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What’s the best hardtail bike for a mountain-biking beginner?

I just starting to mountain bike, and I have no idea how to find the right bike for me. I don’t do hardcore trails, and I know that I want a hardtail. I have been looking at Marin bikes such as the Palisades and Juniper, but my preferred price is around $550. Have any suggestions? John Auburn, Alabama


These days I ride a dual-suspension bike almost exclusively (a Marin), but I still think there’s a lot to be said for a hardtail. They’re lighter, mechanically more reliable, and, in the lower price ranges, more efficient than dualies. I was pleased to read in Bicycling magazine the other day that one of the big bike companies had recently come out with a really high-end hard-tail. Of course, it was something like $4,000.

Giant Yukon Mountain Bike

Yukon Mountain Bike

The Marin Palisades Trail and Juniper Trail ( are both more affordable trail-runners. The Palisades Trail, for instance, uses a hydroformed aluminum for its newly designed stiff, light frame. Hayes hydraulic disc brakes front and back offer good stop; reliable Shimano Deore and LX running gear, along with a TruVativ crank, handle the go. It has a nice front fork, too—a Marzocchi MZ. One problem: The list price is $960. While that’s a lot of bike for the money, it’s outside your stated budget (also, keep in mind the Juniper Trail is identical, but designed for women). Marin’s Bobcat Trail ($600) offers slightly lesser components and frame, but it still gives you the light weight of aluminum and a quality bike.

Several other brands offer excellent value, as well. Giant Bicycles (, for instance, has economies of scale as the world’s biggest bike maker. Its Yukon is an excellent little hardtail for $550. It sports an aluminum frame, mostly Shimano gear, RockShox fork, and Hayes disc brakes. And REI’s house-brand bikes (, which carry the Novara label, are a lot of bike for the buck. The Bonanza, for instance, offers a frame that’s on par with the Marin Palisades Trail, plus a mix of gear similar to the Giant. It’s basically a $750 bike that sells for $560 and is well worth a look.

Check out the new 2007-2008 Winter Outside Buyer’s Guide, packed with reviews of more than 300 new gear must-haves. It’s available on newsstands now.

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Filed To: Mountain Biking
Lead Photo: courtesy, Giant