What style of bike would you suggest for cross-country trails for a beginner? Think mud and gravel trails (in a coffee estate).

I weigh 85 kg and am 6 feet tall and am looking to spend ~2k USD.

Mainly I am confused about the following aspects:

  • Cross country or trail or full suspension.
  • Brakes (should I go for both disk brakes on both front & back).
  • Rim size
  • Kind of gears

I have done some basic research but am quite confused with the wealth of information online. Sincerely appreciate some pointers in the right direction.

  • You're a beginner - do you want to drop that much cash on a bike? Start with a cheaper used bike and see if you like the idea. You need to get your leg over candidate bikes - we can't tell you what will be comfortable. – Criggie Aug 5 '18 at 7:37
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    People are voting to close this as an off-topic product recommendation question but I disagree. It seems to me that the question is looking for recommendations of what features would be useful on a bike for a particular purpose. Although a price-point is mentioned, I think that's more of a guide about market segment than anything else. – David Richerby Aug 5 '18 at 10:20
  • @DavidRicherby thank you. Indeed I just want a few pointers, terms to research in the right direction. Serious sites have an overwhelming amount of information for a newbie. – nav Aug 5 '18 at 12:59
  • @Criggie you are right. I will narrow the choices with this info & take them for a test ride. – nav Aug 5 '18 at 13:01
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    The problem is that you're big and heavy. Your standard BSOish mountain bike is designed for a teenager two inches shorter and about 40 pounds lighter. But for mud/gravel you don't need anything super fancy. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 6 '18 at 12:17

Unless steep or with lots of tree roots or embedded rocks, those sound like easy conditions for a mountain bike, and almost anything would do. Full suspension would be excess weight for no benefit. On many trails like that you don't even need suspension, just grippy tyres.

Disc brakes are nice, especially in the wet, but not essential in those conditions unless you're going very fast. However assuming you're buying new, decent quality (and plenty of rubbish ones) mountain bikes are likely to have discs.

Gears depend on the hills you expect to encounter, as well as the surface, but at a beginner level you don't need the latest 1x11 setup.

Wheel size, so long as you don't find something out of the ordinary (which makes tyres hard to buy), isn't such a big deal either as a beginner. You probably want either 29" or 27.5", but I'm taller than you and haven't had trouble on 26" wheels.

Overall you want something maintainable where you are, so if hydraulic disc brakes are rare, make sure you've got access to spares and repair services before spedning lots of money on them; if 26" wheels are rare, buy something else, but in many places 26" is a common size.

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  • Thanks very much for the detailed and pragmatic suggestions. I like your answer. – nav Aug 5 '18 at 13:04
  • I'd steer clear of 26" wheels, it's starting to get hard to find a choice of quality tyres. – Andy P Aug 6 '18 at 9:30
  • @AndyP I don't know where the OP is, and availability varies with country. A coffe estate implies a country where things might be rather different to what we might be used to in the US/UK etc. I've tweaked to emphasise support options – Chris H Aug 6 '18 at 9:38
  • @ChrisH good point, I didn't think of that. Good tyres really make a MTB though, the difference between a cheap tubed tyre and a top spec tubeless tire is astounding. The massive number of new wheel sizes, axle widths etc over recent years really has been quite a headache as a consumer. – Andy P Aug 6 '18 at 9:45
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    @ChrisH Everyone needs a 29er hardtail, just not everyone knows it yet :) – Andy P Aug 6 '18 at 15:41

Not answering directly, but have an idea. Sounds like you’ve read lots online and it’s good that you’re reaching out for advice. I think the ideal thing to do is to experience different bikes for yourself.

You have quite a generous budget in mind for a first bike, so you could think of using some of it to try out different styles of hire bikes. Even if $50 a time and you tried out ten different bikes, you’d still have plenty of budget to get quite a serious bike, whether new or second hand. Most importantly you’ll have tried out the different styles for yourself.

If there’s nowhere you can reasonably travel to to try hire bikes out then sorry it won’t be such a good idea. But it might help someone else reading this.

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