First foray in to the world of mountain bikes

by markcraven   June 12, 2014  

Iv been a roadie for about 10 years but my children are getting to the age where they want to go for rides away from the tarmac. Worried

I was wondering if anyone could give me a bit of advice on a Mountain Bike around £300 - £500 ("not sure its going to be used that much") but with a decent spec for the money. I have been looking myself and I am struggling to find bikes in my size. I ride a 50cm Bianchi so you can imagine im not the tallest gent in the world so would be looking for a MTB frame size of about 16.5in.

Any ideas?

cheers john

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Good news is that MTB's are pretty good value (presumably as the fashion is road these days).
I ride fairly basic felt & trek MTB's at around the £300 mark and that gives front shocks, mechanical disc brakes and decent enough kit to get about on the dirt tracks. Happy with what I've got.
No idea about sizing though !

posted by arfa [445 posts]
12th June 2014 - 11:38

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you may find that a medium will fit too ... Smile

I ride a 54 road and have ridden in the past both a 16" and a 19.5" mtb

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [678 posts]
12th June 2014 - 12:00

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Merlin have some super duper cheap ones! Big Grin http://www.merlincycles.com/sensa-mountain-bikes-58874/

Thinking of moving to the dark side this winter, too, let us know how you get on! I'd be interested to know how power on the road bike translates to the MTB Smile

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

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posted by mooleur [542 posts]
12th June 2014 - 12:13

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'my children are getting to the age where they want to go for rides away from the tarmac. '

?

What sort of terrain? I do bridleways and have even been down red runs at trail centres on a cyclocross bike with my kids.

posted by Chris James [159 posts]
12th June 2014 - 14:58

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mooleur wrote:
Merlin have some super duper cheap ones! Big Grin http://www.merlincycles.com/sensa-mountain-bikes-58874/

Thinking of moving to the dark side this winter, too, let us know how you get on! I'd be interested to know how power on the road bike translates to the MTB Smile

As a mountain biker???... ok I have ridden it 7 times this year!, who happens to spend most of their time on the road these days. My observations, first power gets you into trouble very quickly! speed can be your friend but a lack of skill* can be a real issue. *mtb is a different skill set to road.

Biggest difference though is how you ride, on road it tends to be fairly steady state riding constant power for mile after mile, off road is much more akin to sprint rest sprint rest intervals. Off road, I suspect, but don't know, you need to produce far more power but the average power is far lower.

Where you ride will have an affect but the climbs tend to be shorter but steeper, because tracks are narrower you do tend to coast a bit more.

One thing to learn is to let the bike go, some roadies tend to get a bit tense when the bike starts to drift on gravel and mud, off road it will happen.

Oh and always look where you want to go, NEVER look at the trees or rocks because you will go where you look!

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posted by mrmo [1023 posts]
12th June 2014 - 16:39

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You could do worse than to pop down to Halfords and collect a Carrera Vulcan. SRAM gears, decent(ish) fork, hydro brakes. Nice Frame as well.

Never know, you might like it.

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posted by specs [6 posts]
12th June 2014 - 20:12

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You're not wrong specs, it's been a while since I was into mountain biking but that Vulcan looks a lot of fun for the money.

posted by drfabulous0 [269 posts]
12th June 2014 - 20:42

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I have a voodoo bantu which serves as off road in the summer, and I use it as my winter road bike (semi slicks for normal days, and back to the knobblies when it snows).

I also used it on a Leeds to Blackpool and back charity bike ride (on road) a few years ago before I bought my road bike and had no issues with it.

Its a nice comfortable ride, very rarely does it need anything more than a good clean and lube.

posted by cjk99 [53 posts]
13th June 2014 - 0:09

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As for training/putting in work on a mtb my biggest strava suffer score came from London to Brighton offroad in the winter mud. It is a country mile higher than anything I have done on road. Even on the flat sections the mud felt like cycling through treacle !

posted by arfa [445 posts]
13th June 2014 - 12:08

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mrmo wrote:
mooleur wrote:
Merlin have some super duper cheap ones! Big Grin http://www.merlincycles.com/sensa-mountain-bikes-58874/

Thinking of moving to the dark side this winter, too, let us know how you get on! I'd be interested to know how power on the road bike translates to the MTB Smile

As a mountain biker???... ok I have ridden it 7 times this year!, who happens to spend most of their time on the road these days. My observations, first power gets you into trouble very quickly! speed can be your friend but a lack of skill* can be a real issue. *mtb is a different skill set to road.

Biggest difference though is how you ride, on road it tends to be fairly steady state riding constant power for mile after mile, off road is much more akin to sprint rest sprint rest intervals. Off road, I suspect, but don't know, you need to produce far more power but the average power is far lower.

Where you ride will have an affect but the climbs tend to be shorter but steeper, because tracks are narrower you do tend to coast a bit more.

One thing to learn is to let the bike go, some roadies tend to get a bit tense when the bike starts to drift on gravel and mud, off road it will happen.

