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My bike is becoming old and I'm upgrading.

Where I live half the roads are offroad/gravel, half of them are really old asphalt that has pot-holes in it. I'm thinking of buying a mountain bike, because they look really cool (that's not the main reason ofc), and as I've heard they're pretty nice to ride offroad, but I'm not sure about normal road use.

Do they need a lot of maintenance? Oh, and what size should it be? I'm 180cm which is about 5'11" for you Americans. My budget's about 200-300 euros, is that even enough for a good mountain bike that will serve me well for years?

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We can't really say what kind of bike you should buy, you should buy the bike you will ride, that is the most important thing. Many (most?) people will want to have both, a road (or gravel) bike and a mountain bike. Some people will want to hove both a hardtail mountain bike and a full suspension mountains bikes. They are different machines for different purposes.

If you want to have one universal bike, a hardtail mountain bike is good for that. So is a gravel bike. The preference is really individual. No-one can make that decision for you. I have both (not at the same place) and the are of use largely overlaps.

Mountain bikes with suspension require the maintanence of the suspension system. That is the job for a bike shop for most people, it is more complex than the maintenance of bikes without suspension. It should be done regularly. There are tutorials available, but even with that most people won't want to do it themselves.

The size can really only be selected after you chose the bike model you want. Follow the manufacturer recommendation, try it if you can, ask the bike shop if you can. But when buying online I would follow the manufacturer, you probably do not have enough free money for a bike fit. Your size will probably be medium for many bike frames (for MTB 19" or 20"). But surely not for all.

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For 200–300€ you’ll barely get any new bicycle at all, not to mention a good one.

I’d recommend getting a used bike without suspension. Cheap suspension is usually worse than none. Look for mountain bikes or fitness bikes with wide tires and rigid fork. Go for a test ride and see what you like most. Unfortunately for a novice it can be quite hard to judge the condition of a used bike. For example a rusty chain could only be in need of lube, or it – and the whole drivetrain – could be completely worn and in need of replacement.

Get one with slick tires or upgrade to slick tires if you plan to ride mostly on roads.

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  • In that case, it probably depends on where you live. In my country, for 300 euros you can find a new normal bike easily, it's harder with Mountain bikes, but you can still find them. I haven't looked at them in-person (only on sites), so I can't say nothing about the build quality, but there are a few that you can easily find. – Jonas Apr 20 at 12:52
  • Bikes at that price point usually use the cheapest parts possible and are often also sloppily assembled. If you are handy and it has at least a Shimano Tourney groupset, rigid fork and okay-ish tires (maybe even something like Schwalbe Smart Sam) you might be happy with a 350€ (Austria price level) bike. – Michael Apr 20 at 18:39
  • Decathlon offers several mountain bikes between 200 and 300€. One of them was discussed here recently bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/64704/… Of course, it is pretty basic, but should be rideable. – Vladimir F Apr 21 at 11:51
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The 2-300 euros budget is really going to limit your choices. The trade-off is always about what part of the bike gets your money.

Do you get a better frame that a brand makes, only bottom of range with lesser parts, or do you get a bike with shinier parts (hydraulic discs/better groupset/carbon forks) and a heavier frame?

You can always get a few low cost contact point upgrades in a year or so that really will make it a new ride by absorbing road shock and dropping about 1.5 - 3kg's:

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32725571515.html

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000670284722.html

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32697992814.html

But a frame upgrade that's lighter and absorbs more vibration, or a groupset upgrade that changes gear more smoothly, brakes better and lasts longer are major things.

The manufacturers could put these parts on up front for a few dollars more, but it would cannibalize their more expensive (and highly profitable) bike market.

Whilst this doesn't answer your question about what bike, i hope it helps with making the final decision once you've decided on mountain or gravel bike.

Btw, gravel bikes are 3-5kph faster than a mountain bike on the road, 1-2kph faster on clean gravel, but 5-10kph (or more) slower on gnarly single track or downhill as shown on the youtube GCN channel.

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