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I am looking for a mountain bike that I can customize if needed or just be able to fix if anything breaks. I am looking at Hiland, Schwinn, Redfire, Avasta, Contrex, and Royce Union bikes.

Does anyone know much about these brands?

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    Many low-end, department-store grade bikes use vaguely standard parts and can be difficult to get repair/upgrade parts for. That's why they're so cheap to begin with - they're designed to be throw away. Schwinn is the only brand name in your list I'm familiar with - I'd imagine some of their more expensive lines would use standardized parts that would be easy to upgrade/repair.
    – FreeMan
    Mar 10, 2022 at 19:09
  • This is heading off to a "shopping" kind of question, which is considered off-topic. More important than brand is Availability, followed by Comfort, then Affordability.
    – Criggie
    Mar 11, 2022 at 0:37
  • The fact that you're asking indicates to me that you're not really sure what you want/need and will likely be looking to upgrade in 3-5 years when you have a better feel for your use, riding style, and maintenance needs. If I were you, I wouldn't worry about a specific brand or model too much. Instead, I'd get a low-to-mid range bike from a bike shop (not a department store or online). That'll get you a decent quality bike that's pretty standard, maintainable, and upgradeable. Plus, if you buy from the bike shop, they're usually happy to help you out with maintenance questions in the future.
    – jimchristie
    Mar 16, 2022 at 18:38
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    What you want is a used bike. Mar 16, 2022 at 19:33
  • @DanielRHicks: I see lots of advice to purchase used bikes here, but it seems to me the reality is that it is hard to find a used bike that is what you want because bicyclists don't sell the old bike when they buy a new one. I looked at the San Francisco Bay Area Craigslist one day and found three bikes. Certainly if you can find what you want used you will get a better price, but it seems the chance of finding the right thing is small. Mar 17, 2022 at 4:27

2 Answers 2

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Features to look for that will make a potential MTB bike easier to maintain and upgrade.

  • BSA Threaded bottom bracket vs Pressfit. Nothing wrong with Pressfit technically but standards come and go. Super easy to home replace and you’ll still get a threaded BB in 10 years time.
  • Tapered 1.5 to 1.125 headtube. Suspension forks with straight steerers are becoming rarer. This future proofs you for a while.
  • A well known seatpost diameter like 30.9/31.6/34.9 to let you add a dropper if you want.
  • 12x148 or 12x142 Rear hub specification. Common as dirt.
  • Aluminum or steel frame. Carbon can sometimes be lighter but can be a mixed longevity basket depending on manufacturer. Look for a good quality circa 2 kg frame even if the components are as not as good as you initially want.
  • Post mounts for brakes vs ISO tabs. You can get adapters but you might as well start in the most common standard.
  • Replaceable derailleur hanger. Frag a fixed hanger and you can kiss the frame goodbye.

Apart from a replaceable hanger you don’t need all these things. They are just individual aspects that will mean you can still use the bike as your MTB adventures get bigger.

Specific brand isn’t too important but go for a bigger name. White label bikes from department stores are generally built to price with big sacrifices in frame weight and quality. You’ll likely get the best value from a secondhand bike.

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    Regarding derailleur hangers: I’d buy two or three replacements together with the bike. Unless it uses a really common design you can still easily get in 5 or 10 years.
    – Michael
    Mar 11, 2022 at 6:17
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    It's a topic where many people have strong opinions, but I have yet to see any evidence that carbon has intrinsically worse longievity. Sure, there are anecdotes abound of cracks in carbon frames, but there are also many stories of aluminium snapping. In fact, all aluminium alloys are subject to fatigue even from inevitable flexing during normal use, whereas carbon and steel can last essentially forever if they're never loaded to their limits. What is of course true is that super-light components have lower margins, and carbon parts tend to be extra weight-optimised – not carbon's fault. Mar 12, 2022 at 16:39
  • "Frag a fixed hanger and you can kiss the frame goodbye." - unless it's a steel (or titanium) frame. If it's bent, you can bend it back on these frames safely. If cracked, it's not too difficult to fix (though not "yourself" perhaps). Also, judging by the question, it's going to be a relatively cheap bike, so likely be 3x9 speeds (if not less) rather than 1x12. Thus 135 mm hub is more likely (and is much more common, and not going away any time soon).
    – Zeus
    Mar 17, 2022 at 23:56
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Two points to complete Warren's answer: these requirements are usually met with entry-level to mid-range bikes of big manufacturers (that would be in 500€-1500€ price range). Department stores bikes often use non-standard or discontinued components, so they can be complicated to maintain. Higher-end bikes have more custom components.

Another series of points can also be added for the "customization" part of the question. If you want to also use the bike for "utility" purposes, you may want to check as well:

  • mounting points for fenders/mudguards, racks and kickstands
  • tire clearance: space between the frame and the tires, important if you want to be able to fit wider tires than the ones sold with the bike, or if you want to be able to mount fenders.

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