Oh and always look where you want to go, NEVER look at the trees or rocks because you will go where you look!

Perfect advice, thank you!!! At least it'll benefit my high end interval stuff, then, as I'm more of a tester and could do with working on all that! Smile

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

mooleur's picture

posted by mooleur [542 posts]
13th June 2014 - 12:12

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mrmo wrote:
mooleur wrote:
Merlin have some super duper cheap ones! Big Grin http://www.merlincycles.com/sensa-mountain-bikes-58874/

Thinking of moving to the dark side this winter, too, let us know how you get on! I'd be interested to know how power on the road bike translates to the MTB Smile

As a mountain biker???... ok I have ridden it 7 times this year!, who happens to spend most of their time on the road these days. My observations, first power gets you into trouble very quickly! speed can be your friend but a lack of skill* can be a real issue. *mtb is a different skill set to road.

Biggest difference though is how you ride, on road it tends to be fairly steady state riding constant power for mile after mile, off road is much more akin to sprint rest sprint rest intervals. Off road, I suspect, but don't know, you need to produce far more power but the average power is far lower.

Where you ride will have an affect but the climbs tend to be shorter but steeper, because tracks are narrower you do tend to coast a bit more.

One thing to learn is to let the bike go, some roadies tend to get a bit tense when the bike starts to drift on gravel and mud, off road it will happen.

Oh and always look where you want to go, NEVER look at the trees or rocks because you will go where you look!

Would agree with all of the above, maybe not having to produce more power off road though, the gear ratios are so different off road. Climbing off road is way more complicated than on road, it is all about technique and terrain. Keeping the back wheel turning, even if only slightly, and not slipping is key. When you are on a difficult climb off road, if you break traction at the back wheel, chances are you'll stop very quickly and you'll found out how good you are at unclipping instantly! Once you've done that, getting going again can be very difficult; if you're in the 30 tooth at the front and similar at the back, you don't go very far for a half turn of the cranks and if you don't clip back in first time it's very hard to keep the thing moving.

I'm in the South Downs, and the hills off road that I go up are longer and harder than on road. I do a lot more road than MTB these days, but if I want to do hill repeats I have to go quite a long way on the roads to find hills, but off road I'm surrounded.

Switching to off roading for the winter can be problematic too. The trails stay wetter & muddier longer than the roads so you will get covered in shite and your bike will need cleaning after every ride, which you can avoid in the winter on the roads.
For me, off road riding is like football or squash, burts of sprinting/all out effort, but quite a lot of jogging about. On road cycling is like distance running, holding a constant speed, monitoring how you feel and what you've got left, and keeping something in reserve for the finish.

posted by Daveyraveygravey [24 posts]
13th June 2014 - 13:26

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Decathlon.

http://www.decathlon.co.uk/rockrider-81-mountain-bike-grey-id_8168918.html

No one else comes close spec wise for the money.

posted by MKultra [196 posts]
13th June 2014 - 14:53

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That Decathlon bike does look extremely well spec'ed. Be aware that it's a 26-inch wheel size. You may already be aware of this, but MTBs are in a state of flux regarding wheel sizes at the moment. A few years ago 29-inch wheels became all the rage, and in the last year or two the in-between 650b size has very rapidly become popular (at least with major bicycle manufacturers and marketers, who were a bit slow to cotton on to the 29er trend). It's gone so far that many large manufacturers have dropped the old standard 26" wheel size from their range entirely. The theory is that larger wheels should be better for more cross-country-type riding, while smaller wheels should be stronger and enable snappier handling for tighter singletrack riding. 650b isn't exactly in the middle, and you can influence the actual diameter enormously with choice of tyre, as well. As far as I can tell (and I'm no expert), there are still more choices in tyres for 26" wheels than 29", and certainly more than 650b.

I wouldn't not buy a 26" bike now just because the marketing departments are pushing new standards; I'm sure spare tyres will be available for as long as you want to keep riding any bike you buy now. Just wanted to make sure you were aware that there are a wider range of bike types to consider than when buying a road bike. You should think of what type of riding you want to do and go from there, and try a couple of different types of bike to see if it makes a difference to you or whether it's more marketing hype. As someone wrote above, some type of cyclocross (or "monster-cross") bike, particularly with disc brakes, may also give you all the off-road capability you need. OTOH, if £300-500 isn't that much money for you, just grab something that looks like good value, thrash it around for a year, and use that experience to make a more informed choice for when you want to upgrade!

posted by CapriciousZephyr [25 posts]
13th June 2014 - 17:43

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CapriciousZephyr wrote:
That Decathlon bike does look extremely well spec'ed. Be aware that it's a 26-inch wheel size.

When I were a lad, well in my 30's, all proper mountain bikes came with 26" wheels. Anything after that was seen as a 'Johnny-come-lately' PR and marketing exercise.

Did Nightrider 2013 for Parkinson's UK, doing it again this year just for the fun of it and to raise more money.

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posted by jova54 [584 posts]
13th June 2014 - 18:18

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