Many people complain about the excessive cost of cycling these days, and with premium bikes hovering around $10,000 and more, they have a point. But remember that while those top-shelf bikes are incredible examples of engineering and technology, they are not necessary to enjoy the sport. In fact, those halo bikes help the average consumer, because the R&D that goes into them makes its way down to the everyday machines. So while a top-of-the-line bike 25 years ago would have cost you $2,000—which is barely entry level these days—the components, suspension, wheels, and complete package you get today far outperforms its 1991 counterpart.
Mountain Biking 101
Read our complete guide on buying your first mountain bike.
At the bare minimum, we recommend looking at hardtails for no less than $1,500 and full suspension at $2,000 to $2,500. You can certainly purchase bikes for less, especially if you get away from the name brands or are willing to take inferior parts. But you’ll probably end up spending more in the long run because those bikes will break, need replacement parts sooner, or just be so unpleasant to ride that, in the long term, you’ll upgrade anyway.
The question should also be asked on the other end of the scale: How much is too much? Obviously, the answer comes down to your economic situation and how much you ride and value cycling. If you spend hours on your bike, suddenly the refinement and comfort you get for $10,000 might not seem like so much. Still, if you don’t demand the absolute best, you can find amazing bicycles that are only incrementally heavier or outperformed by the stratospheric top end for between $4,500 and $6,000.
Don’t Pay Full Retail
In late fall or winter, bike shops make room for new inventory by clearing out their stock for as much as 30 to 50 percent below MSRP.
It’s also worth perusing consignment racks at your local bike shop, as well as its used rental fleet, which can come through a season in good condition if the mechanics are vigilant.
Craigslist is an excellent resource and preferable to eBay because if the seller is local, you can (and should) take the bike to a shop for a prepurchase inspection.
And yes, you can find closeouts and used inventory online, but you’ll have to either know exactly what you’re looking for or hassle with possible problems when the bike arrives. Bike-specific e-retailers such as the Pro’s Closet and Pink Bike help mitigate that risk.