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A little over a decade ago now, I had purchased a brand-new Raleigh M50 mountain bike. Though whether or not I really need a "mountain bike" could be very much up to question, I greatly enjoyed the bicycle regardless. However, various circumstances have brought me to the point that I'm fairly certain it will cost me nearly as much to replace the bike as it would to get it in good operating condition again. So, I've junked it and am considering my options for a new one.

Since I did so much like that particular model, my ideal option would be for a brand-new Raleigh M50. Since no such thing exists this year, I'm looking to you guys to help me find a comparable model.

Some particular features (pardon if my verbiage isn't quite industry-standard) I liked about the bike included:

  • Click-shifting, trigger-style gear changers
  • Finger-tip braking levers
    • I'd actually had some trouble adjusting to these at first, with one "learning experience" involving an over-the-handlebars tumble at the end of a hill. But I eventually grew to really like them.
  • Front suspension
    • I like the shocks in the front, but am quite happy to have none in the rear.
  • Quick-release seat and wheels
  • Water bottle holster
    • A minor feature to be sure, but still nice to have.
  • A really solid-feeling frame

Added after some research:

  • Mechanical rim brakes: I have no experience with using or servicing the newer hydraulic or disc brake systems. I feel that I would trust the mechanical rim braking systems further, since they seem to be much simpler and therefore (I expect) more durable and reliable.
    • Feel free to politely dispel me of any misconceptions on this point, (I'm happy to learn about the new technologies) but my stance on this in regards to a final purchase decision will not likely change.

Some additional points brought up by @zenbike:

  • Inexpensive, but good quality: A "real" bike, built by a professional, which happens to be cheap.
    • This was absolutely a big selling point for me.
  • Off-road capable: Regardless of whether you need or use this option, it feels good.
  • Commute friendly: Though @zenbike disagrees, I found this bike very enjoyable during my daily commutes, which typically lasted 1/2 hour or more one-way. I was even pretty comfortable with it on one particular 3.5-hour trip. But, I think I did purchase a softer seat for it which probably helped.
  • Fun.

My needs when I first bought the M50 weren't too outlandish, but I liked the feeling of versatility and ruggedness the mountain bike gave me. Though I'd probably never test it to its fullest measure, I felt security in knowing that it could certainly deal with whatever I did put it through.

Most of the time, my daily commute was about 10 miles one-way. Later, the commute was much longer but mostly done via city bus. Still, I did occasionally get the wild idea to run the whole 20+ miles on the bicycle myself. This would all be across your general urban terrain - mostly sidewalks and streets, but occasionally across long stretches of grass (where there was no sidewalk, and riding on the road was just plain insane). Living in Florida also means that steep inclines are few and far between. Of course, having grown up here also means that most mole-hills feel like Mount Everest to me when I have to ride up them.

Today, my needs are much simpler. I'm mostly looking for something to ride alongside my young daughter, but also would like to get back out on my own now and then for a bit of joy riding. I'll probably be sticking a lot more to the sidewalks than I used to, but would still enjoy knowing I can take my bike practically anywhere without much trouble or worry of breaking it. I'm much more concerned about durability than I am speed or weight.

So, what do you guys figure? What's the "Raleigh M50" of today, or what else might be a good fit for my needs/wants?

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2 Answers 2

A Raleigh M-50 was a great entry-level mountain bike. In order to answer your question well, let me clarify for you what buying a bike "like an M-50" means to me:

  1. Inexpensive, but good quality: A "real" bike, built by a professional, which happens to be cheap.

  2. Off-road capable: Regardless of whether you need or use this option, it feels good.

  3. Commute friendly: To be honest, the M-50 wasn't a bike I'd have picked to commute on, and there are better options now as well. But you will compromise the off road capability if you pick something else.

  4. Fun.

There are a few bikes to look at. Pretty much every quality brand has a similar model of MTB, with some variation in spec and price.

The first thing to decide is if you really want an off road bike, or just a durable one.

If you want an off road bike, meaning that you want to ride in dirt, gravel, or non-pavement situations on at least a part time basis, look at the Scott Aspectseries. The price range is good, an in just about every respect, I would consider them a modernized M-50 type bicycle.

Also, the Specialized Hardrock series. And the Trek Sport series.

If you really want a commuter, which is as tough and as durable, and as simple to use and maintain as a mountain bike, but with the speed, agility, and distance friendliness of a road bike, then look at:

The Scott SUB series (Particularly the SUB 10)

or

the Specialized Sirrus (Less durable, but a great commuter).

You need to find the bikes in a LBS and ride them, which will tell you more than I ever could here, but I hope that helps, and feel free to ask more questions if I can do anything more.

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Your analysis of what "like an M50" is, hit the nail right on the head. My only point of disagreement would be with the comment against it being "commute friendly" - I personally was fairly comfortable with it even in one 3.5-hour ride. I think I may have put on a slightly softer seat to help with that, though. I'll incorporate your points into the OP. I definitely plan on visiting the LBS, but would like to get an idea ahead of time, of what I'll probably be looking at. –  Iszi Jun 27 '11 at 14:32
    
@Iszi: Really consider the Scott Sub 10. It doesn't have the front suspension, and it is a pavement only bike as it comes stock, (although you can change that with a different tire.) But its original purpose was to be an all day comfort bike for a bike messenger. It's fast, agile, mountain bike body position and durability, and it uses an internally geared hub, which means great durability and consistency on the mechanical side as well. In short, (and IMHO) a perfect bike for every day use. –  zenbike Jun 27 '11 at 14:39
    
I really like having the off-road capability, so I don't think the Sub 10 will be a good fit. Though I won't be dealing with mountainous terrain any time soon, there's plenty of roads around here that are not bike-friendly and don't have sidewalks. Plus, there's the occasional off-road shortcut to be mindful of. So, I think anything that would be described as a "pavement-only" bike won't really be an option. Thanks, though. –  Iszi Jun 27 '11 at 14:44
    
If you look at the same link, there is a bike called the Scott Sportster. Not quite as sturdy in general as the SUB, which is why I recommend that way first, but swap the tires on the SUB to match these, and it is capable of light offroad. Or look at the Sportster. It adds basic front suspension, and comes with the tires. –  zenbike Jun 27 '11 at 14:46
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given a correct fitting, high pressure touring slicks and a seat that feels good, you can do century rides on an M50. I've done two on mine!

I find this post interesting since I'm at the same crossroads. In my case the components I'd like to move up to would be much more expensive on a new bike, than just replace my entire drivetrain (Shimano SLX or SRAM X7), so it appears my M50 will continue to live on having no original parts but the frame itself. If your frame is still in good shape, this could be an option, although if you would need to replace wheels, handlebars, fork etc as well, then that might tip the scales in favor of getting a new bike.

Since the last post was 4 months ago, you may have gotten the new rig by now. If not, I gotta say my weakness would be for some of the Salsa and Surly models. Good steel frames and components that aren't flashy, but will do more than well enough. Look into the Salsa Fargo - drop bar MTB for touring/offroad/or what have you.

Best of luck!

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