Bored at work? Help me pick my first 'real' mountain bike

The story: going from living a conventional stationary life in the Great lakes riding mostly road and gravel to living full time in an RV traveling north America. This means many places I am going to be way better off with a mountain bike. I had plenty of low end mountain bikes as a kid but never had a anything as an adult.

The constraints: I am okay at “a few grand” and start to get uncomfortable at “shit… thousands” but flexible here based on what you all have to say. Used not new, the depreciation makes me sad. Full suspension, I am in an RV so I can have 2 bikes (gravel/road and this. I can’t have a hard tail, full, road, gravel, climbing).

I am 43, I am not going to be doing full send downhill. Reasonable risk mitigation is key to me. On the pod I have heard mention that the modern full suspension bikes are so much better that Nate may have avoided his incidents on them. This is my focus. Mountain biking comes with real risk, but if I can buy some reduction in it I would like to.

How new? How much travel? What features? What is hype vs worth paying extra for? Hot takes?

Size: I am 5’8", right at the S/M threshold. On road bikes i always size down and am happier. I have short legs and a long torso for my height. For a mountain bike, if you are on the threshold size wise which direction do you go?

Thank you for your help killing time when I should be working

Transition Spur or Specialized Epic

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Lots of options with those constraints. I always strongly recommend doing test/demo rides whenever possible. Modern MTB geometry has progressed a lot so that stand over is low for most bikes and then you can choose the reach that is comfortable for you. You may like to size up to a medium which will have a more stable feel. A short travel to mid travel (120mm to 150mm rear travel) trail bike sounds like a good fit. @ingluis29 had 2 good suggestions with the Spur and Epic. I would add the Trek Fuel EX, Spesh Stumpjumper, or Norco Fluid.

If you go used, probably no more than 3-4 years is good. I have a 2020 Norco Fluid that I love and is my main ride. There are still many good deals on new bikes so you can get a good new bike for not much more than a used one, plus you would have a warranty.

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I would look at fullys with 120–130 mm of travel, specifically a downcountry bike or a light trail bike. If you don’t have much offroading experience, I doubt you need more. Bikes with more travel will be heavier and less fun to pedal uphill.

Like others have said, you absolutely must try a few bikes. When I bought my last fully new, my mind was initially set on a higher specced, higher travel bike. But I didn’t like how it felt, it was a bit too wallow-y.

As for equipment, the suspension together with the frame geometry maketh the bike. There is a huge difference between a cheap fork and a high-end fork. And there are big differences how e. g. XC forks are tuned vs. trail-oriented forks. I’d approach it from the XC side if I were you.

As for used bikes, I agree that the bike ideally should not be older than 4 years. Because then larger shock services might come due, which are expensive (unless you do them yourself). Also, mountain bike geometry has changed a ton in the last 5–10 years, the differences are much starker than in the road bike realm.

Oh, and if you go used, in my experience two types of bikes are best: either you get a garage queen (i. e. someone bought a fancy bike, but quickly lost interest/found out it wasn’t for them) or a bike that has been used a lot, but loved. I got the latter. My new-to-me hardtail has plenty of scars, but it is mechanically top notch.

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Well, here’s my $.02.
Im around your height and I’ve been on mediums for about every bike I’ve ridden.

Depending on how far your travels take you, you could be in a few different bikes, but I’ll give you my opinion based off the bikes I’ve had.

Ibis Ripley. Done. Out of all the bikes I’ve owned, this is the bike I’d probably want back based off how I like to ride and being able to ride most anything that I am personally willing to ride. I’m 49, so I’m not looking to win downhill races.
You can run the Ripley as a 130 front or 140 if you feel you need more. It climbs great and handles great.

I’ve had others that have longer travel, but still not as good.

Hump

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I know nothing about mtbs (also a groadie) but I just wanted to say it sounds amazing and good luck :four_leaf_clover:

Obviously it really depends on what is available used. Based on what you say, you probably would like an XC bike the most. But XC bikes are pretty rare actually so you might not have good luck finding a deal. If you share your city or area, maybe us bored people could look and recommend something?

A regular trail bike would probably be fine too, just a little slower. If you want a new budget bike, look at the Norco Fluid FS A4 to A1. Perfectly good mtb for a really good price. Will give you a lot of confidence.

Also want to say that 100mm travel is more than enough for what you describe. I just got a 100mm hardtail and I’m really surprised how well it does considering I came from a 140mm hardtail. You only need that extra travel if you are hitting jumps and such. Most people online will say 100mm isn’t enough, but I think it is.

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How old a Spur? Is the Epic really that much better to justify the price or just paying for the word specialized on the side?

How much should i care about tech stuff I know from groad world? Seeing lots of diore stuff but my brain says 105 equivalent or better? Do I care about a dropper?

I trust myself to spot the difference between abused and wear and tear, but less so for the shocks. Any good way for a mechanically competent novice to spot land mines with the suspension short of fluid leaks and obvious physical damager?

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Epic 8 comp with GX is the same price as a Deore Spur…

Thank you, this is helpful. That one was not on my radar AT ALL. I will try and find one in person. Any opinions on the 73 different trim levels they seem to have of it?

Well that is the fun part. I am in SE michigan right now, but i will be in ND in a month, NV and AZ a month or 2 after that. socal for some part of early winter then making my way north through utah and CO. If i can hold off it appears CO is the native habitat of the used mountain bike but lets be real. If i am already posting here I am not going to make it till next month let alone spring before i buy something.

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Luckily in the last few years, Deore level is pretty amazing. Pretty much paying for weight savings and ‘crisper’ shifting. XT is probably equivalent to 105. XTR = Ultegra/Dura Ace.

Dropper will help you feel a lot more confident on descents and less likely to get hucked over the bars. I think it’s a no brainer.

Carbon Ripleys are 25% off right now . I’d also consider a Ripley AF (aluminum frame)

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That makes that decision for me…

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Here’s some decent options I just found on Pinkbike in Michigan:

2023 Orbea Oiz H30 $1800

2019 Specialized Epic Comp $1700

Not sure the Epic has dropper routing though

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I have not used Deore 12s but I don’t hear many complaints. For Shimano get at least Deore but SLX or XT are great. For Sram, I’d try to get GX. NX is OK for awhile but wears out pretty quickly. Yes, definitely get a dropper. They are great even on flatter trails. I live in northeast Ohio btw.

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Just buy the Specialized. Stumpjumper or Epic Evo if you’ll ever XC race. You can’t go wrong.

I’d stick to the carbon, and I don’t think they have too many different models.
That comes down to what you prefer.
Mine was a custom build.