What mountain bike can I get for under $1,000?
I looking to buy my first mountain bike and the more I look, the more frustrated I get. I've read some reviews in biking magazines, as well as Outside's March 2003 review of full-suspension bikes. Anyway, I'm looking for a full-suspension model with smart or rear-suspension lockout and good components (disc brakes would be a plus). Here's the kicker though: I looking to spend around $1,000, give or take a few hundred. I don't think that's unreasonable, so do you have any suggestions? Alex Hayward, California
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Not unreasonable, maybe, but not exactly a slam-dunk, either. In the past five years, bikes have become so much cheaper, considering their features. Today, a full-suspension bike can be had for under $1,000. But they’re usually a little on the clunky side, with the suspension more for show than go. You’ll note that the cheapest bike in the recent Outside review, the Marin Rift Zone, went for $1,700.
Still, there are some decent options. The Schwinn Moab DS1 is right at $1,000, has full suspension, and comes with a surprisingly robust parts setup, including a Shimano XT rear derailleur and Hayes hydraulic disc brakes (www.schwinnbike.com). Here, you get a lot of bike for the money. There’s also the Specialized Rockhopper FSR Comp, which goes for a little more than the Moab, doesn’t have the disc brakes, but puts a lot of good components onto a very light aluminum frame ($1,360; www.specialized.com). K2’s Attack 2.0 uses lower-end Shimano stuff, but it still puts disc brakes on a full-suspension bike, all for $1,000 (www.k2bikes.com). Personally, I’d go for higher-end components over discs if I were you, as discs add weight and cost to a bike, and really only offer a qualitative advantage over rim brakes if you ride a lot in mud.
You should also check the second-hand market. Look for bikes that cost $2,000 a year ago, such as the Jamis Dakar Pro. Then start trolling want ads, Web marketplaces, eBay, and the like. See what you can find. Spend $100 for a tune-up and new cables, and it’ll be like a new bike!