Gear Guy

What’s a good mountain bike for under $1000?

Dear gear swi, I'm looking to get back into mountain biking but have absolutely no clue about mountain bikes these days. I haven't ridden one nor done any research in about six years. If you could reach into the vast knowledge that you call a brain and offer some advice on bikes in range of about $1000, I would be in great debt to you. (And I would prefer a hardtail.) J.R. Venice, California


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Hah! I call it more than a mere “brain.” It is instead a “multi-modal gear repository,” a powerful, all-inclusive compendium of gear data that has its own powerful search engine (i.e., scratching chin and saying, “Hmmmm…”) and the ability to generate powerful product comparisons that take into account price, durability, function and whatever I had for breakfast.

It’s also a lot more current than your own six-year-old bike database. Bikes have changed in the past five or six years- entirely for the better. Better frames, better running gear, and MUCH better prices. Stuff that was just hitting the market on high-end bikes back in the late 1990s is now standard issue even on mid-range thumpers.

My current biases are toward Marin bikes, as that’s what I’m currently doing most of my mountain riding on. I have a Pine Mountain, a classic steel hardtail. Great bike, but also about $1,350, so maybe a little out of your price range. Same frame-a very smooth-riding one-and slightly lesser components are available in the Eldridge Grade for about $1,000. Main difference: V-brakes, versus the discs on the Pine Mountain. These are upgradeable, should you keep it for a long time and want to improve it.

Aluminum, of course, cuts some weight in exchange for a little stiffer ride. A really nice bike in this category is the Trek 6700 ($950). Nice Bontrager wheels, mostly Shimano shift-and-brake stuff, Duke C fork from Rockshox with adjustable stiffness. For even less dough, Raleigh’s M600 ($780) gives you disc brakes plus a Judy fork and an all-Shimano drivetrain, albeit the relatively modest Deore line. Still, that’s not bad.

My advice: Get thee to a bike shop with this short list, and then start comparing models. You want a bike that fits well, rides well and suits the type of riding you hope to do. I think a few rides will start to reveal differences between bikes, and you’ll start to get a sense of what works for you. Have fun!

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