What’s a good beginner bike? – Budget mountain bike



What’s a good beginner mountain bike? This is a question I get every day, so today
I’m going to give you the tools you need to find one, new or used, regardless of brand. But first we need to define what a beginner
bike is. If you’re a beginner and you have unlimited
money then this discussion is over. Just go out and spend a bunch of money on
a nice bike and you’re done. But I suspect that most beginners are looking
for the smallest financial commitment they can make, while still getting a decent mountain
bike. This bike is decent enough to get you into
big trouble, again and again. Better yet, it’s on clearance for $329. Yes, it’s a diamondback Overdrive and I
ride for diamondback, but I want you to forget about that today because Diamondback may not
be available where you live, or you might be looking at a used bike. So today I want you to pretend this bike is
colorless with no logos on it. How do we objectively determine that it’s
trailworthy just by examining it? Let’s start with the most important indicator
of a good mountain bike: the derailleur hanger. If a mountain bike is equipped with a rear
derailleur, it should be hung from the frame by this little piece of metal, the hanger. During a crash, the hanger is designed to
break away to prevent damage to the frame. It can then be realigned or replaced inexpensively. That’s a lot better than throwing the whole
bike in the garbage which is what you’ll need to do if you break part of your frame. So when examining a bike, be wary of band-aid
solutions like this, or worse yet a derailleur mounted directly to the frame. Bikes like these could be one crash away from
total destruction, and mountain biking is all about crashing. So a derailleur hanger is the very first thing
you should look for to determine if a bike is trailworthy. Even the most entry level bikes will have
a precision cut, purposeful looking derailleur hanger right here. So your examination should start, and possibly
end with that. The next important part to look for is a threadless
stem, which you can identify by these pinch bolts here, and these 4 bolts holding the
handlebars on. If instead you see this, it’s usually bad
news. To service or replace anything up front including
the fork, you’ll be limited to unreliable parts or vintage mountain bike parts which
are hard to find. Good luck tracking down a brand new mid 90’s
suspension fork to replace your old one. A threadless stem is not only easier and less
costly to service, but it’s also more rigid. This is not something you want to compromise
on. Moving on to the wheels, you need to make
sure they have quick release levers. These are common on entry level bikes, and
they make it so you can remove or replace the wheels by hand without any tools. More importantly, they’re an indicator of
the bike’s intended use. When mountain biking flat tires are inevitable,
so always carrying a 15mm wrench to remove these nuts is problematic. Worse yet, mountain bikes with nuts on the
axles are nearly impossible to upgrade the wheels on, and wheels are one of the things
you’ll outgrow as you gain experience. So on an entry level mountain bike you should
look for quick release levers and if you see nuts, stay away. Next up is the crank and chainring assembly. It should be modular and bolted together,
not riveted together as one big piece. I’m sure you can see the problem with that. Break anything here, and you’re probably
out the cost of your entire bike. Sure you could drill out the rivets and fabricate
something, so if that’s your thing then good on you. Otherwise, look for something you can actually
wrench on. The next thing you should look for are disc
brakes on the front and rear. Even cheap disc brakes are replaceable with
better ones, which is important to note because your bike needs to have the mountings points
for them from the start. More importantly disc brakes are dramatically
more reliable than rim brakes, which is why the mountain bike industry switched to them
quickly and decisively decades ago. Because a good mountain bike should be low
maintenance and upgradeable, you should be very suspicious of one that does not include
disc brakes. Finally, you need to ensure that the bike
is available in different sizes, and that the manufacturer actually offers some guidance
as to what size you need. This is as easy as using Google, a lost art. Anyway if the manufacturer isn’t offering
this information they probably don’t put much thought into their bikes, and therefore
you shouldn’t trust it to take you deep into the woods. I realize this indicator is less objective
than the others, but at the very least, you should get a bike that fits you. Although there are many other indicators of
a trailworthy bike, they’re largely irrelevant if the bike in question doesn’t satisfy
the requirements we just discussed. So we’ll focus our attention now on what
you can expect from an entry level bike like this, and some of the things you can do to
upgrade it. First of all it’s important to note that
almost all entry level mountain bikes will be hardtails, or bikes without rear suspension. The linkage required for rear suspension is
costly and heavy, so it’s generally not worth investing in until you start to breach
the thousand dollar point. For the sake of simplicity we’ll limit this
discussion to hardtails. Hardtails are fun and fast, so they’re great
to start out on anyway. But sub $500 hardtails are almost always XC,
or cross country bikes. XC bikes are optimized for pedaling and laying
down power. They’re fast, and easy to go long distances
on. But those advantages can hold you back when
you start to dabble in freeride. This is not to say that you can’t do a little
jumping on an XC bike. It’s just that jumps, drops, rock rolls,
or any kind of prolonged descent is best done on a trail bike. This black hardtail next to Overdrive is a
good example of a trail bike. The raked out fork, aggressive angles, wide
bars, longer travel, and shorter stem, make it better for the kind of riding I do. Since you can’t convert an XC bike to a
trail bike or the other way around, you need to be honest about what you intend on doing
on your mountain bike before you buy one. But if your budget is below $500, you’re
getting an XC bike whether you like it or not. So if you eventually take to jumping and throwing
the bike around a bit more, you could feel limited. So here’s what I did to enhance the capabilities
of my budget XC bike. The biggest thing you can do, hands down,
is change the tires. When I threw these wider, knobbier tires on
my Overdrive, it felt like a completely different bike. I was able to run these tires at a lower pressure,
making them grippier and more forgiving. But that’s not all I did. You hear all that rattling? That’s my chain slapping everywhere, and
in fact it came off entirely on several drops and jumps. To remedy this I installed a chain guide,
which virtually eliminated the problem. This will cost you a lot less than upgrading
your drivetrain, which could easily run you as much as this bike. If I were a beginner trying to progress as
far as possible on this bike, I might upgrade the pedals as well, and maybe the fork to
something like this. Venturing beyond that would not necessarily
be economical, and considering a decent trailworthy bike can hold its value well, you’d be better
off selling it and upgrading the whole thing. Finally, if you already have a bike and find
that it fails some of these tests you can still gain from this video. If it’s currently working for you and you’re
having fun on it, then keep shredding. If you feel like it’s holding you back,
you now have the tools to find something a little better. Still, we haven’t spoken about assembly,
maintenance, or all the other upgrades you can do. So I’m sure you have questions. With the help of my viewers, I’ll do my
best to answer them in the comments. So find yourself a good beginner bike and
enjoy it. Because you’re only a year away from selling
all your belongings and financing an irresponsibly expensive bike. It happens to the best of us. Thanks for riding with me today, and I’ll
see you next time.

