a response.
Some of the links on this page lead to sites where I’m affiliated, and I may receive a small commission if you buy from them. That helps me to keep this site running and helps contribute to my own upgrades. Please note that the price you pay is never affected because of this.
Just Ride Hard, Ride Fair, Nobody Hurt