I've recently gotten back into mountain biking. I took my 5 year old Iron Horse full suspension out to the mountain with some friends that had recently purchased new bikes. I haven't ridden for a few years so i had to take my bike in for a major tune up before the trip. My bike was kind of a cheapo ($700) and really could just barely handle the terrain we were riding. I mean just barely.
We stopped at an enormous bike shop on the way back just for fun, and I was pretty envious of what I saw there. The technology has come pretty far in 5 years, and if you are willing to put $2000 to $3000 on a bike, you can get a serious machine. I'm tempted to simply purchase one of these premade bikes, but I hated how I always had to take my old bike in for tune ups because I didn't know how anything on it worked. This time I want to know the ins and outs of my bike so I can make all the repairs myself. I've already started a tool kit collection and recently got an awesome repair stand by ParkTool. I've turned my old MTB into a comfy commuter bike and have had some fun tuning it up myself. Now its time for my fun bike.
I know what I want is basically an all Mountain bike. Some thing I can tear down rough trails with, but still is useful enough for those long climbs to get to the top those trails. Here is what I want out of my new bike:
- Light: As light as I can go with a reasonable budget. I think carbon frames are most likely out. I'd like to spend less than $2500 for the whole bike.
- Durable: I'm a big guy. 220lbs when I'm fit, but 250lbs now. 5'10" tall. So sturdiness is a concern.
- Full Suspension: I just prefer the softer ride.
Everything is going to revolve around the frame. So I'm gonna start there. Here are some questions that have been piling up during my search for a frame.
Where is the best place to browse a good selection of frames? After some google searching, the only place that had a respectable selection to choose from was www.cambriabike.com. And my god they have a ton of frames, too many for me to figure out actually. There has to be other places though right? Most I saw had less than 20 frames, while cambriabike had about 1000. That doesn't make much sense.
What brands should I be looking for or avoiding? I'm not keen on many bike brands but I do know a few, Cannondale, Kona, Specialized, Iron Horse, Giant. But I see alot of brands on frames that I've never heard of. Should I stay away from unknown brands or are there some frame makers out there that are great who just haven't made a name for themselves in full bike assembly.
Get a frame with suspension shock already imbedded, or empty full suspension frame and install my own shock? I really would prefer to install my own shock so I can choose the exact one I want. I'd like to know a little bit about my shock and research it, plus I'd really like to find one that supports remote lockout. You see it on front forks, but not really on rear shocks. Anyways, I spoke with a guy at the bike shop and he said shocks had to be specially made for each frame. That eye-to-eye length had to match just right with compression ratios and yadda yadda yadda. I think he just wanted to scare me off so I'd buy one of the show room floor. After I get my frame, I should be able to take a look, and buy a freaking shock from Fox Racing or something that fits the bike right? Then I can make adjustments to its performance with it's built in features. Am I wrong here.... is it really so complicated that each shock has to be custom made for each frame?
How to tell the difference between a downhill frame and an all-terrain frame? I realize there are sectioned out on the cambriabike website, but dang, some of them look so similar. There are exotic looking down hill frames and exotic looking all-terrain frames. I wouldn't be surprised if some frames showed up under both categories. I haven't verified that, but I wouldn't be surprised. If you were to look at a stats sheet, how do you REALLY differentiate between a downhill frame and an all-terrain frame?
What is considered "light" for a frame? I guess you'd have to segregate carbon from aluminum frames, but what is actually "light". I'm looking at a frame here and it says 7lbs.... is that considered light versus the competition?
How do you pick a frame size? I see frames that say 18", 19", Large, Medium, what the heck is all this. What is 18" mean. 18 inches from what? And medium.... medium what?