34 thoughts on “What’s a good beginner bike? – Budget mountain bike

  1. Now I got a question… More a help me pick sorta question… I am a lazy bastard and want to get back into mountainbiking. So I am looking at getting an E MTB or a fully. Since I want to use it for a big part of my commute during summer, an E-bike would be my go to. So now for the picking… I am looking at either a Specialized Turbo Levo Hardtail (29" wheels) or a Specialized Stumpjumper ST (27.5" or 29" wheels) to get. Anyone willing to help me on this one?

  2. Could just buy a dirt bike. Expect to spend 3k minimum tho. Makes spending 1k on a mountain bike seem very reasonable lol.

  3. my first mtb was a cheap trek, and it went 3 years before i needed a new one, and i just bough a scott spark 960 you should buy it, it is sheap and good

  4. I usually ride in town and my specialized cross trail is perfect, it is technically a road bike but has a switch on the fork to rigg it into a trail bike. If you upgrade the tires it then can do it all! Also it meets all the requirements of the vid

  5. I bought my beginner bike a year ago and I feel I outgrew it idk what to do now I might buy a frame and switch everything

  6. $180 for a XCR fork is waaaaaaaay too much. Here in the Philippines Its actually $100-120 for air version and $60 for spring which is very reliable.

  7. everything you discussed about having a entry level bike my bike does not have or it has those crappy things an entry MTB should have, and mine was 150$ so it is not the best.

  8. I used to spend 5,500.00 on mountain bike stuff a year… just got back into mountain biking and yah your video is all the mistakes I made when I was young.

  9. Hi there, I’m thinking of getting a TITAN DRONE DASH for my first MTB bike, how does it compare to this list of things listed here? Or am I wasting my money? Thanks in advance.

  10. I just picked up the 2019 Giant ATX 2 and from what I can tell the rear derailleur is mounted directly to the frame. I don't think this is a huge issue because I am a casual rider and don't expect to be doing any fast trails and jumps. Mostly just going to ride around town and along the bike path. I still wish I knew about this before I settled on this bike. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *