Seeking MTB wisdom and opinions

Hi all! I’m in the market for my first mountain bike and I am overwhelmed by the process. Obviously beggars can’t be choosers in the current market, but I am hoping to get lucky and find a quality rig for the right price. So here are some details to help provide relevant context:

I’m a 5’4" woman and I’ve been kindly lent a size small Trek Lush SL 27.5 FS to ride for the past year to figure out if I like mountain biking (I do) and to give a reference point for what to look for in bikes. I’ve had a blast on this bike, but think that 29" wheels are the way to go. Hoping to stay in the 120-130mm travel range as the trails in my area don’t require much more than that. I’m ballin’ on a budget of <$3k. I don’t have any plans to get super into MTB racing but might occasionally get talked into signing up for a race here and there, and I also like to try to keep up with my fast friends.

I’m hoping to crowdsource opinions on (1) the best way to approach buying a bike in these times (e.g. lurk on PinkBike and try to snag something used or try to order something new and hope it arrives in the next decade?), (2) how to determine the best value for your dollar when comparing different makes/models (there are SO many things to compare on a MTB!), (3) are any of my criteria unreasonable (i.e. should I remain open to bikes with greater travel and/or 27.5 wheels?)

Thank you so much in advance for your thoughts! I appreciate it!

I’ve only ridden Treks because that’s what I live close to.

Fuel Ex 5. → good trail bike, under 3k
Top Fuel → Not bad XC bike, faster but less suspension. (I just did the Leadville 100 MTB on a Top Fuel and it was perfect.)

Thanks for this input! Appreciate it!

Worthwhile reading:

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What kind of local shops do you have? What brands? I would focus on a bike from a major player like Trek, Giant, Specialized etc for your budget. I think you’re on the right track with 29" and 120 travel - that really suits most riders and it’s still probably my favorite genre of bike.

for your first MTB just be prepared to learn what you like and don’t like on the equipment side. For 3K, unfortunately, there’s going to be places of concession like suspension components and wheels most likely. But… that might not matter for you. Buy something that fits well and that is either worthy of upgrades later or take the mindset of selling it in a few years if you outgrow it.


TL;DR: Look to what kind of bikes your friends are riding and lean towards something like they have. If you see one of them rides in a way you think looks fun, look for something like what they are on (geo wise).

I deleted the long version.

Read the Pinkbike bike reviews, just ignore the comments. The comments section is a bit of a shitshow. But I think the reviews are usually pretty good. Lots of “budget bike” reviews on there too.

As your first real MTB, yes. First rule of wheel size is pick a wheel size, then be a dick about it. They all have pros and cons, and you gotta be pretty damn good to be at the limits of the wheel size for your uses. Basically, on your first MTB, you won’t be on that limit. Usually when I go to the bike park I am one of the fastest DH riders there and I don’t care which wheel size is on my bike, I can ride around the limitations.

Geo is #1. Anything after that is fluff. You don’t need XTR, you don’t need 12 speed, you don’t need a Fox 36. Find the bike with the geo that matches your size and needs, then decide if the bike is worth the price compared to the components.

FYI: On one of the local bike park enduro trails I went from the entry level bike to the top spec bike (same bike, just upgraded at the end of the model year). On a 4 minute downhill run, the top spec parts ($500 fork vs $1200 fork, for example) saved me something like 10 seconds (I am in the top 10 out of like 5000 people). Is an extra $5000 worth saving 10 seconds on a 4 minute enduro trail a good value to you?

Considering my car was totaled in January and I still haven’t replaced it, my take is…don’t right now. But…my GF couldn’t wait and got lucky find a nice MTB for an acceptable price on Facebook.


Thank you for sharing these!

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@ibaldwin We don’t have a ton of shop options in the area, and like everywhere else inventory is abysmally low. The team I race triathlon for has a sponsorship through one of our local shops and I was given an estimate of “maybe by early 2022” for the arrival of the next shipment of bikes.

So given all this, I’ve been hoping to find something secondhand which can (in my experience) help a tight budget stretch a bit further. But I’m also not looking for a Cadillac MTB-- just one that’ll be reliable and fun to ride :slight_smile: And good point about keeping the future possibility of resale/upgrading in mind.

@JSTootell Thank you for your perspective-- it sounds like I might need to do some more homework to determine what geometry will be best for me. A bit tricky with inventory being so low in local bike shops, since very few have small mountain bikes to even demo and get an idea of the fit. Maybe a knowledgeable shop can still help out with this even if they don’t have the bikes available, probably wouldn’t hurt to ask!

Trawl PinkBike buy/sell. Especially if you live near a big population center. You’ll be surprised what kinds of deals you can do despite Covid restrictions. Don’t take people’s asking price too seriously, and haggle. The best deals are on the less known/popular brands, and not the boutique flashy brands.

My n=1 example. Bought an overlooked alloy bike, 2 months old last week. Seller paid 4800$, mine for 3800$. Meanwhile I sold my several year old boutique bike for more than I bought it for to the Pro’s closet.


Ditto. Check out Lee McCormack’s book Dialed.

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Buy used. HUGE savings for quality components. Even in the crazy covid market. Or maybe, especially in the covid market.

Adding to whats already been said. I think what you are asking is for help minimizing the variables. So I’ll just say this. As a beginner, you will be perfectly happy with SRAM NX; but SRAM GX is nice and highest grade you need. or you will be perfectly happy with Shimano Deore; but Shimano XT is nice and highest you need. I wouldn’t get picky about which brand you pick right now. You will not be able to tell yet. Unless a friend says go Shimano and that friend is good at adjusting things and you know will help you learn that art. If you plan to use a bike shop for tune ups (which i recommend over a friend), then you don’t care about SRAM or Shimano.

EDIT - of course in the used market you are going to run into higher quality components. Thats just an added bonus. also going to see some scratching on used market. In used market look for badly scratched derailleurs; which may mean multiple bent hangers. look for severely worn teeth on cassettes; or better yet check chain with tool for excess stretch. might give you some indication of the care someone had for their bike prior to selling. that type of stuff.

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Check out FB market place groups as well. They’ve taken the place of Craigslist and less drama typically. I’ve had good luck selling on Pink Bike FWIW.

Good luck!

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